If you cannot answer the question immediately, take time to think about it. Write it down. Why? You don’t want other things to take priority. You don’t want to miss the thing that has the highest value.
This is what happened to Israel. As you saw last month in our introduction to the Book of Haggai, God’s people had stopped rebuilding the house of the Lord. Yet they had managed to build and panel their own houses. The material took priority over the spiritual. Their reasoning? “The time has not come, even the time for the house of the Lord to be rebuilt” (Haggai 1:2).
Read Haggai 1:1-11 again. Remember the key repeated phrase, “Consider your ways”? The Israelites were to consider their ways because God wasn’t blessing them. God’s house was lying desolate. They were neglecting the place of worship and sacrifice–the house where they demonstrated His worth, His priority over all of life.
Genuine worship of God, where day after day God sets the agenda and His Lordship takes priority over everything else, was missing. Didn’t Jesus tell His followers almost 600 years after Haggai to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness”? Because we belong to God, He is to be our priority, and He will take care of our basic necessities: food, drink and clothing (Matthew 6:19-34).
Has what you do and what you possess taken priority over what you are? Has the material pushed out the spiritual? Perhaps you have been dulling His voice by turning up the volume of the world. Let’s see how Israel responded. Read Haggai 1:12-15, and color code every reference to the people in orange and every reference to the Lord and/or His speaking in yellow. If you don’t have colors, circle references to the people and put a triangle over the Lord. Mark the pronouns accordingly.
12 Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the Lord their God and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the Lord their God had sent him. And the people showed reverence for the Lord.
13 Then Haggai, the messenger of the Lord, spoke by the commission of the Lord to the people saying, “‘I am with you,’ declares the Lord.”
14 So the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God,
15 on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month in the second year of Darius the king.
Now read the text again. This time color the references to the house of the Lord blue. Mark time (or time indicators, such as then) with a green circle and underline the whole reference with a green squiggly line.
What did you learn from marking the references to the people? The Lord? What happened? Who was involved? How was it done? When did it happen? Look at your markings and list your insights.
Look at this segment of Haggai in context. You marked then in verse 12. What provoked this action of the people? Read Haggai 1:1-11. How much time transpired between the first reference to time and the one you just marked in verse 15? Haggai is divided by its references to time.
As we saw last month, the rebuilding of the house of the Lord began in 536 B.C. when Zerubbabel returned with the remnant from the Babylonian captivity. It stopped two years later in 534 B.C. It sat unfinished until the Word of the Lord came through Haggai in 520 B.C. To understand the importance of rebuilding the temple, read how the Lord spoke to Solomon when the house of the Lord was first built:
Then the Lord appeared to Solomon at night and said to him, “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place. For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that My name may be there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually” (2 Chronicles 7:12-16).
Read the passage again and mark it the same way. Mark this place. Then list what you learn from marking the text.
Does this help you see for yourself just how important a rebuilt temple was?
What is the application for us? Where is God’s temple now? There is no temple on the former temple mount in Jerusalem today. Will there ever be? You’ll see next month in Haggai, but for today, does God have a temple where His glory resides? A place of sacrifice? Prayer? Worship? Let’s see what God says in the following verses. Mark every reference to God, to where He dwells and to our bodies.
Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him” (John 14:23).
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? (1 Corinthians 6:19).
If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you (John 15:7).
In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words (Romans 8:26).
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship (Romans 12:1).
Oh Beloved, do you realize, if you are a true child of God, you are God’s temple? What is He dwelling in? What is your character? How do you conduct yourself? Does His Word dwell in you richly? Do you keep, or guard, His Word–with a life of obedience? Does your body glorify the One who is in you? Does it portray a true estimate of His holiness?
When the people were confronted by God about the neglect of His temple in the days of Haggai, they showed reverence to God, listening and getting to work on His temple. Is God in any way confronting you through this study? If so, will you get to work on becoming more like Jesus? It’s the most important task of your life.