But the enemies of Israel, especially the Samaritans, oppose the project so viciously that work is halted for many years until Darius becomes king. At this time the prophet Haggai appears, saying:
“These people say that the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord” (1:2, ESV).
Apparently this prophetic observation is inspired, not by lack of resources to rebuild, but by the selfish greed of the returning exiles:
“Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins” (1:4)?
Clearly, the people of God, rescued from exile, are in complete disunity with God. Then, using a common phrase from our current day, God asks through Haggai, in effect:
“How’s that workin’ out for ya’?”
“You have sown much and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. But he who earns wages does so to put them in a bag with holes” (1:6).
God commands them twice through Haggai to consider their ways, to repent:
“You looked for much, and behold it came to little. And when you brought it home, it blew away. Why? Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house” (1:9).
And what is God’s judgment for their disunity with him?
“Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. And I have called for a drought on the land…” (1:10-11).
Thankfully, all the people repent in unity with God:
“Then…all the remnant of the people…obeyed the voice of the Lord their God…and the people feared the Lord” (1:12).
And what happens? God’s never-ending love and promise of restoration!
“Then Haggai…spoke to the people with the Lord’s message, ‘I am with you, declares the Lord” (1:13).
And immediately work begins in earnest on the rebuilding of God’s house.
God then uses Haggai to imprint an indelible lesson on his children, saying, in effect, “Now let’s review what just happened.” Using imagery of ritual uncleanness from the Law of Moses that is so detestable to the Israelites, Haggai states, first:
“So it is with this people, and with this nation before me, declares the Lord, and so with every work of their hands. And what they offer there is unclean…I struck you and all the products of your toil with blight and with mildew and with hail, yet you did not turn to me, declares the Lord” (2:14, 17).
“Is the seed yet in the barn? Indeed, the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have yielded nothing. But from this day on I will bless you” (2:19).
Wait a minute! Wasn’t God just saying how disobedient they are? Has God suddenly changed his mind in the middle of a verse?
No. The context of Israel’s uncleanness was from the time Solomon’s temple was destroyed up to the time of return from exile; but now that they have just repented (see 1:12 just above) in unity him and begun work to rebuild God’s house, this is all he needs to hear. From here forward, his never-ending love kicks in!
Haggai’s insight in all of this appears to be that disobedience and failure to obey God’s commands are the same as disunity; while the opposite is also true – obedience is the same as perfect unity with God!
This strikes a strong alarm in me.
Is it possible that, just as Israel quickly forgot the grace of God in being released from exile, and then went “every man for himself” into the disunity of neglecting God’s house, the modern church of Jesus has forgotten the perfect unity exhibited in the Acts Chapters 1-3 church by going into the disunity of “every denomination for itself” to the neglect of the perfect unity Jesus prayed for?
If God could call drought and famine on Israel for their disunity, are we seeing the rise of persecution and disrespect for Christians in our own times as our Lord’s judgment for our own disunity? How’s that workin’ out for us? We are now in what is openly called the “Post Christian Era.”
If so, is Jesus waiting for a sincere repentance by his entire church, one believer at a time, at which time he can unleash his never-ending love and restoration?
Streamside Unity is dedicated to this direction as you will see in the coming weeks!