One of the great things about the Old Testament prophets is that they know how to convict us of our sins. Haggai 1:2-4 says, “Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord.’  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?’” The Prophets are both foretellers and forth tellers. The tell what the future will hold based upon the present failure of God’s people. This passage is the “forth-telling” part of Haggai’s role. He puts things in such a way that we can’t help but see the error of our ways. Haggai points out how “these” people have misplaced priorities. Boda says, “This is displayed poignantly in the contrast between concern for their own homes and concern for God’s house. The issue here is not the amount of resources available but rather the priorities of the people. They are concerned first with themselves and their own comfort and extravagance. This message is not saying that one cannot enjoy the blessings of a home, but after two decades of inactivity at the temple site while homes were being built and beautified, the prophet identifies deficiencies in the priorities of the community.”[1]

Of course, this is a great passage to preach when a church begins a building project. I’ve used it myself. Since Haggai is stressing the importance of the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem, this application fits well. But there is a broader issue at hand. What happens is we get caught up in the world with our daily affairs and lose sight of what matters most. We might not admit it, but the truth is we think our happiness and satisfaction in life can be found in the things of the world rather than in a close relationship with God.  Just like the Israelites who returned from Captivity in Babylon to reoccupy the land, we can easily become enamored with life itself and simply drift away from our relationship with God. We always come away empty when that happens. This is what Solomon meant when he writes 34 times in the book of Ecclesiastes that “all is vanity.” It’s like chasing the wind. Meaning, purpose, and happiness are never found in the things of the world. Like the prodigal son chasing his fantasies, we eventually come to the end of ourselves and realize we’ve lost what matters most in life.

But when we know God through a relationship with Jesus Christ, we receive abundant life in His kingdom and a heavenly treasure worth far more than all the world’s silver and gold. In Matthew 6:32-33, Jesus tells us, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” What Jesus is saying to us is this: “Do you trust me to come through for you? Don’t you know that you’re significant and valuable to me? If you prioritize your life my way, I’m going to give the deepest things you long for in your heart because I love you.” In John 10:10, Jesus also tells us that he has come so that we might have real life to the fullest. Haggai pointed out some irrefutable truth in the lives of people that caused them pause. This makes me look at my own life.

[1] Boda, Mark J. 2004. Haggai, Zechariah. The NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.