There’s some building work to do. That’s a message I’ve been receiving over the past few weeks. So it was no surprise last weekend when at Diocesan Synod the Archbishop stood to his feet and spoke out of Psalm 127 on the theme of – yes, you’ve guessed it – building! Recently I’ve been inspired to play my part in building by Psalm 127 and by the prophet Haggai.
Haggai lived during the building of the 2nd Jerusalem temple. We have a bible book in his name – the book of Haggai – which is a series of messages from God to his people. These words are important enough to end up in our bible which means they’re messages God wants to speak again.
The first message Haggai brings is clear and to the point: ‘go and build my house’ (1:8). This message came in the year 520BC, 18 years after the return of Jewish exiles from Babylon. By this time, God’s people had been given ample time to get settled back in their homeland. Now was the time to stop looking after themselves. To not be so obsessed with their own needs or those of their families or issues to do with their houses. Why? Because God’s house – the temple – was still in ruins. And now, says God, is the time to look after my house.
The Hebrew word for house means ‘building’ but it can also mean ‘household’. So when God says ‘Go and build my house’ he means not only build a physical building but also build up and grow people. That’s harder than building a building.
There’s some building work to do.
At two recent Church Council meetings at The Belfrey I’ve started both meetings with Psalm 127:1 ‘Unless The Lord builds the house, the labourers labour in vain’. In the kingdom of God it’s the Lord who builds, and we join in. But we must join in. And do his work. And build as he guides. Haggai 1 reminds us of that. That God the builder is building something. So get involved. Get your hands dirty. Think bigger than yourself.
The second word Haggai proclaims to the people is a message of profound significance and great simplicity. It’s so simple it’s easily passed over. In English it’s just four words. But they are four vitally important words. And they’re found in 1:13. The words are: ‘I am with you’.
Is that it? Yes! That’s the message. The eternally present One is here. He has not gone away or left. He is here. Present. The Spirit of Jesus is with us. In the midst of all the ups and downs. The Lord is here.
God is with you.He has not left you.
God is with us. Among us. Building his people. And calling us to join him in his work.
If we truly believe that God is here, it changes everything. It raises expectation. It generates faith. Back in 520BC Haggai tells us that this word so ‘stirred the spirit’ of the governor and high priest (1:14) that it galvanised them to do the seemingly impossible – to go to a pile of broken-down stones and begin building.
Will we join with the God who is with us and get building? Because there’s some building work to do.