There's a Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On
There’s a Whole Lot of Shakin’ Going On
Dr. David F. Ingrassia // 06.15.2016 // Charlotte Awake
We live in turbulent times, but we haven’t seen anything yet. There’s a whole lot of shakin’ coming soon. So, the rest of this post is a prophecy about what is coming.
It’s not my prophecy, though. It’s a prophecy that was given about 2,500 years ago by the biblical prophet Haggai–the one who wrote the second shortest book in the Old Testament and whose name is usually butchered into a three-syllable shibboleth. (For the record, it’s HAG-EYE, not HAG-ee-EYE.)
In turbulent times, prophetic words should bring warning and encouragement.
The story line of Haggai is two chapters, short, sweet, and so small that it is the minor prophet often most difficult to find while fanning through the Bible.
Here’s the Story…
When Israel returned from Babylonian Captivity (538 BC) by permission from Persian King Cyrus, they were to rebuild God’s temple, which had been completely destroyed seventy years earlier. But they quickly became distracted and stopped work on the temple so that they could devote their energies to building their own comfortable houses.
God became angry that His people were ignoring His temple, so He sent the prophet Haggai to scold and warn them. Basically His warning was this: “If you don’t build My temple, I am going to make your economy dry up even more” (my words, but His message).
Miraculously, Israel responded in the one way that was completely out of character–they repented and obeyed immediately! God accepted their contrite heart and actions, and once again turned on the blessings.
End of the Story?
It’s such a simple tale of repentance, obedience and blessing that it hardly seems to require its own book–especially one set within the other longer prophetic books worthy of being cast as Star Wars epic films. Certainly, there must be a bigger point to the book than just the people listened to God and everything turned out OK!
The Rest of the Story
And indeed, there is more. In the words of radio news announcer, Paul Harvey, “And now for the rest of the story…”
A little background goes a long way, and in this case, the background provides the key to why the little book speaks with relevance today.
After years of disobedience and idolatry, the Lord evicted His people out of the Promised Land, sending them into captivity in Babylon (605 BC) and allowing the Babylonians to ravage their country and destroy Solomon’s glorious temple (586 BC).
But after seventy years in captivity, a new king, Cyrus of Persia, allowed the Jews to return home and to rebuild the Lord’s temple.
Understand that the temple in Jerusalem is important because that is the place where God manifested His glory within Israel and to the entire world. It’s the point of contact between heaven and earth. Simply put, the temple was the belly button of the world where heaven touched earth.
Incredibly, the people let the project go so that each could build his own house. “These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord” (Haggai 1:2 ESV). God was no longer their first priority.
Eighteen years after the return (in 520 BC), the prophet Haggai came to deliver his simple prophecy–obey God or go broke and hungry.
Back to the Future
We look back 2,500 years through the eyes of Haggai, in order to see what is yet future to us. Tucked neatly within the verses of this two-chapter book, is the vision of the Second Coming of Jesus, accompanied by the shaking of the heavens and earth, and destruction of all the rebellious kingdoms of the earth. We don’t see all the pieces clearly until the New Testament, but they were there all along in the message of the prophets.
Twice, God says that He is going to shake the heavens and the earth (2:6-8 and 2:21-22), and He will destroy the nations, bringing their treasures into the temple. These are terms of heavenly cosmic warfare spilling over onto planet earth as the “Lord of Hosts” (Lord of Armies) goes to war against Satan’s kingdom and the nations.
This is a period of warfare when the Messiah, Jesus, returns to earth in His “Second Coming,” in order to bring peace and establish His kingdom. To us, that is also yet future.
Haggai uses the historic situation of the post-captivity Jews in order to give a picture of the coming of the Messiah. To make the point even clearer, in the last verses (2:20-23), God declares that Zerubbabel, who is the governor/grandson of Israel’s last king in the line of David (Jehoiachin), will be like God’s “signet ring,” possessing all the authority of the Father to rule the nations. Zerubbabel is an historic picture and stand-in for Jesus, the Son of David, foreshadowing His Second Coming.
Temple of the Holy Spirit
With all this shaking going on, we must not lose sight of the fact that rebuilding the temple is the focus of the book. The people stopped building God’s temple.
The New Testament explains that the church is the “temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 3:16). We are not a building, and we don’t need to build any structures to be the church as the temple of God. Connected together we ARE the temple, the church, where the Holy Spirit manifests His presence to the nations and in the heavens.
The point is that God is building His temple through us–as we make disciples of the nations (Matthew 28:18-20). We are the temple and He is building through us.
But, have we taken our eyes off of Jesus, off of the centrality of making disciples, by focusing on our own houses? Or more to the point, have we been focusing on building the “church” –its organization, its programs, and its activities– as a way of building our own spiritual kingdoms, or are we truly about building His living temple by making disciples of the nations?
To the extent that we build structures and organizations and forget to make disciple, what makes us any different from the post-captivity Jews who took their eyes off of building the temple where God’s glory would be manifest, and put their focus on their own houses?
Revival of the Church
Many talk these days about revival. Some confuse it with the political situation in the nation at this current time– crying for the revival of our nation.
But “revival” is for the church, which comes back to vibrant life when the same Holy Spirit who indwells us as His temple, brings us to repentant obedience.
A church revived is a church that is focused on Jesus–God’s true signet ring–the head of the church with the authority to rule all nations.
A church revived is a holy temple. A church revived is one that is busy about building our Father’s kingdom by making disciples in Jesus Christ.
A church revived is like the Jews in the time of Haggai who chose to obey God, who refocused their attentions from building the structures of their own houses so that the glory of the Lord would occupy the central structure of His temple.
Revival brings with it such repentance where we acknowledge that focusing on ourselves, or focusing on our own efforts to build God’s church, is plain-and-simple idolatry. Revival brings with it the spiritual sight that recognizes the idolatrous sin of self and then results in true repentance with a realignment to Christ and to His Cross.
Revival is turning away from building our own houses and kingdoms, and in obedient repentance to build God’s church, one disciple at a time.