Jump ahead in time to a prophet’s voice from the end of exile. Babylon had fallen to Cyrus of Persia in 538 BCE, who gave permission to Judeans to return home and rebuild a city and temple at Jerusalem. By the time Darius is settled on the throne, in the second year of his reign, Haggai says the people are doing well in their private ‘paneled’ homes – but have not gotten around to the work of building a temple and a wall for Jerusalem, in accord with 2 Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah ‘later prophets’.
Haggai asks people if they find their appetites satisfied, and assumes a negative answer. In our time, it’s the election question ‘are you better off than you were before’? There were high expectations among the returning exiles, and those who had remained in the land, and some early personal material successes.
Today’s chapter concludes that the governor, the high priest, and the whole people felt their spirit renewed by Haggai’s inspirational speeches, and got ready to begin the postponed building. When is it our time to build? What keeps us running and working so hard without satisfaction, as if our pockets and purses had holes, and our appetites lead to more obesity than nutrition?
Haggai 1 (NRSV)
1 In the second year of King Darius, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the LORD came by the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest:
2Thus says the LORD of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the LORD’s house.
3Then the word of the LORD came by the prophet Haggai, saying:
4Is it a time for you yourselves to live in your panelled houses, while this house lies in ruins?
5Now therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider how you have fared.
6You 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 you that earn wages earn wages to put them into a bag with holes.
7 Thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider how you have fared.
8Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honoured, says the LORD.
9You have looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? says the LORD of hosts. Because my house lies in ruins, while all of you hurry off to your own houses.
10Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce.
11And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the soil produces, on human beings and animals, and on all their labours.
12 Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, and Joshua 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 the prophet Haggai, as the LORD their God had sent him and the people feared the LORD.
13Then Haggai, the messenger of the LORD, spoke to the people with the LORD’s message, saying, I am with you, says the LORD.
14And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua 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,
15on the twenty-fourth day of the month, in the sixth month.