Now is not a good time. Sometimes I mean it when I say this. Yet I may really mean I don’t want to, or it’s not important. Often to be more honest, I feel afraid. Have you ever found yourself saying “now is not the time” over and over, refusing what you knew was needed, even what God invited? I have, and we see it in scripture.
The book of Ezra tells the wondrous return of some of God’s people from being captives in Babylon. King Cyrus let them return to Jerusalem in order to rebuild the temple. He gave provisions and vessels that had been seized from the temple.[i] Back in Jerusalem, they began rebuilding the temple for a couple years, but neighbors bribed officials to frustrate their plans, made them afraid to build. A local king forced them to stop.[ii]
They settled there, built houses for themselves, planted and harvested, lived without the temple for another 16 years. They might never have, but God broke in with the prophet Haggai as we heard in today’s reading. “These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house.” Now is not a good time. It hasn’t been for 16 years.
Haggai says: “Is it a time for you yourselves to live in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? … Consider how you have fared. 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 you that earn wages earn wages to put them into a bag with holes.”
Your experience, Haggai says, shows judgement. Focusing on self while neglecting God has not satisfied. Though having possession, food, clothing, wages, you are missing, hungry, longing.
Build the house. Now is the time. You’ve delayed, neglected, and put it off. You’ve experienced the judgement of that selfishness. Now God calls again, inviting to what you already know, what God already said. I am the Lord who chooses to live among you. Now rebuild my house.
Retreat is especially for remembering what God has already spoken, what we know to be true and overlook or lose or run from. As you pray, listen. Might God be stepping in, breaking through barriers of what you have put off or neglected, pointing out self-focus?
Listen for Love which breaks through resistance, neglect, and fear. God is here today inviting to build an active relationship, to pray together, to dwell with us. Now is the time.
[i] Ezra 1
[ii] Ezra 4
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