Tuesday, December 24, 2019

The Christian's First Priority

"Then the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” (Haggai 1:3).

The prophets Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi did not foretell God’s judgment on Israel and Judah; they preached after the Jews returned from their exile in Babylon. Their purpose was to stimulate the people to faithfulness as they sought to reestablish the house of God in the midst of the nations.

When the Jews first returned from the Babylonian captivity, they quickly laid the foundation for the temple and began to rebuild it. During captivity, they had longed for the opportunity to be led in procession going up to worship in the temple. We find out from the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, however, that they experienced much opposition from the people who had moved into the area during the time the Jews were in exile. These people, the Samaritans, did not want the temple rebuilt, and they caused so many problems that finally the Jews stopped construction.

What the Jews had erected was a crude unfinished temple, but they considered it good enough. They turned their attention to building their own homes and establishing their lands and crops. After a few years, the Samaritan opposition died down. Instead of going back and finishing the temple, the Jews permitted it to languish in neglect. Finally, after sixteen years, God called the prophets Haggai and Zechariah to admonish the people and get them working again on His “home.”

Haggai told them that it was a shame for them to live in paneled houses while the temple was just an unsightly barn. God’s house should be the most beautiful of all, and they knew it. Haggai told them that God had been withholding His blessing from them because their priorities were wrong (Haggai 1:7–11).

This theological principle applies to every generation of believers. Jesus said, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). When we seek our own well-being while neglecting the house of God, God will similarly withhold His blessing from us. The building of God’s kingdom, the glory of His house, and the glory of His name must, in every generation, be the first priority of all His people.

The Old Testament tabernacle and temple were both glorious, symbolizing God’s people gathered around His throne. God is less concerned with physical buildings in the new covenant, and the temple we are to build today is the community of the saints. What are some of the ways that the temple is built and beautified?