Summary: Here are truths from Haggai for the local church.
The Divine Priority
In any construction project there is usually a question of priorities, which determines the eventual outcome. Responding to the increasing destructiveness of high winds in the Midwest, one developer in Tulsa, Oklahoma, offered an optional tornado-safe room in the new homes he was selling. Nine of the first ten buyers opted to pay the extra $2,500 for the room—which can also be used as a closet, bathroom, or vault when not needed for safety. According to the developer, the 10th couple was 75 years old and opted for a hot tub instead.
A question of priorities finds itself into the debate regarding possible reconstruction of the WTC complex. Certain factions consider “ground zero” to be sacred ground, which should honor the memory those 2850 people, who lost their lives. Others have a different viewpoint. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., says the federal government should do "whatever is necessary" to help rebuild the World Trade Center to “show the world we are not afraid -- we are defiant.” Making reconstruction of New York City’s 110-story twin towers a federal project “underscores our nation’s purpose” and is a “matter of honor,” says Kerry.
The words of the prophet Haggai underscore the priorities of another construction project, the rebuilding of the house of God. Haggai fits into a larger context of fascinating OT history. I want to take you on a journey through this OT period.
· 2 Chronicles 36:15-21 records the disastrous consequences, which enveloped Jerusalem. The Babylonians, who deported them into captivity, destroyed their temple and burned the city.
· Jeremiah 29:10-14 reminds us of God’s compassion, as He promised deliverance to the Jews by raising up a Persian King, who would fear and obey Him.
· In 2 Chronicles 36:22-23, Cyrus, who worshiped God, decrees the release of the Jews. God’s purpose is revealed in these words. It is a lesson in Divine faithfulness…
In 538 BC, Israel was allowed to return from Babylon to her homeland under the civil leadership of Zerubbabel and the spiritual guidance of Joshua, the High Priest. About 50,000 Jews returned. Two years later, they began to rebuild the temple, but opposition from neighbors and personal indifference caused the work to be abandoned in Ezra 4:24. The work ceased for 16 years, which brings us to Haggai 1.
God’s will in Haggai foreshadows His initiative in the NT: to build His House.
· Matthew 16:18 …I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.
· 1 Peter 2:4-5 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
There are lessons here, which are vital to our understanding of our role in the body of Christ.
1 An Inappropriate Concern 1-4
Haggai’s message uncovers the consequences for dismissing that Divine priorities. God’s purposes were threatened in Haggai 1. After 70 years of captivity with the hope of rebuilding their homeland and the provisions to do the work. Yet, the work on the Lord’s house ceased with the growing concerns of the people and they lost sight of the Divine agenda.
First, they faced the opposition of nearby enemies. Ezra records the efforts of Israel’s neighbors in Ezra 4:4-5: They troubled them in building, and hired counselors against them to frustrate their purpose. As a result, the people became discouraged and the work ceased for 16 years.
Even our spiritual enemies provide no excuse for the unfinished work of the Kingdom. To build this house for the Lord, we are expected to put on the whole armor of God and stand clothed in the power of the Holy Spirit and constant prayer. The gates of hell cannot prevail against this house of the Lord’s design and priority.
God indicted them for another reason. Though propelled by the hostile opposition of their neighbors, their reluctance lay ultimately in their selfish indifference to the Lord. They had placed personal comfort ahead of His objective. He used their own words in verse 2…
The time has not come… Is it time for you to build your paneled houses and this house to lie in ruins?
We should note God’s displeasure when He addresses the returning Israelites as “these people” and not “My people.” Our uniqueness as the people of God always follows our commitment to His ways. The church is a body separated to God. It is His possession and to excuse ourselves from our best commitment to the body of Christ is to dishonor the Lord.
Larry Crabb says, “Whenever we place a higher priority on solving our problems than on pursuing God, we are immoral.” It may seem “necessary” to bypass a worship service, a revival service, a prayer service, an outreach opportunity, a opportunity for fellowship – but a consistent pattern of that for personal convenience is displeasing to the Lord. Because you and I follow Christ, we are bound by the Spirit to build up the body. We are called into fellowship with the saints to build the Lord’s house.