How Haggai Reminds Us to Prioritize God’s Work

Brad Simon
How Haggai Reminds Us to Prioritize God’s Work

As the Jewish exiles returned to Jerusalem, their hearts were filled with dreams of restoration and revival. It was a glorious moment for the Israelites after seventy years of captivity in Babylon. Eagerly they returned, hoping to reestablish their homeland. But the reality that greeted them was grim. Jerusalem was a city in shambles, its walls broken down, and the beautiful temple of Solomon reduced to rubble.

With hope rekindled, they set about rebuilding their lives. The exiles immediately started working. They rebuilt their homes, planted vineyards, and reestablished their communities. With praise and thanksgiving to God, they rejoiced as they laid the foundation of the temple.

“But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy. No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away” (Ezra 3:12-14).

Faced with overwhelming discouragement, their initial zeal faded into complacency. For sixteen years, the Israelites neglected the temple’s foundation as they focused on rebuilding their homes and vineyards.

Haggai the Chastiser

This misplaced priority didn’t go unnoticed by God. Through the prophet Haggai, God issued a stern rebuke: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” (Haggai 1:4). This powerful question struck at the heart of their complacency and self-interest.

Haggai confronted the people’s misplaced priorities, urging them:

“’Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it. … You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?’ declares the Lord Almighty. ‘Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house. Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the olive oil and everything else the ground produces, on people and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands’” (Haggai 1:5-6, 9-11).

Haggai’s message was clear: the people had prioritized their own comfort over their covenant with God. As a result, God withheld His blessing on them. Haggai rebuked the people for being self-centered and challenged them to prioritize God’s house above their own interest. This call to action went beyond physical buildings. It was a call to realign their hearts with God’s will.

Convicted by Haggai’s words, Zerubbabel the governor, Joshua the high priest, and all the people, responded with renewed vigor. They obeyed the voice of the Lord and began the difficult task of rebuilding the temple. Haggai’s brief but powerful message reignited a nation’s spiritual fervor and redirected their focus to God.

Haggai the Encourager

As they labored together, the sound of hammers and chisels echoed through Jerusalem. The work was challenging, and they encountered resistance from neighboring countries. As opposition mounted, the people became discouraged.

Haggai reassured them with a powerful promise from God:

“‘Now be strong, Zerubbabel,’ declares the Lord. ‘Be strong, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the Lord, ‘and work. For I am with you,’ declares the Lord Almighty” (Haggai 2:4).

This assurance of God’s presence revitalized their efforts and brought unity to their mission. It reminded the Israelites that their efforts were not in vain, and God’s presence was with them as they undertook this monumental task. By prioritizing the reconstruction of God’s temple, they not only sought to restore the building, but also to restore their relationship with God.

Haggai’s message was not just about reconstruction; it also provided a vision of future glory. Addressing the discouragement some felt because the new temple didn’t match the splendor of Solomon’s, Haggai declared:

“‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty” (Haggai 2:9).

Haggai pointed to a future filled with hope, finding its fulfillment in Jesus Christ, who would usher in a new and greater covenant. His prophecy reflects the expectation of the prophets for the arrival of God’s kingdom. The promised Messiah would bring peace and salvation to a world desperately in need of it.

Their perseverance paid off. In just a few years, they completed the temple. It may not have matched the splendor of Solomon’s temple, but it stood as a testament to their faith and obedience. More importantly, it symbolized the renewal of their covenant with God.

Haggai’s Legacy

Haggai’s call to the Israelites to “give careful thought to your ways” (Haggai 1:5) is a call to us as well. In our world filled with distractions and competing priorities, it’s easy to focus on personal goals and forget about our relationship with God. Haggai challenges us to align our lives with God’s will and to build our faith on the solid foundation of His eternal promises. May we never forget the importance of placing God at the center of all we do and recognize our efforts in His service are never in vain.

Jesus said, “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).

Haggai’s emphasis on God’s presence reassures us we are not alone in our spiritual endeavors and encourages us to step out in faith. Whether we are rebuilding our personal faith, our families, or our communities, God’s promise, “I am with you,” (Haggai 1:13) remains steadfast. When we prioritize God’s work, we can know His strength and guidance are with us every step of the way. He guides, supports, and blesses our efforts, bringing about spiritual fruit that lasts.

The last words Jesus spoke to His disciples is a promise for all of us. He said, “surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

Just as the Israelites did not see the ultimate glory of the temple they built; we may not see the spiritual results of our efforts. Haggai’s prophecy reminds us to trust in God’s greater plan, rather than focusing only on our current situation. It challenges us to trust that our present sacrifices and labors for God’s kingdom have eternal significance.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

May Haggai’s life and ministry inspire us to prioritize God’s work, trust in His promises, and look forward to the greater glory that will come through Christ. May we find courage and strength in the lessons Haggai imparts, building not just for today, but for all eternity.

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Me 3645 Studio

Brad Simon has shared God’s Word for over forty-five years, with a unique blend of storytelling and Bible exposition. He is a retired Master Jeweler and relies on the God-given creativity that won him several national and international jewelry design awards to craft Biblical Narratives and Life Stories that are engaging and thought-provoking. Once a speaker, author, and publisher for the jewelry industry, now he is putting those skills to work to promote the beauty and appeal of God’s Word. Download a free copy of his devotional on prayer.