The Condition of Your House and Mine

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This morning, I planned on going back to reading Philippians as part of the Bible reading plan I talked about earlier this year, when the Lord redirected me elsewhere: to Haggai of all places.

Haggai.

That’s probably not a book in the Bible that you’ve spent much time perusing. I really only am familiar with one well-known passage out of Haggai, and then I even forgot it was in Haggai. I thought it was in Isaiah:

The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the LORD of hosts.
—Haggai 2:8

So I cleared the cobwebs off my mental filing cabinet and stashed that passage in the Haggai folder.

But what struck me from the redirection I received this morning was the following passage. I think it fits perfectly in the theme that’s been running here for the last several weeks:

“Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now, therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways. 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.
—Haggai 1:4-6

The state of our spiritual temple?Context: the Jews had returned to the land after captivity in Babylon, had restored much of their old land, but the temple lay in ruins. God didn’t appreciate that the people had restored their former dwellings, but left his dwelling place a shambles.

Notice the contrast here of working hard and receiving little, while the house of God lies neglected. The people ran after their own satisfaction, but it was never enough. Meanwhile, God dwelling place rots.

Most of us reading this post are seasoned Christians. We know the lingo and know enough Bible to be dangerous. I’m sure most know about the symbol of houses in Scripture. I’ll lay out a premise anyway.

God never intended to live in a house built by human hands. His intent, before the spirit inside of Man departed at the Fall, was to have His Spirit animate us and lead us:

Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands, as the prophet says, “‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? Did not my hand make all these things?'”
—Acts 7:48-50

After the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus, our dead spirits were made alive when we repented and believed in Him. Now the Spirit of God can return to the home intended from the beginning:

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
—1 Corinthians 3:16-17

And more than just you and more than just me, the Spirit of God dwells in the sum of us, His collective people. This explains the necessity of the Church. (Evangelicals forget this truth to the detriment of the Church Universal: Jesus isn’t just a personal Jesus.) While God restores each of us by dwelling in us individually, he also dwells in the community of the saints:

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
—Ephesians 2:19-22

So while it is important to understand Haggai’s prophecy in terms of its original context, we must not ignore God’s reasonings behind it and what those reasonings mean for us today.

How many of us continue to build our houses, our little worlds, in the physical but neglect the spiritual house of God? You, I, and us together are that spiritual house. We are the dwelling place of God, His temples.

It saddens me that men and women will spend thousands of dollars and hours decorating their homes, but spend so little time resurrecting the ruined house that is their spiritual lives. We live in McMansions on the outside, but we’re content to let God dwell in the dump that comprises our inner lives, the house in which He came to dwell so long ago when we first came to Christ.

And what is the result of this?

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.

That last sentence just slays me. A bag full of holes. If that doesn’t describe the state of the American Church today, I don’t know what does.

If we’re to restore the ruin that comprises our spiritual house, the dwelling place of God, then we need to get serious about what distracts us from that purpose. We’ve been talking about materialism and discontent the last few weeks. We’ve looked at how overconsumption makes us sick, not only in our bodies but in our souls. In short, we’ve examined how well we’ve “paneled our houses” as Haggai notes, while the house of God lies ignored.

The refugees who’d returned to the land got the message of Haggai and repented:

Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the LORD their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the LORD their God had sent him. And the people feared the LORD. Then Haggai, the messenger of the LORD, spoke to the people with the LORD’s message, “I am with you, declares the LORD.” And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people. And they came and worked on the house of the LORD of hosts, their God, on the twenty-fourth day of the month, in the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king.
—Haggai 1:12-15

Th people took seriously the word of the Lord. They turned from picking out new drapes for the kitchen and worked to rebuild the most important house in their community: the temple of God.

The results?

Now then, consider from this day onward. Before stone was placed upon stone in the temple of the LORD, how did you fare? When one came to a heap of twenty measures, there were but ten. When one came to the wine vat to draw fifty measures, there were but twenty. I struck you and all the products of your toil with blight and with mildew and with hail, yet you did not turn to me, declares the LORD. Consider from this day onward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month. Since the day that the foundation of the LORD’s temple was laid, consider: Is the seed yet in the barn? Indeed, the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have yielded nothing. But from this day on I will bless you.”
—Haggai 2:15-19

If we wonder why so little spiritual prosperity shows up in your life and mine, if we go to the vat of wine and find twenty measures instead of the fifty we thought were there, perhaps we’ll understand why now.

What’s the state of your spiritual house? Are you spending all your time on the material in your life, neglecting the dwelling place of God? Should you be surprised when the spiritual reserves aren’t there in times of trouble (or even in times of plenty)?

God isn’t going to contend with Man forever.

