In this video we will examine what was really hiding in the hearts of the people to say that the time had not come to build the house of the LORD.
What was actually hiding in the hearts of the people to make them say what we find in verse 2?
“This people say, The time is not come, the time that the LORD’s house should be built.”
This may have been something the Israelites said to each other when the subject of the temple was discussed. But that was not the truth. It was merely a pretext for not facing up to their responsibility. The fact that they were even in Jerusalem, following Cyrus’s decree to rebuild the temple, proved that this was what they had to do.
How is it that the Israelites, who had begun the work with joy, had now come to say that the time had not come? In fact, this statement was hiding two things.
First, they said this in their discouragement due to the opposition they faced on a daily basis. Faith was lacking and they thought that the time had not come to build the house of the Lord.
However, their faith should have been bolstered by the Word of God; for instance, by the passage from Isaiah that foretold the return of the people under King Cyrus together with the rebuilding of the temple. The fact that this prophecy was fulfilled, in addition to Cyrus’ clear statement to build the house, should have been an encouragement to them. But, in the face of opposition, the joyful impulses of the early days quietly gave way to discouragement. Yes, there was a lack of faith.
Is this experience foreign to us?
Sometimes we also imagine that if it is truly God’s will that something be done, there will be no obstacle. But this is misunderstanding our enemy. We only have to look at the walk of our Lord Jesus and the fierce opposition of the rulers of the people against Him. But it did not prevent Him from accomplishing the work for which He had come. If these things happened to our Lord, how much more to us. “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, on account of this the world hates you… If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept My word, they will keep also yours. But they will do all these things to you on account of my name” (John 15:19-21).
The enemy will always oppose the work that God does. If we understand this, we will also understand that opposition is not a sign of disapprobation. That is also why it is very important, in any service to the Lord, to walk by faith.
Why is this exercise of faith necessary? Because when difficulties will come, when our faith will be tried, then we will also have the perseverance of faith, trusting in the Lord to carry out the service in spite of the difficulties. This energy of faith will lift us up above the waves of the stormy sea, to look confidently to the Lord. But if we went forward without the firm assurance of faith, when the storm will rise, we too will say that, finally, it was not the time to act, and we will cease our activity.
Without faith, the work cannot progress. This is what happened to the people of Israel, and this is what will happen to us if we do not walk by faith in all that we do for the Lord. Only faith can triumph over the enemy’s opposition to God’s work.
Thus, this statement was first hiding their lack of faith in God, which also led them to discouragement.
But their word also hid a second, even more important thing. It was that their hearts had slowly found their interests elsewhere. If in the time of the Judges everyone was doing what was good in its own eyes, we can say that they were each seeking their own interests.
While reflecting on this, we might ask ourselves if the forcible stopping of work by the enemies of the people was not at the same time a discipline permitted by God because of their attitude and their lack of zeal to build the house.
The real problem was the disposition of the heart. And that is still the same problem today. The apostle Paul wrote that “all seek their own things, not the things of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 2:21). If that was true in Paul’s day, it is still true today! Do I care about Christ’s interests as much as Paul did? Do my whole life, my choices, my thoughts, my actions show that I have Jesus Christ’s interests at heart?
If we lose sight of the imminent coming of the Lord and the fact that, in spite of the difficulties, He is still actively working to build His Assembly, then our hearts will be interested in the things that are on earth. “Where your treasure is, there will be also your heart” (Matthew 6:21). Our enemy, the devil, will do everything to stop the work on the house of God, which is the Assembly of the living God. If opposition is one method that is often effective, another is to turn the heart to the things of the earth. Comfort, pleasure, politics, entertainment, sports, etc., as well as enjoying the present time.
If we are not occupied with the work that the Lord is still doing today, then our hearts—which cannot remain empty and idle—will be occupied with other things. And we too will say what the Israelites in Haggai’s time said, that this is not the time to build, and we will fall into the same trap.
In short, the reason put forward by the people was only an excuse for their lack of zeal in God’s work, and to hide the pursuit of their own interests.
Before concluding these few reflections, we still have to answer an important question about the Israelites who had slowly become discouraged. Was God’s grace lacking to overcome opposition and go forward? No. The resources of grace were not lacking, but faith was; and it was lacking because of their own interests which conflicted with what God had called them to do.
If we really have the desire to be useful in the hands of the Lord, in these last moments before His coming, and if we feel all our incapacity: grace is there to help! And the Lord will use us to the extent that we are sanctified and let Him work in our lives.
But if there is no real desire, in other words, if the heart is lukewarm—neither yes nor no, but my comforts, my rights, my possessions—then the resources of grace can no longer be of any help. Although they are always at our disposal, we will not desire them, because in fact our hearts will not really be interested in doing God’s work. It is the lukewarmness of heart that the Lord could not bear in the assembly of Laodicea, whose name means “the people’s rights.”
Thus, the resources of grace are still available to go forward victoriously in the service of the work. But the desire to serve the Lord and to do what He asks us to do must be in us. Then the resources of grace will be at our disposal to supply what we lack.
Even though it was still the time for Israel to build the temple of the Lord, their lack of faith and their self-interest led them to say that it was not the time to build.
What about us? Do we also think that it is no longer the time to build? The Lord has placed all the resources of grace at our disposal. All the promises and encouragements of His Word are still present and true for us today to nourish our faith. What reason do we have left for not serving the Lord with zeal? In these last moments before His coming, the Lord encourages us to trust in Him and to grasp the grace that is found in Him.