– Pastor Brandon’s article from the April 2019 Newsletter
The city of Jerusalem and the temple of the Lord Almighty lay in ruins. Because of the disobedience of the Jews, the Lord had withdrawn his protection from the nation, and foreign invaders had conquered the land and carried the people into exile. But now, decades later, hope was stirring. The Lord had moved the hearts of the Persian kings, and the people of Judah were returning to their land to rebuild.
The remnant of the Jews eagerly set to work rebuilding the temple of God. They came together and gave money and supplies needed for the project, and when the builders laid the foundation of the temple, they rejoiced and sang to the Lord. Yet, opposition soon arose from the enemies of Judah, and the people’s plans were frustrated. Their enthusiasm waned, apathy set in, and the project came to a standstill. “The time has not come yet come for the Lord’s house to be built” became the prevailing sentiment.
Then God spoke through the prophet Haggai regarding the temple. “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” he asks. The Lord repeatedly challenges them to give careful thought to what they are doing and evaluate the outcome. They were not doing what was right, and they were paying a price:
You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it…You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little…Why?…Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house. (Haggai 1:5-11)
In other words, despite all of their effort to provide for themselves, they were falling short because they had been neglecting the house of God. God commands them to build the temple, and the whole remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the Lord.
As they resume their work, God again speaks through Haggai. He encourages the people to “Be strong and work. For I am with you.” He reminds them of their history and declares, “my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.” He tells them to mark the day because he will fill his house with glory and peace and he promises to bless his people as they once again turn their focus to the things of God.
As we read these two short chapters of the book of Haggai, we also are challenged to “give careful thought” to our ways. How are we living and what is the outcome of that way of life? Are our priorities in line with the heart of God and are we enjoying his blessings in Christ? Or are we setting him aside, and reaping frustration as we try to build our own house? Have we set our mind on earthly things or on things above? Are we at work building his kingdom or our own?
I encourage you today to commit yourself once again to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness,” and trust his provision that “all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).