Temporal or "Temple"

Ruins from temple mount, Google Images
Between the events recorded at the end of Chronicles and the beginning of the book of Ezra, a couple of generations have passed. The exile is coming to a close and God is about to return His people to the land He had promised to Abraham.

Ezra records that God put it in the heart of Cyrus, king of Persia, to allow the Jews to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple (Ezra 1:1-4). Then he writes: "Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites—everyone whose heart God had moved—prepared to go and build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem" (1:5, NIV). Just as the Egyptians had once given the Israelites provisions as they were leaving Egypt after their years of slavery in that country, so the Persians gave gifts to help the Jews in their return after their seventy years in captivity (1:6-11).

The prophets of the days were Haggai and Zechariah and it is fascinating to read their books alongside the book of Ezra. Zechariah, of course, contains prophesies that foretell the coming of Jesus, the Messiah.

But it is what Haggai says about this return to Jerusalem that grabs my attention. Ezra says that the Jews had been "moved" by God to return to their homeland. Haggai tells us how God moved them!

Over the seventy years that the Jews had been in Babylon, things had gone quite well for them. They had resettled and, far from being poor, some of them had become prosperous. It appears that many were quite content to forget all about Jerusalem and enjoy the fruits of their labour right there is Babylon. There was one disturbing thing happening. Whatever they gained slipped through their fingers. Sound familiar?

Haggai came along to explain the reason why.

"'Is it a time for your yourselves to be living in paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?…Give careful  thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm, You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it…Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so I may take pleasure in it abd be honored', says the Lord. "You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?' declares the Lord Almighty. 'Because of my house, which remains a ruin while each of you is busy with his own house. Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops" (Haggai 1:3-10, NIV).

They had put their own agenda ahead of the Lord's, their own business ahead of His. They had not connected the dots between their success and the seeming futility of that success. Twice God said, "give careful thought to your ways." And it was after the Jews thought about it, that they were moved to obey the Lord and to make preparations to get their priorities in the correct order.

That's a message we need to take to heart.  What it means to me as an individual, I'm not sure. I understand the dissatisfaction that comes with what should be satisfying, the futility of what should be rewarding, but I haven't quite got an handle on what "temple" needs to be put at the top of my list of priorities. But as God moves in my heart, I'm sure He will show me that part of His agenda I have missed and the part I need to focus on.

Haggai helped the Jews in Babylon to connect the dots and get their priorities straight. The result was that thousands of them returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. God said that the rebuilding of temple would bring him pleasure (Haggai 1:8) and isn't that what you and I are here for; to bring Him pleasure?

The apostle John writes: "Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him" (1 John 3:21, 22, NIV).

It doesn't sound as though either the Jews or us were, or are, going to be shortchanged by letting God "move" us to put His agenda first.


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