Holy Spirit, break into us. Break us into You.
Can you go and read the book of Haggai? It’s a page or so long. Read it once or twice, or three times. Or four. Meditate on it. Pray on it. Then, come back, if you will.
I am consumed with the building, the maintaining, the protecting and the restoring of my own house. I dwell in my own house and busy myself with it.
God speaks to Haggai, asking the people to consider the outcome of their ways: because they are consumed with their own houses while the house of God lies in ruins, they are bearing no fruit.
I wondered about the house of God, whether it is a physical monument or a spiritual gathering. I wondered about the command, to work, to build the house of the Lord. I wondered about outreach and of mission and of purpose, of action and commitment and of service.
One of the things that I fear most about existence, which is as short-lived as a wisp of fog, is that I live it in vain. I cannot conceive how the storing of possession and the excelling in career and the projecting of our own significance is something that can ultimately matter, and I fear, because this is how we live. This is the dwelling in and busying ourselves with our own houses, and it is to this that God declared the futility of the people’s work.
Your building has been in vain. All your work has produced nothing.
I see how God stirred up the spirit of the people, unifying them in the building of His house. Work, He says, because I am with you – be strong, because I am with you – according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt.
Deuteronomy 29 announces the renewal of the covenant.
We’re drawn away from living in the presence of God as we turn to the glorified idols of the earth, of our lives, saying in our hearts, “I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart.” Our land is seen to be sick – “burned out with brimstone and salt, nothing sown and nothing growing, where no plant can sprout.” We have abandoned our God and sought the mirage of our own glory, we have abandoned our God and sought to form our own walls. And we have succeeded, and failed, both at once, for the gaining of our own glory is only continual death, and we’ve bounded ourselves by our walls.
If you live on earth, the general assertion is that man’s chief purpose is production. Production is man’s offering to the world. Production is man’s sacrifice and his praise. Production is man’s existential purpose.
Still, I battle: why labour in vain? I struggle. I see: the toilsome labour has produced no fruit. Haggai suggests that there is work to be done, a work that matters. I mull over this, again, over the form of the temple, over its construction, its development. I vaguely wonder if perhaps this is the calling, if this is purpose, if this is direction. Building is practical and time-consuming and respected. Building is valued as a worthy pursuit.
The fruit of all things, it seems… it must be love. It’s the abiding, it’s the resting, it’s the being wrung out and sunken into God – that equips us in the bearing of fruit. A branch not abiding in the vine is a branch clinging to hope of his own glory, a branch not abiding in the vine is me and perhaps, too, you – living complacently in death rather than entering into God’s own glory. We would rather die eternally than surrender the chance of gaining approval, gaining praise, being able to claim our own glory.
Abiding in God, much fruit is borne, and by this my Father is glorified.
The people of Haggai busied themselves with their own houses because their success enabled them to achieve their own sense of glory.
As a result, their planting, their watering, their harvesting – amounted to nothing. They worked, putting their wages in a bag with holes.
Ephesians 2:20, [the household of God] build on the foundation of the apostles, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In Him you also are being built into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
Being joined together. Being built.
South of the altar, before the altar, Ezekiel 47 has water, fresh water, issuing from the temple, outwards.
When the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh. And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. Fishermen will stand beside the sea…its fish will be of very many kinds… and on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.
Grown, rooted, established, in Jesus – the Body literally awash in His presence, fully abiding in His presence -- flowing, moving, growing, planting, watering.
The Spirit creates unity – creates the house of God.
This house I am busy in, touching up, improving, ensuring – it relies on circumstance and every single day is wrought with anxiety. Have to make sure the walls are firm. Fix up that peeling paint. Get a new lock.
“For when you were slaves of sin” – builders busy in our own homes – “you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.”
This is all my pursuit of glory, sought through production, leads to. Death.
“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God,” – being grown by the Spirit together into God and so abiding in Him – “the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death,” – the money that went straight into our pockets with holes – “but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”