“Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD.” Haggai 1:7-8
The book of Haggai was written in the second year of Darius, the king of the Medes. The Israelites had been in captivity in Babylon for seventy years. As the LORD had promised through Jeremiah, the time had come for them to be returned to their land.
The book of Nehemiah tells how Israel had rebuilt Jerusalem. The book of Ezra tells how they rebuilt the temple. As they were returning to their land, they were told by King Cyrus to rebuild the temple. But as they built, their enemies convinced Cyrus’ successor, King Ahasuerus, to stop the work. Ezra records that the work sat idle for about ten years.
During those ten years, King Ahasuerus died and King Darius took the throne. And Haggai was sent by the LORD to prophesy and to get the Israelites back to work on the temple. In the context of the verse above, the LORD rebuked them for what they were doing. They had moved back into the land of Israel by God’s command. And they were getting comfortable. But because of the stop-work order from the king, who was now dead, God’s house was being neglected. They had their comfortable houses, but God had nothing. So, Haggai told them to consider their ways. Why were they neglecting God?
What God wanted was not what one might think. The temple that Solomon built was a large, gold-covered structure with many glorious features. But through Haggai the LORD told them to simply go and bring wood and build. He did not require gold, like Solomon had used, or silver or marble floors. The God of the universe is certainly worthy of that.
But since they had recently come from Babylon, they did not have the resources that Solomon had. So, what the Lord asked them to do was to go and get wood: to go up the mountain, cut trees and bring them for building His temple. These materials were readily available. They were not fancy or eye catching. But it was wood which God had provided. The trees on the mountain were tended by God. He provided the rain and sun needed for their growth, and He made them to flourish.
Wonderfully, God promised to take pleasure in that temple. God always desires to dwell with His people. It is seen time again in scripture. So, wood cut from the hills and used to build a plain temple for the LORD in their midst would please Him.
In the book of Numbers, the Lord gave directions about how the camp of the Israelites was to be arranged. The tribes camped in a specific order to the north, south, east, and west. Inside of that the Levites were to camp according to a specific order. And, in the middle of them would be the tabernacle. Numbers also describes how they were to be arranged as they travelled. The tabernacle and the ark of the covenant were to be in their midst as they went. He was always to be in their midst
And that was what God wanted in Haggai’s day. Jerusalem was the city where He put His name. Now that they were back in it, He wanted His place, too. He promised them that He would take pleasure in what they built. He also said that He would be glorified in that building. As plain as that wooden structure may have been, God would be glorified in it.
His exhortation to the Israelites speaks to us today. God deserves glory from His people. He wanted the Israelites to do at least something for Him: to build Him something through which He could be in their midst. Work done for Him is always noticed by Him. It does not need to be fancy or expensive.
A repeated theme in the letters to the churches in Revelation 2 and 3 is the Lord telling them that He knew their works. Some were praised for what they were doing for Him, and others were rebuked. But in all cases Jesus knew what they were. He is fully aware not only of what they did, but the thoughts and intents of their hearts in the doing. Even works that may seem to be trivial do not escape His notice.
1 Corinthians 3:11-15 speaks of a coming day, “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” On that day, that which the Lord knows of our works will be made manifest, and rewards will be given.
What is the littlest thing we can be doing for the Lord? He notices and takes pleasure in it. In Mark 9:41 Jesus said, “For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward.” Our efforts need not be on a national or international scale. How gracious of Him! How kind and caring He is!
All to Jesus, I surrender;
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.
I surrender all, I surrender all,
All to Thee, my blessèd Savior,
I surrender all.
All to Jesus I surrender;
Humbly at His feet I bow,
Worldly pleasures all forsaken;
Take me, Jesus, take me now.
All to Jesus, I surrender;
Make me, Savior, wholly Thine;
Let me feel the Holy Spirit,
Truly know that Thou art mine.
All to Jesus, I surrender;
Lord, I give myself to Thee;
Fill me with Thy love and power;
Let Thy blessing fall on me.
Refrain (Judson W. Van DeVenter)