"Man's will is free because God's will is sovereign. ...
Perhaps an illustration will help us understand this.
An ocean liner leaves New York City for Liverpool.
Its destination had been determined by the liner's
Nothing can change this decision.
This is a faint picture of [God's] sovereignty.
On board the liner, there are many passengers.
These are not in chains, and neither are their
[Some may have been suggested,] but they are
completely free to move about as they will.
The eat, sleep, play, lounge, read, talk, as they
please; but all the while, the great liner is carrying them
steadily onward toward a predetermined port.
Both freedom and sovereignty are present here and do
not contradict each other. . . . The mighty liner of God's
design keeps its steady course over the sea of history.
God moves undisturbed and unhindered toward the fulfillment
of those eternal purposes which He has purposed in Christ
Jesus before the world began.
We do not know all that is included in those
purposes, but enough has been [revealed] to furnish us with
a broad outline of things to come and gives us good hope [if
we faithfully obey God's will]" (Tozer in Swindoll).
A book among the prophets that illustrates well man's free
will and God's sovereignty is Haggai.
If you'll recall from our last lesson, we learned
that the prophets Zechariah and Haggai were co-workers to
the Jews after they had returned from exile.
Hopefully, you'll remember some of the background
from last week's lesson.
Remember how the Jews began to rebuild the temple,
but then their enemies intervened and caused a new Persian
king to halt the building, with only the foundations and
altar being erected.
"During [the next 16 years of neglect], the people of
Judah lost their vision and sense of spiritual purpose"
condition of the Jews [was] wretched and miserable.
The cities and houses lay in rubble, the walls were
torn down, and the land had been neglected for 50 years"
Someone said this about the times: "Unlike Joshua's
generation, [these] Jews had no command from God to
exterminate the other peoples in the land, nor were they
enabled to do so.
They came not with might nor with power.
They came by permission of Cyrus [a foreign ruler].
Disillusion set in.
Cynicism found fertile soil.
Energies were turned to the business of making a
was placed on a dusty shelf to be reconsidered when more
time was available.
Enter Haggai and Zechariah" (Baylis).
So, God sends these prophets about 520 BC to
encourage the people to stop working on their own houses and
businesses, and to return to building His temple.
Someone else observed: "Haggai and Zechariah
prophesied at a time when God's people needed a fresh
challenge to finish the temple.
Haggai focused on the people's spiritual
[indifference], while Zechariah declared the great things
God would do in the future" (Arnonld/Beyer).
The work on the temple really began to pick up when
another Persian king was written, who checked the previous
records, and then gave the go ahead for the Jews to complete
their temple and for others in the area to help them with
the necessary supplies!
So Haggai was a person who was great encourager!
Someone said this of Haggai: "His duty was to take
the scattered embers of national pride and piety and, with
his inspired breath, kindle the flame anew" (Ward quoted in
else said, "His eagerness and enthusiasm are still
refreshing" (Bewer quoted in Yates).
Here's an outline that can help you to remember the four
major prophecies that make up this book:
The people's work on the temple will be blessed (1:1-15);
The new temple itself will be blessed (2:1-9);
The Jews themselves will be blessed (2:10-19);
The Jews' leader will be blessed (2:20-23).
This book offers some remarkable declarations from God for
The first remarkable declaration is seen in 1:7-9: "Thus
says the Lord of hosts: 'Consider your ways!
Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the
temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified,'
says the Lord.
'You looked for much, but indeed it came to little; and when
you brought it home, I blew it away.
Why?' says the Lord of hosts.
'Because My house is in ruins, while every one of you
runs to his own house.'"
Here are four little words that reveal God's
great power: "I blew it away."
The people had neglected building the temple for 16
years, and now God is challenging them to start back to work
on it. The
people had sown much in the way of crops, but the harvests
had been very small.
And when they finally got their barns filled with
what little they had, God then affirms that He blew it way,
just like wind blows away the chaff from the grain.
The Scriptures tell us that God's breath, just His
breath alone, can cause frost, and fire, and force or life
for an army (Job 37:10; Isaiah 30:33; Ezekiel 37:9-10)!
