While reading in the book of Haggai this morning, I came across an interesting phenomenon. The situation in Haggai was that God’s people had been allowed by Cyrus back into Jerusalem after their Babylonian exile in order to rebuild the Temple that had been destroyed. They came back with fervor that turned out to be quite short-lived. It wasn’t long before the Temple got put on the “back burner” and instead God’s people had turned their attention to their own homes, and not His.
And this was because God’s people didn’t think that it was time to rebuild the Temple (1:2). But then God did something peculiar: He changed their desires.
Huh? What about free will? What about you and I living a life where we are free to either embrace God and His will or reject God and His will? What are we, puppets on His strings?
There’s no way to give a fitting explanation to the relationship between God’s graciousness that allows our choice and God’s soveriegnty that has everything in the palm of His hand. It’s just too other-worldly. But still something must be said about how God is operating here in Haggai.
God desired His Temple to be rebuilt. In fact, He said clearly through Haggai that the rebuilt Temple would outshine the first Temple. This had nothing to do with God being some cosmic task-master, or some ego-maniacal bully. Why was God so determined to get His people back on the Temple-building track?
Plain and simple: God desperately longs to be near His people. His promise of blessing on the rain, on the crops, on the supplies, on the gold, on the silver, on all the necessities, and on the people screams His desire to be near His beloved and chosen people. God says in 2:19, “From this day on I will bless you.”
The name “Haggai” has as its root “hag” which is the word for “festival”. In today’s vernacular, we’d say “party”. God had instituted regularly scheduled “parties” for His people to enjoy with Him. Why? I’d dare say it was in preparation for eternity. It seems to me that everything that God does, allows, and effects is in preparation for our eternity with Him. Our problems arise when we lose sight of God’s view on things: eternal. Stressed? It’s temporary. Worried? It’s about temporary things. Burned out? Temporarily. We experience these emotions when we stop considering eternity as more prominent than temporary.
With eternity as the backdrop of every conflict, every problem, every uncertain situation, every unanswered question–we find things managable when we remember that God resides in eternity and none of the things of this world will last, but all of the things of this world are preparing us to reside with God in eternity.
And so our desires become what God desires; all in preparation for a never-ending reality with Him. This is why God was calling His people, through Haggai, to take their focus off of temporary homes and instead return to a focus on His dwelling, and dwelling with Him.