Commentary by Walter Albritton

May 4, 2008

Lessons for Life Learned from the Rebuilding of the Temple


Haggai 1; Ezra 5


Key Verse: Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored, says the Lord. – Haggai 1:8

          God has a beautiful way of using biblical stories to teach us kingdom principles for living our lives. One such story is the rebuilding of the Temple following the return of the Israelites from Babylonian captivity. This restoration was begun about 520 BC and guided by Zerubbabel, governor of Judah. Haggai, Zechariah, and Ezra played key roles in restoring the Temple.

The Temple in Jerusalem has had a sad history. The first, Solomon’s Temple, was destroyed in 586 BC at the beginning of the Babylonian captivity. The second, called Zerubbabel’s Temple was years later renovated by King Herod. Then in 70 AD the Romans destroyed the Temple, leaving as Jesus had predicted not one stone standing.

Our focus here is on the work led by Zerubbabel. Where others had failed, he got the job done. Several lessons may be drawn from the story of the temple’s restoration. These lessons can help us today in the building and rebuilding of our lives.  

First, those who rebuilt the temple believed that God had a plan which they needed to follow. Inspired by the prophets and authorized by King Darius, Zerubbabel and Jeshua built a team, secured the necessary resources, and eventually completed the rebuilding according to God’s plan.

The Bible teaches us that God has a plan for our lives. God created us for fellowship with himself. Since God is love, this means that that we were made by love for the purpose of love and intimacy with God. We never begin building a life worth living until we embrace this divine destiny for our lives.

In a few weeks our annual conference will be held, bringing together a thousand pastors and lay delegates under the theme, “A Future and a Hope.” That familiar phrase is found in the beloved verse, Jeremiah 29:11. Observe that it speaks of a God who makes plans: For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah knew a God who planned ahead. Centuries later United Methodists and other believers are convinced that our hope for the future is grounded in following God’s plan. Like the Israelites of old we need to hear God calling us to do His work rather than follow our own frivolous desires. Since my teen years I have believed that God had a plan for my life. Now, near the end of my life, I am more persuaded than ever that our peace is found only in the will of God. No other plan for living makes any sense.

Second, the temple was rebuilt on a solid foundation. If we are to live well, we must also build our lives on a solid foundation. That foundation, Paul says, is Jesus Christ: For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. (I Corinthians 3:11). Jesus becomes the foundation of our lives when by faith in him we are saved from our sins by the grace of God. He is then our Rock of Ages so we can sing, “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” We live on this rock by daily surrender to the Lordship of Jesus in every decision.

Third, the completion of the temple required motivation and encouragement. Preachers can take heart from scripture that says the preaching of Haggai and Zechariah made a difference (Ezra 6:14). The Jewish elders were able to “build and prosper under the preaching” of these two prophets. While the living Christ is the great Cheerleader of our souls, we all need the encouragement of solid biblical preaching. Such preaching motivates us to persevere in “living for Jesus a life that is true” when the fiery darts of the Evil One are making life miserable.

Fourth, the temple work was completed because a team of workers made this work a priority. For several years these workers got up every morning with no other goal than to finish the temple. Their devotion paid off one day when with the people they “celebrated the dedication of the house of God with joy” (Ezra 6:16).

All of us must contend with failure. Our best plans go down the drain. The bottom falls out of our lives. We are tempted to toss in the towel and give up. But that is when we must call upon the Holy Spirit to give us the inner strength to go back to God’s plan and “rebuild” according to the teachings of our Lord Jesus. He will help us to stay the course if we are willing to make His Way our First Priority. When times are hard he will give us the inner hope that one day we too shall celebrate the final victory by hearing Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” The possibility of hearing that gracious welcome makes all our trials worthwhile!

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