Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! The Word of God to which we’ll direct our attention this morning is from the book of Haggai chapter 1 (read text).
What’s your dream home? If you could live anywhere, in any home, in any place what would you pick? What would it look like? I’m going to guess that out of all of us here we’d come up with a pretty diverse list of what we would call our dream home. But did any of you immediately think of this? (picture of the church) I’m guessing this probably wasn’t the first picture that came to your mind.
Well, it wasn’t much different back in Haggai’s day either. Haggai is one of the shortest books of the OT and I’m going to guess that most of you here probably haven’t spent a whole lot of time studying the book of Haggai. Well, Haggai was a prophet of God and we can date the time of this book almost exactly. The first part of this book takes place in late August of 520 BC. So what’s happened in Israelite history? Back in 722 BC the Assyrian empire had completely destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel. About 100 years later the Babylonians had taken over and they conquered the southern kingdom, destroyed Jerusalem, destroyed the temple, and took a majority of the Israelites back to Babylon in captivity. Then, the Persian empire conquered the Babylonians and in 538 BC the Persian king Cyrus declared that the Jews could return to their homeland in Judah and rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. So under a man named Zerubabel a remnant of Israelites returned – about 50,000 of them. They immediately rebuilt the altar of the temple and began worshipping again and two years later they laid the foundation of the temple. But, what happened next? They stopped. They hit a few obstacles and hindrances and stopped rebuilding the temple. 16 years later and little or nothing had happened with the rebuilding of the temple.
The question is, why? Why didn’t they finish rebuilding the temple? The problem wasn’t outward circumstances, or obstacles or hindrances, the problem was themselves. The problem was sin. They claimed that it wasn’t the right time to build God’s house. But what time did they have? The people had time to build their own homes, to build nice homes, paneled homes, dream homes. No time to build God’s house. What was their problem? Their priorities were all messed up. God took the back seat. They focused on themselves, on their own comforts and conveniences, on the things of this world.
But are we much different? How easy it is for us to focus our attention on ourselves, on our wants, our dreams, our comforts, on the things of this world. When you think about your “dream home” where does your mind immediately go? I’m guessing that none of us would immediately think about the house of the Lord. Why not? Because it’s so easy for us to get our priorities confused, like those Israelites, to focus on ourselves and the things of this world.
And what a tragedy that is! Because anything in this world can simply be “blown away.” “What you brought home, I blew away.” God says. Anything in this world is temporary, passing, and falling apart. I read a book in college and all I remember is the title- but it’s so true – it was called, “Things fall apart.” Notice what God allowed to happen to the Israelites because of their wrong priorities: “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.” Notice what God says. It’s not that they were desperate and suffering hardship, but they were unfulfilled. They had seed to sow, they had food to eat, liquid to drink, they earned money. But it didn’t satisfy. They didn’t have enough, didn’t have their fill, they wore clothes but weren’t comfortable, they had money but it disappeared. What they lacked was satisfaction, contentment, fulfillment, peace.
God was calling them to repentance with their unfulfilled life and yet they continued to work on their dream homes. God does the same today, doesn’t he? When we confuse our priorities, when we get focused on this life and on the things of this life and on our creature comforts, they never satisfy, never fulfill. You see, when you’re dissatisfied in life or unfulfilled, the problem is not with your job, the economy, your financial situation, your marriage, the problem is with you.
Just like in Haggai’s day, dissatisfaction and un-fulfillment are calls by God to repentance. Remember, God has an entirely different agenda for our lives than we often have. Our agenda tends to prioritize our own desires, goals, and dreams. We want happiness, wealth, stuff. But God’s agenda, by contrast, is to get us to heaven no matter the cost. If our happiness and wealth will get in the way of us getting to heaven, God will bless us by taking away our happiness, wealth or stuff, by giving us dissatisfaction, discontentment, un-fulfillment. We might not think that to be much of a blessing at first, but if by doing so our focus and attention is taken off of ourselves and redirected toward God, then it’s an awesome blessing. As He did in this text, God will take our attention off our earthly “dream home” and put it onto our spiritual home. That’s what God did for the Israelites in our text.
Why was building the temple so important? Notice the word God uses, notice that he doesn’t refer to it as His temple, but as His “house.” Why? A house is a place where someone lives, where they spend most of their time. It’s a place where family gathers together and enjoys each other’s company. A house is a safe place where you can rest and be at peace. And that’s what God wanted to do with His “home.” He wanted the people to have a place where they could go to enjoy God’s presence, to meet with Him, to hear His Word, and finally to point them to the coming Savior. “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.” In Jesus, God came to make His home with us forever.
God does the same today. As you gather in God’s house He wants to remind you that you are His dear child and He is your dear Father. He wants to remind you that you are safe, secure, and at peace with His love. He reminds you that you that in Jesus He has forgiven your sins fully and completely. He reminds you that He loves to spend time with you, loves to talk to you through His Word, loves to guide and direct you in the way that’s best for you.
That’s why THIS place, our church, is so important for us believers! It’s the physical place where we can in an official way come into God’s home, come into God’s presence. It’s also the place where we can bring our children into our God’s presence so He can teach them through His Word. God wants us to build His house. We’re doing that as we’re expanding our ministry adding a 2nd classroom and full-time teacher to continue to build God’s house so that God might take pleasure in it and be honored by it.
Yes, of course, God has promised to be with us always and He will be. God promises to speak to us every time we read and study His Word. But most of us need a place where we can think of as “God’s house”; most of us need a place we can call “home.” That’s why this place is more of a dream home than any other building could ever be. Not because it’s so fancy or ornate or the location is so wonderful, but because of what we hear and learn here, because of what our children hear and learn here. When we’re here, we’re reminded that we’re at home with God.
And one more thing. When we’re here, home with God, God reminds us that we have an even better “home” to which we’re going, our home in heaven. So while our earthly homes will always have trouble – leaks, damage, problems, broken things – our eternal home will be awesome and will continue to be forever! And that will finally be our ultimate dream home. And not just a dream home- a real home. Amen.