Week of October 2

God’s True House of Worship

Read: Haggai 1-2; Psalm 129; Luke 10
“The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.”
Haggai 2:9


“Excuses are merely nails to build a house of failure,” according to an old American proverb. Our passage in Haggai today illustrates the truth of the maxim. The prophet Haggai writes at low tide for the nation of Judah. The people likely had no king and were living under Persian rule at this time. To make matters worse, they had returned from Babylonian captivity with fresh zeal to restore the house of the Lord, but that revival soon fizzled. To top it all off, they offered several excuses as to why they had not been more diligent to attend to the Lord’s house. This did not settle well with the Lord then, nor does it settle well with Him now. We may learn much today from their circumstances.

Understanding the Bible Context

The historical context
Sometimes God says to build, and He means for us to begin and complete the task! Funny how easily we rationalize things when it comes to fulfilling God’s will. The period of exile was complete and about 50,000 people had returned to Judah. They had begun work on laying the foundation for the Temple, but soon lapsed in their commitment and, as indicated above, settled back into a daily routine where their focus was on their own lives and livelihoods. “The word of the Lord came” means that God spoke to His prophet Haggai. This short prophetic book is long on meaning and application for our lives today.
The prophet Haggai is unknown to us apart from this brief book, which is one of the three post-exilic prophetic accounts in the Old Testament. There are brief references to the man in Ezra (5:1; 6:14) and an allusion to him in Zechariah (8:9). His name may be derived from a Hebrew word that means “feast.” If the Hebrew letter “yod” attached to the end of the word is a shortened form of the name “Yahweh” (Jehovah), then his name may mean “Feast of Yahweh.”
“A clear way to demonstrate devotion”
Haggai had incorporated worship into the entirety of his life. There was a time when folks would share testimonies that they were raised as “always being at the church house,” meaning they were frequently in attendance at their local church. I recall telling people that my family was at church “every time the doors were opened.” How about you? It makes sense to focus on Haggai’s name because he, like his name suggests, showed a particular interest in the Temple and its place in Judah’s daily life. This description helps us to see the deep devotion that Haggai had for the things of God. Let’s examine this type of commitment more closely.
A theology of the house of God. The book of Haggai provides us with an historical view of the rebuilding work on the Temple. We must not dismiss its importance because it was the Temple that was central to Haggai’s theology. This building was not worshiped, but it did represent God’s dwelling place on earth. It was considered to be a blasphemy when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the building. The only way to rectify this circumstance was to rebuild it. We may draw a key principle for our own spiritual lives from Haggai’s focus. God should always be at the center of our lives because He alone is able to hold all things together in a way that pleases Him.
Witness to the presence of God. Now, I do not want to dive so deep theologically that we are left gasping for the air of practicality. Haggai prophesies that the glory of that present Temple would exceed the glory of the one built by Solomon (2:9). He certainly was not talking about the grandeur of the new temple, because in fact it paled in comparison to the previous one. God stated that He would grant peace in that place.
These words are not mentioned anywhere in the New Testament, but most scholars take them to refer to the coming of the Messiah (NAC). Even though the second temple was less “sumptuous” than the first one, it would become the site for some of Christ’s ministry. In this sense, it would have a greater glory than the first temple. It follows that the people needed to see the long-term impact of their everyday commitment. Ah! There is our devotional thought for today. Live each day with the coming of Christ in view, and we will please the Lord.

Applying the Passage to Our Lives

I have a friend and former seminary teaching colleague who is a wonderfully gifted photographer. I mean, the award-winning type! He has taken some of the most beautiful photographs of old abandoned church facilities. He captures the setting in such a way that I can imagine what the once-thriving church might have looked like on a given Sunday. The shots are also, in some ways, mournful because I grow sad when I consider what led to the demise of those houses for God’s living presence.
Here are two ways to apply the passage. Remember that Christ has become our dwelling place, so we do well to show Him our full loyalty (Psalm 90:1; Ephesians 3:17; Revelation 21:3). Our lives are also “temples” of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:13). Therefore, we should not need to be reminded that Jesus dwells in our presence already and that our attitudes and actions are to reflect our devotion and excitement (Matthew 28:20b)!
Haggai called attention to several harmful core values that people had allowed to replace the worship of God as the supreme goal and good in life. The people had put their own wealth and comfort ahead of the things of God (1:4; NAC). This was evident because they had let the rebuilding of God’s Temple lapse while they turned their focus to the completion of building their own houses. Haggai does not go so far as to link directly their crop failure to their neglect of certain Temple rituals, but he does point to the half-hearted commitment that the priests and people were demonstrating (2:11-14). They were sloppy in their commitments to God. We may say that their shortsighted worldview (temporal) grieved the Lord. How is this so?

Reflecting Upon and Discussing the Passage

1. God has blessed us all with places to live and possessions to enjoy. This is good. Most of us, however, know the subtle tug of houses and possessions and how easily they can supplant our supreme commitment to the Lord. Take time to regularly review your calendar and your checkbook. It will help you to see the priority you place upon God and His kingdom in your order of urgencies. Adjust both accordingly.

2. For Families: We have a friend who says, “One of the most spiritual things we can do is to pay attention.” The message of today’s passage in a nutshell? God needs our attention to be fully trained upon Him. Maybe your family can turn its attention to “paying attention” in new ways this week.

After supper one evening, pass out small notepads and pencils to each of your family members, even those who cannot yet write. Then ask each one to draw a picture, or make a list of the jobs for which they are responsible every day. Some jobs will be common, like making one’s bed, or brushing teeth. But some jobs might be different, like taking out the trash, or cleaning up after the dog, or cooking the family’s meals. Everyone in the family has both similar jobs to and different jobs from everyone else.

Now ask your family to put numbers on the list indicating which item is most important, which is second, third, and so on, until all of the responsibilities are assigned a number. Now ask your family where their love for God is on their lists. Is it number one? If not, encourage them to put God at the top of their lists. Their job every day is to love God, pay attention, and walk in His ways.

May your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock