We are nearing the end of the Old Testament section of our Journey Through The Bible. In fact we may finish it this week. I can not wait to get to the New Testament. You will not want to miss a day of it. Today I want to look at the little book of Haggai. We don't hear many sermons preached from the passages found in this book, which is a shame. It is a neat and powerful little book.
"This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,' says the Lord. 'You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?' declares the Lord Almighty. 'Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house." (Haggai 1:7-9)
Before I begin to elaborate on this particular passage let me give some background information. If you remember, Cyrus allowed the Judeans to return to their homeland after being in exile. He also encouraged them to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. They began the temple project, but it quickly came to a halt in 538 B.C.E. Haggai then becomes a major voice in Jerusalem encouraging the people to finish the work. His book is a collection of five addresses urging the Jewish leaders to assume responsibility for the completion of the temple.
The people have been preoccupied with their own lives and the re-building of their own homes that they have abandoned the work of the Lord. In their minds, "first things first" meant "me first!" Haggai advises them to reverse their priorities. It's a great thing that we are not like this today. Umm....Now, pay attention to what is being said in this passage above. God wants a house. God wants a house that he can be proud of. I have always heard it said, "It's just a building" when it comes to the church house. Well, I don't think it is just a building. I've heard preachers condemning "fancy" church buildings, etc. Well, I think we need to be careful in "all we give to the Lord." What does our building say about God? No, I am not proposing that we build a crystal cathedral or install gold toilets. But, in this passage God wants a house just like what the people are building for themselves. Here, the people are thinking of themselves before they think about God. God tells them they have it all backward. They have discovered that since they halted the work on the temple that things are not working out to well for them. They are being told that if they rebuild the temple they will then prosper.
The temple was built in 515 and it would be known as the Second Temple. The first temple, if you recall, was Solomon's Temple. There were not all that many who could remember the former temple. But there were some. "Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing?" (Haggai 2:3) Solomon's Temple was a glorious temple. The Second Temple must not compare in appearance to the former. Why do I say that? Because the Lord then declares: "But now be strong, O Zerubbabel...Be strong, all you people of the land...For I am with you..." (Haggai 2:4) Perhaps the builders look upon their work and are dismayed at the comparison between it and the old temple. Just like many of us, they wanted things to be like they used to be.
I often hear folks talking about "the good old days." Hmm...I remember those days they speak of...some of those days were good, but some of them were not. Kind of like the current days...some of them are good and some of them are not. Oh, the good old days...when we had to go to the bathroom outside, in the cold and snow...back when we had to walk to school...up hill, both ways...you know? The good old days. Oh, if we could only have church like we did back in the good old days. You know...I can remember when we had revivals that lasted for ten months. We sang all night long, prayed for hours and testified until the cows came home...then we milked them and went right back to church. Ahhh...the good old days. Isn't it sad that we often can only recall what God has done, instead of looking for what God is doing now? I've often said that it takes more faith to be a Christian today than back in "the good old days." Why? Because, back then church was often the only place to go. It was where you went if you wanted to socialize. Today, you have your picks of where you want to go. You don't even have to leave your home or your own little corner of the world today in order to socialize. Plus, the whole world is calling for our attention even on Sunday. Today, you go to the Lord's house because you have chosen to do so, and you want to.
This passage is proof that God is not to be confined to the memory of "our good old days." God wanted a new temple built and it is then built. God then, gives the people a new promise: "I will fill this house with my glory...The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house...and in this place I will grant peace." (Haggai 2:7b-9) Solomon's Temple may have had all the splendor, but this temple will see more of the power and glory of the Lord, plus be a place of peace.
Well, this all happened in 515 B.C.E. What does it say to us today? What would happen if we truly put God first in our lives? I know, we are busy. We are often so busy just being busy. In fact, if I ever have a day that I am not doing something I go look at my calendar to make sure I didn't forget that I was supposed to be doing something. Long ago there was a local personality in the Ozarks. His name was Bill Ring. He often gave a fishing report. At the end of his report he said: "Now remember, If you're too busy to go fishing...You're too busy." I think we can tweak Mr. Ring's words to say; "Now remember, if you are too busy for the Lord...You are too busy."
Tomorrow we will look at the Book of Zechariah. Have a great day! -Pastor Rick