the christadelphian waymark

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When Bible teaching is compared with Church teaching, it can be seen that Christendom at large is astray from the Bible. For further information regarding the saving truths of Scripture, read the articles opposite.


The Background to the Prophecy of Haggai


The prophet Haggai commenced his ministry at a highly significant stage of Israel’s history.  The 70 years of Babylonian servitude, as prophesied by Jeremiah (Jer 25:11,12) had ended.  And a glorious new age had begun, when all of Israel were called upon to return to the land promised to their fathers.


Ezra chapter 1 describes to us how Yahweh stirred up the spirit of a Gentile ruler, Cyrus, to bring about the restoration.  A proclamation was made, “Thus saith Cyrus, king of Persia, Yahweh Elohim of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah” (Ezra 1:2).

What a remarkable thing this is!  Cyrus recognised that he had not obtained his kingdom by the strength of his own hand, but that it had been given to him by the God of Israel.  But also, he understood the Lord’s intention to rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem, and that he was the man to bring this into effect!

This may well have been at least partly due to Daniel, who had been given a prominent position in the kingdom (see Dan 6:28).  And so, in belief of Israel’s God, Cyrus issued a decree in verse 3:
“Who is there among you of all his people?  His God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of Yahweh God of Israel, he is the God which is in Jerusalem.”  Accordingly, Zerubbabel (2:2) and “the chief of the fathers” rose up, and led the way back into the land.
The name “Zerubbabel” literally means, “out of Babylon”.  Thus, he represents the One who is able to lead his followers out of spiritual Babylon, to inherit the promised blessings.  Just as Zerubbabel led the Israelites out of captivity into blessing, so the Lord Jesus Christ has redeemed us from the bondage of sin, that he might lead us into glory (Rom 8:21; Heb 2:10).


But just as Zerubbabel, as Governor, led the return into the land, Joshua the High Priest led the return to worship.  In Chapter 3 of Ezra, we read how Joshua, Zerubbabel, and their brethren rebuilt the altar.  Once this had been completed, the offering of daily sacrifices began once more.

This demonstrates the principle that blessing cannot be obtained without dedication and worship.  First, the nation had to rededicate themselves to Yahweh.  They had to offer sacrifice for their sins, and resolve to continue in faith.  Only then could the work of building up the house of God begin.

And so it is, that upon our departure from spiritual Babylon, we must firstly establish the correct form of worship.  We must put the Lord first, submitting to what he requires.  Only then, when we have dedicated ourselves to Him, by association with the Sacrifice of His Providing, can we engage ourselves in His work, and receive His blessings.


Following the re-establishment of the principle of Sacrifice, the work commenced.  Naturally, the first stage of the work was the laying of the foundation.  This then would provide the basis for further building, that the edifice might stand complete and strong.  The day when the foundation was laid was a day of great rejoicing, as “they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks to Yahweh” (Ezra 3:11). 

Similarly, once we have embraced the system of worship which Yahweh requires, we must lay what the apostle describes as, “the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God” (Heb 6:1).  Our faith and repentance forms the foundation of all further work in the truth.  And once we have laid this foundation in joy, we will stand strong, ever building until the day of Jesus Christ, when he will finish the work (Phil 1:6).

But once we have begun our labour in the Truth, we will soon find that the way is not easy.  As a loving father chastises his son, so our Father deals with us (Heb 12:7,8).  And so, we are brought through difficulties and trials, as the Lord in His mercy prepares us for His Kingdom.


And so it was, that very soon after the initial enthusiasm and rejoicing at the laying of the foundation, the Jews ran into a mountain of opposition.  In Ezra 4, we read of the Samaritan inhabitants of the land, who sought to subvert the work of God.  They “weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building” (v 4).

 But notice, the Samaritans did not begin by opposing the work, rather by offering to help!  “They came to Zerubbabel, and to the chief of the fathers, and said unto them, Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as do ye” (Ezra 4:2).

 How much like the churches this is!  The Samaritans, although they professed to worship the God of Israel, also worshipped other gods.  They had so many false religious ideas, that the Lord was able to say to the Samaritan woman, “ye worship ye know not what” (Jno 4:22).  And so, just like the churches today, they were not troubled by mere matters of doctrine.  They believed that “as long as we all worship the same God, that’s all that matters”.

But Zerubbabel and Joshua’s answer is most instructive.  “Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto Yahweh, God of Israel”.

 And so, this is the answer we give to the churches: “ye have nothing to do with us,” but we, as the united body of Christ, will build together, as the Lord has commanded.  So, opposition began, and a letter of protest against the Jews sent to the king.  Another decree was made, and it became illegal to continue in the work of the Truth.  But how did the Jews cope in such circumstances?  Did they present the matter before the Lord in faith, and prayer, continuing in his work?  No, rather they gave up.  And so, we read that the work “ceased unto the second year of the reign of Darius, king of Persia” (Ezra 4:24).


 This then, forms the general background to the ministry of Haggai.  The work had commenced, the foundations had been laid, but the building had now ceased through lack of faith and trust in the Lord.  But the Lord did not leave the matter there.  In verse 1 of chapter 5, we read, “then the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah, the son of Iddo, prophesied unto the Jews … in the name of the God of Israel”.

 Here, the work of the prophets began, to reprove the people for their apathy, and to encourage them in the Lord, and to cause His House to be built.  And so we read, “Then rose up Zerubbabel … and Joshua … and began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem, and with them, were the prophets of God helping them” (Ezra 5:2).  Once again, the leaders, Joshua and Zerubbabel rose up, and led the people in rebuilding the house.  The work recommenced, with the prophets themselves assisting in the work.

 Notice this, “with them were the prophets of God helping them”.  Neither Haggai, or Zechariah  were like some today, full of condemnation and rebuke for other men’s failings, but never engaging in the work themselves.  These men led the way, both by word and example.

 And so, Haggai was a man of action.  A man of faith, who, with Zechariah, brought the people back to God, that the work might recommence, and the House of God built.  As we come to consider the prophecy of Haggai therefore, we consider a prophecy designed to stir up our spirits.  It is a prophecy designed to give exhortation and encouragement to those feeling the pressure of adversity, whose faith may be waning.  It is an encouragement and a warning to us, that we might not forsake our obligations to the Lord, but rather be strong, setting ourselves to the task of building up the House of God in faith.


Christopher Maddocks