Haggai and the Lord's House
Building the Temple
In 520 B.C., about 16 years after the people of God had returned from the Babylonian Captivity, the temple of God remained in ruins despite the decree of Cyrus, king of Persia: "He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem.... Now let him go up to Jerusalem...and build the house of the Lord God of Israel." Ezra 1:2, 3
Then, after years of neglect, the Jews got busy in 520 B.C. and within four years the temple was completed and dedicated. What caused the turn around? "Then the prophet Haggai and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophets, prophesied to the Jews who were in Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them. So Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak rose up and began to build the house of God which was in Jerusalem; and the prophets of God were with them, helping them." Ezra 5:1, 2
Though many people were important to the rebuilding effort, the Scriptures credit Haggai with playing an important part in stirring up both the leaders and the people in the rebuilding. For that reason I would like for us to consider a few thoughts from the little book of Haggai that we might better understand things that will hinder the building of God's house today and also things we can do to build it up as a holy temple to the Lord. (See Ephesians 2:19-22).
One reason for the delay in the rebuilding of the temple was the contention of the people that it was not time to build (Haggai 1:2; all future references will be from Haggai unless noted differently). But while they contended that it was not time to build the Lord's house, they believed it was time to build their own houses, even to the paneling of the walls (1:4). God refused to bless the people because His house was in ruins while every one of them was taking care of his own house (1:5-11). When we do not have time for the building up of God's house, it is a clear indication our priorities have become misplaced (Matthew 6:33). All of us are given the same 168 hours in a week and we must never boast of having so much to do that we must neglect the house of God.
Living in the Past
In Haggai's day some seem to have been quite discouraged by the feeble beginnings that had been made some years earlier. Many of the old men who remembered the splendor of Solomon's temple wept when they witnessed the foundations of the new and not improved temple (Ezra 3:12, 13). To some the new temple was "as nothing" in comparison (1:2, 3). For that reason, Haggai was told to assure the people that this was the Lord's work; He was with them; and this temple would be filled with glory (2:4-9). Are we not discouraged sometimes when we perceive that things in the church today are not as good as they once were? Let us remember at all times that we must live in the present. If we do the Lord's work in the Lord's way, He will be with us and He will be glorified. When the apostles went into all the world to fulfill the commission given by their Lord, they met with differing results in different places (it is highly unlikely that 3000 were ever again baptized in one day as happened at the beginning-Acts 2), but they went with the Lord's assurance that He would be with them always (Matthew 28:18-20). Let us be diligent to do the Lord's work without comparisons to past successes or failures.
The Word of the Lord
Though we could point to other things Haggai did, his reliance on the word of the Lord is worthy of note. When you read the book of Haggai, you do not find great oratory or human reasoning, and you certainly do not find any "gimmicks," but what you do find is a man who came in the name of the Lord. Over and over again, Haggai emphasized that as the "Lord's messenger, [he] spoke the Lord's message to the people" (1:13). More than 25 times you will find "says the Lord" or some similar expression. One important result of this kind of preaching was that the temple was built to the Lord and was not a temple built to glorify Haggai.
The application to our day should be easy to see. The Lord's temple will be built up when we preach the word of God in such a way as to build people's faith so that it is not "in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God." (See 1 Corinthians 2:1-5). Let us diligently seek to be built up in the most holy faith by returning to preaching and teaching that relies on "thus says the Lord."
"And now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified." Acts 20:32
Haggai, with the help of others, sparked a revival among God's people by rebuking them for their misplaced priorities, warning them not to dwell on the past, and then giving them the Lord's message for the present. Will we be revived? Will the Lord's house be built up? Order your priorities; put the past behind you; listen to the word of God.