The People’s Obedience.
B. C. 520.
12 Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the LORD their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the LORD their God had sent him, and the people did fear before the LORD. 13 Then spake Haggai the LORD‘s messenger in the LORD‘s message unto the people, saying, I am with you, saith the LORD. 14 And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and did work in the house of the LORD of hosts, their God, 15 In the four and twentieth day of the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king.
As an ear-ring of gold (says Solomon), and an ornament of fine gold, so amiable, so acceptable, in the sight of God and man, is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear, Prov. xxv. 12. The prophet here was a wise but faithful reprover, in God’s name, and he met with an obedient ear. The foregoing sermon met with the desired success among the people, and their obedience met with due encouragement from God. Observe,
I. How the people returned to God in a way of duty. All those to whom that sermon was preached received the word in the love of it, and were wrought upon by it. Zerubbabel, the chief governor, did not think himself above the check and command of God’s word. He was a man that had been eminently useful in his day, and serviceable to the interest of the church, yet did not plead his former merits in answer to this reproof for his present remissness, but submitted to it. Joshua’s business, as high priest, was to teach, and yet he was willing himself to be taught, and willingly received admonition and instruction. The remnant of the people (and the whole body of them was but a remnant, a very few of the many thousands of Israel) also were very pliable; they all obeyed the voice of the Lord their God, and bowed their neck to the yoke of his commands, and it is here recorded to their honour that they did so, v. 12. Their father said, Sons, go work to-day in my vineyard, in my temple; and they not only said, We go, sir, but they went immediately.
1. They looked upon the prophet to be the Lord’s messenger, and the word he delivered to be the Lord’s message to them; and there-fore received it not as the word of man, but as the word of Almighty God; they obeyed his words, as the Lord their God had sent him, v. 12. Note, In attending to God’s ministers we must have an eye to him that sent them, and receive them for his sake, while they act according to their commission.
2. They did fear before the Lord. Prophecy was a new thing with them; they had had no special messenger from heaven for a great while, and therefore now that they had one, and but one, they paid an extraordinary regard to him; whereas their fathers, who had many prophets, mocked and misused them. It is sometimes so; when good preaching is most scarce it does most good, whereas the manna that is rained in plenty is loathed as light bread. And, because they so readily received this prophet, God, within a month or two after, raised them up another, Zech. i. 1. They feared before the Lord; they had a great regard to the divine authority and a great dread of the divine wrath, and were of those that trembled at God’s word. The judgments of God which they had been under, though very severe, had not prevailed to make them fear before the Lord, until the word of God was sent to expound his providences, and then they feared. Note, A holy fear of God will have a great influence upon our obedience to him. Serve the Lord with fear; if we fear him not, we shall not serve him. 3. The Lord stirred up their spirits, v. 14.
(1.) He excited them to their duty, and put it into their hearts to go about it. Note, Then the word of God has its success when God by his grace stirs up our spirits to comply with it; and without that grace we should remain stupid and utterly averse to every thing that is good. It is in the day of a divine power that we are made willing.
(2.) He encouraged them in their duty, and with those encouragements enlarged their hearts, Ps. cxix. 32. When they heard the word they feared; but, lest they should sink under the weight of that fear, God stirred them up, and made them cheerful and bold to encounter the difficulties they might meet with. Note, When God has work to do, he will either find or make men fit to do it, and stir them up to it.
4. They applied to their work with all possible vigour: They came and did work in the house of the Lord of hosts their God. Every one, according as his capacity or ability was, lent a hand, some way or other, to further that good work; and this they did with an eye to God as the Lord of hosts, and as their God, the God of Israel. The consideration of God’s sovereign dominion in the world by his providence, and his covenant-relation to his people by his grace, should stir up our spirits to act for him, and for the advancement of the interest of his kingdom among men, to the utmost of our power.
5. They did this speedily; it was but on the first day of the sixth month that Haggai preached them this sermon, and by the twenty-fourth of the same month, little more than three weeks after, they were all busy working in the house of the Lord their God, v. 15. To show that they were ashamed of their delays hitherto, now that they were convinced and called they were resolved to delay no longer, but to strike while the iron was hot, and to set about the work while they were under convictions. Note, Those that have lost time have need to redeem time; and the longer we have loitered in that which is good the more haste we should make when we are convinced of our folly.
II. How God met them in a way of mercy. The same prophet that brought them the reproof brought them a very comforting encouraging word (v. 13): Then spoke Haggai, the Lord’s messenger, in the Lord’s message, in his name, and as from him, saying, I am with you, saith the Lord. That is all he has to say, and that is enough; as that word of Christ to his disciples is (Matt. xxviii. 20), “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world. I am with you, that is, I will forgive your neglects hitherto, and they shall not be remembered against you; I will remove the judgments you have been under for those neglects, and will appear for you, as I have in them appeared against you. I am with you to protect you against your enemies that bear ill-will to your work, and to prosper you, and to give you success in it–with you to strengthen your hands, and bless the work of them, without which blessing those labour in vain that build.” Note, Those that work for God have God with them; and, if he be for us, who can be against us? If he be with us, what difficulty can stand before us?
– Matthew Henry Commentary