Building anything is a long process – when you’ve got the plumb line in your hands at the beginning of the project, there’s a lot to do before you get to lay the carpet! It’s no different with building the Temple of the Lord.
Occasionally we all wonder if our efforts are making a difference. It’s easy to grow discouraged thinking that our acts of kindness are insignificant. The Israelites faced a similar problem when they returned from Babylonian captivity and began to rebuild Jerusalem as they fell victim to despondency. The people were discouraged because their numbers were small and their efforts seemed feeble when compared with the accomplishments of their ancestors. When they started to rebuild the temple they only saw how meager their contributions would be and stopped working. Paul once wrote to the Galatians, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (Galatians 6:9-10)
There are a number of scriptures the Lord has impressed upon us recently. Although there’s quite a lot, it would help to start by prayerfully reading them.
1 Corinthians 3:16-17 “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.”
1 Peter 2:4-5 “As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
Haggai 1:2-11 This is what the LORD Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the LORD’s house.’” 3 Then the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” 5 Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 6 You have planted much, but 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.” 7 This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 8 Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the LORD. 9 “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 your own house. 10 Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. 11 I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the olive oil and everything else the ground produces, on people and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands.”
Zechariah 4: 6-10 “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel saying, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts. 7 ‘What are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become a plain; and he will bring forth the top stone with shouts of “Grace, grace to it!’ 8 Also the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 9 “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house, and his hands will finish it. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. 10 For who has despised the day of small things? But these seven will be glad when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel—these are the eyes of the LORD which range to and fro throughout the earth.”
Zechariah 6:12-13 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Behold, a man whose name is Branch, for He will branch out from where He is; and He will build the temple of the LORD. 13 Yes, it is He who will build the temple of the LORD, and He who will bear the honor and sit and rule on His throne.
Zerubbabel was the leader of the first return of the exiles from captivity in 536 B.C. Under his leadership he was working with the people to rebuild the temple. The temple foundation was quickly laid, but because of political problems the temple was never completed. Sixteen years have now passed and the temple is still not completed. Imagine the discouragement Zerubbabel must have felt in trying to get the people to work for 16 years without any success. However, the people who had returned to the land from exile were saying the time was not right to restore the temple. They were using an instruction issued by the Persian court against the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem as an excuse for not restoring the temple. When Haggai was sent to Zerubbabel and Joshua the injunction had been overturned by the king of Persia and the harassment by the Samaritans had declined because they lacked the support of the Persians. They were using the need to build houses for themselves, provide food and clothing for themselves and their families as an excuse for not restoring the temple.
These people, like many Christians today, didn’t say they wouldn’t do the work they were called to do; to restore the temple. They didn’t say they wouldn’t obey what the Lord had said, what they said was it wasn’t a convenient time to do it. We often hear Christians or those who know they need to turn from their sinful ways and sinful deeds use “it is not the right time” as an excuse for not doing what they know and admit they should be doing.
A MESSAGE TO THE AUTHORITIES
In His message to Zerubbabel and Joshua through Haggai the Lord told them as the civil leader and religious leader they were not doing what they should be doing and that this was not a good example for their people. Those who are leaders in the church need to set a proper example for those that come under their care. Political leaders should set good examples. Parents should set proper examples for their children. The Lord asked the question, “You say it isn’t time to build the house of the Lord, but it is the time to build your houses, plant your crops, tend your flocks and vineyards?” What is even more shameful these people were using the gifts the Lord had provided to build his house, to build their houses, buy seed, and food. They asked, “Why am I facing the problems I am facing? What did they expect?
The word of the Lord through Haggai is telling not only Zerubbabel, Joshua, and the people of his day, but the leaders of this nation and the church and the people of this century, they are to “Consider your ways.” Evaluate what you are doing. Compare what you are doing and what you are not doing. Consider this, what have you gained by seeking to satisfy your desires over the desire of the Lord? Where are you? Look at what you have done.
“You have sown much, but harvest little; you eat, but there is not enough to be satisfied; You drink, but there is not enough to become drunk; you put on clothing, but no one is warm enough; and he who earns, earns wages to put into a purse with holes.” You have not prospered seeking self-satisfaction. You thought you could escape poverty by not restoring the temple and keeping the resources that have been given to you and spending them on what you thought would bring you comfort and happiness. Instead of cheating the Lord, you have been cheating yourself. Crop failure has dragged you deeper into poverty. What you earn you are unable to keep because the cost of living is constantly increasing. Compare what you have done and what you are suffering.
It is important to remember there are those who suffer because someone or some group has done something to cause the suffering or has not done something that would have prevented it. There were probably a few faithful who were trying to restore the temple. But their progress was hindered by the actions of those who should have been working alongside them. This is true in the church today.
