Context is everything. One of my favorite parts of reading through the Minor Prophets this summer has been to ground them in their original setting. When we do this, the words take on a whole new meaning.
So picture this. The people of Jerusalem have been in Babylonian captivity for 50 years. But then a new regime takes over, and some of them are permitted to return home. Only, for most of them this isn't really home because they have spent the whole of their lives in Babylon. So a contingent of young and old, men and women, return to Palestine and immediately begin to rebuild the altar and the temple so they can worship God. A great start, but things unraveled quickly. You see, enemy nations have moved into the area and the last thing they wanted was for Jerusalem to return to strength, and the temple of the Living God was the ultimate show of strength. So they did everything in their power to discourage the work.
Well, they were successful. The foundation of the temple was in place, but the work was then abandoned. The people left the work unfinished and began to focus on their own lives; building their homes, tending their flocks, and raising their crops. After all, this new temple couldn't even compare in size or stature to the old, so enthusiasm quickly waned. When opposition came, they had all they excuse they needed to forget about God and just focus on living.
Hmm...am I the only one that finds this vaguely familiar? We make a good start with God, we push into His promises and rely on His Word, but then life creeps in. Faith gets complicated. Relationships get messy and some even seem to be against us. And the easy thing to do is just focus on life. Do the job. Earn the money. Make a living just like everyone else. Leave the foundation unfinished.
It is into this dynamic that the prophet Haggai speaks. This is his message from the Lord,
"Why are you living in luxurious houses while my house lies in ruins? This is what the Lord of Heaven's Armies says: Look at what's happening to you! You have planted much but harvested little. You eat but are not satisfied. You drink but are still thirsty. You put on clothes but cannot keep warm. Your wages disappear as though you were putting them in pockets filled with holes!" (Haggai 1:4-6)
In other words, the people had buried their heads in making a living, but none of it provided real life. They were empty and their pursuits did not satisfy. So God comes along and reminds them of His temple- that a foundation is in place and they would do well to build on it. God promises them that when they devote themselves to Him, blessing and joy will follow. (2:19) And it does. With enthusiasm, they return and build the temple, and God pours out blessing on the people.
Where in your life are you busy making a living, only to find that it brings little real life? May we all hear the words of God to build on a solid foundation. For some, this foundation has been lost amidst paychecks and properties, soccer and school, work and play. But if we will turn to the Author of Life and build on Him, joy will follow. Will it be easy, convenient, or fun all the time? No. But the blessing and joy it brings is real life.
May you know this life on your journey today-