Haggai was a prophet during the days of the return of the exiles from across the Fertile Crescent to the Promised Land. His ministry and that of Zephaniah was to prod and motivate the remnant of Israel to return to the building of the Temple. Construction of the Temple had been stopped by the king of Persia through the lies of local Samaritan politicians for persecution and oppression (Ezra 4:17-21), despite an earlier command by an earlier Persian king (Ezra 1:1ff). Haggai’s commission from the LORD was to light a fire under the Jews to restart and complete this important work, and he was successful. Let’s see how he did it.
Consider your ways
Some of the Jews had taken the opportunity that the Persian work-stoppage had given them to concentrate on their own houses, farms, and prosperity. And sadly when Haggai’s call for Israel to take up the work again in defiance of the work-stoppage, some Jews were actually arguing that the time for rebuilding the Temple had not come. The LORD’s response was convicting: “is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses while this house lies desolate? Consider your ways!” Haggai’s prophecy goes on to point out how all the efforts of the Jews had been and would continue to be fruitless as long as they were going to put God’s work on the back burner. He says that they would be putting wages into “purses with holes”. And there are serious considerations here for us to, aren’t there?
While it is certainly important to attend to essential matters like the work that pays the bills, housework, and parenthood; there’s also God’s work, building the spiritual temple, the church, that the faithful Christian must attend to. But putting God’s work on the back burner is generally easy to do; busyness, professional ambition, distractions, pursuit of greater material success, and the extra things that others can impose on us can just overwhelm us. Is it time for us to build up our wealth, get ahead in business, or have a model home at the expense of the health and progress of the Kingdom? Are we getting overloaded and putting the em-PHAS-is on the wrong syl-LAB-le?
The silver and gold is Mine
Can’t you, then, hear the next objection? “Where will the money and resources for this project come from? We’re just poor folks!” God’s response (paraphrased): “Honor Me and My house and I’ll make resources available to you that you can’t even imagine! I own — I made — the silver and the gold!”
This is not, of course, to say that we should foolishly presume that God will back any cock-eyed idea just because we’re doing it in the name of the Lord; but it is to say that we shouldn’t abandon important works on the basis of resources. Walk by faith; God owns the silver and the gold! It’s never about our ability; it’s about our trust, despite how impossible it looks — and God’s ability.
A holiness question
But there’s one more consideration in big works, our holiness. Doing a holy work doesn’t necessarily make the workers holy, but impure workers can defile a holy work. The Lord, through Haggai, uses a logical application of the ordinary laws about purity and defilement — that a holy object doesn’t transfer “holiness” through intermediate objects, but defilement or impurity will transfer its impurity. The point for them and for us is that whatever work for the Lord we are involved in — we must remember that the good work doesn’t make us anything special, but our sin can sink (defile) that good work.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.