The Lord told the people there was a remedy. The cedar wood that was purchased for the restoration of the temple from Lebanon (Ezra 3:7) that was used to build your houses must be replaced. However, the Lord was not going to stir up the heart of the king of Persia or the neighbours of the Israelites as he did when the proclamation was sent through out the land and the people were given gifts of silver and gold and a free will offering. Now they had to provide the material to restore the temple. They must “Go up to the mountains, bring wood and restore the temple.”
Sometimes we expect a great return from our labours and the return is nowhere near what we expected. This is the situation of the people Haggai was speaking to. They were asking themselves why they were in this economic situation. The Lord was displeased with what they were doing and he was sending a wakeup call. Their situation was not merely a matter of chance. The one who has control of the clouds shut them up and withheld the dew and rain. What grain broke through the ground and promised a plentiful crop was parched by the rays of the sun and withered away. Not only did the Lord withhold the dew and rain he caused the weather to be extremely hot. The fruits of the vines were burnt up by the scorching heat. The drought the Lord called for was universal and its effects were felt by the whole of creation. There was no grass in the pasture lands for the cattle and sheep. The extreme heat had a deadly effect upon the elderly and the children. It brought disease upon the cattle and sheep and they died. It caused a shortage of food, fur and wool used to make clothing.
As we have seen in the past few years, the wealth that people accumulate in this life can be wiped away in seconds. But the treasures that we lay up in heaven are safely kept. The drought was a warning to those who provoked the Lord. There comes a time when his blessings are withheld and his judgments are poured out on the land. We may try to sweeten the message, the word of the Lord through Haggai sent to Zerubbabel, Joshua, and the people of Judah and Jerusalem, but the truth is clearly revealed in this message the word of the Lord delivered through Haggai. Disobedience results in punishment.
The reaction to this message is found in verse twelve. “Zerubbabel…and Joshua…with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the Lord and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the Lord their God had sent him. And the people showed reverence for the Lord.” All those who heard the word of the Lord through Haggai received it in the love it was sent to them and were convicted by it. Zerubbabel, the governor who had been useful in the service of the Lord did not plead his past merits as grounds to ignore the message. He accepted the correction for his past mistakes and his failure to obey the commands of the Lord. Joshua the high priest, whose responsibility it was to teach the people was willing to be taught and instructed. The remnant of the people bowed before the Lord and accepted the yoke that was placed upon their neck. The Lord said, “go work in my vineyard (temple)”, and they said “we will go.” They not only said it, they had said that before and didn’t go; they went immediately. They recognised what they heard was the word of God and they obeyed the words spoken to them by Haggai. They were not like their ancestors who didn’t listen to or heed the words of the prophet and misused them.
Too often in this present age people want to hear only what makes them feel good and does not violate their comfort zone. The words Haggai was given to deliver to the civil leader, the religious leader, and the remnant of the people didn’t make them feel good. It violated their comfort zone and they were able to see themselves as the Lord sees them. What they saw stirred up their spirits and they turned from who they were to what the Lord wanted them to be. They applied themselves as vigorously to the task the Lord had given them, according to their capabilities or abilities.
Zechariah gives an additional perspective in chapter 4. An angel shows him a vision of a lampstand which Zechariah doesn’t understand, so he asks the meaning of it. The angel saya that this is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel (4:6). The lampstand and its oil represents the word of the Lord. In this case it is the word of the Lord which is to be given to Zerubbabel. The message of the word of the Lord is “not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit.” The vision to Zechariah is a message of encouragement to Zerubbabel. The word of the Lord has come to tell Zerubbabel it is God’s will to complete the work. The temple will be finished not because of human might or power, but through the will of God. The Lord proves His point in verse 7 by saying that the mighty mountain has been level ground. Thus, all of the obstacles which were standing in the way of the temple’s completion are now removed. Further, Zerubbabel will be part of the finishing process, for he will lay the capstone of the temple. In verses 8-10 we see that the word of the Lord explicitly tells us that this is the meaning of the lampstand. Zerubbabel had laid the foundation to the temple and now he will be able to finish the work. Nothing will stop the work for God has purposed its completion. There would be great joy and the shouts of “grace to it” when Zerubbabel pick up the plumb line and finished the work.
In chapter 6 Zechariah is told to take silver and gold from the exiles and make a crown. Then he is to set the crown on the head of Joshua the high priest. In performing this act, Zechariah would say, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, Behold, the man whose name is the Branch: for he shall branch out from his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord.” We have already seen the name of the Branch used in Zechariah 3:8 who would remove the sins of the people in a single day. The Branch is therefore a very clear reference to the Messiah, Jesus.
