Fourth set of thoughts
God’s house, the place of ultimate safety for the whole of mankind, the place that is ours by God’s creational intent, the place that we abandoned to go our own way, the place of Trinitarian embrace and inclusion, the place that devours Him with a flaming zeal, the place the restoration of which caused Him to empty Himself; is very much on my heart.
So, I want to share some more of my thoughts on God’s house.
I am aware that right now the various aspects that I am addressing about this topic seem to be a bit disjointed (at least that’s what it seems like to me!). Nevertheless I want to continue doing so with the intention of arranging it into a more coherent whole in the end. Some years ago I got some sound advice from my son on this matter of writing. He said to me, Dad, when you write just write. Don’t worry about structuring everything perfectly in the beginning, just put your thoughts out there. You can edit later. In reading this you are the recipient of this advice. Please bear with me!
The scripture verses that provide the framework for my current thoughts are the following ones:
Thus speaks the LORD of hosts, saying: This people says, "The time has not come, the time that the LORD's house should be built." Then the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet, saying, "Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your panelled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?" (Haggai 1:2 – 4)
For thus says the LORD of hosts: Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory, says the LORD of hosts. (Haggai 2:6 – 7
His voice that time shook the earth to its foundations; this time—he's told us this quite plainly—he'll also rock the heavens: "One last shaking, from top to bottom, stem to stern." The phrase "one last shaking" means a thorough housecleaning, getting rid of all the historical and religious junk so that the unshakable essentials stand clear and uncluttered. Do you see what we've got? An unshakable kingdom! And do you see how thankful we must be? Not only thankful, but brimming with worship, deeply reverent before God. For God is not an indifferent bystander.
I believe that the rebuilding of the temple, God’s house, in the time of Ezra has important significance for us today.
The context for this is the Jewish exile to Babylon. The Jews were taken into captivity for a period of seventy years in fulfilment of God’s word through Jeremiah. In the process the temple was not only destroyed, but many of the instruments of worship were taken to Babylon. When Cyrus later became king in Babylon one of the first things that he did was to facilitate the rebuilding of the temple. Ezra records it as follows:
Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying, Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah.
Another amazing fact about this is that Isaiah prophesied that this would happen about 150 years before Cyrus was born, even naming him:
Who says of Cyrus, 'He is My shepherd, And he shall perform all My pleasure, Saying to Jerusalem, "You shall be built," And to the temple, "Your foundation shall be laid." '
What happened is that quite a large number of Jews returned to Jerusalem when Cyrus invited all those who wanted to be involved in the rebuilding of God’s house to do so. When they got there they commenced the rebuilding process, but stopped doing so after a while when they faced severe opposition. They put down their tools for about sixteen years until the prophets Haggai and Zechariah (in the first 8 chapters of his book) brought God’s word to them. That is the background to the Haggai scriptures that I quoted.
The points that I want to look at from Haggai’s prophecy are:
· They obviously abandoned God’s prophetic call to them and concentrated all their efforts and focus on their own houses.
· They then faced circumstances that actually must have been quite difficult for them:
Ø "You have sown much, and bring in little…”
Ø “You eat, but do not have enough…”
Ø “You drink, but you are not filled with drink…”
Ø “You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm….”
Ø “And he who earns wages, Earns wages to put into a bag with holes….."
Ø "You looked for much, but indeed it came to little….”
· What or Who was the cause of it?
Ø “I blew it away. Why?" says the LORD of hosts. "Because of My house that is in ruins, while every one of you runs to his own house….
Ø “For I called for a drought on the land and the mountains, on the grain and the new wine and the oil, on whatever the ground brings forth, on men and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands."
Ø “For thus says the LORD of hosts: Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory, says the LORD of hosts.”
· God was clearly wanting to get their attention, but how did He want them to respond?
Ø "Consider your ways! “, or put differently: Stop the bus and pay attention to that which is busy happening, don’t ignore it.
Ø “Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified," God’s message is: Stop your activity, get into My presence and listen to me so that I can impart to you that which you need to build My house as have in mind for it to be done.
