See Haggai 1: God’s command to build. It is carefully dated by Haggai himself in Haggai 1.1.
Haggai is one of the shortest book in the Old Testament. (Rev.) Haggai is a fellow minister of the Word alongside the Mr. (Rev.) Zechariah. The two of them, both begin their ministerial labors in 520 B.C.
These Ministers of the Word labored amongst the returnees from the Babylonian Captivity. That Captivity had been effected over a period of 605ish B.C. to 586 B.C. period by several incursions by King Nebuchadnezzar. Ultimately, the Temple was burned, the king dethroned, homes destroyed, and people—especially the royals—were exported to Babylon.
Life hadn’t been easy. The Jews had suffered the predictable, harsh covenantal curses for their manifold sins; their prophets had foretold the Exile. “And I will bring a sword against you and will execute the vengeance of the covenant” (Lev. 26.25). No doubt, they got the memo. No doubt, they had been warned. But, they were “wiser and smarter than God.” That insolence had to be unlearned…and fast. Daniel, in the exile, got the memo.
We read the Kings, Chronicles, Ezra, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and others. It was ugly. But, the elect, remnant, the believers who lived by faith alone and believed, held fast, even in Exile. If some were foolish, others were not. One reads the heartening and refreshing stories of Daniel in exile—a man of fidelity, courage and honor, upholding the faith in Exile. Old Daniel wasn't selling out either.
However, beyond Daniel, a new day was dawning, a day of renewed hope and encouragement. Some Jews were authorized to return from Babylon in 538 B.C. by permission of an imperial decree. The Persian Emperor, King Cyrus, gave the exiles the right to relocate, repatriate to the homeland and an authorization to re-build the Temple and re-establish themselves as God’s people.
But, upon return, the covenant people ran into internal opposition from within Israel. It came from an insider-source, a Persian source of all things. His name was Tattenai, a “provincial” governor, perhaps a satrap, for the Persian Empire, governing the “Trans-Eurphrates” area. As a result of his irritable sway, the Jews had to cease re-building the Temple.
Things languished for 16-17 years. People lost their central religious focus. The re-establishment of the Temple, the rituals and liturgy of the annual Festivals, and the sacrificial system was forestalled. Leviticus was certainly the heart-beat of the Jewish religion. It taught the gracious, merciful and forgiving nature of a sovereign and holy God by way of expiatory and propitiatory promises—by pictures and shadows. The Abrahamic promises of Moses’ writings were not forgotten. The Davidic promises of Israel’s historians were not forgotten. The Spirit appeared to be blowing and re-establishing the people, but this downturn and set-back was discouraging.
It has a modern ring to it as one surveys current developments in our time. Opposition from without and within. Church history shows the same--opposition from without. Often, it comes most strongly from within, e.g. Neo-Montanism, Neo-Arianism, and Neo-Gnosticism in our own times.
However, a development occurred that favored God’s people. A new king came to the throne. King Darius (522 B.C.-486 B.C.) is the name. Upon a review of the records, he re-issued his predecessor’s edict of 538 B.C. Tattenai’s was reversed. Sorry, Tattenai, there’s no appellate court for you. Two Persian kings had ruled. There, there Mr. Tattenai, get over it. The Exiles were allowed to re-build and re-establish the worship of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Joseph.
Work began anew and afresh under the faithful ministry of both ministers of the Word: Misters Haggai and Zechariah. Mr. Haggai’s first sermon is date 29 August 520 B.C.
Haggai has four messages with two themes: (1) hearty repentance because of the long, benighted, inglorious past of ignominy and insolence, ignorant contempt for God’s Word (called “shrugging of the shoulders” and “stopping the ears” by Mr. Zechariah in Zechariah 7), and (2) a hearty embrace the divine Abrahamic and Davidic promises of greater blessings. “I will be your God to you and your children.” Our baptism ever-speaks the covenant promises.
Of note, Mr. Haggai draws a close connection between the restored Temple and a future Davidic king, evinced in Zerubbabel, but fulfilled in Messiah Jesus (Mt. 1.1-18).
As an aside, Zerubbabel gets honorable mention in the Davidic line down to Joseph, the earthly father of King David-Jesus (Mt. 1.13, 16). It surely is a point not lost on Matthew the Apostle. Jesus was in the David line on both sides, through Joseph and Mary, but we digress.
The Bible, as Paul instructs Elder Timothy, is “profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim.3.15-16).
The people had been a’-slacking some. One might argue extenuating circumstances. But, apparently when the time came to renew the building, there was disinterest and some self-absorption. God’s presence was with them. They heard the call. God stirred their human spirits.
By God’s Word alone and by God’s Spirit alone, the historic Church continued and continues.
For those of us in the Anglican exile, it’s mildly encouraging albeit the modern Tattenais and Captivity.
We have “Anglican drunks” around, as Mr. Canterbury said last week about the disordered Westerner Anglicans in hot pursuit of buggery and more (cf. http://life.nationalpost.com/2013/08/21/anglican-church-a-drunk-man-staggering-ever-closer-to-the-edge-of-a-cliff-archbishop-says/) . Or, we have a big “vacuum” as created by “Anglican leaders,” as Mr. (Rev. Dr. Prof.) Alister McGrath noted this week
(http://www.kendallharmon.net/t19/index.php/t19/article/food_for_thought_from_alister_mcgrath--global_anglicanism_has_created_a_the/) . Or, as Dr. James Innes Packer observed in his book on the 39 Articles, the Anglican leadership reflects the old Irish jig: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGyPuey-1Jw. At least one senses that one is not alone: sensing, seeing, hearing and undergoing the exile. Three modern leaders called it right.
We’ve got liberals, Tractarians, enthusiasts speaking in tongues (including Mr. Canterbury Welby), a lost Prayer Book tradition and no Reformed theology on the horizon other than a few here and there, e.g. Gerald Bray.
But, on the “old Prayer Book,” I call your attention to Mr. (Rev. Dr. Prof.) Carl Trueman’s comments at: http://www.reformation21.org/articles/what-the-hijabi-witnessed-and-what-she-didnt.php and/or http://reformationanglicanism.blogspot.com/2013/08/mr-rev-dr-prof-carl-trueman-discovers.html. A solid Confessional Presbyterian Churchman and Professor of History rendered his excellent comments about our sage Prayer Book. But, it’s largely disappeared. It’s been “squandered” as Mr. Trueman suggests in his volume, The Creedal Imperative. Or, as poor Mr. (Rev. Dr. Prof.) James Packer lamented in his little book on the Thirty-nine Articles, no one has a “Confessional basis” anymore.
We’ll stick to the basics, thank you Mr. Haggai. We won’t be listening to the Tattenais. We’ll build as able. We’ll stick to the Messianic promises, God alone helping, praying for daily fidelity despite appearances. We have your memo, Haggai.