This Simple Message Still Challenges Us Today…

Haggai’s prophetic mission was a short one, lasting from August to December of 520 B.C., but his simple message here still challenges us today. He is speaking to his fellow Judahites about their duty to rebuild the Temple after their exile. His advice is relevant today: “Give thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” (verses 5-6)

It was because of their ways that the Judahites were conquered by the Babylonians and the Temple was destroyed. So it is with us and the “temples” that are our own souls. It is our ways that either destroy that temple, or that continue to build it up. As Christians, it is our constant duty to be self-reflective, to examine our consciences each day. We must reflect on where we may have failed to live in accord with the commandments to love God with our whole hearts, minds, souls, and bodies, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. And we must take proper responsibility for our failings, and seek God’s gracious mercy. Then we must commit ourselves again and again to the hard work of rebuilding the temple.

Because we are sinners, we often find ourselves in exile for having been thoughtless or careless in our ways. We, like the Judahites, need to return to the path of God. Like them, we need to take up the challenge that the Holy Spirit is giving us here through Haggai. Let us, then, foster within us the desire to commit again and again to doing the hard work of rebuilding the temples of our own souls, so that they might become proper dwelling places for the Holy Spirit once more. And we can do so with confidence, because we have seen in Jesus Christ that restoration and reconciliation are, indeed, possible.

It is when we are walking in God’s ways that restoration and reconciliation take place. When we are acting in accord with the commandment of love, we can rebuild the temples of our damaged relationships, not just with God, but with those whom we have sinned against, or those who have sinned against us. When we take on the hard work of rebuilding the temples of our souls, we become yet another sign of God’s presence in the world. We become, like the city built on a hill, a beacon for those who are still lost in exile around us.

Lord, at times we have gotten lost, or were in exile, because we did not “give careful thought to our ways.” We hear your challenge to us through the prophet Haggai here. We cry out to you in humility and ask that you give us the courage and the strength to return to your ways. Help us with your grace to rebuild your dwelling place within our souls. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen!

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.