HAGGAI 1:1–11 ESV
“In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest: "Thus says the Lord of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord." Then the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, "Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes. "Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the Lord. You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house. Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast, and on all their labors."”
The book of Haggai is timeless for Christian living. There is so much here in this simple book and yet its so small. The message is very simple: put God first. The people of Israel came back from their captivity and found their homeland in ruin. So, like anyone else would have done, they rebuilt. They reestablished their way of life and got things off and running. Except for one thing. They never finished the holy temple.
The people got tired and the work seemed too much and so they stopped. And when they stopped they noticed something significant: their lives were incomplete and filled with discontent. The key verse in this is vv5-6, when the Lord says, “Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.”
That line is haunting, “Consider your ways.” God sent the prophet Haggai to tell the people to reevaluate their lives. What they were doing was not working and God wanted them to know it. God has brought them back to their homeland so that they would be reestablished and experience blessing once again. That blessing was only going to happen with God at the center. If God wasn’t going to be their highest priority, then nothing would work in their favor.
My siblings and I own a farm in South Carolina, about 2 hours from here, right outside of a little town called Calhoun Falls. The property is old, with a long history of activity and ownership. As a child, one of my favorite things was to explore the old home places that once stood on the land. There were 3 or 4, some with still-standing chimneys that rose above the rubble that was once a home. I used to think that I would fine old coins or tools if I dug around them enough, but in the end there was just broken-up debris and copperhead snakes.
As I got older, the ruins of these old homes made me sad. Where once stood a structure that contained a family and a life of hard work, there sat a still nothing. The ruins made me sad. Sometimes I wished I had a builders bone in my body so that I could put them back together, but the fallen in house was too far gone.
I wonder tonight if that is where we are in our faith. Some of us can look at our lives and it seems like we’re surrounded by glory and blessing, but will we or can we maintain such glory on our own? Some of us may be discovering some rot that is creeping into our lives, causing the value of our existence to shift and the threat of ruin to become more real. Still others of us may be in a state of out right ruin, where we look back and we say, “How did I get here? Why is my life the way it is?”
The takeaway from such observations is that we are all susceptible to the ruin and rot that is brought on by sin. No one can escape the effects of sin. We are born with it and bent toward it. The good news for us all is in this: that God hates sin and has chosen to drive a stake in its heart with the cross of Jesus Christ. The coming of Jesus is proof that God is not ok with the suffering of His people. Each and every day, the Holy Spirit is moving across the face of the earth and in the hearts of the faithful in order to remove the rot and ruin that we experience.
God’s chosen way to do His restorative work is through employing those He has changed and transformed. We are called to leave our paneled houses and self-comfort and usher in an eternal comfort that bleeds into our “right now.” For the people of Israel in our text, the challenge was to take back up the work of making God the highest priority. Was building the temple too difficult and worth abandoning? Or would it be much more difficult to live the rest of their lives unfilled and headed toward ruin?
I have two scriptures I want to give you before we close. The first is 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” Each and every person, no matter who they are, are to be a temple of the Most High God. Contained within each temple-person is to be the worship of God and each temple-person is to play the role of testifying to all who look up them that Jesus is Lord. You are a walking church.
The second scripture is my personal favorite, John 14:23, with Jesus saying, "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” The desire of God is that the Father and the Son would pack themselves up in the Holy Spirit and come and dwell within us. This happens when we love Jesus and obey His teaching. To love and obey is to witness to the world around you that Christ is the center of your life.
And so, I will leave you with this tonight: consider your ways. Can you keep up the level of maintenance you have on your own strength? Do you have rot that may lead to ruin? Are you in ruin and need restoration? The call tonight is to leave the place you call “home” and “comfortable” and begin working on the temple that God desires be setup in your heart. Do you have a church for Jesus in your heart? I think its time.