The purpose of God

This third video introduces the first message of the Lord through the prophet Haggai. This first message is a call to the people to consider their ways and the state of the house of the Lord. As we look at the first two verses, we will see what was the purpose of God for His people, and for us today.

Haggai 1:1–2

We will now turn to Chapter 1, which is the first message of the Lord through the prophet Haggai. It is a call to the people to consider their ways and the state of the house of the Lord.

An important change

We already noticed in the first verse that this first message of Haggai was pronounced in the year 520 before Christ. More specifically, on the first day of the sixth month, which was the month of Elul. This month overlaps our months of August and September.

Right from the first verse, we note an important change of state for the people: there was no longer a king in Israel, and Zerubbabel was a simple governor in Judah. All kingship was set aside, and authority was given to the kings of the nations. This is what the Lord Jesus called “the times of the nations” (Luke 21:24). Thus, Israel was no longer sovereign in its own land—or rather, in “the land that the Lord had given them” (Numbers 32:9). The Israelites now had to submit to the authority of a foreign ruler.

Things were no longer as they had been and would not return to what they were. We see in the Word that following man’s failure God does not give back that which was, but grants something else. For the people in the time of Haggai the great expected event was the coming of the Messiah (2:7).

It is the same for us. Things have changed since the time of the apostles, and the Christian testimony will not return to what it was in the beginning. But if everything has changed, the Lord remains the same. Let us not wish things to be “like the good old days,” but rather, let us look with faith to the Lord and walk faithfully before him!

Haggai 1:2

Now let us look at verse 2.

“Thus speaks the LORD of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the LORD’s house should be built.”

The LORD of hosts speaks to his people.

The name of God as LORD of hosts appears for the first time at the beginning of the first book of Samuel, where the context is the same as in the book of Judges: “Every man did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25) The people had become corrupt, and they were weak and in a low state. Aside from corruption, the similarity with the state of the people in Haggai’s days is remarkable: weakness and a low state.

Are we not also seeing this state of things today? Like leaven put into the dough to make it rise, all kinds of evil have been introduced into Christianity. There are man-made systems, false teachers, teachings that are contrary to sound doctrine, and even teachings of demons, as the apostle Paul wrote: “But the Spirit speaks expressly, that in latter times some will apostatize from the faith, giving their mind to deceiving spirits and teachings of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1). Because of this, much evil is tolerated and even practised. Several parables of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 13 highlight this development of evil in the Christian testimony.

But that is not all: there is also weakness among those who are true children of God, due to lack of knowledge and piety. The people of God are in a sad and low state, although they want to give the impression of the contrary, as the assembly of Laodicea said: “I am rich, and am grown rich, and have need of nothing.” But the Lord Jesus must tell, “[you] know not that you are the wretched and the miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” (Rev. 3:17) Externally everything seemed to be thriving! But where was the Lord? He was at the door and knocking.

This is the situation in which we find ourselves. Things are going badly, the name of Christ is dishonoured, and the truth is set aside. The person of Christ is rejected not only in this world, but also by those who claim His name. For example, by no longer obeying Him as Lord. Or by denying His divinity, or His incarnation, or that He is the eternal Son of the Father, or any other truth concerning His blessed person. There is opposition to the true knowledge of God, which is through Jesus Christ, within Christendom and in the world.

So, when we compare the state of the people in Haggai’s time with ours, we see that Haggai’s message is very relevant for today.

But even in a time like this the Lord still desires to speak to us.

And this is what we see at the beginning of verse 2: “Thus speaks the LORD of hosts.”

God will now speak to His people as the Lord of hosts, that is, as a great King with a great army to fulfill His plans, His determined purpose. God’s dominion is over all things. If there is an army of angels who serve Him faithfully, the peoples and nations are also in His hands. Indeed, we read in Proverbs that “The king’s heart in the hand of the LORD is as brooks of water: He turns it to wherever He will.” (Proverbs 21:1)

Thus, “The LORD the God of the heavens” (Ezra 1:2) had a specific purpose in allowing his people to return to Jerusalem by the decree of Cyrus. And now He will speak to His people to bring them to understand His mind and encourage them to fulfill His purpose.

Do we have a good understanding of what God is doing today, of His purpose? After His resurrection, the Lord Jesus said to His disciples, “Peace be to you: as the Father sent Me forth, I also send you.” (John 20:21) If we have been saved—by believing in Christ and His work on the cross—only to become worshippers, then why does the Lord not immediately take us into His presence in heaven? We would worship much better in heaven than here, while we are still in the flesh with that old fallen nature. But now it is no longer about us, but about Christ, around whom the whole purpose of God revolves. And we are here to bear witness to Him and to learn from Him, and indirectly, to get to know ourselves better and to understand how much we have been forgiven and loved. The fact that we are still here on earth, and that the Lord has sent us, shows us that God is still working, until now, to build His Assembly.

If the altar had been set “on its base” (Ezra 3:3)—which speaks of worship and service according to God’s thoughts, a very important subject—that was not all. The house then had to be built. Yes, the altar first, but then build the house.

As members of the body of Christ, we all have an active part to play in God’s work. But if we look around us—at the iniquity that is being practised or at the allurements of this age—then we risk not only to forget God’s purpose, but to come to the same conclusions as the people of Israel in the time of Haggai, and to behave in the same way.

In summary

Times have changed since the Acts of the Apostles, and evil has spread in the Christian testimony. Things will not return as they were in the beginning, but the Lord remains the same and works to build up His Assembly until He calls us to Himself. In the meantime, He desires that we understand His purpose and not be discouraged by iniquity, or put to sleep by the allurements of the world, but that we walk according to His purpose, for also we have been “called according to [His] purpose.” (Romans 8:28).