“7 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 8 Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the Lord. 9 “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 your own house. 10 Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. 11 I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the olive oil and everything else the ground produces, on people and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands.”
12 Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and the whole remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the Lord their God and the message of the prophet Haggai, because the Lord their God had sent him. And the people feared the Lord.”
On Thursday mornings our men’s group (Flapjacks) has been studying the minor prophets. We have worked our way through eight of the books and have four left to go. This coming Thursday we are studying Haggai. This short book has some interesting overlap with the current sermon series on Ezra-Nehemiah. Haggai prophesied during the same time period as the beginning of the book of Ezra.
At the beginning of Ezra-Nehemiah, Zerubbabel and the people are sent back from Persia to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. Years later Haggai preaches about how the people have neglected the temple for their own homes. In fact, they were building “paneled houses” (Haggai 1:4), which is basically a way of saying that they built rather luxurious homes. Throughout the prophetic books the prophets weep over the destruction of the temple; they lament that the Israelites have been exiled from the holy land. For about 50 years the Israelites have been unable to worship God in the temple, unable to carry out the sacrifices and offerings that really define the Jewish faith. But once they are back in Jerusalem and have the opportunity to rebuild the temple, they choose instead to rebuild their own homes. They put their own needs and desires ahead of God’s temple.
Of course, they needed to build homes to live in while they worked on the temple, but the root problem here is that they are placing their own desires before the will of God. They are living selfishly, focused on creating luxurious homes for themselves to enjoy while the temple is still in ruins.
Unfortunately, we live this way yet today too. We choose to focus on our own desires and comforts and ignore the call of God on our lives, even when that call is exceedingly clear. Haggai reminds us to step back and consider how we have been putting ourselves first when we should be putting God first. What are the things that you have said to God, “I will do it as soon as I finish this thing for myself”? How should you reprioritize this week?