Some background info here: The Hebrews were looking for their temple to be rebuilt as Cyrus had decreed. With Cyrus’ death, and Cambyses’, the heir to Cyrus, lack of interest in the Jews well being, the Jews were led to take matters into their own hand. They sent a letter to Darius, who took the throne after Cambyses, and asked for him to institute the lost decree of Cyrus to rebuild the temple.
1 In the second year of Darius the king, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the LORD came by the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, saying,
2 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘This people says, “The time has not come, even the time for the house of the LORD to be rebuilt.'”
3 Then the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet, saying,
4 “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses while this house lies desolate?”
5 Now therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts, “Consider your ways!
6 “You have sown much, but harvest little; you eat, but there is not enough to be satisfied; you drink, but there is not enough to become drunk; you put on clothing, but no one is warm enough; and he who earns, earns wages to put into a purse with holes.”
7 Thus says the LORD of hosts, “Consider your ways!
8 “Go up to the mountains, bring wood and rebuild the temple, that I may be pleased with it and be glorified,” says the LORD.
The issue is this: the Hebrews have a misconstrued eschatology. They have adopted the notion that the proper response to the eschaton, God’s plan, is to wait. It is imperative that we realize part of the human response to the eschaton is to work.
It is a misunderstanding of how God works. Everyone knows God can open doors, but there should be no hindrance in waiting for God to open them. Their logic is not unreasonable; it is just artificial. In Hebrew, the word “wait” is active not passive, in the sense of pursue. It is a faith word that acts, not a faith word that sits. We must take initiative to bring about the blessings of God: dig a ditch, wet some wood, cut some timber.
What were they waiting for? What was hindering them from building the temple? So often we get wrapped up in waiting for God, when God is simply waiting on us to get up and do something! I know that carries odd theological implications, but that is not the point; it is the perception we carry. We talk about missions; we talk about the will of God; but what good is our future for God if we aren’t presently living for God?
We are the remnant. We are the ones who care about our faith, but that does not make us unsusceptible; we put our things in front of the things of God just as much as the next sinful human being. The reason we do not do courageous things, is because we are afraid. We are ruled by our fears; we are frozen by the unknown. So go into the mountains and cut timber. Do no be afraid; God is with you. Build God’s house.