the Fifth Week of Lent
Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary Hole's Commentary
by Frank Binford Hole
WHEN CONSIDERING the 4th and 5th chapters of the book of Ezra, we saw how the adversaries of God and of the remnant, who had returned to Jerusalem under Zerubbabel and Jeshua, and started to rebuild the temple, succeeded in stopping the work; and that God raised up two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, under whose ministry the work was restarted. Turning now to the book of Haggai, we may find instruction in what God said through him.
His prophecy is carefully dated, and noting this we see it divides into four sections, though all were uttered in the second year of Darius. The first utterance was on the first day of the sixth month ( Hag_1:1 ): the second on the twenty-first day of the seventh month ( Hag_2:1 ): the third on the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month ( Hag_2:10 ): the fourth, though distinct from the third, was given on the very same day ( Hag_2:20 ). Our first remark must be that God always recognizes the validity of His own governmental actions. He had set Israel aside as a nation, and the times of the Gentiles had begun; hence the dating is that of the ruling Gentile power and not that of the Jews.
Has this point any significance for us? We believe it has. We live, as we believe, near the end of the sad history of the Church as a professing body on the earth, subject to God's holy government. Some idea of that government may be ours if we consider with care Revelation 2.0 and 3, where the Lord as a Judge surveys the seven churches, and speaks of such things as the removal of the 'candlestick' of light and testimony, and acting so as to 'fight against' the evil doers; and even when there is a measure of approval, it is only 'a little strength' and the minimum of faithfulness.
We shall do well if we remember this with much humility of mind. The overcomers in the seven churches are not exempted from the painful results of God's government, but must overcome in the conditions that prevail. The Apostle Peter had to say, 'the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God'; and nineteen centuries have passed since that was written. Here is a fact that bears upon much painful weakness that confronts us today.
Because of the weakness marking the returned remnant, God raised up Haggai. Because of the contrary edict of the new Persian king they had stopped the work on the house of God, and evidently without much concern they had started to build nice and comfortable houses for themselves. This being the case the prophet's first utterance was a word of rebuke.