In Your Cieled Houses

The following paper was written for my Theology of Revival class. The assignment was to write a “blog post length” paper in response to any chapter from the textbooks. Of course, my paper ended up on the long side of a blog post–but my classmates still told me to publish it! My textbook source was chapter 5 from When the Kingdom Comes by Steve Gray.

The book of Haggai has always been one of my favorites, partially because the book preaches itself. Everyone knows the story: Israel had returned from Babylonian captivity to the Promised Land to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem, but according to several of the minor prophets, Israel was doing anything but rebuilding the Temple. As a result, famine, poverty, and toil were rampant.

Literal and forthright, the opening chapter of Haggai does not obscure its moral in poetry; God explains in no uncertain terms what the cause of Israel’s troubles is. Many can quote the famous passage:

“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.’” Then the Lord sent this message through the prophet Haggai: “Why are you living in luxurious houses while my house lies in ruins?” (Haggai 1:2-4)

This is a timeless message that bears repeating at least annually, for we all have a tendency to get preoccupied with our own and drift from our first love. However, as preachers and listeners alike are wont to do, we usually suffice ourselves with only the face-value application of this passage. Like the Greeks that we are, we assume this passage is only referring to the dichotomy of “worldly life” versus spiritual things. We use this passage to rebuke people’s tendency to get caught up in jobs, families, and hobbies and chide them back into pursuing their daily devotions. And yet, I fear in so doing we are missing the deeper meaning of this passage—and the grave warning the Lord is trying to give us.

Let me ask you a question. What would you say is the main purpose of worship? If we judged based on the song list of most services and Christian radio stations, one would assume the purpose of worship was to comfort ourselves and assure ourselves of our position in Christ. Almost all of the popular songs focus on “me, myself, and I”; even those lyrics that commemorate God’s majesty usually focus on what He’s done for us. In a truly spirit-filled church, you might have a few songs begging God to send His fire and rain. But very few of the songs will focus on God and His character, His might, and His glory without us in the picture.

And yet, as a quick survey of Psalms will show, the purpose of worship is to do just that—worship the Lord. To venerate Him, praise Him, and enthrone Him in glory. Although we may benefit from it, worship is primarily for God. What does it say, then, if we spend most of our worship time comforting ourselves and making ourselves feel secure? Are we not using our precious wood to panel our own home while leaving God’s house drafty and bare? How can we scream “Send Your rain” for an hour and not spend five minutes decorating the Lord’s throne room with praise? Could this be why we dance for revival until we are dizzy, and yet all we get, week after week, is just enough of God’s presence to tide us over?

“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!” (Haggai 1:6)

One can only imagine what would happen if we spent less of our services on ourselves and our spiritual “homes” and more on rebuilding the wasted Temple.

“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!” (Malachi 3:10)

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