+ Dr. Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen introduces Haggai, which reminds us of God’s promises of restoration and of our need to set our priorities right.
Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen is professor of systematic theology in Fuller’s School of Theology. He has authored or edited over 20 books in English and seven in Finnish. Ordained by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, he travels widely and has taught and lived with his family on three continents: Europe, Asia, and North America.
“The book of Haggai ends in a wonderful note of promise about blessings God is giving to the people, about the time of restoration.” – Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen
My name is Dr. Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, and I am professor of systematic theology here at Fuller Theological Seminary. I have been assigned three biblical books or three books from the Bible which, I guess, are not familiar to most Bible readers. They are Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.
Let us take a brief look at each of these three books. The first one, as I said, is called Haggai. If you want to know more about who Haggai was and about his ministry, go to a two-part book earlier in the Old Testament. It’s called Ezra and Nehemiah. They tell us a unified story about what happened in Jerusalem at the time and in the aftermath of the return of people from the exile. It was a troubled time in the life of the people of God. You can read about how there were many enemies, there were internal divisions, people were not of one mind. And the circumstances when they were about to rebuild the temple—the circumstances were harsh and there were a lot of obstacles.
Now, what Haggai is doing—his book of two chapters, it consists of four speeches which he uttered during one fall in the year of 520 [BCE]. And his specific message is something like this: “You guys, you have now been returned from the exile. Now you need to set right your priorities. You need to know what is an important thing in life and what is not.” He’s telling the people, “You are living in paneled houses.” Paneled houses, at the time, were like good, wonderful, excellent houses. “While at the same time,” the Lord said, “The temple, my temple, is in ruins. So you spent money for your own expenses, but you guys don’t seem to have money for my work.”
And there’s one interesting phrase, almost a whole verse, which appears no less than four times in this short book. For example, in chapter 1 verse 5: “Consider your ways.” Or, another translation may say, “Give careful thought to your ways.” Literally, in the original Hebrew it means, “Set your heart upon.” When I am preaching from this book, or when I am teaching in the church, I often just read these four verses which are identical. And then we look at what are some of the specific details. But the main message of Haggai is, “You guys, your hopes will be fulfilled, and your dreams will come true if you set your priorities right.”
Something like we hear in the New Testament, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and everything rest will be given to you.” And in order to make sure that the people who are receiving these four speeches, or four prophecies, in order to make sure they will also be encouraged, the Book of Haggai ends in a wonderful note of promise about blessings God is giving to the people about the time of restoration and how the rebuilding of the temple will result in a sanctuary which is even more beautiful than the one they had lost about two generations ago