THE ALLURE OF PANELED HOUSES
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?(Haggai 1:2-4)
There are few things that appeal to us quite like comfort. The lengths to which we will go in order to obtain, increase or protect our measure of comfort are only limited by the bonds of human imagination. We’ll busy ourselves with countless hours of toil just to remain in the level of comfort to which we have become accustomed. Comfort has become so ingrained in our cultural identity that it has even become the standard by which we measure our success. We call it our standard of living, a standard to be sure because we will accept no less than that touchstone that we have set for ourselves.
In this we are not unlike those early repatriated inhabitants of Judah. Returned to a land that had been utterly destroyed by the will of God with no wall to protect them and no temple at which to worship, those that returned with Zerubbabel were not inclined first toward God, but toward establishing food and shelter. It would be nearly 16 years before the word of the Lord would come to Haggai, in that time they had grown in comfort and sustenance, but had seemingly dismissed any thought of restoring the House of God.
“How are we like that?” You may ask. To appreciate the correlation it is perhaps not only our paneled houses we should see as the stumbling block but our comfortable auditoriums and bricked buildings as well.
Much has been written over the moral and spiritual decline of our culture, and the tip of that iceberg is barely above the water line. To be sure there is no denying the evidence of this decline, and it should not be minimized. Still the question remains have we done our part to build the House of God?
4 And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For this is contained in Scripture:
“ Behold, I lay in Zion A choice stone, A precious corner stone,
And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.(1 Peter 2:4-6)
Peter’s appeal is for the reader to imitate Christ in his daily living, so that when they are questioned and persecuted for their righteousness others will see the glory of their hope. One might say it is our spiritual sacrifice. The gospel is message of Hope. Does it convict a man of sin and promise condemnation of the unrepentant? Surely it does, but it does not leave him there.
In this we see one of the great sins of our generation. It would seem all too often the hope, joy, and meekness are no longer part of the conversation. Outside of our paneled facades, as we engage the lost in rhetorical denunciations of all things sinful the gospel’s clarion call is often noticeably absent. We no longer seek to prick the heart so much as we attempt by force of rhetoric to beat it into submission.
This ultimately raises the question, are we living for God’s glory or for our own? Are we seeking to restore new testament christianity, or the glory of by gone days? Our response to this perceived moral and spiritual decline has been weak at best perhaps even sinful at worst. As was said much has been written opining the America that was and lamenting the death of our culture. Many believe we are now seeing, the beginnings of a new age of persecution, led by those who champion things like the homosexual and pro choice movements. The plight of the Christian seems to be ostracism, unkind attacks, and perhaps even one-day real persecution.
Isn’t that how it was supposed to be? (Matthew 5:10,11; John 15:18-25; Luke 6:22-26) Had we grown so comfortable in our auditoriums and buildings that we are unprepared for the work of building the house of God? Sadly the answer to that question seems to be a resounding “yes”. To see it we need not look any further than our response to this increased pressure. Has it been more evangelism or more anger? Is it our hope that we display to men answering in meekness and fear, or is our display somewhat less Christ-like.
Paul and Silas were singing in Acts 16 as they sat in that Philippian jail. They weren’t decrying the evil of the day that put them in prison or proclaiming their persecution in the face of corruption. They were praying and singing. I wonder how much that influenced the jailer later to hear their message? No one is arguing that we should be silent on sin. Instead knowing the terror of the Lord we should persuade men, but not in anger, but rather in meekness bringing both the knowledge of sin and the hope to be found in Christ.
When our every response to sin comes from anger, especially to those who are outside of the body of Christ, are we really communicating the gospel message? Is that what we see in Acts 2? We can all quote the passages that expose these sins, and truly the ramifications are severe, but if our response is not one that compels them to escape their sin how does that help the situation?
If our answer does not call them to a better hope it does not glorify God. Men may know that we can quote scripture and where we align politically, but whose glory does that serve? We do not build the house of God by serving our own reputation we only build edifices to ourselves.