· The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews quoted from Haggai when he spoke about God shaking again. What I really love about his version (taken from The Message) is that he says:
Do you see what we've got? An unshakable kingdom! And do you see how thankful we must be? Not only thankful, but brimming with worship, deeply reverent before God. For God is not an indifferent bystander.
God’ shaking, Him wanting to get our attention, is an act of redemption and love. We must see it in that light, we must see His face and feel His heart of love and thank Him that He is not an indifferent bystander.
Must we see this in a prophetic light for our times?
I believe it is essential that we do.
As I said before, I know that there are quite a lot of prophetic words being posted on the vast platform of social media nowadays. It is our responsibility to be wise and test the veracity of these words. Obviously you must do the same with that which I am saying.
My personal experience with prophecies, as well as that which I see in many scriptural instances, is that God speaks, warns and prepares us well in advance of that which he is about to do and then the time comes when he acts on his words. Just look at that which he said through Isaiah in this regard:
Hear this, O house of Jacob, Who are called by the name of Israel, And have come forth from the wellsprings of Judah; Who swear by the name of the LORD, And make mention of the God of Israel, But not in truth or in righteousness; For they call themselves after the holy city, And lean on the God of Israel; The LORD of hosts is His name: I have declared the former things from the beginning; They went forth from My mouth, and I caused them to hear it. Suddenly I did them, and they came to pass.
I qualify, age-wise, for Joel’s words: Your old men shall dream dreams. I have had quite a number of dreams over the past 35 years or so, in fact about 150 pages of them. I cannot always guarantee that they are Spirit inspired because some of them might have come from last night’s pizza. I do however pay prayerful attention to them and try to deal with them as wisely as I can.
There are a few important principles for me in this process of trying to deal wisely. The first and most important one is to determine to what extent it testifies of Jesus and exalts Him. When John was on Patmos receiving the visions that constitute the book of Revelation there came a point when an angel proclaimed that the marriage of the Lamb had come. John was in awe of this and fell at the angel’s feet to worship him. The angel said to him: "See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." The heart or essence of all prophecy must testify of Jesus.
Another important matter to me is to steer away from timelines and dates unless a timeline is clearly given. So far I have had only one dream that included a timeline and that timeline was proven to be true. I have heard and read too many prophecies that gave specific dates when certain things would happen and unfortunately they did not. The unfortunate effect is that it detracts from the validity of prophecy in general, making us cynical about it which is aa dangerous position to revert to.
I am saying all of this because I want to share a dream that I had about 25 years ago that is in line with the Haggai prophecy. I am quoting from my dream journal:
I dreamt that my wife and I were driving somewhere, no specific place in particular. On our route we drove through a place that gave me the impression that it was a holiday resort. There were a number of houses that I thought were holiday homes.
What struck me about the homes was that they were very small (seemingly intended for only one family, although here and there I could see slightly larger ones that were intended for more than one family). They were very similar in structural appearance and in their garden layouts. They were very neat and tidy. They were also not facing one another, but every house faced the back of its neighbour so that in a sense they were not aware of one another. The most striking feature about them was their burglar-proofing. This was so large and elaborate that it was out of all proportion to the size of the buildings. Every single house had massive iron bars in front of every door and window and in the double storey ones it stretched from the ground floor to the top floor. Quite clearly the pre-eminent intention was to protect and guard very heavily against any possible intrusion.
The message that was conveyed to me is that a time would come when we will have to dig up the foundations of our lives that tend to be private and separated from others and that we will have to be willing to take down the out of proportion burglar bars that we have put in place in order to keep ourselves safe while all that it actually does is to keep others out of our lives while we pursue our agendas.
I believe we are entering that time of deconstruction and we will need one another for that. We have come to the point of being emptied from vessel to vessel. Again, it is vital that we see the redemptive love and care of the blessed Trinity as we too go through the Haggai experience.
I will stop here with this particular blog. I want to share more about His house as I see it with the next post.