Pastor of Iglesia Conexiones, and author of Biblical Prayer for Today's Believers: Transform Your Prayer Life (available on Amazon).
From God's Tent to God's House
Approximately 3,500 years ago, God told Moses to have the people of Israel build Him a sanctuary so He could dwell among them. Although a sanctuary was necessary to keep sinful humans apart from God's holiness, God wanted to dwell among them. You see, God loves us and He wants to be a part of our lives—He knows that we need Him, and He wants to meet that need.
"And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst." (Exodus 25:8, ESV)
The Bible tells us that the people of Israel gave jewels, fine fabrics, and acacia wood for the building of God's sanctuary (Exodus 35:4-29), and that they even gave more than what was needed (Exodus 36:2-7)—so much more, Moses had to tell them to stop. Obviously, God had moved their hearts!
Now, the kind of sanctuary that they build was a movable tent. It was called the tabernacle of congregation, and it was a movable tent. Remember that, at the time God gave this instruction to Moses, Israel had temporarily settled at Mount Sinai while Moses talked with God. From there on, Israel would slowly cross the wilderness all the way from Sinai to the land of Canaan. Along the way, they would need to temporarily settle in different places until the Lord told them it was time to move on.
So the tabernacle of congregation was put together while the people settled in a place, then taken apart, transported to a new settlement, and put back together until it was taken apart all over again. So they did this time and time again while they journeyed through the wilderness until they arrived to Canaan—and then, until they arrived to Canaan again 40 years later!
So the tabernacle of congregation, God's sanctuary, was a very luxurious tent, one that could be taken apart, transported, and put together again, over and over again.
Even after Israel conquered Canaan, the tabernacle was God's sanctuary until Solomon built God a permanent temple some 500 years later!
From God's House to Babylon and Back
However, sometime later (some 27 years later), after Solomon had built God's temple in Jerusalem, Solomon gave himself to idolatry, and the people of Israel did the same thing.
For several generations, the people of Israel disobeyed God and followed after idols. God sent them prophets to call their attention and warn them of God's judgment, but they did not pay attention. Finally, God sent them the prophet Jeremiah, who warned them that Israel would be taken captive to Babylon for seventy years. Israel did not repent, and God finally allowed Babylon to destroy the temple and take the people captive in the year 586 BC.
So, finally, in the year 520 B.C., God sent the people a message through the prophet Haggai.
For several years, the people lived in Babylon until they were allowed to return to Israel in 537 BC. Two years later they began to rebuild the temple, but the project was hindered by their adversaries—by the way, something similar is going on today: many Jews returned to the land in 1948 (73 years ago), but they are being hindered from building their temple.
So, the people srtopped building the temple for several years until God sent them the prophet Haggai with the following message:
“Thus says the Lord of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord.” 3 Then the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? 5 Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. 6 You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes." (Haggai 1:2-6, ESV)
It Is Time to Rebuild God's Church
There are many ways in which we can relate to God's message through Haggai. Last year, for example, churches had to close for several months because of the Covid-19 pandemic. It wasn't only churches that closed: many businesses, restaurants, and government places closed too to curve the spread of the virus that causes Covid-19.
As a result of the closures, there were no church services and people were not attending church. This meant that several ministries were put on hold, for example: home groups and outreach. It also meant that money wasn't coming in to the churches. Consequently, there were churches closed permanentlh, and ministries that disappeared permanently. Also, many churces did not see new comers that year, and many churches also lost members—people got used to not attending church!
Now that churches are reopening (or have reopened), there are many empty seats, and many ministries need to be relaunched.
So what is God telling us through His word?
I believe God is telling us that we need to consider our ways. Some people are going back to work, back to restaurants, back to spending time with family and friends—but they are still not going back to church, nor are they watching the online messages and meeting online to pray. Is it right that we prioritize everything else in our lives except God? Consider your ways.
I believe God is also telling us that it is time for us to rebuild his church. I'm not talking about rebuilding a temple of wood and stone. Instead, I am talking about building the ministries of the church: preaching, teaching, outreach, evangelism, prayer, worship—God wants His New Testament people to get busy doing His work.
I also believe God is telling us that He wants to bless us. He wants to bless our homes, our work, our relationships, our health, our personal relationship with Him, and our ministries—but He will only do this if we obey Him.
There is a way in which church is all about God—all about loving and worshipping Him, and all about serving Him; but there is also a way in which church is God's blessing to us. He speaks to us through the ministry of the church, He works in us through the ministry of the church, and He makes us more like Christ through the ministry of the church.
So if we want God's blessings in our lives, we need to get back to church.
From Fear to Faithfulness
I realize that some people are probably still afraid of going back to church. After all, the pandemioc is not over—the virus is still out there. Perhaps these people who are specially afraid are the more vulnerable populations.
If that's the case, try to at least (1) faithfully attend your church's online events, (2) faithfully communicate over the phone or the internet with your friends at church, (3) faithfully pray for your church and with your church, (4) and faithfully send your offerings and tithes to your church.
On the other hand, if you're taking risks by going out to eath, to work, to visit friends and families, then consider that you need to go back to church. Pray about it, and let God guide you.
Now, I believe the Lord will protect me and His church, and I pray you can believe the same.
If you need to, continue to wear a mask, to keep your distance, to wash your hands, and to disinfect surfaces. Also, if you believe you must get the vaccine, get it. The point is that you need to be faithful to the Lord first.
So pray about it, consider your ways, and remember to keep God first.
© 2021 Marcelo Carcach