Haggai and God’s House: “I Am With You”

The previous article left off at the point where the people had a decision to make: to obey or to disobey. Haggai’s message from the Lord was to “consider your ways,” because their focus was on their own houses rather than the Lord’s house (1:5,7). Judgment fell upon them individually and upon the land, causing lack due to their exploits being centered on their own prosperity. The Lord tells them to “build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified” (1:8).1 Thankfully, they heard the message and obeyed what the Lord told them to do. Obedience led to the two separate revelations with the same message from the Lord. In this article, we will examine the first of these messages from Haggai, with the repeated words, “I am with you.”

Resuming the Work – The Lord Working With Them (1:12-15)

Action of the People (v12)

Haggai identifies who was obedient to the Word: Zerubbabel the governor, Joshua the high priest, and the remnant of the people. If God will bless, it requires the obedience of each individual. Companies of believers find blessing when they rally around the Word of God and carry out what He instructs concerning His house. Having only a few steadfast believers within a local assembly is not enough for it to corporately bring pleasure to God. Consider the Galatian churches that had spiritual Christians in the company, yet Paul could not pause to commend the assembly on any points. Think of churches commanded to repent, like Thyatira and Sardis, where some didn’t hold the condemnable doctrine of Jezebel or know the depths of Satan, or some had “not defiled their garments” (Rev 2:24; 3:4). A faithful few do not change the corporate character of ungodliness.

The response of obedience to the voice of the Lord and the words of Haggai was coupled with fear. The audible words of Haggai were indeed the voice of God speaking to the people. In verse 13, Haggai is referred to as “the LORD’s messenger in the LORD’s message unto the people.” How wonderful when gifted men speak the oracles of God to us today (1Pe 4:11). Teaching, preaching and exhorting are not merely a talk, a presentation, a speech, or even mere public speaking; it must be much more. The character of the pulpit with its message must exude power and reverence, which can only come from God through the Word rightly divided by a servant fit for the Master’s use. Hearing the Word of God in such a manner can produce obedience and fear; not hearing God in public preaching will result in the people of God missing out. We need the Lord’s messenger in the Lord’s message today.

Observe, lastly, in this verse that the obedience of Zerubbabel, Joshua and all the remnant of the people is linked to the Lord being their God. Twice we find the phrase “the LORD their God.” The Lord was their God because they willingly listened and did what He told them. We can contrast the partially obedient, and therefore disobedient, King Saul, who, when talking to Samuel, references three times “the LORD thy God” (1Sa 15:15,21,30); the disobedient life and demise of Saul tell us that the Lord was not his God. To a world of onlookers, we demonstrate that the Lord is our God when we are willing to obey His Word.

Presence of the Lord (v13)

The corporate obedience of the people to the first message brought a second message 24 days later. The most precious message that anyone can know from the Lord is “I am with you” (v13). Isaiah 64:1-3 contains a prayer of Isaiah, years before this, on behalf of the people of God, longing for God’s presence, which they did not know. Ezekiel, having witnessed in a vision the increasingly greater abominations conducted in the temple precincts, saw the glory of the Lord depart from the temple (Eze 8-10). Because of this, though the same wickedness was in the nations around them, the Lord said that judgment would “begin at my sanctuary” (Eze 9:6). Now, because of their obedience, they are comforted by knowing the Lord is with them. When the Lord acknowledges His approval through His presence, it invigorates us and confirms we are on the right pathway.

This specific message parallels the Lord’s promised and approving presence among His assemblies today in Matthew 18:20. The references calling the obedient people of God “the remnant” remind us of “two or three” (1:12,14; 2:2). “The LORD stirred” in verse 14 correlates to the passive verb in Matthew 18:20, “are gathered together,” since we do not gather ourselves together but the Holy Spirit assembles us. The obedience to the “voice of the LORD” (v12) reminds us of “in my name,” since meeting in the Lord’s name means gathering according to His mind and will. “I am with you” (v13) links to “there am I in the midst of them.” The most blessed thing we can know, just like the remnant of the people, is the presence of the Lord.

Action of the Lord (v14)

The message of His presence among them resulted in the Lord stirring the people. Note that their political head, Zerubbabel, their representative priest, Joshua, and all the remnant came and did the work. Ezra 5:2 reveals that the prophets Haggai and Zechariah also joined in. Building the house of God occurs when the Lord stirs His people, and united, obedient action occurs in response to the Word of God. In terms of individual growth, the Lord reminds us that we cannot produce anything profitable for God without the Lord’s doing (Joh 15:5b; see also 1Co 3:7). When we witness the building up of the local assembly as a whole, it is because the Spirit of God is moving among us to stir His obedient and godly remnant.

1 Bible quotations in this article are from the KJV.