Guest Blogger: David Shields
Thus says the Lord of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord.” Then the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while his house lies in ruins?
The prophet Haggai comes to speak to the people of Israel soon after their return from exile out of Babylon. The people had been sent out of the land because of their sin and found themselves back in the land that God had promised them. However, instead of busying themselves with obedience, they have focused on themselves.
The basic rebuke from God is that the people have refused to build the temple and instead have upgraded their own homes. Building God’s house was supposed to be step one of obedience when they came home from Babylon. However, it did not even make their to-do list.
The Israelites have gone so far as to not only build their own houses but to make sure they are luxurious. They are remodeling bathrooms and redoing the interior. All their attention is on their own kingdom and their own world. Their excuse for not obeying God is “the time has not yet come.”
We do this to God still today. We don’t deny that God has commanded us to do some good things, like loving our neighbors, reading His Word, gathering together weekly to worship Him. But we do deny that we have time for these things.
We cannot read our Bibles in the morning because we have to make sure we check our emails or make a good breakfast. We cannot make it to church this week because we have that work project, or because the week was so busy that we need a break.
Every day, in small ways, we are faced with the choice of building up our own homes or working on God’s home. The small choices that we make reveal which kingdom we find more valuable.
If we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that we often do not find obedience worth our time. If we did, then we would obey more often. The Israelites are not disputing that building the temple is a worthwhile pursuit, but they are saying that they do not have time for it.
The issue is that we always have time for the things that we find valuable. There are plenty of times that I have rearranged plans with people so that I could be home in time to watch a sporting event. I am always amazed at how much time I find for fun activities when I should be working on school work. Every time that our phone dings and we stop what we are doing to look at it is a value choice. The issue is not a matter of needing more time but needing different priorities.
Disobedience Brings Consequences.
Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes
God asks the Israelites to evaluate how their lives are going. Because they decided that God was not a priority, He has removed His blessing from their lives. He was doing this so that they could see the consequences of sin. Sin always promises that it is much more worth our time than God, but leaves only destruction in its wake.
When we focus on building our own houses, we build something on sand that will pass away. Only God’s kingdom is eternal and will last. The question for us is: whose house are we spending our time working on?