The prophet Haggai’s short messages to the remnant of Jews that returned to the Promised Land after their exile in Babylon were more personal and to the point than other messages God had sent his people in the past. Haggai’s brief ministry lasted only four months and specific dates were given for his messages, so that it was completely clear, exactly when they were delivered. The first message was delivered on August 29, 520 B.C., approximately eighteen years after king Cyrus had decreed that God’s temple should be rebuilt. In a nutshell, the first message Haggai delivered was about the people of God taking some time to reflect on their current situation. After their return to the Promised Land, the Jews immediately set out to rebuild their homes and plant crops. Obviously, they needed a roof over their heads and food to sustain them, but their effort was inconsistent with the mission they had been tasked with, which was to rebuild God’s temple. King Cyrus’ decree specifically stated that the reason the Jews were to return to their homeland was to build God’s temple (Ezra 1:2-3).
Haggai’s message opened with an important question, “Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your ceiled houses, and this house lie waste? (Haggai 1:4). God wanted to know why the peoples’ houses were finished, but his was not. The use of the Hebrew word ‘eth, which is translated time in this verse, was meant to be an indicator of the purpose of their return to the land. ‘Eth means appointed time or proper time. “Basically this noun connotes ‘time’ conceived as an opportunity or season” (6256). The Jews would not have returned to the Promised Land if it weren’t for Cyrus’ decree to rebuild the temple, and yet, eighteen years later, the work that was completed was minimal. The only things finished were the foundation and the altar for sacrifices. God said to his people, “Consider your ways. Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into bags with holes. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways” (Haggai 1:5-7).
The Hebrew phrase translated “consider your ways” (Haggai 1:5,7) or siym (seem) lebab (lay – bawb´) derek (deh´- rek) means to place or put something on one’s heart about his behavior (7760/3824/1870). The way we might think of this today is to feel convicted about our sins or being led by God’s spirit to repent. The people that lived before Jesus could not be born again, but there was a process for them to receive God’s blessing. God wanted his people to take some time to reflect on their behavior and see that what they were doing wasn’t getting them anywhere. He pointed out to them that they were expending a lot of energy trying to sustain themselves and were still struggling financially (Haggai 1:7). In order for them to be blessed, God’s people had to listen to him and obey his commandments. After hearing Haggai’s message, it says the people “obeyed the voice of the LORD their God…and the people did fear before the LORD” (Haggai 1:12). In other words, the peoples’ relationship with the LORD was restored.