12 thoughts on “The Condition of Your House and Mine

  1. Dan,

    Part of the key is at the end of verse 12 – “And the people feared the LORD.” Not only has Jesus been turned into a “personal savior”, but there is no understanding any longer of the fear of the Lord.

    If someone accepts Jesus as the “personal Lord and savior” (they’ve got their fire insurance), and God is reduced to an impotent grandfather figure who loves everyone (no wrath or justice), then why would they be moved to focus on anyone but themselves?

    Good word. Cleaning and getting one’s house in order seem to be the order of the day.

    Blessings,

    Don

    • Don,

      Very astute observations. You’re exactly right. What frightens me is that I find that I suffer from the same delusions and I’m very well aware of the original problem that leads to treating God like an eternal gift tree to be shaken when needed!

  2. What I see is that we have been “sold a bill of goods” as the saying goes. We have paneled our houses with cheap imitations of the real thing and that paneling is not holding up like we thought. Like a builder who cuts corners using cheap materials. Later, it falls apart.

    And , even the money back guarantee turns out to be false.

  3. Normandie

    Following up on what Don said above and on your writings about the church excesses, I see so many who worship the sugar-daddy in God and whose faith falters when this omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient God doesn’t bow His knee to their need. Years ago God warned me of a huge falling away that would take place when things got bad, when Revelation-type disasters hit home, because of a gospel that says, Hey, we’re outta here before the bad happens, and because of a gospel that has lost the awe of God’s majesty while pieces of truth are yanked from scripture to fit man’s desires. So many build a church around their declarations or assertions or assumptions, missing the fact that God is GOD and worthy to be praised no matter what. “Yet though He slay me, still will I trust Him.” How that word from Job has helped me keep my eyes on Him in the bad and the good times.

    I so appreciate your messages, Dan–and, today, thank you for that assertion of the entirety of God’s Church universal–that His care extends beyond our flesh and our buildings and our neat little denominational boxes. We so badly need to fall on our knees in AWE as we work together to build His church in and outside of ourselves, in and outside of our denominations.

    • Normandie,

      Yeah, I’ve never fallen for the typical charismatic premise of massive revival right before the Lord comes back. I even fear that materialism will eventually set back the growing churches in Asia. As India and China get more money, it seems inevitable that they’ll want to mimic us, even down to our worldly churches.

      I pray that doesn’t happen.

  4. Diane Roberts

    Dan,

    A most excellent post today for sure. It really spoke to me, especially in this season when we are buying gifts and thus concentrating on “things.” I just got my hair cut and my hair dresser said that she told her collegues in the salon, instead of buying gifts for each other this year, let’s go out to a nice place together for dinner and enjoy each other. I thought that was so neat. So they did, and had a great time. I don’t mean to sound “Scroogy,” that is, that we shouldn’t buy gifts for others, but part of building up that spiritual house is being with other Christians in meaningful times. Since I am alone, I depend on God as to where I go on holidays, or if I should have it at my place as I did last year. This year I will spend it with a couple in my Sunday School class where I will get to meet new people. And to me, that is what Christmas is all about–Christ AND people.

  5. How about going on to see that others, especially the poor, have houses in which to dwell? It seems to me as we do that, we also deal with our own spiritual dwellings as we serve God’s people.

    • Pastor M,

      I used to “gentrify” houses for the poor. A worked with a ministry that would fix up old brownstones and turn them into very nice places to live for the poor. What shocked me was how much that was resented by the poor people themselves. They’d complain about how we came down and improved their neighborhoods, then they’d complain when they moved into the free housing, then they’d complain about how the place was too nice.

      None of it made a lick of sense to me. All it taught me was that the poor, at least in this country, aren’t as spiritually noble as we believe them to be.

  6. Amy Heague

    God sent me to the book of Haggai recently as well! I shared the message at church just a few weeks ago entirely from this book. Including all the things you mentioned, the thing that stood out for me was the practical care of the building; church & the people in it we have been entrusted with. I used my favourite Tozer quote about how we substitute obedience for prayer eg. we pray for someone else to come & do the work (mowing the lawns, look after new Christians & disciple them etc.) instead of getting off our proverbial & doing it ourselves, then wonder why God isn’t moving. There is so much talk of revival & wanting to “grow” the church yet all too often we can’t even steward the one we have, but hey you should check out our new house, by the beach with European kitchen appliances & fabulous interior design and the bank lent us the lot!…..hmmmm…..
    What does the Bible say? Seek first the Kingdom of God & all else will be added & my favourite at the moment He is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we could think or imagine, yet we seem to rush off when it’s our turn to help out at church & things don’t go our way, then wonder why our church numbers are dwindling & God isn’t turning up the way He use too.
    Maybe ‘they’ don’t even realise….?….
    Oh God shake us from our slumber!!!!

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