In the Old Testament, God made a promise to David that his son would sit on his throne and build the Temple. Solomon built the amazingly beautiful and costly Temple, which was a visible sign of God’s presence with Israel and the true place of worship, setting Israel apart from the rest of the world as God’s people. But when Israel began to worship idols and forsook their covenant with God, he brought punishment just as he had promised (Deuteronomy 28). Babylon conquered Judah in 586 B.C. The city was burned, the Temple was destroyed, and the people were carried away into exile to Babylon. Just as God had promised 150 years before his birth, Cyrus and his Medo-Persian Empire came in and defeated the Babylonians (Isaiah 44:28; 45:1-6). Cyrus gave a decree that the Jews could return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple (and even put it on Cyrus’ bill)! "Imagine the joy and hope that flooded the hearts of the Jews as they saw God’s word come to pass before their eyes, and began to dream about their generation seeing the Temple rebuilt!" (Geraty) Now they could once again have God’s presence with them and worship him at the Temple as the chosen people of God!
In 536 B.C. thousands of Jews “made the 900 mile trip from Babylon to Jerusalem” (Dever) “They immediately rebuilt the altar and laid the foundations of the Temple (Ezra 3); then they stopped the work as they built their homes and worked their farms” (Fee and Stuart). There had been some persecution from the people of the land, and the discouraged people of God stopped building the visible sign of God’s presence with them; the thing that set them apart from the nations as God’s people (Ezra 4:4; 23)! The years passed (18!) as the people quit on God to focus on themselves. There was no worship going on, none of the appointed festivals God had commanded them to observe…no priority of God! They had forsaken their pursuit and enjoyment of the glory of God, having “abandoned the place where God’s glory was seen” (T.Anyabwile). During these years of neglecting God, the people experienced drought and lack of crops. Until one day God sent a couple of prophets with a fresh word from the Lord! Ezra tells the story of Haggai and Zechariah coming to preach to the people (Ezra 5:1-2). Haggai’s name means “festive” – a living reminder of the neglected festival celebrations and worship of God (Geraty).
Building God’s House, Not Ours
Let's look at God's message to his people, preached by Haggai (found in Haggai chapter 1):
1. Is it time for comfort or obedience? (1:3-4, 9b). “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? …My house…lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house” (4, 9b). God asks “Is it time for your comfort now, or your obedience now?” Is it time for God’s people to live for themselves; for their comfort, their kingdom – while there is unfinished work for the Lord?
How relevant for God’s people in the new covenant of Christ! Is it time for us to have our best life now, while the work remains unfinished – or to lose our lives for the Lord and his mission and have our best life later, with him in heaven? Is it time for us to coast or get to work? Is it time for us to prioritize our families and houses and plans…or God’s family, God’s house and God’s plan?
At the heart, this is a question of PRIORITIES. Putting God first. “It is idolatry to put our agenda over God’s” (T. Anyabwile). Sometimes we don’t think about the exceeding sinfulness of not putting God first; the God who was here before we were born and who will be here long after we are gone; The God who simply IS, whose name is “I AM”; The God from whom we borrow every breath and receive everything we have – on whom our very life is dependent! The God who is worthy in his character of all praise and glory in the universe – how arrogant and sinful for us to prioritize ourselves above him!
• We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. John 9:4
2 Consider your ways! (1:5, 7). Think about what you’re doing! Think about how illogical it is to put yourself above God and give yourself to things that will not last. Don’t float through life doing whatever seems good…consider your ways and obey God! What are you building…and why? “What are you investing your life in, and will it stand? What has kept us back from investing our all in Christ?” (Dever) Let us consider our ways! Are we prioritizing God? (Jesus said to seek FIRST the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and then all of OUR needs would be added…Matthew 6:33).
3. Frustration and Discipline (1:6, 9-11). God says that his disobedient people have been under his discipline (drought and poor crops) and have experienced frustration (“you looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away” 9a). They’ve been putting money into pockets with holes in them (v6)! There is no satisfaction in disobeying God! Sin hinders our enjoyment of God!
The people might have thought it was too expensive and time consuming to build God’s house; so they concentrated on building their own. They were “waiting till they prospered before they gave” (TA). Do we do this? We think we can wait till we get in a better financial place, where we can afford to give to God. But when Israel did this they were not blessed; they were continually frustrated. God made sure there plans failed until they gave to him and his work FIRST!
