Uniform 06.08.2014: Do Something

Haggai 1:12–2:9

“Rebuild.” “Serve.” “Shine.” “Uplift.” “Adopt.” “Smile.” “Care.” “Act.” “Teach.” “Hope.” “Encourage.”

In the music video for Matthew West’s contemporary Christian song, “Do Something,” people hold up a series of signs urging viewers into action in order to build up the kingdom of God here on earth. West sings about the pain and suffering in the world. He wonders how we got to this point, and he prays in frustration, “God, why don’t You do something?” God answers, “I did: I created you” (Sparrow Records, 2014). It’s one thing to sit at church or in a small group and discuss the love of God for humanity, the horrible circumstances of people all over the world, and the commands of Jesus to help others. But West says that often, in our hearts, we’re really thinking, “Someone else will do something.”

When God’s people returned to their homeland after a long and miserable exile in Babylon, they saw the destruction of their beloved temple—the place where they felt closest to God—and probably felt more alone than ever. They wanted to honor God by rebuilding a worthy place of worship, but they didn’t have the resources. Then, through the prophet Haggai, God spoke to Zerubbabel, their governor, and to Joshua, their high priest, assuring the people, “I am with you” (Hag 1:13).

“Don’t just sit there,” God said. “I’m with you, and I always keep my promises, so be courageous. Work! Don’t be afraid. The truth is, you’re going to build a new temple that will be even grander than the first one. Trust me!” (See 2:4-9.) Our Bible study lessons in this unit go into the fact that the temple the people finally built was actually not as big or beautiful or grand as Solomon’s. So what did God mean?

Maybe God meant that there was a grander plan in store for the people—one that they could only begin to fathom. That plan continued over the centuries as God’s presence overflowed the temple and spilled out into the world through the hands and feet of people like you and me. God empowers us to help build the kingdom in so many glorious ways, and yet, just as West sang, we spend a lot more time talking about doing than actually doing. Various things hold us back: fear, uncertainty, busyness. And many of us fall back on the idea that someone somewhere will do something. This idea lets us off the hook.

But the chorus of Matthew West’s song has an answer for it:

If not us, then who
If not me and you
Right now, it’s time for us to do something
If not now, then when
Will we see an end
To all this pain
It’s not enough to do nothing
It’s time for us to do something

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the world’s pain. We need to remember, though, that we don’t have to solve every problem in one big moment. Little by little, person by person, we can work on the grand building of God’s kingdom. A Sunday school class can serve a meal together at the Salvation Army. A group of kids at Vacation Bible School can spend the week collecting items for the local food pantry. A couple can volunteer at a ministry to families with sick children. A person can read to first graders at the local school once or twice a week.

It starts with you and me. Right now. Do something. Place a brick in the grand, unfathomable, beautiful building of God’s kingdom.


1. Do you think many Christians spend more time talking about serving others than they spend actually serving? Why might this be so?
2. What holds you back personally from participating in a ministry or some other way of serving your community? What can you do to remove that obstacle?
3. How can Matthew West’s song inspire you to be the one who makes a difference instead of waiting on others to do it?
4. What do you think it was like for the returned exiles to see the temple in ruins? What did that building mean to them? Why did they long to rebuild it? What held them back?
5. How could God’s words to these people help us find the courage and motivation to do something—right now—to help build the kingdom of God in our communities?

Reference Shelf

The content of the message begins with the three rhetorical questions in 2:3: “Who is left among you that saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Is it not in your sight as nothing?” These questions are designed to make a point. The first question addresses the oldest members of the community, a group that could not have been very large but that undoubtedly commanded considerable respect because of their age. The temple had been destroyed in 587 BCE, sixty-seven years before Haggai spoke. Given that the average life expectancy was far less than fifty and that less than ten percent of the population lived to be more than seventy, few would have been alive who could recall the first temple, and fewer still who could have recalled it with any accurate detail. Nevertheless, Haggai addressed the concerns of this small but influential group in order to make a point: despite the meager appearances, God would use the work to accomplish great things. It is not clear from this text alone, however, whether Haggai spoke about the progress or the scope of the construction. Still, by comparing this text to Ezra 3:11-13, it seems more likely that it is the limited scope of the project rather than the progress that lies behind the concerns. Haggai’s questions acknowledge the validity of their perspective. Anyone who could recall the size of the former temple could see that the current project would not match the grandeur of the former building.

Haggai 2:4 enjoins the addressees mentioned in 2:2 three times to take courage, be strong. This thrice-repeated command is probably not accidental. It is the same command issued to Joshua son of Nun after Moses’ death as Israel prepared to cross the Jordan (Josh 1:6, 7, 9). Unlike Joshua 1, however, Haggai’s encouragement is delivered to two leaders (political and religious) and to the people themselves. This subtle allusion to the end of the exodus period is made even more explicit in the following verse, at least in the MT tradition. Following the three admonitions to take courage, there is a single command given: “work.”

Interestingly, according to Haggai 2:4b-5, these commands to take courage are not primarily grounded in a promise that YHWH would restore the temple to its former glory. Rather, these commands are grounded in experience, present and past. Take courage because God is with you (now), just as he promised when he brought you out of the land of Egypt. This affirmation of God’s presence in their current endeavors reiterates the promise made in 1:13, but in its present form 2:5a draws on the exodus tradition when it says, “according to the word which I cut with you when you came out of Egypt.” This promise of divine presence is further clarified in 2:5b, in two rather interesting ways. First, the statement that God’s spirit is in their midst is powerful and unusual. Those Old Testament texts where God speaks of putting his spirit on an entire group of people are limited in number (Isa 44:3; 59:21; Ezek 36:27; 37:14; 39:29; Joel 4:1-2 [MT 3:1-2]). Of these, all but two occur as promises of some future action. Only Isaiah 59:21 and Haggai 2:5 make this statement in a way that indicates it is operative for the listeners of the moment. This is a strong endorsement from YHWH for the group that has started work on the temple. Second, the admonition not to fear at the end of 2:5 evokes oblique yet comforting nuances to the exodus and conquest stories. Since other allusions to the exodus events play a role in this passage, it should be noted that in the Pentateuch and Joshua, the verb “to fear” (yårå ) is most commonly used to describe the reaction of the nations to the mighty deeds of YHWH. In Haggai, however, the verb is used to comfort YHWH’s people by telling them not to fear, just before announcing the upheaval of the nations in 2:6-7. The command “Do not fear” is the typical beginning of a salvation oracle. In this case, it forms the transition from a word of encouragement to a pronouncement of future weal for Judah that will result from a change of the world order.


James D. Nogalski, The Book of the Twelve: Micah–Malachi, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2006) 781-783.

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor for Smyth & Helwys curriculum since 2001. She is a member of West Highland Baptist Church in Macon, Georgia. She enjoys reading and writing fiction, spending time with her husband and two daughters, and watching British television shows. Her goal for 2014 is to learn to play the piano.


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