Haggai was a prophet who lived in Israel after the Babylonian captivity. According to His promise, God allowed His people to return to the Promised Land. It was a momentous time in Israel’s history, a time where God should have been honored for His faithfulness. However, like us, the Israelites got so focused on their current circumstances that they lost sight of their eternal purpose.
The primary task of the Israelites upon their return to the Promised Land was to honor God by rebuilding the temple. They had been sent into captivity because of their idolatry and their neglect of God. God’s plan in releasing them was for them to get back to worshipping Him.
We cannot be too critical of those Israelites who came back. Returning from the land of their captivity to Israel was voluntary and they were not returning to a place that was welcoming. Jerusalem was a ruined city that had to be rebuilt and those who returned were surrounded by enemies. Food and shelter were immediate concerns. But sometimes we can turn basic needs into wants for luxury. The people who returned went from basic shelter to seeking to build for themselves “ceiled houses,” think luxury suites (Haggai 1:4). In the meantime, the temple continued to lay in ruins. The people’s reasoning: “The time is not come, the time that the LORD’s house should be built” (Haggai 1:2).
Let’s put this in more modern terms. The same people who were willing to go to Home Depot in a driving rain to buy a new shelving unit for their house, were unwilling to go to church because of the threat of bad weather. Their priorities were wrong, and they couldn’t understand why things weren’t working out for them.
“Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house” (Haggai 1:9).
God was actively working against their efforts because they were actively neglecting Him. Have you ever had that experience where it seemed no matter what you tried things only got worse? There you are trying to climb out of a hole and God seems to take your ladder and hand you a shovel?
Peter tells us that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5). The prideful act pragmatically: “We need to build shelters, and let’s make them nice so that we’re safe – and comfortable. God wants us to be happy, right?” The humble are willing to live counterintuitively in obedience to God: “Let’s make ourselves shelters to be warm and dry, but let’s put real effort into building God’s temple so we can worship and honor Him. God will meet our needs.”
The prideful pragmatists were the ones saying, “the time is not come…that the LORD’s house should be built.” The truth is, if we are waiting to have time to honor God, it will never come. We only have time for the things we make time for. The same holds true for our material possessions. If we wait until we have enough to give to God, it will never come – but we always seem to have money for the things we really want.
Service to God is not impulse driven. It is done on purpose. The people in Haggai’s day were not purposing to honor God. They were purposing to serve themselves, so they met with God’s resistance.
By not having our priorities right, are we making life harder for ourselves on purpose?