The Lord said that he shall build the temple of the Lord. Now Zechariah had already prophesied that Zerubbabel would place the capstone on the temple and complete its building. Therefore, Zechariah is prophesying of a spiritual temple that the Messiah would build. Ephesians 2:19-22 says, “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”
He shall be a priest on His throne. This is the meaning of the action sermon of Zechariah. To place the crown on Joshua was a sign that there would be a high priest who would reign as king. Of course, under the old covenant this was not possible. The king came from the tribe of Judah and the priests came from the tribe of Levi. However, Zechariah prophesied that there would be a high priest to rule on the throne. In Hebrews 5:5-10 the writer shows us that Christ was high priest after the order of Melchizedek. Melchizedek was high priest of God and king of Salem, and after this order Jesus Christ would rule as king and as high priest in the house of God. This would not cause a state of war, but there would be peace and harmony as Christ would unite the two offices.
The Lord also says that those who are far off shall come and help to build the temple of the Lord. The phrase “those who are far off” is a reference to the Gentiles. In Acts 2:39 Peter said, “The promise is to you and your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” Jews and Gentiles would take part in the building of the Lord’s house as all who would come to Him would be spiritual stones (1 Peter 2:5).
WHAT DOES HIS HOUSE LOOK LIKE?
In our article “If It’s Not A House Of Prayer, It’s Not His House” we showed that there are certain characteristics of God’s house (Temple)
“We can read in Matthew 21 how Jesus entered the Temple and found it had been directed away from its original purposes:
Matthew 21:12-16 (NIV) Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, ” ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.’” The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant. “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him. “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read,” ‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained [or ‘perfected’] praise’?“
In this passage Jesus sets out the purposes for the ‘house’ he desires to establish on the earth. This will be a place where God’s people will experience the reality of what Jesus said in Luke 18:7-8 “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.” His Temple is to be a house of:
Prayer – a place where day and night, God’s people are to be found crying out to him for justice and the Lord’s intervention in the affairs of humanity. In Luke’s version of this incident, just prior to this event Jesus wept over Jerusalem at the devastation he saw – “As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, ‘If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.’” (Luke 19:41-44). As God’s people we are to see the state of the world around us and devote ourselves to prayer and seeking his face.
Power – straight after the incident with the money changers, sick people came to present themselves to Jesus and he healed them all. The house that God is building will be recognised as a place of power where the sick are healed and people delivered and restored. Jesus gave his mandate as he quoted from Isaiah 61:1-3 – “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favour and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendour.” Our mandate is no different.
Perfect Praise – Jesus recognised the fact that God’s house is to be a place where he is worshipped; where creative worship by God’s people changes the dynamics of the world around them. In Psalm 22:3 we read of the power behind God’s worshipping people “But You are holy, O You Who dwell in [the holy place where] the praises of Israel [are offered].” (Amplified Bible).”
It’s time for the people of God to rise up and take seriously the task of establishing on the earth not just God’s kingdom, but God’s Temple – a place of prayer, power and perfect praise. The task on the shoulders of leaders is to equip God’s people for works of service (Ephesians 4) – to equip is to bring people into alignment with God’s plan and purpose for their lives. The task of people generally is to give themselves willingly to the ministry the Lord has placed in their hands. David said in Psalm 110,
“The LORD says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’ 2 The LORD will stretch forth your strong scepter from Zion, saying, ‘Rule in the midst of Your enemies.’ 3 Your people will volunteer freely in the day of your power.”
Jesus has established his kingdom and it has already been prophesied that he will rule until all the enemies are destroyed. Many of the enemies of God have already been destroyed. History has shown the fall of Assyria, the fall of Babylon, the fall of Persian, the fall of Greece and the fall of Rome. All of these events were prophesied in the scriptures. Who would be foolish enough to stand against the kingdom of Jesus Christ? The outcome is sure–defeat. Humankind cannot stand against the Kingdom of God and succeed. The world may think that they are succeeding right now in living the way they like. But the outcome is assured and the battle is won. Will we be wise and surrender to the Lord? Zechariah 6:15 says, “…if you will diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God.” Surrender is not defeat. Surrender is victory so we must obey the Lord today and be joined with Jesus in victory.
if we want to establish his Temple in our lives corporately and individually, we must give ourselves to these three things:
- Prayer that cries out to the throne day and night – at some point he will inhabit the words we are saying – he says that he will be faithful to those who listen and obey what he says to them
- Seeking his presence and making ourselves available for him to release his power through us to heal and restore
- Worship him freely – In order to worship God in the right spirit, we must take time before worship to make ready our hearts and emotions so we will be in the proper frame of mind. We read in Psalms 89:7, “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be held in reverence by all those around Him.” Our worship must show great reverence toward God. He is our creator and he holds our eternal destiny in his hands. We must strive to please him. Our mind must be ready, attentive, and alert.