It is very sobering for us to think that God could
easily take away all our possessions!
A farmer named Newt learned this firsthand.
This is true story.
He had a bumper wheat crop, so he built a new granary
to store it all.
About two weeks later, a tornado touched down, hit
his granary, and scattered his wheat all over Callahan
this incident happened, he read this passage from Haggai,
took it to heart as a judgment against himself, his
selfishness, and his sinfulness, and then he promptly became
Now this passages is not saying that all tornadoes come from
God, but it does show us that God is powerful, and He can
get our attention.
What Haggai wants the Jews to learn is that there was
a direct connection between their poverty and their neglect
of the temple (Baldwin).
Have we forgotten that behind all our mighty economy
and great wealth, there is a God who is far mightier and
There's a simple little poem that illustrates this idea:
"And back of the loaf is the wheat that waves on yonder
hill. And back
of the hill is the sun, and the rain, and the holy Father's
will." You see,
"The great impact from this verse is the truth that God
simply will not bless a people [who are] determined NOT to
do His will" (Coffman).
Are we putting our prosperity and our will before
God's house and His desires?
An elder once made this insightful comparison: "Too
often we are like the little boy building his castles, and
roads, and cities in the sand by the sea.
He is so busy with the affairs of the moment and his
world that he does not watch the creeping tide behind him.
In a moment, a sudden wave carries it all away, and
he rushes in terror to his father's side.
Woe unto a man who finishes life with no enduring
works and has no Eternal Father to whom he can run when all
his earthly labors perish!
Have we forgotten the grand truth—Permanence is the
final test of all values (Layton)?
Let's also consider our ways and put God's eternal
kingdom first in our lives like Newt did, for if we don't
put God's church and His desires first, God can simply upend
all our plans and prosperity!
“I blew it away.”
The second remarkable declaration is seen in 1:13: "Then
Haggai, the Lord's messenger, spoke the Lord's message to
the people, saying, 'I am with you, says the Lord.'"
Here is God's messenger giving what God wants to
be said to encourage the Jews, and that message is just four
words that we need to remember too: "I am with you."
David said that he could walk through the valley of
the shadow of death because God was with him (Psalm 23:4).
This is a wonderful promise for these Jews as they
began to work on the temple once again.
It let them know: that God would help them in their
work, that the reconstruction would be successful, that the
opposition and various difficulties would be overcome.
To God's people, this [assurance] makes all the
difference between despair and rejoicing, defeat and
Don't forget the last words that Jesus told His
disciples in the last verse of Matthew's gospel: "And lo,
I am with you always, even unto the end of the age."
Just at God endorsed
and strengthened the Jews' good resolves, so Jesus endorses
and strengthens our good resolves as well.
A preacher made this good remark: "The greatest
danger facing all of us . . . is that we may . . . be
unconscious of life ablaze with the light of the Presence of
God—and be content to have it so—that is the danger.
That some day we may wake up and find that we have
been busy with the husks and trappings of life and have
really missed life itself.
For life without God, to one who has known the riches
and joy of life with Him, is unthinkable, [even] impossible"
(Brooks quoted in White).
Whatever may be your circumstances, no matter how
dark they may be, remember the light of the presence of
Christ is saying, "I am with you.”
What a wonderful promise we as Christians
share—Christ is always with us now and will be with us
continually through eternity!
"I am with you."
The third remarkable declaration is now seen in 2:7:
"'And I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the
desire of all nations, and I will fill this temple with
glory' says the Lord of hosts. 'The silver is Mine, and the
gold is Mine,' says the Lord of hosts.
'The glory of this later temple shall be greater than
the former' says the Lord of hosts."
"I will fill this temple with glory, a glory
greater than that of Solomon's splendid temple!”
It's interesting that shortly after this promise, the
king of Persia issues a decree for tax money from Israel's
neighbors be used to help pay for the temple's construction
and supplies (Ezra 6:8-10).
But the real fulfillment of this promise comes about
500 years later when King Herod the Great decides to expand
this temple in 20 BC.
John 2:20 tells us that Herod worked on the temple's
beautification for 46 years.
