Updated: May 11, 2020
by 鍾卓權牧師 (Rev. Bernie Chung)
哈該是猶大被擄回歸之後的先知, 他也是第一位回歸之後發表預言的先知，時期大約是在主前520 年，也就是中國春秋末期。哈該書 1:5-7 的三節經文，中間一節帶有諷刺性的意味，其前後兩節經文幾乎相同隻字不改，耶和華神重複了兩次說：「你們要省察自己的行為」，這兩節經文使聽者與讀者不易忽略，包括我們在內。我們該省察什麼行為呢？
神借著先知哈該向當時代表君王的猶大省長所羅巴伯和大祭司約書亞說話，神表達祂要重建聖殿的心意。並且以責備的口吻稱祂自己的百姓為「這」百姓，而不是稱他們為「我的」百姓。哈該書 1:2 節這樣說：「萬軍之耶和華如此說：『這百姓說，建造耶和華殿的時候尚未來到。』」。那時、第一批回歸的百姓已將聖殿的器皿帶回耶路撒冷有十八、九年之久，但仍未認真地動工建造聖殿。百姓的藉口是「建造耶和華殿的時候尚未來到」，但其真正原因是他們未將神居首位。（參看歌羅西書1:18）
Haggai was the prophet at the time after the Southern Kingdom of Judah's return from captivity. He was also the first prophet to make a prophecy during that time. Historically it was about 520 BC, the end of the Spring and Autumn Period in China. Among the three verses in Haggai 1:5-7, the middle one (verse 6) is ironic. The verses, one before and after it, are almost identical without changing the words. The Lord God repeated these words twice: "Give careful thoughts to your ways". These verses are hard for the listeners and readers of the Scripture including us to ignore. What kind of behavior do we need to observe?
God spoke through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah who represented the king; and also to the high priest Joshua. God expressed his intention to rebuild the temple, and He called his own people "these" people instead of "my" people in reproach. Haggai 1:2 records: “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘These people say, “The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house.”’” At that time, the first group of people returning had brought the temple utensils back to Jerusalem for eighteen or nineteen years already, but they still did not seriously start the construction of the temple. The people came up with an excuse by saying: "The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house" (Haggai 1:2). The real reason was that they did not put God first.
Let's go back to Haggai 1:6, the interesting verse sandwiched in between. The people tried to satisfy their needs of livelihood over God's need and came up with unexpected results. No matter how hard they tried, their effort was in vain. “You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it”. The reason for their failure and futility was what the Prophet Amos had already said: “The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “when I will send a famine through the land— not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11).
During the current pandemic, we need to follow the government’s guidelines to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. What are the priorities? We should improve our immune system through diet and exercise, prevent cross-infections, and take precautions to protect ourselves and others. Thank God that our Sunday worships are uninterrupted by using online technology. Our prayer and fellowship meetings can continue likewise with video conferencing. Brothers and sisters can care for one another, share burdens, and tell wonderful testimonies. During this unusual time, we can still hear and share the words of God.
Prophet Haggai exhorted the people of Judah who returned from exile to give top priority to their relationship with God. They must "give careful thought to their ways.” Brothers and Sisters, we must also heed prophet Haggai's advice to examine our actions. Does our concern over our livelihood keep us away from God? Are we neglecting God's words and hiding from him as we shelter-in-place? How deeply are we listening and thinking about God's Words? How can we get closer to God? Do we put God first? Let’s ask the Lord for help and mercy. Amen!