Earlier this year, NBA superstar LeBron James tweeted, “It’s a weird feeling to feel so alone sometimes!” He received over 140,000 likes and 4,000 replies from people expressing sympathy, disbelief, and from some, criticism. John Stonestreet writes for Breakpoint and I appreciated his insight: “It can be difficult to understand how rich, famous celebrities, like LeBron, could be lonely. Doesn’t he have it all? Four NBA championships, two Olympic gold medals, a $23 million LA mansion…and still, he feels lonely…”
A recent study reports: “Teens and tweens today have unprecedented access to technology, and yet many report they’ve never been so bored.” USA Today calls loneliness, with its well-documented ill effects on health, an epidemic. This has only deepened since the pandemic. Young people today are the most digitally connected while also the most isolated, lonely, and depressed. The percentage of Gen Z that identifies as atheist is double that in the U.S. adult population. Sadly, only 4% of this generation has a biblical worldview.
Related to this, when churchgoers were asked if they’ve heard of the Great Commission, 51% indicated they had never heard of it. Only 17% knew what it was and could explain it.
Considering these trends, it behooves us to know the Great Commission and to grow in our discipleship by making disciples who make disciples among all nations, especially among our youngest generations. We’ll circle back to this at the end of the message.
Our focus today is on the word “Rebuild.” To “rebuild” means to “build up, to fortify or reinforce, to construct again.” One dictionary defines it this way: “To build (something) again after it has been damaged or destroyed.”
This brings us to this morning’s passage from Haggai. We must begin with a bit of background to understand the book. Because of decades of disobedience, the Assyrians conquered Israel and the northern tribes were scattered, becoming known as the “ten lost tribes of Israel.” Many years later the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem, decimated the Temple, and deported the Jews to what is now modern-day Iraq. This period is called the captivity or exile.
Many of God’s prophets predicted the captivity would last for 70 years after which God’s people would be allowed to return home. Fifty thousand Israelites returned to Judah with Zerubbabel and rebuilt the altar and began offering sacrifices. Two years later, they finished the foundation of the Temple. Unfortunately, they became discouraged and distracted. God sent the prophets Haggai and Zechariah to call them to finish the project. Also, Ezra was enlisted to help restore their spiritual fervor and Nehemiah rallied them to rebuild the walls.
After 16 years of spiritual lethargy, God told them it was time to get back to building again. Before He called them to action, He addressed their attitudes. So, according to God, if you’ve gotten off track, here are three attitude adjustments to make.
- Put God in His proper place. We see this in verse 2: “Thus says the Lord of Hosts…” Before hearing what Haggai proclaimed about rebuilding, God’s people needed to revere God.
This name for God is “Jehovah Sabaoth” which references Him as the commander of all the armies of Heaven. It’s used over 270 times in the Bible and 14 times alone in this short book! The title “Lord” refers to God as the covenant-keeper. He is the self-existent one who is personal, present, powerful, and the ultimate promise-keeper. Do you approach God with reverence and awe?
- Proceed, don’t procrastinate. Even though the people faced some mounting problems, the God of the angel armies summarized their lame excuse in verse 2: “These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the LORD.” By referring to them as “these” people and not “my people,” God was indicating they were not acting like His people because they only focused on themselves for 16 years! The God who created time, and stands above time, because He is timeless, exposed their excuse of saying they didn’t have enough time.
None of them were claiming it wasn’t important to build God’s house. They just didn’t think the time was right. That’s how it happens for each of us. When we put something off, we think we’ll get to it later…and then a month goes by… a year… a decade…and then a lifetime.
Their excuses sound familiar, don’t they?
- I have too much going on to gather with God’s people every weekend.
- I have some things I need to tackle around the house.
- I’ll think about joining a Growth Group when things settle down a bit.
- I’ll give more when I have more to give.
- I’ll surrender myself totally to the Lord after I finish school, or when I get some rest, or when I retire.
John Henry Newman once said: “No one sins without making some excuse to himself for sinning.”
- Prioritize God, not your own pleasure. Next, the God of the angel armies asked a very penetrating question in verses 3-4: “Then the word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, ‘Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?’” It’s not that they were unable; they were unwilling. Some of us would be more honest if instead of saying, “I can’t,” we would simply say, “I won’t.”
