Pause for Thought – a five minute read – 20

Haggai v 1 – 23/ Psalm 17 v 1 – 7

I’ll offer you a challenge. – put your hand up if you have read Haggai during the past year? My hand is up only because I have come across my notes from Faith and Worship Training for Local Preachers some 27 years ago. I had to write an exegesis on a Bible passage of my choice and I thought Haggai was the shortest and no one else would choose it.

Haggai is not one of the Major Prophets in the Old Testament, in fact he only occupies two pages sandwiched between Zephaniah and Zechariah, but never the less has an important message.

I have said before that I like to visualise the characters in the books that I read so I can have a mental picture, and I do the same when I’m reading the Bible. For example, Isaiah becomes a Brian Blessed look alike, big, bold, brassy and with a voice that could waken the dead. He tells it the people straight with no messing about, – repent or else.

Moses on the other hand is a born leader who never knew it; he was an intellectual, but also a bit of an athlete, not in an Arnie Schwarzenegger way but more like Colin Firth with an air of elegance but physically fit enough to climb mountains even when being mature in age.

I’ve been spoilt with Paul, because I watched a film once about his life and Anthony Hopkins played the part so now I always have his image in my mind.  I have to say that Hopkins was the perfect choice, determined, adventurous, and well-educated and an eloquent speaker, someone who is influential and persuasive.

Haggai, however, appears to be an ordinary, quiet sort of chap, one of the lads and fits in anywhere, Average height and build and doesn’t stand out in a crowd, but has the skill to be able to talk to anyone about anything  even when they have never met him before. He is one of those types of people who can get on with anyone, I suppose the stereo typed pastoral visitor.

My dad, a builder, used to describe some building inspectors as being; – ‘Very good sir – but’ people when inspecting building work, and it was the ‘but’ which was the real message, and that sort of sums up Haggai.

Haggai was around Jerusalem about 520 BC and God gave him a message to pass on to the Jewish Leaders and the people of Israel. The Jews had started to return from exile and some had lived back in Jerusalem for several years. Unfortunately there was little left standing for them when they returned so resettlement meant starting from scratch with new houses, businesses, even re-establishing a Jewish community. It was into this new Jewish community that God sent Haggai, a community that had worked hard to establish new homes and a way of life.

Remember my dad’s saying?

Haggai went to the Jewish Leaders and said;- ‘Very good chaps, – but’, and there is the ‘but’

‘Why have you built your homes and looked after yourselves when the house of God (Temple) is still in ruins?

And the people replied – ‘the time is not right to rebuild the Temple’. – Wrong answer.

Where does God reside? In the Exodus God resided in the Tent of the Lord’s presence, which travelled with the people so they knew God was with them.

In Jerusalem God resided in the inner sanctum of the Temple where only certain Priests could enter and only at certain times, but the people knew that God was with them.

 Haggai’s message was really one of, get your priorities right. How can they re-establish their Jewish community without God’s presence? How could they even worship God without God’s presence in the Temple?

Build the Temple and then build your homes.

We too are required to get our priories right. For us we are God’s Temple, he resides in our hearts through our Lord Jesus Christ; he lives as we live, through our thoughts, our actions, in caring for each other, loving each other and showing respect and humility.

And don’t forget, if we are the Temple and God is in our hearts then God is with us always no matter where we are.

I left my dad’s building business in 1969 to work for Huddersfield County Borough Council as an Assistant Building Inspector. I can still remember my first solo site inspection. it was for drains on a new housing site. I looked at the work and said to the foreman; – ‘very good mate – but’ .

Derek T.