‘Then the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel.’
This reference to the prophets Haggai and Zechariah marks very plainly the nature and object of the prophetic office. The word which God in time past spake by the mouth of His holy prophets was no empty sound or mystical foretelling of future events, the interpretation of which was to be found when the events were fulfilled; it was then what it is now: the voice of God to His Church, stirring up zeal, and love, and faith, and obedience to every good word and work. It was the fresh spring of moral and religious life to the nation.
The great lessons we may learn from a review of the last canonical period of Jewish history are:—
I. The place which the spiritual element must occupy in all national and social organisation for the good of the people.—Secular power, Act of Parliament power, intellectual power, public opinion power, philanthropic power, have been tested and tried to the uttermost, but no one of them, nor all put together, have ever succeeded in regenerating a nation or converting a soul. That people is on the high road to apostasy which teaches for doctrines the commandments of men.
II. The religious teaching must be of the right stamp.—It must be revealed truth. Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi preached by inspiration of God.
III. If declension and backsliding come in among a people, what appeal can be made to awaken fear and rouse the torpid conscience?—‘The day cometh which shall burn like an oven’ is no myth. The doctrine of everlasting punishment from the presence of the Lord is as certain as the hope of being with Him and like Him for ever. ‘Knowing the terrors of the Lord, we persuade men; for we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ.’
‘The three causes which are apt to hinder our faithful zeal in building for the Lord—selfish sloth, unbelieving despondency, and carnal security—are they not the bane also of our own spiritual life? The Lord will not, He cannot, bless us personally while we yield to these temptations to slackness in the business in which He would engage us.’