This morning's sermon retold the Old Testament story of Haggai and the rebuilding of the temple by the inhabitants of Jerusalem in 520 BC. Their experience is a great reminder of so many aspects of our work in God's service:
- The people had returned from exile in Bablyon with a mission, funded and encouraged by the king of the largest empire in the Near East, to rebuild the temple. Nevertheless, 17 years later, the work remained unfinished. Political opposition, and probably other factors like fatigue and loss of vision as well, had ground things to a halt. Instead, the people were focused on their own comfort and daily life, and had settling into thinking it simply wasn't the right time to do what God had sent them to do (Hag 1:2).
- God first calls them, through Haggai, to reflect."Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways." (Hag 1:5) He goes on to illustrate how unproductive and unsatisfying their lives are (Hag 1:6-11), as they busied themselves with their own houses while God's house, the visible symbol of God's people and their corporate relationship to Him, still lay uncompleted.
- After hearing Haggai's words, the leaders and the people were strongly motivated to take up the work again: the Lord "stirred up their spirits" (Hag 1:14).
- Again in chapter 2, Haggai urges them to reflect and compare the glory of the former temple, long since demolished, to what they had accomplished so far, likely little more than a good start. He encourages them with three words: "Be strong", "work", and "fear not". While the present condition is "as nothing in your eyes", the Lord promises that its eventual glory will outshine that of the former. While their labors are essential to the task, it is God's contribution that will make the result glorious, echoing Paul's words to the Philippians "work out your salvation ... for God is at work in you" (Phil 2:12-13).
Haggai's book closes without any indication of the eventual result. But we know from other historical sources that, although the construction was finally completed, it took five more years. There's no evidence that Haggai himself saw the completion of his goal. But the same temple served as a house of prayer for all peoples (Isaiah 56:7) for more than 500 years, until Jesus himself came to become the focal point of our relationship to God. What might God accomplish through us in the next five years if we were to reflect, be strong, and work toward building His house?
Copyright 2004 sean boisen
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