In the book of Ezra in the Bible, the repatriated Jewish exiles had succeeded in rebuilding the altar and laying down a foundation for the temple was soon to come. This was done in just a few months upon their return to Jerusalem. It would seem like the temple building would naturally continue, and progress for a few short years until completion.
Yet this was not the case, as prophet Haggai noted:
This is what the Lord Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house.’” Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”Haggai 2:2-3
Ezra wanted them to focus on building God’s temple (not their’s). If Prophet Haggai were alive today he would probably ask this question – whose temple are you building?
See the exiles had started well. They had rebuilt the altar, began the burnt offerings, and even laid the foundation of the temple (Ezra 3). But then something happened. The work got interrupted, so much so that they stopped building the temple for a significant amount of time. For approximately 18 years they were hindered from building God’s temple. It started of being a “legitimate” hindrance, as enemies of God’s cause, lobbied against them until the emperor halted the building program. There literally was nothing they could have done. But when the cessation of work became prolonged, it was clear (and least to the prophet Haggai) that they were simply making excuses, and had gotten disinterested in the Lord’s cause completely.
I think the story of the rebuilding of the temple serves as a spiritual analogy for us. In our walk with God, there are times when we may legitimately be hindered from doing the Lord’s bid (or building his temple if you will). But will that cause us to lose focus completely? Or will we get back on our horse again, and complete what we have started?
The enemies of the Jews hindered in several ways, scripture tells us (see Ezra 4). This hindrance by the enemy represents disturbance that could occur in our own lives. Firstly they pretended to be friendly with the Jews, by initially offering help to rebuild the temple. I think this speaks to us, that we should be careful whom we associate with. As a new believer, are you being pulled down by too much time with the wrong company? God can use you to win your friends to Christ but be alert to ensure they are not influencing you.
Secondly, when the friendly approach didn’t work, they changed tactics to full fledged attack by bribing corrupt soldiers and writing false accusations to the emperor. This represents overt spiritually attack from the devil in our lives. The Bible tells me that Satan’s goal is to try to steal, destroy and eventually kill. He is not a fan of people trying to live for God, or building up God’s kingdom to see lives changed for the fame of our Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed he is against the rebuilding of God’s “spiritual temple” everywhere. Sometimes Satan attacks us through temptations, dreams, negative impressions, incessant thoughts, and negative emotions. If you are feeling spiritually attacked particularly at the helm of doing something for God, seek God for deliverance, as Satan is no match for the mighty power of God.
It is time to go back to our first love, and rebuild the house of the Lord. Start small, start where you stopped. Whether with your contribution of finances, or time, or service. Get involved again, talk to your pastor about your renewed desire and get some friends to keep you accountable as well.
But the hindrance of the rebuilding wasn’t just from external forces. Because of the relentless disturbances, God’s people eventually got distracted from pursuing the rebuilding project. The verse from Haggai above tells us that they were no longer trying to build the house of God, instead, they were building their own houses. How many good Christians, particularly in the west have become wearied and harried with the hustle and bustle of our fast paced consumer driven culture? It seems the more money we make, the more we spend, so much so that it literally becomes impossible to give God’s temple our best. We find ourselves overtired by the end of the day simply because our children are too involved in extracurricular activities. Or we struggle to make regular substantial contributions to the church because our budgets are stretched to the max with payments towards debt demands that our over materialistic culture has coerced us to incurring. Thus like the ancient Jewish exiles we lose sight of the prize, and forget to stop building God’s legacy. The words of Haggai, then applies rightly to us. It is time to go back to our first love, and rebuild the house of the Lord. Start small, start where you stopped. Whether with your contribution of finances, or time, or service. Get involved again, talk to your pastor about your renewed desire and get some friends to keep you accountable as well.
May God help us all in our quest to rebuild his temple, so that the glory of this present house [temple] will be greater than the glory of the former house (Haggai 2:9).
– Pastor Olu Jegede