"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 with spiritual insights and gems of 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 a 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 many years passed by. Finally, Darius ascended the throne of Persia, but the Temple of God remained abandoned and lay in ruins, while the people of God lived in their own, comfortable, panelled houses, which they 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 His people, who had built their own houses, while neglecting the House of the Lord. "Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your panelled houses while this House lies desolate?" was the Lord's rebuke to Israel.
God had rescued His people from their captivity, as He promised, and returned them to their own land, but while they constructed their own lovely homes - the House of God lay in ruins. The Temple remained desolate and the people were unable to offer their sacrifices to God, as the Law demanded. This meant that the people of Israel were breaking God's Law and as a result He was unable to bless His them.
The Lord had provided for them during their captivity in Babylon, as had been 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 re-instituted when the Temple was rebuilt.
Without their Temple, Israel were breaking their covenant with God, and their disobedience in fulfilling all the righteous requirements of the Law resulted in a terrible famine and severe drought. And so, God used the prophet Haggai to rebuke His people and encourage them to resume their work on the House of the Lord... so that He could bless them as dictated by the terms of their covenant.
Until their Messiah came to institute the New and Better Covenant and a New and Better Priesthood, the old system given to Moses was still in place for the people 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 commands 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 the covenant He cut at Calvary. This New and Better Covenant, has yet to be instituted at His Second Coming. However, by God's grace, Christians have been blessed abundantly by the New Covenant, which the Lord promised to Israel through Jeremiah the prophet.
By God's grace, WE who believe on the Lord Jesus have been made ministers of this New and Better Covenant. Until it is fully ratified at the end of the Great Tribulation, Christians are God's Ministers of Reconciliation. The Body of Christ, which is the Church, are Ministers of Reconciliation in this Church Dispensation, and today we function as Living Stones, that are being built up into a spiritual Temple.
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... with animal sacrifices and an earthly priesthood. As members of the Body of Christ, 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, every part of Scripture is profitable for all of God's children, and there is much that we, Christians, 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 chastens those He loves, when we stray from the path of truth. God is faithful, and He is true to His Word, and He will fulfil all the promises He made to the children of Israel, AND He will also keep His Word to the Church - which is 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 hearts to trust and obey the inspired Word of God. May we be careful to follow every instruction that has been given to the Christian Church in the New Testament and may we learn all He wants to teach us throughout the Holy Scripture - both Old and New.
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 collectively, we are 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.