The Lord’s aim in sending Haggai was not merely to criticize His people but to lead them in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake (Psalm 23:3). To that end, He instructed them: “Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored” (Hag. 1:8). To end the famine of self-interest, the people needed to put the honor of the Lord and of His house first.
We too must “go up” and fellowship with God. “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God…. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:1, 3). If Christians want to find the fullness of life Jesus promised, we must put aside our “houses,” our wills, our purposes, and come to the feast above—the communion table of Christ. As we sit with Him, He will transform our captive thinking by renewing our minds, and we will no longer conform to the pattern of this world (Rom. 12:2). Instead, we will give ourselves up because we are eating, and drinking, and internalizing the Person who gave Himself for the life of the world (John 6:51-53).
As the Lord gives Himself in us, we participate in His ministry to His bride: “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish” (Eph. 5:25-27). We do not go up for ourselves, for our own spiritual development. We go up so that we can give ourselves up to build the Lord’s house. Many of us who are dissatisfied with our own lives also complain that the church isn’t meeting our needs. Instead of viewing the body as those whom we are called to build up through personal sacrifice, we view it as one more vendor of personal satisfaction. We bring all our self-centered, captivity thinking with us then blame the church when our expectations aren’t met. But if we are not giving ourselves to make the church a vibrant, living body where Christ is pleased and honored, who will? Shall we blame church leadership for our mediocre church experience? Is it the job of leadership to supply a product that meets the demands of a congregation of consumers? No, if church is not what we think it should be, we have no one to blame but ourselves.Paul certainly didn’t view church as a place to get: “When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church” (1 Cor. 14:26). This is the fulfillment of Haggai’s prophecy: a gathering of people who have all gone up and have brought back materials with which to build the Lord’s house. Only in such a house as this—where life is truly flowing from the head and between the members—will the Lord take pleasure and be honored.