The Israelites were trying to build the Temple of The LORD, but enemies and neighbors kept working to stop them.
Then, with a show of strength, they forced the Jews to stop building. So the work on the Temple of God in Jerusalem had stopped, and it remained at a standstill until the second year of the reign of King Darius of Persia. (Ezra 4:23b-24 NLT)
When the building progress stopped, the people were discouraged. The LORD sent them prophets, though, who would help them get things back on track.
At that time the prophets Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem. They prophesied in the name of the God of Israel who was over them. (Ezra 5:1 NLT)
God’s message to them, however, was not what we would expect. The remnant of Israel had been faithfully rebuilding the Temple of the LORD, but they were stopped by outside pressure…or so it seems.
Don't be like your ancestors who would not listen or pay attention when the earlier prophets said to them, 'This is what the LORD of Heaven's Armies says: Turn from your evil ways, and stop all your evil practices.' (Zechariah 1:4 NLT)
The LORD’s message through Zechariah was clear. The building project stopped because the people were not walking with God. They were starting to get off track like their ancestors who eventually were defeated by the Babylonians.
Then Haggai responded, "That is how it is with this people and this nation, says the LORD. Everything they do and everything they offer is defiled by their sin. (Haggai 2:14 NLT)
Zechariah wasn’t the only one delivering this message from the LORD. Haggai was pointing out the same problem. The Temple of the LORD was not being built because of the rebellious sin of God’s chosen people.
"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 NLT)
God made it clear that they could continue building if they wanted. They simply did not make God the priority that God should be in their lives. So, they did not get what they worked for either.
This is what the LORD of Heaven's Armies says: Look at what's happening to you! 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 1:5-6 NLT)
Sometimes, the same problems get in the way of our building projects today. The people of God (The Church) are the ones who are working against God’s priorities. Often times the problem is simply our misplaced priorities. Because we don’t make God’s priorities our priorities, God does not bless our efforts with harvest for our labor.
"This is what the LORD of Heaven's Armies says: Look at what's happening to you! Now go up into the hills, bring down timber, and rebuild My house. Then I will take pleasure in it and be honored, says the LORD.
(Haggai 1:7-8 NLT)
How do we build God’s Church when the people working against us are God’s people? Simple. Love them. Keep building. This is matching our priorities to God’s priorities.
How about you? Do you experience “living stones” (other Church members) who get in the way of building God’s Church? How do you respond to them? Do you love them? Do you keep building?