He added large court areas, a wall of warning to tell
the Gentiles not to go beyond a certain point, more
elaborate outer walls, several gates, some porch areas with
many columns, cisterns, and towers!
As Jesus and His disciples left the temple area once,
one of the disciples exclaimed: "Teacher, see what manner
of stones and what buildings are here” (Mark 13:1)!
Yes, God had indeed kept His promise of making
this temple even more glorious than that of Solomon's!
There is also another principle here worth
God is showing this idea: "Look, you do the work on the
temple, and I'll do My part to glorify it."
And so it is with us as well: "As long as we are
doing the work God has given us to do in accordance with His
will [such as teaching the lost, feeding the hungry, helping
the poor, and being a blessing], we are valued participants
in God's great program of making His salvation known" (Austel).
If we'll worry about working and doing our part, we
can count on God to make it even better than what we could
ever imagine on His part!
Paul tells us in Ephesians 3:20 that God "is able to
do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think!"
"I will fill this temple with glory."
The next remarkable declaration is found in 2:9: "'And in
this place, I will give peace,' says the Lord of hosts."
God's four word affirmation shows that He is the
source of peace: "I will give peace."
The temple in Jerusalem would be a place of peace
where peoples from all the world could come together and
worship the supreme God.
It is interesting that when Jesus cleansed the
temple, he said in Mark 11:17: “Is it not written, 'My
house shall be called a house of prayer for the nations?'”
This was to be a place where all could
come to pray.
Of course, under the new covenant, the Prince of Peace
offers us His peace: "These things I have spoken to you,
that in Me you may have peace.
In the world, you will have tribulation, but be of
good cheer, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).
Jesus is our source of peace.
In fact, Paul proclaims in Ephesians 2:14: "For He
Himself is our peace."
Then Paul explains further that Christ's church
is the new creation where all people can be reconciled to
each other and to God (Ephesians 2:15-18).
The point is that God and Christ are the sources of
Someone has rightly observed: "God . . . works always in
Fuss and feverishness, anxiety, intensity, . . . and every
kind of hurry and worry—these, even on the highest levels,
are signs of the self-made and self-acting soul. . . . The
saints are never like that.
They share the quiet and noble qualities of the great
family to which they belong" (Underhill in Rowell).
Let's trust God and Christ to provide us lasting
peace. "I will
The next remarkable declaration is found in 2:16-17: "'...
since those days, when one came to a heap of twenty ephahs,
there were but ten; when one came to the wine vat to draw
fifty baths from the press, there were twenty
[So the Jews were expecting abundant harvests, but they were
not getting them.
Look at the next verse.]
I struck you with blight and mildew and hail in
all the labors of your hands; yet you did not turn to Me,'
says the Lord."
Literally, the text says that NONE of the Jews turned
to the Lord.
Here we see God's judgment upon the Israelites in an effort
to regain their loyalty.
"The Lord of the harvest has the power to withhold [the
productivity] and so gives [a] warning [of] His displeasure
to the these Jews" (Baldwin).
Moses had warned the Jews centuries before that if
they forgot God, God would send disasters their way in order
to try to get them to repent (Deuteronomy 28:22).
What's the point?
Well, "we have plenty of fungicides and insecticides;
but no matter what [we] have, or fancy [we] have, [we] must
also have the blessing of Almighty God in order to make it.
Israel did not have it, and they weren't making it"
shows us disasters can be Satan's doings.
It's hard to know sometimes who is behind disastrous
events, but all of them should make us stop and think: "Is
God continuing to be our first love?
Are we exalting Him above all else?"
Let's keep God first.
"I struck you ... yet you did not turn to Me."
The next remarkable declaration is found in verse 19: "Is
the seed still in the barn?
As yet the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and
the olive tree have not yielded fruit.
But from this day, I will bless you."
God has been causing the harvests not to be
productive, but from now on, God is going to bless the Jews'
Someone else puts it this way: "But the people are to mark
this day, 18 December 518, as the beginning of a new era. .
. . from this day on, they will begin to see the visible
results of their obedience as their experienced eyes observe
the beginnings of new and abundant harvests" (Austel).
From now on, God's blessing "will become a tangible
The point? Just
as easily as God can withhold productivity, we see also that
He can cause it to happen.
