Summary: Those who returned from the exile were excited about rebuilding temple, so why did they take a 15 year break?
House of the Lord
Everyone was excited. The talk had been of building a house of worship and everyone wanted to be a part of it. They talked about what it would like when they had a permanent place to worship, a place to call the House of God. Everyone seemed to be talking about it. And everyone was excited. They could close their eyes and picture what it would be like on that great day, they could see what it would look like as they walked up to the front doors and they knew that this was a good thing.
They understood that sacrifices would have to be made and for the most part people were willing to make them. Not everyone was willing to make sacrifices to see the dream become a reality but most were. And the dream began to materialize, the talk became action and where there had simply been a pile of rubble the building began to take shape.
And then something happened, the sacrifices stopped being made, the construction slowed and eventually stopped and what was supposed to be a place for people to worship and meet with their God was a half completed nothing.
So what happened that was so important that it detracted the people from finishing the task they had been called to do? Was it bad things or evil things that now occupied their minds and their energies? Were they so caught up in immoral actions that they had no time for the things of God? What could possibly have happened that could cause these people to forsake what they knew they were supposed to be about.
It was, are you ready for it? It was life. Simply the busyness of life. Nothing bad or evil it was just stuff. The everyday had replaced the eternal. The secular had replaced the sacred. And as a result the house of God had never been built.
This is the situation the people of Israel found themselves in and the very situation that the Prophet Haggai found himself addressing. This book was written by Haggai, you ever wonder why Prophets never have ordinary names like Bob, this morning we will be reading from the book of Bob. The name Haggai actually means “My Feast” suggesting that he may have been born during one of the many feasts that the Israelites celebrated. The book was written in 520 BC eighteen years after thousands of Jews returned from exile to reconstruct the temple.
Haggai’s intent was simple, he was writing to let the Jews know why they had not been blessed.
So why was that and what does it have to do with us?
The Dream. If you’ve been paying attention over the past couple of months you’ve learned that Israel was divided into two kingdoms after King David and his son Solomon had ruled. That was around 930 BC. There was the Northern Kingdom, to the North and the Southern Kingdom, which of course was to the South. These two separate kingdoms were sometimes called Israel and Judah. The Northern Kingdom, or Israel was conquered by the Assyrians in 722 BC and the Southern Kingdom including the holy city of Jerusalem fell 136 years later in 586 BC. to the Babylonians. Part of the strategies of both the Assyrians and the Babylonians was to take the very best of the conquered population prisoner. And that was the fate of the people of Jerusalem.
But what goes around often comes around and Babylon was conquered by Persia in 539 and the Persian king, Cyrus permitted fifty thousand Israelites to return to Jerusalem to re-establish their city and specifically to rebuild the temple which had been destroyed by the Babylonians.
And they were excited about the prospect of the Temple being restored. Ezra recorded a little of what was happening, Ezra 2:68-69 When they arrived at the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, some of the family leaders gave generously toward the rebuilding of God’s Temple on its original site, and each leader gave as much as he could. The total of their gifts came to 61,000 gold coins, 6,250 pounds of silver, and 100 robes for the priests.
Ezra 3:7 Then they hired masons and carpenters and bought cedar logs from the people of Tyre and Sidon, paying them with food, wine, and olive oil. The logs were brought down from the Lebanon mountains and floated along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea to Joppa, for King Cyrus had given permission for this.
Ezra 3:11 With praise and thanks, they sang this song to the Lord:
“He is so good! His faithful love for Israel endures forever!”
Then all the people gave a great shout, praising the Lord because the foundation of the Lord’s Temple had been laid.