The history of God’s people was a sad tale. Their behavior continually cycled. But it seemed to always wind up worse than the previous cycle. Soon after Solomon’s death, the nation split into two kingdoms. Not long after the split, the idolatry of the northern kingdom (Israel) became so bad that God summoned a cruel nation (Assyria) to destroy them. Not long after that, the idolatry of the southern kingdom (Judah) became so bad that God summoned another cruel nation to very severely chastise them and carry off the most talented of the survivors.
This exile would be a blessing because God preserved a remnant of His people; from them He would send the Messiah to offer salvation to the whole world. God would enable this Remnant to return to the Promised Land and He would supply everything needed to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple. This Remnant would soon lay the foundation for the Temple but they failed to build upon the foundation. God’s discipline would not sleep forever.
God waited 15 years and then sent His word through the prophet Haggai to spur them on to rebuild the Temple. Haggai 1:1-4 begins the account, “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!” (NASU)
God immediately put His finger directly on the problem. Self is always the problem. We are very much like the Remnant in verse 2. We rationalize. We don’t say we will never do it; instead we say “not right now”. God points out the problem and gives the remedy in verse 5, “Consider your ways”. The problem is me and my ways. “I”, “me”, “my”, “mine” always gets in the way. Selfish self-seeking ways are the problem. Seeking my own comfort instead of obedience to God (which in this case was rebuilding the Temple) is the problem.
Haggai 1:6-9 continues the lesson, "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." Thus says the Lord of hosts, "Consider your ways! Go up to the mountains, bring wood and rebuild the temple, that I may be pleased with it and be glorified," says the Lord. "You look for much, but behold, it comes to little; when you bring it home, I blow it away. Why?" declares the Lord of hosts, "Because of My house which lies desolate, while each of you runs to his own house.” (NASU)
God made it plain that seeking my own comfort at the expense of obedience would not yield the results I hoped for. I have owned one of those purses with holes. Seeking first my own kingdom is a recipe for disaster. Seeking my own comfort yields no comfort. God may wait 15 years to bring the consequences but rest assured that seeking comfort rather than obedience will eventually bring real discomfort.