The prophet Haggai is speaking to a desperate people. They have recently returned from exile in Babylon. Their previous temple, the splendor of Solomon’s reign, was destroyed by an invading army (as had been prophesied).
And the Israelites have finally been allowed to return home. Even so, they discover the truth of the Kingdom of God is an acquired taste. It is not ease and simplicity. It is work, stewardship, and trust.
Like them, we seek the shortcuts. The quick path. The easy answers. We are looking for the magic wand to wave and make everything comfortable.
Truth does not always go down so smooth. And the truth Haggai shares throughout his book is a difficult one. On first returning, the Israelites tend to their own homes, desperate to repair their destroyed neighborhoods. Understandable. But the temple of God remains in ruins. Haggai has to share with them the hard truth that the temple of God is more important than their own dwellings. And then, once work begins, the people are discouraged at the meager progress – they are a long way from Solomon’s temple.
But there is hope ahead. The truth is that life in the Kingdom requires hope. It requires work. It requires trust. We want a gospel of ease rather than the gospel of truth. We want to ensure our circumstances are okay before we jump into the hard work of obedience. Haggai’s message is for us just as much as for the returning Israelites – there is no greater truth than trusting in the Lord and stewarding the work before us.