When we moved to the town of March in Cambridgeshire in 1989 the fellowship we joined had no building of its own, but did own a piece of land in the town. They initially had plans drawn up by an architect, but they couldn't build because they did not have the finance, and also there were complications with the building regulations. They would have to drive piles ten meters into the ground for the foundations, because of the fen soil. When we got there they had abandoned hope of ever building anything. The only thing they had erected on the site was a noticeboard. The rest of the land was overgrown and wild. After we had been in March for about twelve months, the Lord started to speak to the church, and the word came from this chapter in the prophecy of Haggai.
Haggai the prophet was a contemporary of Zechariah the son of Berechiah, who prophesied during the reign of Darius, king of the Persian empire. This was during the time that the children of Israel were returning to their ancient land from captivity. They were taken captive some seventy years previously because they had turned from worshipping Yahweh, and were living sinful lives. Had they learnt their lesson?
They were now back in the land of Judah, in Jerusalem, but they were not interested in finding out what God wanted them to do. Verse two says, ‘thus speaks Yahweh Sabaoth saying, “This people says, ‘The time has not come, the time that Yahweh's house should be built.'”' They were putting it off. It was not a convenient time for them. After all, they needed somewhere to live, they needed to make a living, and it was just not convenient to think about building the temple.
God said to them through Haggai, “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your panelled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?” They were too occupied in building their own houses and making themselves comfortable!
They were not putting God first in their lives. They had not yet learnt the lesson, even after seventy years of captivity! What was the result of their attitude? God says “Consider your ways!” He says:
“You have sown much, and bring in little;
You eat, but do not have enough;
You drink, but you are not filled;
You cloth yourselves, but no one is warm;
And he who earns wages, earns wages to put in a bag with holes.”
If we seek to satisfy our earthly cravings or needs and ignore God, we cannot expect Him to order our ways! I think that the message of Haggai is very relevant to us too. We should from time to time ‘consider our ways'. Does God have the right place in our lives?
God's question is repeated in verse 7. In verse 8 He instructs the people “Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified.” We must obey God, so that He alone is glorified. Verses 9 – 11 describe what He did for the people when they disobeyed. What they did get, God just “blew it away!” The heavens above withheld the dew, the earth withheld its fruit, a drought destroyed the grain, the new wine and the oil, and affected all the crops, the men and the livestock, and the work they did. Jesus said in Matthew 6 verse 33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
Zerubbabel and Joshua, the leaders of the Jewish people, responded to the word of Yahweh and started to rebuild the temple. God was pleased. He said “I am with you.” What an encouragement! God stirred up the people and the work progressed.
In our little church fellowship in March we found a way to progress. We purchased two second hand mobile classrooms and had them erected on the site. They did not need normal foundations as they were ‘temporary buildings'. As the church grew we purchased two more mobile units, which were all connected by timber framed passageways. It is still standing nearly thirty years later, and God is still blessing the work.