The Visible symbol of God's presence in the midst of his people is Jesus Christ Himself by Iain Duguid
Iain Duguid Writes:
Consider your ways! (Haggai 1:1-15)
We too need to repent of the ways in which we have focused on building our own houses, not the Lord’s. The result of this wrong focus in our lives has also been frustration. This is the fundamental problem of materialism: it is an unreliable and inevitably unfulfilling master. The pleasures it promises often prove elusive, and even those it brings to us turn out in the end to be temporary and unsubstantial. Haggai declares to the people of his day a different vision for which to live. Repent and humble yourself before God and pour your energies into building God’s house, the visible symbol of his enduring presence in the midst of his people. In the language of Jesus, ‘Seek first God’s kingdom, and all these things will be given to you as well’ (Matt. 6:33).
The visible symbol of God’s presence in the midst of his people is no longer the temple, though, as it was in Haggai’s time. Nor is it the church building. Rather, according to the New Testament, it is Jesus Christ himself. Thus, in John 2, when Jesus had ejected the moneychangers from the temple, he said, ‘Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again’ (John 2:19). He did not have in mind redoing Haggai’s task in three days. Rather, he meant that his body would be raised up on the third day. As Immanuel (‘God with us’), he physically represented God’s presence in the midst of his people. Now that Jesus has ascended to heaven and poured out his Spirit upon the church, God’s presence is represented in the world by us, his people. As the body of Christ, the church is the new temple, made up of Jews and Gentiles being built together as a holy dwelling place for God (Eph. 2:16-22; see also 2 Cor. 6:16 – 7:1).
If this is what building God’s house means, it is a task far beyond our capabilities. It is not simply a matter of collecting wood and stone, but of collecting and shaping living stones. Thankfully, building God’s house is not ultimately our task but Christ’s. He is the one who bore the cost of building it. It was relatively easy for Jesus to come in judgement and make a whip to drive the sinners out of God’s physical house in Jerusalem. It was a far more painful task for him to come as a Saviour and make sinners fit to live in God’s house. To do that would require God the Father to turn the whip upon his own Son, so that he might take upon himself the punishment that our sins deserved. Both aspects of Christ’s ministry are crucially important. On the one hand, he has taken upon himself the punishment that we deserved for our self-centred failure to seek God’s kingdom and to build his house. On the other, in cleansing the temple he has himself shown the zeal for God’s house and kingdom that we lacked. That righteousness of his has now been credited to us, as if it were our own, just as our sin of being perpetually interested only in our own houses has been placed to his account.
God’s work of building his new temple, the church, by means of his Spirit is the foundation and encouragement for our work. It was because God roused their spirits that Haggai’s hearers set to work with enthusiasm (1:14). It is because God is at work in our earthly bodies by his Spirit that we are called and empowered to glorify God with our bodies (1 Cor. 6:19-20). It is because God is commit- ted to establishing his kingdom in and through us that we are called to seek that kingdom first, above all other things.
The result of seeking first God’s kingdom will not necessarily be earthly prosperity, or even large, ‘successful’ churches. Jesus’ earthly ministry was characterized by neither of those things. But God does promise his repentant people his presence with us now, and the fulfilment of his own kingdom goals in the longer term. He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (Eph. 1:3). What else do we need or desire? In place of our preoccupation with food that does not fill, with drink that does not satisfy and with clothing that cannot warm our souls, God promises us the bread of life, a fountain of living water and clothing to cover our spiritual nakedness.