As a prophet, Haggai is no great orator. He has a basic education. The literary forms he uses are not as detailed or as colourful as those of other prophets. Haggai’s prophecy concerns the rebuilding of the temple. It is divided into 4 discourses and delivered in a four-month period.
He looks around and sees the people returning from Exile putting all their effort and money into re-establishing themselves in new homes and businesses. They are thriving in this new economic environment. New trade opportunities opened up for them amongst the local Jewish communities and also with the pagan nations. This new prosperity is seen as God’s blessing upon them after a time of desolation.
Haggai sees the promise of a new temple being forgotten. The foundation stones were laid in April-May 536 BCE. This work stopped mainly because people said ‘they can’t afford such expenditure’. To which Haggai replies, ’they have ‘bags full of holes through which their coins fall to the ground’ and their spending is reckless’.
The people respond positively. 23 days after he spoke they set to work and a miniature of the original place of worship is created. Bystanders are said to have wept at its size and poor construction. It truly was a humble place compared with the place of worship Solomon had built for the Lord.
Haggai did not demand any interior moral reform of the people but merely requested that they give recognition of God’s presence in their midst through the restoration of their place of worship.
We are called by Haggai to create a place of worship that is open to all. It could be a garden space, a humble shelter, a place in our home or a sharing of faith in a workplace.
God is present everywhere let us not allow the busyness of our day take our eyes off the God who creates us.
Fr Peter Addicoat CP is parish priest and community leader of our St Joseph’s parish/community in Hobart, Tasmania.