Thursday, 26 February 2009

Of Temples and Frat Houses

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons
“Give careful thought 
to your ways”
Haggai 1:5

I was reading through Haggai the other day. I hadn’t been there for a while. Haggai is not a big book; it’s only two short chapters long. While there, I noticed something interesting. Within those two chapters, the Lord spoke through the prophet by saying, “Give careful thought to your ways.” He didn’t say that just once; He said it five times. Five times in two little chapters God says, “Give careful thought.” One thing repetition does is it gives powerful emphasis. When God repeats something this often, it is probably a good idea for us to sit up and pay attention.

The main theme of Haggai centers around the people who had just returned with Zerubbabel from captivity in Babylon. They had begun to rebuild their lives and were very preoccupied, maybe even selfishly, with nothing but their own affairs. They were busy building their own homes, earning a living for themselves and all sorts of important things like that. If we are honest with ourselves, we too would be no different. After all, earning a living and building our homes are valid ventures.

There was a problem, however. The problem was that the house of the Lord was still in ruins and was obviously neglected. God wasn’t too happy about this, which ultimately led to the prophecy of Haggai that God had actually withheld His blessings as a result. “You have planted much, but have 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” (Haggai 1:6). Is there a parallel between the situation that Haggai addressed and that of our day today? I believe that the Lord was telling me that there is. Nothing has changed from that day to today. Someone once said that, “history has a way of repeating itself.”

I believe that what the Lord was saying to me was that the house of the Lord is still in ruins, even as we His people go about our daily business. Today we are still preoccupied with building our homes, planting our crops and earning our livings. We still preoccupy ourselves with things such as food and clothing, all the while the temple of the Lord remains in ruins. What is the temple of the Lord today? Paul says it is our individual bodies. “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16) “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit?” (1 Corinthians 6:19) “For we are the temple of the living God.” (2 Corinthians 6:19).

Now I’m not pointing fingers, at least not without also pointing them back towards myself, but it seems to me that God is saying that we too have not given His temple any care. It seems to me that God is saying to you and to me that we have become too preoccupied with our physical lives at the expense of neglecting His temple. We too seem to never have enough. We too plant but harvest little. We too eat but still remain hungry. We too drink but it seems like we are always still thirsty. We have clothes, but they never seem good enough, and we also often remain cold. We too earn wages but they too often seem to disappear as if there were holes in our wallets and purses. We think that all these conditions are simply the way things go. However, could it be that just maybe things are so because God has also withheld His blessings from us as He did from the returning exiles in the days of the prophet Haggai? Were their situations so much different than ours? I don’t think so.

We too are concerned with a great many different things; everything it seems, other than these temples of the Holy Spirit that we call our bodies. It is an interesting coincidence (or is it?) that soon after the Lord spoke to me about these things, a cartoon appeared in our local newspaper in which two guys are seated at a bar and the one asks the other,
"Do you believe in the old adage, the body is a temple?" The other replied, "No, I view it more as a frat house. More pork rinds?" The first guy then replies, "You bet!"
Do we believe that our bodies are temples? We may give lip service that we do, but in reality, we more often than not live more like they were frat houses. Why are we so much more concerned with the “beer and pork rinds” of life than the blessings of God that come with rebuilding His temple?

With all the junk we pack into our lives, have we left any room for the Holy Spirit to dwell within us? Maybe the better question is, with all the crap (forgive me if that sounds harsh) that I put into my body and my lifestyle, does (or can) God’s Spirit reside in the midst of all that too? Some of us drink too much, some of us smoke too much, some of us eat too much, and most of us don’t get anywhere near enough exercise. Yet, isn’t it a little strange that we don’t see the connection between these conditions and the putting of these temples of the Holy Spirit into ruins? Isn’t it a little strange that we continue right along in our gluttony and drunkenness, either figuratively or literally, only to hobble into some church on Sunday morning completely oblivious to our true condition?

God says that when we defile His sanctuary we actually profane His Holy name. I like how the Living Bible paraphrases this, “thus making my Tabernacle unfit for me to live in, and insulting my holy name” (Leviticus 20:3). In context it was about another sin, but ultimately I don’t believe that God classifies some sins as being greater and other lesser. With God, sin is sin. Idolatry, stealing, adultery, murder, neglecting the temple of the Holy Spirit; they are all sin. They all equally require us to come clean before Him through repentance. Thankfully the penalty for sin has already been taken care of by our Lord Jesus on the cross of Calvary. God calls each of us to holiness, because without it, nobody will ever see Him (Hebrews 12:14).

There is an interesting promise that God makes that results from the rebuilding of the temple. He says that if we rebuild the temple, then in that temple we shall have peace (Haggai 2:9). Dear friend, could you use a little more peace in your life right now? Are you longing to experience the blessings of God once again? I know that I sure want to be there. The lesson from Haggai is to tear down these Frat Houses that we’ve turned our lives into and to begin at once to rebuild the temples of the Holy Spirit.

Five times in Haggai God says, “Give careful thought to your ways.” Are we going to heed His advice? Or are just going to continue down this same path through these cess pools of our lives, completely oblivious to the fact that God desires so much more for us? I wonder.

2 comments:

  1. The hardest victory is victory over self.
    - Aristotle

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  2. Oh, how many times have I argued theology in a pub?!
    There are many a swine who have feasted on my drunken pearls! Father, please forgive me!

    I pray that I could show the same conviction sober that I show after one too many martinis.

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