This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 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 . “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. Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. 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.” – Haggai 1:7-11
Welcome to the book of Haggai. Haggai is another of the minor prophets who spoke to the people of Israel. He comes after the exile in Babylon (~ 520 B.C.). He may have been in exile and part of the remnant that returned to Jerusalem. The main topic of his message to the people is rebuilding the temple. Apparently this relates to the second rebuilding of the temple under King Darius according to the introduction to the book. The rebuilding of the temple is on one level merely a historic account, but I wonder if God is trying to communicate some deeper truths here too.
The passage begins with a command from God to “Give careful thought to your ways”. This is pretty much sums up a message God has been sending through the prophets in most of the old testament up to this point. God wants curious and courageous God-seekers willing to rebuild His temple. He asks the people to go into the mountains and bring down trees so they can “rebuild the temple” This sounds like hard work that would require some sacrifice on the part of those involved.
The reason God gives for rebuilding the temple is interesting. “so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored”. I don’t often associate pleasure with God. I am not sure why this is the case. God invented the concept of pleasure and clearly there are parts of the bible that delve into this with some detail and specificity. In the Song of Solomon this kind of passion for pleasure is described as a “Fiery love than cannot be dowsed” (Song of Solomon 8:5-7). Why can’t God experience this same passion for the temple that the people are to rebuild?
The second part of the reason for rebuilding is so that God can be honored. I think this comes down to maintaining the proper posture and perspective toward God so that we can walk humbly with Him. The humility we are to have toward God is independent of any outward intelligence, success, wealth, or worldly gifts we may possess. We are to attend to God’s house before we attend to our own, “each of you is busy with your own house”. It seems the people were hard at work building wealth and houses for themselves while ignoring God and His house.
Then comes the water passage, “Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew”. Dew has typically been associated with a permeating presence of God, or the “dew of the morning” as it was described back in Isaiah 26:12-21. The concept of dew has been used as a metaphor for the Holy spirit or the spirit of God that descends on the earth. So for God to say here that the heavens will “withhold the dew” is really profound. It sounds somewhat like the time between the prophets and the arrival of Jesus when God seemed to be absent for the people of Israel. The coming “drought” will affect the peace and prosperity of the people in an effort to get their attention, and convince them that they need to turn back to God.
Prayer: God thank You for restoring the dew through Jesus so that we can actively rebuild Your “temple” as curious and courageous God seekers.