The people of Israel were in a season. Drought, famine and exile were their constant companions. Nothing seemed to work.
When anyone came to a heap of twenty measures, there were only ten.When anyone went to a wine vat to draw fifty measures, there were only twenty.Haggai 2:16
You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are never warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it. Haggai 1:6
No matter what they did, it was never enough. Hunger, despair and emptiness defined them. It really should not have been this way. Eighteen years earlier, Cyrus, king of Persia, had issued a decree that allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem (leave exile) and even gave them permission to rebuild the temple. They started—laid the foundation to great rejoicing (Ezr 3:8-11)—but then they got distracted, discouraged or let life take over and almost twenty years later they find themselves just as stuck as they were while wandering through the desert or living in exile while serving a foreign king.
But things are about to change. If…
Haggai appears on the scene with a series of messages to the people of Israel. The message is simple.
Rebuild the temple.
That seems fairly easy, but life for the people of this torn apart Jerusalem was a far cry from the splendor of the city when Solomon first built the temple. That temple was GRAND.
The Lord tells Haggai to ask the people, “Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem like nothing?” Haggai 2:3
Former glory. Former life. Former anything.
Last year I had a little bout (or two) with covid. Like many others I have met, it has affected my endurance and ability to run. Things that used to be easy are now challenges. Frustration, anger and even resentment come into play as I attempt to run over double digits.
Comparisons have robbed me of my joy.
Former. The Past. The presence of a parent, partner or friend may not be in your present, your job or living situation could be different and it may have kicked you into a desert where you keep holding onto the former and in doing that, it’s preventing you from rebuilding the temple because your current reality looks like “nothing.”
“Be strong, all you people of the land,” declares the Lord, “and work. For I am with you,” Haggai 2:4
The fun thing is, He prepared IN ADVANCE all the things the people would need to rebuild the temple. The timber for the temple was planted on the hills generations before the exiles returned. The stones were already there—in rubble piles. It was going to take work, but rebuilding was not only possible, it was commanded.
What does this look like for us?
- Submit. Submit the past unto the Lord. Like King Solomon’s temple, it may be a glorious past—one you really don’t want to not be living in everyday. However, it is not your current reality and by holding on to the past, you prevent the active work of the Spirit in you and through you. It is a simple as a prayer telling the Lord you are offering it up to Him.
2. Invite. Invite the Lord to fill that empty space. It’s not easy and it probably is not a one time thing. The Lord told the people of Jerusalem to “Be strong and work.” This is repeated multiple times because, well, rebuilding isn’t easy. It’s a daily choice to release the past and be aware of the new opportunities around you.
3. Be Filled. They may have had to sort through rubble piles and climb the mountain over and over again to get the timber, but in the whole process the Lord promises, “I am with you.” His presence can fill any present.
Now, here is where is gets really exciting. Like I am shaking as I type this. The new temple NEVER would look like the original temple. It would not have the jewels, the gold, the silver or the appearance of the old BUT, it would have something even better.
“I will share all nations, and the desired nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,” says the Lord Almighty…”The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,” says the Lord, “And in this place I will grant peace.” Haggai 2:7-9
Did you get that? The glory will be GREATER and in that space, the Lord will grant peace.
We know the Lord promises new mercies each morning and great is His faithfulness (Lam 3:22-23)
Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ. Phil 1:6
The promises are there IF we are willing to be strong and do the work to rebuild the temple. The people of Jerusalem got discouraged in their rebuilding process. Every few months, the Lord used Haggai to remind the people to Be Strong and do the work. Rebuilding isn’t something that is easily done without outside encouragement. If you need some, we are here for you from conversations here in the comments to in person weekly groups. If you need it, please reach out because the Lord loves you too much to allow you to remain in the past. He, and the world need your presence. If you need more encouragement, click here.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Eph 2:20
Prepared. In Advance. So, who is ready to do some rebuilding?