Do you see the contrast between God’s desolate house and their decorated houses? This is brought out vividly with the phrase, “you yourselves.” When you see “paneled” houses, don’t think of an inexpensive way to put a room down in the basement. In Haggai’s day, paneling was made from cedar or oak. It was typically only used in the palaces of kings.
It’s possible the paneling which had been reserved for the temple construction was now being used in their homes! Houses were normally modest dwellings built of stone, but these homes were luxurious while the Lord’s home was in shambles. In contrast to what they were building for themselves, the word “ruins” means God’s house was “desolate and decaying; parched.”
How can they say the time was not right after God had moved a pagan king to give them money and materials and sent them back to rebuild the temple? The bottom line is the people were living as if they could do life without God at the center. They thought God was nice; they just didn’t see Him as a necessity. They had settled in the land and settled spiritually as well.
God says, “The time to rebuild is NOW!” Verses 5-8 give us three actions to take when rebuilding.
- Pause and Ponder. After reminding them of His immutable immensity, listen to what God says in the second half of verse 5: “Consider your ways…” This is the major message of the book and is unique to Haggai, occurring five times in two chapters. Literally it means to “bring your mind to bear upon your ways.” It also has the idea of inspecting, ruminating, and reflecting. To use more popular language, we’re to think about why things stink in our lives.
Most of us are experts in considering the ways of others but not so much in considering our own ways. It’s easy to slam someone else while excusing ourselves. But God says: “Consider your ways.” After pausing and pondering, God calls His people to go deeper by looking at what’s been happening and then learn from it.
- Look and Learn. Verse 6 shows what happens when we don’t put God first: “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. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.” God hit their agriculture and their economy hard. As the saying goes, “My take-home pay will not take me home.” The message is clear – we will never find satisfaction until we find our satisfaction in Him.
The phrase “you never have enough,” means they never experienced abundance or contentment. The phrase “never have your fill” refers to always being thirsty. They put on layers of clothing but “no one was warm.” Their affliction was designed to get their attention. It was like a double curse. They brought little home; and what they did bring, leaked out of their wallets.
If God is not at the center of your life, even if you get what you think you need, it will never be enough. Micah 6:14 says: “You shall eat, but not be satisfied, and there shall be hunger within you.”
Let me come back to something else John Stonestreet said about LeBron’s loneliness: “The problem with having it all is defining ‘it all.’ Define it wrong, and you could get everything you want before realizing the hole in your heart is actually God-shaped.
Dissatisfaction is designed to lead us to find satisfaction in God alone. Friends, if we put our pleasures above God’s priorities, we will never find what we’re longing for. The more we marginalize Him, the more we’ll meander through life without margin.
Mark this down. God is not sending dissatisfaction because He hates them; He’s doing it because He loves them and longs for them to reengage their rebuilding efforts.
- Go and Get. We see this in verse 8: “Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the LORD.” The command to “go up” refers to upward motion. This is the only command in the entire book. It’s threefold – go, bring, and build. It’s not enough to just say we love God; we must live out our love. The logs won’t come rolling down the mountain on their own. They had to go up, bring them down, and then get to work rebuilding. Yet, don’t miss how God had already provided the resources they needed; they just needed to go and get them.
Let’s consider how God wants each of us individually to be involved in some rebuilding. Please close your eyes as I guide us through some questions.
Do you view God with the reverence He deserves? What’s one thing you’ve been putting off? What is God prompting you to do? What message is He sending you through your dissatisfaction? In what specific ways will you prioritize Him this week instead of living for your own pleasure? What does God want you to focus on rebuilding?
- Your daily Bible reading and prayer?
- Your giving?
- Your serving?
- Your marriage?
- Your family?
- Your relationships?
- Your consistency in gathering for worship?
- Your commitment to the Great Commission mandate?
God’s people stopped doing the chief work they had been commissioned to do, which is why they were sent back to the land in the first place! Likewise, our main job today is to bring glory to God by obeying the Great Commission as we gather, grow, give, and go with the gospel! That’s why we’ve been sent here!
To grow in our discipleship and to reach more people for Christ, we are committed to building on the foundations which have already been laid. We just need to go and get after it! Because the best time to rebuild is right now!