When we prosper, we had better be thankful to God for
helping it to happen.
He is the source of all blessings.
James tells us: "Every good gift and every perfect
gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights
promise of blessing provides the Jews and us great assurance
for we know that He will keep His word.
"But from this day, I will bless you."
The next remarkable declaration is seen in 2:22: "I will
overthrow the chariots and those who ride in them."
Chariots were like our tanks today; they were the
military machinery of Israel's day.
In the previous passage, God says that he will also
overthrow thrones and Gentile kingdoms.
So, it is God again who is in control of
international affairs, and His promise to help Israel
overcome their enemies must have been welcome and comforting
news, especially since the Jews were now living under a
Someone reminds us of God's help with this little poem:
"God's might to direct me; God's power to protect me.
God's wisdom for my learning; God's eye for my
God's ear for my hearing; God's Word for my clearing"
(Patrick in Rowell).
Even as we assemble, God is in the business right now
of overthrowing nations and chariots.
He is in control.
"I will overthrow the chariots."
The next remarkable declaration is seen 2:23: "'In that
day,' says the Lord of hosts, 'I will take you, Zarubbabel
My servant, the son of Shealitel,' says the Lord, 'and will
make you like a signet ring; for I have chosen you,' says
the Lord of hosts."
"I will make you like a signet ring."
"The signet, or seal, was a ring or cylinder engraved
with the owner's name or some design.
It was worn on the finger or on a cord about the
neck, and was used to make an impression of ownership or
authorship on clay tablets [or on wax affixed to papyrus
documents]. . . .
The signet was considered precious because it was the
authentic designation of the owner" (Austel).
It was sort of like a logo today.
Just as God had said that Zerubbabel's grandfather would be
a signet ring that He would pluck off His right hand and
give away (Jer. 22:24-25), now we see the reversal, and God
will make Zerubbabel His representative.
This "designation is one of high honor and privilege"
(Austel), backed by God's authority and power (Coffman).
To be God's signet ring was to be very special!
God can exalt and lift us up too.
"Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty
hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time" (1 Peter
"I will make you like a signet ring,"
One last remarkable declaration is found in 2:21: "I will
shake heaven and earth."
upheavals—political, social, and cosmic—are in God's
God again will be the source of these changes.
We see that from after the Persians, God raised up
the Grecians, and then the Romans, and then
nationalities since that day.
But all the changes that have taken place throughout
history will be as nothing when compared to God's final
shaking: "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in
the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great
noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both
the earth and the works that are therein will be burned up.
. . . Nevertheless, we look for new heavens and a new earth
in which righteousness dwells" (2 Pt. 3:10 & 13).
Peter tells us that there will be the shake up
and destruction of this creation's present order for an
order wherein only righteousness will exist!
Jesus is preparing this eternal abode for all His
faithful disciples, and He will one day return to bring His
church to that special place.
Let's remember that this eternal home is the ultimate
end which God is designing.
"I will shake heaven and earth."
see, we are the tape recorders, but God is the power pack!
Only through His strength and blessing can we find
abundant living! He
is driving His ocean liner towards that time when He will
give the creation its final shaking, but He allows us the
freedom to chose how we will live.
Haggai encourages us to remember that God is the real
source of our strength.
Let's meditate on these declarations, put our trust
in God and His promises, and live lives that show others
that we are depending totally upon Him!
If you've forgotten the Source of your strength or if
you've been trusting more in your own strength or in
temporary things, then confess to others here that you
really need God's strength, and you want to depend more on
Him in the future.
Let Christ give you His true and lasting peace!
“How does a portable tape recorder function?”
“That's easy, it works off of batteries.”
For a good recording, the batteries must be strong!
We've just seen some remarkable declarations that
Haggai communicated to the Jews.
Now listen carefully: "I blew it away.
I am with you.
I will fill this
temple with glory.
I will give peace.
I struck you.
I will bless you.
I will overthrow
the chariots. I
will make you like a signet ring."
Don't these declarations sound like we are very
dependent upon God and His strength?
Don't these declarations help us to see that we
ourselves aren't really all that strong?