"Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses while this house lies desolate?"Haggai 1:4(NASB)
Although it is the second shortest book in the Old Testament, Haggai is compacted full of spiritual perception and wisdom. He was one of the post-captivity prophets, who ministered to those who had returned to Jerusalem, during the times of Ezra and Zerubbabel.
The focus of his ministry related to the rebuilding of the Temple of God, which had been utterly destroyed, decades earlier, by Nebuchadnezzar, the first, great king of Babylon.
Jeremiah's prophecy of the return of God's people to Israel, after 70 years, had been fulfilled.. and Ezra not only recorded the names of those that returned to the land, in his writings, but he also recorded the proclamation of Cyrus, king of Persia, who was charged by the Lord: to build Him an house in Jerusalem.
Strong opposition to the rebuilding of God's Temple came from the pagan governors of Persia, who continued to have authority over the land of Israel, which caused the Temple building to be halted - and time passed. Darius ascended the throne of Persia, but the Temple of God remained abandoned and in ruins, while the people of God lived in their own, comfortable, panelled houses, which they had constructed, for their own use.
And so, at the start of the book of Haggai, we hear a strong rebuke from the God of Israel to these Israelite builders, who had built themselves panelled houses, but abandoned work on the Temple. The Lord Himself chided them with a strong rebuke : Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your panelled houses while this House lies desolate?'
Although they had returned to their homeland, by God's grace, they were living in the land, without their Temple. This meant that they were unable to offer the required sacrifices that God had ordained through Moses. The Mosaic Law dictated that the breaking of one of God's 613 commandments, which were given to Israel through Moses, equated to breaking the whole of His Law - and so God was unable to bless His chosen people.
The Lord had provided for them during their captivity in Babylon, as He had promised through earlier prophets, but their return to the land necessitated the reestablishment of the sacrificial system established by God, and the Levitical priesthood, which could only be instituted when the Temple was rebuilt.
Their disobedience in fulfilling all the requirements of the Mosaic Law resulted in famine in the land, and a severe drought for the people of Israel, and so they were encouraged by Haggai to resume their work, on the House of the Lord.
Until their Messiah came to institute the New and better Covenant, and a new and better Priesthood, the old system, that was given to Moses was still a requirement for the people of Israel, in the land of Israel. Right up to the moment when Jesus was offered as the sacrifice for their sins, Israel remained under the Law, and failure to carry out the commandments of the Lord, resulted in Israel's scarcity.
The New Covenant was cut at Calvary through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, but Israel rejected their Messiah and His covenant with His people - which has yet to be fully instituted at His second coming. However, Christians have received the blessings of the New Covenant, which was promised to Israel, and have been made ministers of this New and better Covenant. We are God's ministers of reconciliation.. and function as living stones, that are being built up into a spiritual Temple of God.
Unlike Israel, we are not under Mosaic Law. Unlike the people of God in the time of Haggai, there is no requirement for an earthly Temple for Christians.. with animal sacrifices and an earthly priesthood. As members of the body of Christ, which is the Church, we are not under law but under grace. As Church age believers we live under a new law - the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.
Although the book of Haggai is addressed to Israel - all scripture is profitable for all of God's children, and there is much that we can learn from this punchy little book, which shows the value that God places on godly service and humble obedience, even when circumstances are difficult and dangerous.
God is just and righteous and will punish any of His children, who stray from the path of righteousness, for the Lord chastises those He loves, when we stray from the path of truth. But God is also faithful and true to His Word, and He will not break His promises to the children of Israel, nor the Body of Christ. God's plans and purposes for ALL His people will be carried out to completion - in His own time and in His own way.
May we set our heart to trust and obey the Word of God, especially those instructions that are specifically given to the Christian Church in the New Testament. May we strive to put Christ in His rightful place in our lives, and prioritise those things, which are important to the Lord. May we be those that build up the body of Christ - for we are collectively being built into a spiritual Temple, for His greater glory and may we evaluate our own personal lives - to see if there is anything that dishonours His holy name.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the amazing history of Your people Israel and the wonderful way that You use them to teach us spiritual truths, and warn us of the dangers of disobedience or carelessness, in our Christian lives. Thank You that I have the indwelling Holy Spirit and am a living stone in the spiritual Temple of God, which is being built up for Your eternal glory. May I live and work for Your everlasting praise, and keep me from wasting the precious time I have left, or shelving important spiritual things for the sake of the urgent!!! Thank You in Jesus name AMEN.