The first group of Jews returned from the Babylonian captivity in 536 B.C. under the leadership of Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:1-2). At first, the Hebrews had been anxious to reestablish their religious tradition. They set up the altar of burnt-offerings at its original site (Ezra 3:2-3), and laid the foundations of the temple (Ezra 3:8-10). They became discouraged by opposition, however, and so the work of restoration was suspended. Inactivity prevailed for the next sixteen years.
In the second year of Darius (520 B.C.), Haggai came upon the scene to encourage the people to resume work on the house of God (Haggai 1:1-2).
While Samaritan hostility had initially dissuaded the Jews in their noble task, eventually selfish materialism corroded their hearts, and they were more concerned for personal ambitions than the Lord’s interests.
Their plea was, “It is not the right time for building Jehovah’s house.” With sharp rebuke, the prophet sarcastically informed them that they had no problem with the “time” element when it came to their own homes! He then pointed out the consequences that had come (lean years) as a result of their religious indifference.
The prophet charged that their materialism was like putting money in “a bag with holes” (Haggai 1:6). Underline that expression and take a lesson from it. In your margin observe: The vanity of materialism.
Incidentally, Haggai’s sermon was quite effective. Within twenty-four days, work on the temple commenced!