The people had been putting off the rebuilding of the temple. Shortly after returning from their seventy-year exile they rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem under the leadership of Nehemiah. They also laid the foundation for the Jewish temple under the leadership of the Jewish priest Ezra. But that was sixteen years earlier. They started out strong, but something happened and they lost their focus. They kept putting off rebuilding another day, another week, another month, and then before long it had been years. There was obvious financial struggle and political instability during these years, but God knew that was not the problem. So God simply ask them a question through Haggai. “You can live in paneled houses, while my house is in ruin?” There is nothing like a straightforward question to put things into perspective. Basically in the terms of today he is saying you can afford a new car, a new house, a boat, a camper, random lessons for the kids, ball, vacation, and the list goes on and on, but you don’t have enough to tithe? Some of you may stop reading right here, but I would encourage you to see how it ends. So this causes them to take a look at priorities, and where they were spiritually. Then he goes on to say, “Consider your ways. 6 You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.” They would plant crops expecting much, but would get little. They had clothes, but would never be truly warm. They would earn money, but something would always takes it, leaving them poor. He is saying you are focused on all the wrong things and because you continue in that way of thought; you are never satisfied. You will never have enough because I have withdrawn my blessing.” God had caused a drought in the land, the hills, the grain, the wine, the oil, and the beast because they were so busy worrying about them selves they had forgotten about Him. 8 Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be honored, says the Lord. The Hebrew phrase "be honored" in v. 8 can be translated "reveal my glory." In other words, God’s glory was being obscured by his people’s misplaced priorities.
So Haggai instructs them to rebuild.
12 Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the Lord their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the Lord their God had sent him. And the people feared the Lord. 13 Then Haggai, the messenger of the Lord, spoke to the people with the Lord's message, “I am with you, declares the Lord.” 14 And the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people. And they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God, 15 on the twenty-fourth day of the month, in the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king.
Please don’t miss this part. Because the people were willing to be obedient the Lord stirred up their spirit, and said, ”I am with you.” He energized them, and gave them a renewed strength. He gave them confidence they could accomplish the challenge. Ministry can be taxing mentally and physically, but God is willing to stir us up, to energize us, if we are willing. You can do ministry until you are blue in the face, but if it is not in God’s will and timing, it will be exhausting and you will find no joy in it. Some people see ministry as a chore. The problem with this is that a chore is viewed as a non-pleasurable event. Listen we don’t have to serve God at all, but we have the privilege. There is a huge difference when you are serving under obligation, and when you are serving from your heart. If you feel obligated you are going to show up so you can say you were there, and do as little as possible. When you are “stirred up” you are glad to be there, and are putting 100% into it because you know you are glorifying God. Which way are you currently serving; out of guilt, or out of gratitude?
What an awesome Savior we have that he is willing to meet us where we are. Because they were willing to take a step toward him and refocus, he again made his presence and blessings known. He wants us to dream bigger dreams, and expect bigger things. He wants us to take him out of the tiny parameters we have placed him in, and give him full reign. The Bible says, “We have not because we ask not.” So why are we not asking? I think we are not asking because we have come to expect nothing. When we return our focus back to God, and give him the things that are rightfully his; there are no limits to what he can accomplish through us. Allow God to begin to stir in you a new heart, with a new vision.