Let me set the scene. We live in a rambling old house, part of it built before 1946 (the part that local legend has it was a casino and "house of ill-repute") but mostly additions from the 1980s. Because of its age,we expect to have major repairs from time to time, probably averaging one a year. Over the past 2 months we have had four major things go wrong including our well pump and our septic system–all expensive to replace or repair. We've been praying a lot about this, asking the Lord to show us if there's any specific reason at a spiritual level. Our experience is that this level of attack occurs at strategic times.
Yesterday afternoon, when our ingound pool started going down at the rate of an inch an hour (probably due to an underground pipe breaking), it was just one more thing gone wrong. On the way to see a friend yesterday evening, I said to Tony, "This feels like that verse where the people of Israel had holes in their pockets."
"That verse comes in Haggai," Tony said.
At 3am this morning, our pool alarm went off, no doubt due to the lowering of the water level. Unable to get back to sleep we determined to find the passage in Haggai.
The context of the verse in Haggai is that the Israelites have been back in their country for almost 20 years following their captivity in Babylon, but are more interested in building their own houses than the house of the Lord. So through Haggai, God tells Zerubbabel the governor and Jeshua the high priest, "The people are saying, 'The time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord.'" That was the reason they had experienced poor crops and hunger and thirst, and "your wages disappear as though you were putting them in pockets filled with holes."
The passage goes on to talk about the drought the nation was experiencing. That hit home because Texas is in the middle of one of the the worst droughts in recorded history.
As a result of Haggai telling the people, "I am with you," says the Lord, the people began work on God's house.
But it was the next chapter in my New Living Translation that made us sit up and take notice.
"Then on October 17 of that same year, the Lord sent another message …" Tony and I looked at each other. Today's date: October 17th. This has to be more than coincidence. Now God really had our attention.
Haggai's message goes on, "Does anyone remember this house in its former splendor? How in comparison does it look to you now? It must seem like nothing at all! … Be strong… get to work, for I am with you. My Spirit remains among you…" the passage goes on to talk about everything being shaken in the nations and that the future glory of this new Temple would be greater than the past glory.
We remember the days when, back in England, God's presence was almost tangible when we came together. Sometimes we were unable to stand in his presence. There were healings and miracles. We never dared go into his presence with unconfessed sin, because we knew that the Holy Spirit would reveal it publicly. This was not a manufactured glamor and glitz, but the presence of God–his glory– among his people.
For a while now, Tony and I have been praying that God would fill these new wineskins of simple/organic churches, with his new wine, his presence. We've been praying for our situation that whatever we touch would bring the presence of Jesus with it–whether that's our business, our home or our gatherings.
What does it mean for us to build God's house? For his house to be more important than anything we're doing ourselves? (This is not a theological statement: I know that Jesus is the one who builds his church.)
God's promise is that he is with us. Can our faith arise so this is a tangible reality in all our churches? Can you imagine a situation where, in gatherings in homes/offices/restaurants etc throughout the country, unbelievers walked in and were overwhelmed by the presence of God, as is happening at Ffald-y-Brenin in Wales.
Could the glory of the latter house indeed be greater than the former?
What is God saying through this passage? Any insights?