“Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the Lord their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the Lord their God had sent him. And the people feared the Lord. Then Haggai, the messenger of the Lord, spoke to the people with the Lord’s message, “I am with you, declares the Lord.” And the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people. And they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God, on the twenty-fourth day of the month, in the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king.” Haggai 1:12-15.
Zerubbabel had led a remnant of Israel (about 50,000) back to their land after the 70 years of Babylonian exile and after Cyrus had overthrown Babylon. Zerubbabel, grandson of the former King of Judah Jehoiachin, was appointed governor of the newly constituted province of Judah by the King of Cyrus. The people, after the return, had initially laid the foundation to rebuild the temple but due to opposition from the people that lived in the land (Ezra 4:1-5) they abandoned the effort. They had instead reverted to building themselves luxury houses (paneled indicates the expensive timber used) and making themselves as comfortable in the land as they could. God had subsequently caused the people’s efforts to not prosper. They sowed but reaped little.
The prophet Haggai was sent to the remnant to inform them that God had caused the land to withhold its produce to them until such time as they built the temple. After hearing the message from the Lord the people “obeyed the voice of the Lord their God.” This simple act of obedience led to God “stirring” up the spirit of the people and they proceeded to zealously complete the temple within just four years, even against the opposition.
I am often impressed about how simple obedience to God can produce so much good for us as Christians. It can stir our spirits to great deeds and cause God to bless our sowing with great reaping both materially and spiritually. Most importantly, it allows us to keep our relationship with God fully intact and our life on the pathway he ordains for us with all the settled joy and contentment that results. It is interesting to note that the chapter starts with God’s message to “this people” but once they begin to obey God they are described as working on the house of “their God”. Let us pursue obedience to all of God’s commands so that we can testify to the fact that He is our God.