“And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirits of all the remnant of the people. And they came and worked on the house of the LORD of hosts, their God” (Haggai 1:14).
The people of Judah had been exiles in Babylon for an entire generation. Seventy years had passed since Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, had come against Jerusalem and conquered it, carrying away its people to his own land. But now at last, it was time for them to return home. With the permission of the new Persian king, a wave of people went back to Jerusalem, where amidst the ruins of that great city they set about rebuilding.
Others had taken up residence in the abandoned land, though, and they weren’t too happy about the Jews returning. They used manipulation and fear tactics to halt the construction of the temple. The people still built houses for themselves, though.
Their actions displeased God. He sent a drought to get the people’s attention, and he then sent the prophet Haggai to explain the reason for the drought. While they lived in their luxurious houses, Haggai admonished them, God’s house was still in ruins. It was not good that they had so quickly abandoned their desire to honor Him in favor of comfort.
And for the first time in a long time, the people actually listened to the words of God’s messenger. Led by Zerubbabel and Joshua, the people once again began work on the temple. God stirred up their spirits to do this work, giving them a desire to act. Their hearts were in the right place; they had just let themselves become distracted. But God was gracious to them and called them back, giving them a chance to repent—a chance they eagerly took. They wanted to obey, and God helped them do just that.