God speaks. The people are stirred. God's house is built.
This seems to me to be the essence of Haggai chapter 1.
God speaks by the prophet Haggai to a particular people in a particular time and place. The book of Haggai begins by noting that particularity quite precisely. "In the second year of Darius, the king, in the sixth month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet to Zerubabbel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest...". That is, in 520 B.C. God spoke through Haggai to the governor and priest of a people recently returned from exile. God's people have been allowed to return to their homeland by Cyrus, ruler of Persia. We get the sense that they have had the opportunity to rebuild in that homeland but that the situation is still far from ideal. These people dwell there not as an independent nation but as a sub-province of the mighty Persian empire and Haggai tells us that the people live with drought and famine. In other words, they are a people who are making it but whose future is still very uncertain.
In the midst of that uncertainty, God speaks to this people. God calls the people to turn their attention away from their own homes and uncertain futures and toward God's house. The people have had time after returning from exile to rebuild their own homes but God's house, the temple, still lies in ruins. God declares by the prophet Haggai that now is the time for God's house to be rebuilt.
Haggai tells us that the message God spoke through him stirred the people. Zerubabbel, Joshua, and all the people responded to God's call and began to rebuild the temple.
God spoke. The people were stirred. God's house began to be rebuilt.
What a novel idea.
If God could speak to a people in 520 B.C in a little sub-province of the Persian empire and their spirit could be stirred and they could begin to rebuild God's house, perhaps the same could happen in 2013 in a little town in central Illinois.
Of course, for us to begin rebuilding God's house is not a matter of constructing a building. The New Testament tells us repeatedly that WE are God's house. WE are the place that God's Spirit dwells. If God is to have a house, WE are the ones who must be rebuilt. But that is not a rebuilding we can accomplish ourselves. First, God must speak. Which means we must listen.