Because of their idolatry, Israel was carried into Babylonian captivity. Seventy years was the prophesied time for her to be subjected to another nation. Cyrus was God’s chosen vessel to help Israel return and start to rebuild their lives. They needed to rebuild their worship and their personal lives. As soon as they returned, they started to work on their worship. “On the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the LORD, though the foundation of the LORD’S temple had not yet been laid” (Ezra 3:6). Their enthusiasm was one of their more commendable attributes. It is as if they said to themselves, “It will be a while before the temple is built, so, let us start to worship anyway.” And then they encountered difficult times. Those around them began to discourage them in the work on the temple. They worked harder on their personal lives than they did on their spiritual lives.
God sent the prophet Haggai to Israel. Sixteen years had lapsed since Israel returned and started working on the temple. Haggai has a statement that highlights their problems. “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” (Haggai 1:4). They lived in wood paneled houses and the temple still was not built. They were going through the motions of worship in offering sacrifices just like they had started sixteen years ago. But they had failed to complete their obligations to God.
I wonder if we could be accused of some of the same things Haggai pointed out to Israel? Do we fail to honor God? Oh, we go to church and offer our sacrifice of praise, prayer, and collections of money. But do we in the words of Jesus, “seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33)??? This concept of Jesus is the spiritual foundation to the Church, the New Testament temple.
We live in a prosperous country and we have been busy building our paneled houses (our personal lives). Is it not time to finish the temple of God (the Church) by honoring Him and putting Him first every day? Ken Hamilton, Church of Christ in Granite, OK