It’s Time to Build the House – Lessons From Haggai 18 min read
Haggai forms one of three prophetic books that surround post-captivity Israel and the enduring love of God toward His people. The other two are Zechariah and Malachi. Haggai, though, has a central concern which has to do fully with the temple. The people of Israel had grown complacent with their own houses, while the Lord’s house sat in waste; they needed a sort of jump-start to finally get working on what they were called to do. This book is that wake up call they needed. It is strong and straightforward but also encouraging in its approach. Because the assembly is called “house of God” in 1 Timothy, we can rightly take the same principles and lessons that Israel needed to hear in Haggai’s day and apply them to our attitude to the assembly today. And truly we will be able to say with the prophet “Consider your ways… It’s time to build the house!”
The Danger of Complacency that Ignores God’s House – 2-5
Time is a valuable commodity these days, and we too often feel the pressure of lacking it when we most need it. Often we are forced to put certain things aside that the prioritized things get the attention they deserve. Sadly, when it comes to things of eternal value, we find ourselves saying “I’ll get to it later.” This was the problem with Israel: “The time is not come – the time that the Lord’s house should be built.” Modern evangelical mentality would respond by saying “Surely we can’t judge them; they probably had a lot on their plate at the time.” But what does the Lord have to say about the matter? “Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your covered houses, and this house lie waste? Consider your ways!” The contrast was really one between investment in temporal things and investment in eternal things: Israel chose what would make them happy “here and now.” This is the decision we are faced with when it comes to our assembly. There will always be 1,001 excuses to miss the meetings – tiredness, work, hobbies, friends, etc. But if Christianity was only about obedience when convenient, the truth is we would never find a convenient time. Christianity is not a compartment that we cater to on occasion: it is our life. And we need to ask ourselves more often “Can I think this way (or act this way) as a Christian? Can this be done to God’s glory?” Surely hiding behind our excuses to miss commitment to the assembly won’t bring God glory. Just as Israel had opportunity to invest either in the temporal or eternal, so will we constantly be faced with the option of eternal fruit borne in the assembly or flesh-based desires that suit personal complacency. God says “Choose the eternal!” Are there needs in our assemblies that need to be met? Regarding doctrine? Regarding encouragement? Regarding practical needs? How dare any of us leave God’s very house in waste, while we make our lives convenient with utmost precision. It’s easy to say “I’ll do it later.” God says “Do it now.” It’s time that we “consider our ways.”
The Emptiness that Ensues When God’s House is Ignored – 6-11
There are really only two companies the believer can associate with in his time on earth – the assembly and the world. The one he associates with and invests in will determine the place in which his treasure is built up, whether that be earthly treasure or heavenly treasure. The fact, is when God’s assembly/house is ignored the only alternative is to associate with worldly pursuits and thus the consequences that come with worldliness, namely, vanity. This is something Israel learned by hard experience: all their work was fruitless. Their money bag was full of holes. Their crops were without any yield. They were subject to drought and emptiness. Why? They put the luxury of self first, and in the irony of the situation they were found wanting. Why? God wasn’t pleased. And glory was robbed from Him when the people remained self centered. But there was an opportunity for restoration in their lives – an opportunity to go to the mountain, bring wood, and build the house: God gave another chance. We may think that we gain from lack of commitment to the assembly, perhaps in terms of freedom or whatever it might be. But the reality is God honors those who honor Him. And one cannot honor Him when His house is ignored. In the world we have the opportunity to work much, yet at the end we will find such work to be empty compared to what we could have gained in holy service. But just look at the reward offered for service to God: “Whosoever shall give you a cup of water in my name, because ye belong to Christ, truly I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward.” That is a return on our investment that we could never hope to gain in the world. We should learn what Israel failed to for the longest time: it is never worth the loss to neglect God’s dwelling-place. It is time we examine our capacity to build up God’s house, edify His assembly, and get to work. Only then will God’s blessing return. Only then will our lives have fruit. We do ourselves a great disservice by looking out for “number one,” that is, self.
The Elements of a People Who Will be Faithful in God’s House – 12-13
In light of all the lessons in Haggai, it would only be logical to assume we are to apply them. The last verse of Habakkuk 2 says “the LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him.” In other words, an accurate view of God and His holiness will keep us from answering back when He commands something. Rather, in holy awe we tremble at His Word and listen to what it says without question. This was no different with the remnant of Israel in Haggai’s day. With them we see obedience, we see faithful communication of the Word, we see a voice that is recognized, and we see a holy fear before His presence. All these things will be the same in an assembly marked by God’s favor. Paul repeatedly told Timothy to teach “these things” in a way that nothing would be obscured or untaught. Why? Because “All Scripture is inspired of God and is profitable.” That means when God speaks in His Word, it is purposeful; nothing is arbitrary in it. That will seriously affect how we view behaviour in God’s house – both doctrinally and practically. So then, where does obedience begin and end? With the Word of God – all of it. And a place that honors the Word will be a place that God honors, even with His presence. That is something we can’t take for granted. The people of Haggai’s day “feared before the Lord” because they understood that God must dwell in His dwelling place; thus, the acknowledgment of His presence cannot be separated from His house. Do we fear before the Lord? Do we see it a solemn thing to be invited into God’s holy presence? Can we relate to the fear that marked people like Moses, Jacob, Peter, James, and John when they realized the awesomeness of the glory of the Most High? Not only does this mentality give us a deeper capacity for joy, but it honors God and results in faithfulness in His house. What will the extent of our faithfulness and fear be?
The Spirit Needed for Work to Be Done in God’s House – 14
At the promise of His presence, the Lord also acted in a way that energized the people to work in light of it. We read in verse 14 “And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and did work in the house of the LORD of hosts, their God.” It should be obvious that this stirring up was individual, similar to the spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12. Every person in assembly fellowship is fully indebted to God’s own work within the heart for any ability to serve. “Except the Lord build the house, they that build it labor in vain.” Without the Spirit at work amongst and within us, there will be no unity, no power, and no guidance. But thank God He willingly grants us these things! The thing left for us is to remain fit vessels for His use and to not quench His influence. It is when the Spirit is given proper place that work is given proper effort. Only then will the Lord’s house be built. Only then will His assembly prosper. Where, then, do we go from here? Just where there Israelites were to go: “Consider your ways, and build the house!”