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At the end of 2021, many of us set goals for a better, fitter, healthier, and wiser New Year. Physically, we want a smaller waist, a taller stature, and a flatter stomach. Mentally, we want peace of mind and worry-free days. Socially, our intellects long to connect with those who truly understand us. Emotionally, we want others to listen. Spiritually, we long for more of God but do not know how to achieve that longing.
On the flip side, others are still trying to figure out how to survive and call it living. Few think about the connection between their physical and mental health to their spiritual and social lives. Occasionally, we associate the parallel that God’s call to rebuild our physical temples has just as much to do with our spiritual vitalities.
In Haggai chapter 1, God’s people faced a new year of sorts with a comparable call to rebuild. As the second shortest book in the Old Testament, Haggai calls the people of the Scriptures to rebuild His Temple. Set in 536 B.C., around 50,000 Jews rebuilt the altar of God only to be halted by the Samaritan’s threat. After fourteen years of routine life, God raised Haggai to reframe Zerubbabel (the Governor) and Jeshua’s (the High Priest) minds.
Like us, Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the people grew too easily accustomed to daily tasks without observing the Holy Temple of the Lord. Because while the people lived in luxurious homes, God’s dwelling place among the people was in ruins.
“Then the Lord sent this message through the prophet Haggai: “Why are you living in luxurious houses while my house lies in ruins” (Haggai 1″3-4, New Living Translation)?
Today, we know that the Temple of the Lord resides within us through the gift and power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ does not need a physical building for His presence to be known; He merely needs a willing and open heart to receive His Spirit.
But in 536 B.C., God’s people did not yet have the gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus had not died to save the people from their sins but was prophesied by the Prophets. Laws, regulations, and sacrifices were still necessary to honor God.
So although the people said they loved God and honored Him, their words did not match their actions. Although they once had fever and passion to pursue Him with all their heart, soul, and mind, they grew weary and exhausted. They lived in lavish homes and allowed the Temple to disintegrate into ruins. They would plant their crops but harvest little. Everything they did on their own accord would amount to virtually nothing.
“This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Look at what’s happening to you! You have planted much but harvest 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! “This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Look at what’s happening to you! Now go up into the hills, bring down timber, and rebuild my house. Then I will take pleasure in it and be honored, says the Lord. You hoped for rich harvests, but they were poor. And when you brought your harvest home, I blew it away. Why? Because my house lies in ruins, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, while all of you are busy building your own fine houses. It’s because of you that the heavens withhold the dew and the earth produces no crops. I have called for a drought on your fields and hills—a drought to wither the grain and grapes and olive trees and all your other crops, a drought to starve you and your livestock and to ruin everything you have worked so hard to get”(Haggai 1:5-11, New Living Translation).
I think we know that feeling well.
On January 1st, 2022, we will pursue our New Year goals with energy and drive. Our diets may change, our actions will stand the test of time, and we will grow strong.
We will read our Bible’s for an hour a day, engage in extra prayer, and volunteer. We might even be kind to that person who really annoys us.
But by January 14th, 2022, most of us will give up. We will grow tired and weary, eat too many pieces of chocolate granola, and snap at that person that always gets on our last nerve. We will throw in the towel, tired of pursuing our New Year ambitions, and find ourselves clinging to our old traditions.
Brothers and sisters, let this not be so when Christ calls us to rebuild the bodies of Temples that He desires to live within this season.
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, English Standard Version).
Because today, the Temple of God does not need rebuilding in the sense of a physical building. Christ is not calling us to buy gold, diamond, and silver for a new Temple in your backyard.
But perhaps He is calling you to rebuild the Temple of your heart through a personal, intimate, and immediate restructuring. Maybe today the call to rebuild is less about a physical place and more about a close-knit interpersonal one. He is calling you to open wide the gates of your Temple and invite Him in to live, convict, and grow with you wherever you go.
If you believe in Jesus Christ, the Temple of God does not need physical rebuilding because He lives inside of us, but the message He gave to Haggai remains the same.
We can live in fancy mansions, eat the finest food, drink expensive wine, and make millions, but if we do not call for and attend to the Holy Spirit living within us, we will still end up in poverty, hungry, thirsty, and broke.
Haggai had to tell Zerubbabel, and Jeshua this message to rebuild the Temple of God, but I hear the spirit still speaking it in our day and age.
God’s presence within us must be the first home we attend to more than any other dwelling place. When we are with Him, His home resides within us, and we are satisfied and filled. But when we are busy building fine houses without Him, we will always end up unsatisfied and empty.
Just as God caused drought and poverty to inflict a people not turned towards Him, He will do the same with us if it comes to it. He will break that foot, encourage that break up, allow that heartache if it leads you back to Him. Jesus will do whatever He needs to lead us back to Him. He will do whatever it takes.
It is often not until we reach famine, drought, bankruptcy, and poverty that we realize our desperate need for Him and His dwelling place to swell up from within us.
As soon as Haggai gave Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the whole remnant of God’s people this message to rebuild the Temple, they turned to God and feared Him. Immediately, God said, “I am with you” (vs.13), and sparked their enthusiasm for Him. Then they got to work.
“Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the whole remnant of God’s people began to obey the message from the Lord their God. When they heard the words of the prophet Haggai, whom the Lord their God had sent, the people feared the Lord. Then Haggai, the Lord’s messenger, gave the people this message from the Lord: “I am with you, says the Lord!” So the Lord sparked the enthusiasm of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the enthusiasm of Jeshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the enthusiasm of the whole remnant of God’s people. They began to work on the house of their God, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, on September 21 of the second year of King Darius’s reign” (Haggai 1:12-15, New Living Translation).
Whether we realize it or not, God does the same for us when we are willing to turn to Him and allow Him to make His home inside our bodies.
No matter what shape, size, color, race, or gender, He longs to be a part of you. He longs to fill you with more of Him and less of yourself.
Of course, there will always be people who say the timing is not right for them to accept this transformation from the Lord. The weather is too cold, the goals are too challenging, and it just does not fit.
Haggai’s people said the same: “This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: The people are saying, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord’”(Haggai 1:2, New Living Translation).
As C.S. Lewis notes, we cannot ask God to live within us and change our lives if we are not ready for the whole treatment: “I wanted immediate relief from pain: but I could not get it without having my teeth set permanently right.” We are not perfect here on earth, but we are on our way. “The change will not be completed in this life, for death is an important part of the treatment.”
And this is a worthy challenge I invite you to take with the Lord today. He will not stop rebuilding your Temple until you reach the other side, and at times it will not be pleasant. There is a reason pruning and promises go hand-in-hand. But the eternal reward of a life lived for Him will always be worth it in the end.
I invite you to pray with me today:
Yes, Lord, dwell richly in me. My body is a Temple of the Lord that belongs to you. I don’t need to go to a physical Shrine or Temple because you have made your home in me. Holy Spirit, come. Fill me with more of you in this dwelling place. Not for what you can give me, but for who you are. Just as Haggai created physical space and boundaries for your home in the land of Judah, I am making time and space for your home in my heart. We love you, Lord. In Jesus Name we pray. Amen.