“If men are selfish and keep their wealth to themselves, and rob God of his portion, they hall not prosper, or if they do, no blessing shall come with it” (Charles Spurgeon). Mark Dever points out that these people were stingy with God, and had no money to pour into his house – but God made sure there were holes in their pockets. Dever goes on to ask, “If God gave us money for his kingdom but we’ve used it for ourselves, why would he give us any more?” If we are unfaithful with a little, we will also be unfaithful with a lot. We can’t afford NOT to be generous to God’s work and pour all our lives, our time our money our gifts and resources into serving the Lord and building his house, the church!
4. Build God’s House! (1:8a). God says “Go get the materials and BUILD!” Get to work!
-God’s Old Testament House. For the Jews this meant building an actual, physical building. Though the Temple never contained God (the heavens can’t contain him! – 1 Kings 8:27), God chose to make the Temple a sign of his presence with his people. They worshiped at a physical building.
-God’s New Testament House. But when Christ came, he ‘assumed the role of the Temple” (Fee & Stuart). Jesus and his people, the church (who are joined to him) are the Temple.
• The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man... Acts 17:24-25
• Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” [20 ] The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” [21 ] But he was speaking about the temple of his body. John 2:19-21
• Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, [21 ] in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. [22 ] In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Ephesians 2:20b-22
So for God's people in the new covenant, obedience to this word means building the church (people not buildings)!
5. The Motivation For Building (1:8b). What is our motivation to give ourselves completely – all our time and money and livelihood – to building God’s house? Not guilt, not to make a name for ourselves or our local church; the motivation is God’s pleasure and glory!!!
“The real problem is not neglect of a building but indifference to the glory of God. The Temple of the Old Testament existed for the glory of God. And the church today exists for the glory of God (Eph 1:6, 12, 14). Indifference to the growth and spiritual prosperity of the church and its mission is always a sign of failure to love the glory of God. And the sour fruit of this failure is a life of chronic frustration.” John Piper
Joining Jesus in his mission and pouring our ALL into building up the church is not a legalistic obligation that we bear – it is the fruit of a heart that delights in the glory of God!
• and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. [11 ] This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord… to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:9-11, 21
6. God's Presence As We Build (1:12-15). God is so good. He loved his people enough to discipline them. When the droughts and frustrations were not enough to change their behavior, God sent them a prophet with a rebuke, in love. And when they obeyed – God sent them loving encouragement! The people actually obeyed the preacher!! They stopped building their houses and got back to building the Temple. And God sent them a glorious word from Haggai: "I am with you."
God is with his people as we build. Jesus said the same thing about the great mission of the church:
• Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, [20 ] teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
God’s presence is ours to enjoy..as we prioritize God and build his church.
What do we do in response to God's word in Haggai 1?
Repent! Are you honestly living for God’s purpose in the church? What is hindering you? Repent!
Love God’s glory! Look with faith-eyes to the glory of God! Treasure God and his glory in Christ above all things. Put the priority of his glory above all other priorities in your life.
Get back to building God’s house, the church! Get to work!
How do we build the church?
-Build inside. Build God’s house from within the church by committing to a local church and getting right in the middle of what is going on; love the people. Commit to them. Disciple the new believers. Eat meals with others in the church. Discover and use your spiritual gifts. Give yourself to the hard work of listening to the preached word, as an act of worship. Sing with the saint! Bring a word to share. Fellowship. Pray for and with the church. Encourage others. Listen to others. Speak the gospel to the saints. Remind them of the Savior. Love one another!
Ask yourself, “What is the most helpful new way I can strengthen my church this year?” (TA)
-Build outside. The gospel word and the gospel deed. Share the gospel and live the gospel!
If you are not a believer in Christ – know that Jesus is the Temple of God – the Way to God (John 14:6). He died for sinners and rose from the dead to bring us to God, that we may enjoy God forever! Repent of sin and turn to God through Christ. Don’t say “it’s not yet time to obey God.” Now is the day of salvation! (2 Cor 6:2).
• Sermons on Haggai from John Piper, Thabiti Anyabwile, Luke Geraty.
• Promises Made: The Message of the Old Testament; Mark Dever; ©2006, Crossway Books.
• How to Read the Bible Book by Book; Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart; ©2002, Zondervan.
• ESV Study Bible Notes; ©2008 Crossway Bibles