Lessons From the Old Testament: God Is in Our Midst

This is what the LORD Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the LORD’s house.’”  Then the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways.  You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”  This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways.  Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the LORD.  “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the LORD Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house.  Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops.  I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the olive oil and everything else the ground produces, on people and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands.” (Haggai 1:2-11)

God is not happy with Israel His people.  They have been back in the land after He cast them out mere years before, and already they have forgotten first principles.  And first among the first principles is that God is first.  This is not a selfish neediness on God’s part, that He would demand the Israelites put Him first so He can feel good about Himself.  This is essential for Israel’s health as individuals and as a people.  If they fail to see that God is in their midst because He loves them, and that nothing else is more important than their relationship to Him, if they put all their energy into building their own lives, there will visit their souls a poverty of spirit that will leave them empty of life and a vacuum for devilish lies.

God wants to spare them this, so He sends them a poverty of wealth.  When wealth comes into their hands, it falls through them like a sieve.  They can no more hold onto what they so desperately are clinging to than they can grasp the wind.  God makes the heavens and the earth to fight against them so that they will wake up and realize that the true source of their wealth is a relationship with their Creator and Redeemer.

They must finish building the temple!  They must not neglect the most ferocious reality of their lives — God is living among them.  The mighty Fashioner of worlds, whose immensity cannot be contained in a trillion temples, nevertheless wants to live with them.  He wants to parley with them on a daily basis.  He wants to be a part of their daily quest for food, their interaction with family, their expressions of creativity in work, and, of course, their worship.

Have you acknowledged the God in your midst today?  Have you entered into His temple like a favored guest and received His kiss on the cheek, His anointing oil on your head, and His provision of abundant food?  Does every aspect of your life radiate like spokes from His hub?  Nothing else will satisfy the deep longing of your soul.

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