I know you’ve been there.
You have good intentions in a commitment you made to God, but the demands of your life encroach on your time and so that commitment is dusty and forgotten in a back room of your mind. Or maybe that commitment nags at you, but you don’t see how you could possibly pursue it. This happens to me, too.
The Old Testament prophet, Haggai, spoke to this problem and, for once, the people listened.
“You have clothing, but not enough to keep you warm. And workers cannot earn enough to live on. Can’t you see why this has happened? Now go up into the hills, get lumber, and rebuild the Temple; then I will be pleased and will be worshiped as I should be.
“You hoped for large harvests, but they turned out to be small. And when you brought the harvest home, I blew it away. Why did I do that? Because my Temple lies in ruins while every one of you is busy working on your own house. That is why there is no rain and nothing can grow.” ~ Haggai 1:6b-10 (GNT)
The Jewish people had returned to the Promised Land after 70 years of captivity in Babylonia. When they returned, with the king’s approval, they laid the foundation for the Temple, but stopped that work to farm and to build their own homes. And not just build their homes, but decorate them with paneling (1:4). Apparently then, they could have made the time to work on the Temple, but because they focused on their homes and crops, God grabbed their attention by giving them a poor return on their labors.
Haggai’s word from God to the people is to go gather the lumber for the paneling in His house, the Temple, even before laying the stones on top of the foundation (2:15). The paneling would be installed toward the end of their building project, but God wants them to show their commitment to follow the building of the Temple through to the final details by acquiring lumber first.
The people were poor, but God assures them He will supply what they need. Lawrence O. Richards explains in his Bible Teacher’s Commentary (p. 498):
How could they build and decorate a temple that would be worthy of the Lord? Speaking to this issue, the Lord said through Haggai, ‘The silver is Mine and gold is Mine’ (2:8).
The Book of Ezra tells us how God solved this problem. The peoples of the land objected to the Jews’ rebuilding program, and tried to stop it (Ezra 5:1-17). But a search of empire records showed that Cyrus had actually commanded that the temple be rebuilt! As a result, orders came from the present king, Darius, that the house of God was not only to be built, but that the full cost was to be paid by the royal treasury, through taxes collected in the Trans-Euphrates province (6: 1-12). In essence, the enemies of the Jewish people bore the expense of rebuilding their temple!
How ironic. And how clear a demonstration that we need never hold back from full commitment to our God… God provides what we need to complete any task to which He calls us.
This is a good reminder to me that I should not shrink back from my commitments to Him that may seem too large, too expensive, or too time-consuming. He puts these desires in my heart and will provide for me to follow through in my commitment to Him. He even promises to take care of my needs better than I was able to when I was focusing on them instead of focusing on His call. I’m ready to move ahead in faith by gathering the wood before I even have the stones… or the gold and silver. He will supply for my ministry and for my needs.
NOTE: This image of the southern wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem is available on Wikimedia Commons.