The Old Testament prophets are filled with doom and gloom. The minor prophets are marked by calls to repentance, yes. But these books are also known for their cataclysmic predictions if the audience does not repent.
This push for change in the face of punishment exists in all of the minor prophets except one.
The little book of Haggai, just two chapters long, is one of my favorite books in the Bible. The book begins with a call to repentance and an honest appraisal of the current situation. But unlike the other minor prophets, Haggai promises hope, restoration, and a bold future.
The book of Haggai is a great book for revitalizing pastors, and I encourage you to preach through these two chapters with your congregation. The book is filled to the brim with insight that your church will find hopeful and helpful if you’re in need of revitalization.
Here are three key takeaways from the book of Haggai you shouldn’t miss:
God wants you to have a holy discontent with the status quo
“Thus says the Lord of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord.” Then the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.Haggai 1:2-6 (ESV, emphasis added)
You can never become the church God desires for you to be if you continue to stay comfortable in your dysfunction.
The remnant in Judah partially rebuilt the Temple. The foundations were set, and the altar was completed. The Jews could worship, but the Lord compares the incomplete Temple to a corpse later in the book. He literally calls it a dead church!
If the people in your church are comfortable and content with less than God’s best, do not be surprised that the church is not growing and all of your efforts amount to little. In the passage above, the Lord says, “You have sown much, and harvested little.” God is withholding His blessing because the people have chased their comfort over God’s call.
This is a hard, but important truth: sometimes God will make you uncomfortable so you will “consider your ways” and re-focus on what matters most to Him.
God wants you to provide the effort, and He will provide the results
“Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts”Haggai 2:4 (ESV, emphasis added)
Given the opening of this book, you would think that the Lord would promise destruction or doom if the people do not change. But as I mentioned in the introduction–that’s not what happens.
The call to repentance in Haggai is a call to work. God simply wants His people to get busy doing the work that matters to Him. God knows that they have faced opposition from their neighbors. The Lord knows that they do not have the resources or the talent that they think they need to get the job done.
This is why God uses the name, “Lord of hosts” throughout this book to describe himself. This title points to God’s power and control over the universe. The people do not need to fear their neighbors, the Lord of hosts controls their armies. The people do not need to worry that they lack resources, the Lord of hosts owns the cattle on the thousand hills.
The call to repentance is a call to work–“for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts.”
So many churches that we talk to at The Malphurs Group are motivated by fear. Pastors are afraid that their churches won’t change. Congregations are afraid to invest money in working with an outside group that gives them their best chance at a successful process. Boards are afraid that implementing change will mean influential or wealthy people will leave the church. There is far too much fear in the church!
Do not be afraid. Just get to work. Let the Lord of hosts handle the results.
Don’t judge your impact based on what you see at the moment
“The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.’”Haggai 2:9 (ESV)
One of the greatest challenges for the Jews would have been to accept the promise made in Haggai 2:9. The remnant didn’t have the resources or skills that went into building Solomon’s Temple. More than that, they did not have the Ark of the Covenant–the whole reason for which the Temple existed in the first place.
With the perspective of history, we know how true Haggai 2:9 is. The second Temple was necessary for the coming of Jesus. And the coming of Jesus ushered in a new era where the Temple was not a physical place but inhabited in God’s people, the Church, spread throughout the earth.
In that moment, the remnant could now know the future impact of their faithfulness. They could only trust that God is not a liar.
This is still true today. God wants to do a great work through your church. He wants to use your congregation to have a generational impact.
Trust in the promises of God, not in what your eyes can see at this moment.
We serve a powerful God–the God of Revitalization. He wants to do great things in and through your church. You only need to reject the status quo, get to work, and trust God with the results.
Scott Ball is the Vice President and a Lead Guide with The Malphurs Group. He lives in East Tennessee with his wife and two children. (Email Scott).