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We are bringing our series on Haggai to a close today. I hope that you have been looking at the book yourself, reading through it and thinking about it over these last few weeks. I certainly welcome your comments and questions. As I said at the beginning, it’s short, but it has a lot in it.

What we are doing today is looking back at the book as a whole to learn some things about serving God. Some of it will be review, some of it new. I thought it would be good to pull together the teaching on this theme and look at it all at once. The first lesson is that –

1. God requires our service

This comes out clearly in chapter one in the contrast between God’s house and the people’s houses and what God has to say about this. The Lord asks, “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house (the temple) lies in ruins?” – Haggai 1:4. This is one of the most pointed questions in all of scripture, especially given the wealth that we have in this country.

And then God says, “Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the Lord” – Haggai 1:8.

They were putting themselves first, busying themselves with their affairs and not God’s. And God calls them on it and requires them to put him first.

God also challenges us because we so often put ourselves first. Our work and our houses are fine, but God’s work and God’s house gets little attention in our busy lives. What we learn from Haggai is that we need to fulfill the call to serve God.

2. God calls us to serve even when it’s hard

In Haggai they were experiencing bad economic times. And so to obey meant taking a risk; giving of their time and resources to do God’s work when they already felt that they didn’t have enough to take care of their needs.

It was also hard to obey because people were critical of their work on the temple. It lacked the glory proper to a temple of God. And so people were thinking and saying things that discouraged the workers.

It won’t always be easy for us either. Whether it is has to do with lack of resources, or criticism, or other factors. God speaks to us through the book of Haggai to say to us as well that we need to serve God even when it is hard. If you only serve God when things are easy, you won’t be serving God for long.

3. Disobedience brings God’s judgment

They were under God’s corrective discipline for not working on the temple. This comes out in several places. The Lord says, “You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house. Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce . . .” – Haggai 1:9-10.

If they had obeyed, God would have blessed them according the covenant he had with them. But they disobeyed and the blessing was withheld.

Too often we think that we can walk in willful sin and still have God’s blessing. But we clearly learn from Haggai that blessings only come with obedience.

4. The only solution to disobedience is repentance

We saw how they tried to cover over their disobedience with sacrifices. But their sacrifices were unclean. They weren’t acceptable because of their disobedience.

What God wanted was that they “turn” to him (Haggai 2:17); that they set aside their disobedience and serve him.

We also have all kinds of ways of trying to gain God’s favor even while we willfully choose to rebel against God. We try to do other good things to cover over or balance out our sin. But none of these things work.

What we learn from Haggai is that we need to repent of our sin and get to work serving God.

5. God helps us to serve him

This is the sequence of events in chapter one:

  • God challenged their disobedience
  • They resolved to work
  • God stirred them up, and
  • Then they worked

What comes before the work, is God doing a work in them.

Haggai 1:14 says, “And the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people. And they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God . . ..” God acted to move them along and enabled their obedience.

It’s the same with us. God doesn’t just call us to serve, he empowers our service. That’s because none of us can serve God in our own strength. And so, we learn from Haggai that we need to receive God’s help as we serve him; we need to have God stir our spirits. We need God to stir us up!

6. God encourages us as we serve him

This is a big theme in Haggai. God is revealed as an encourager. For instance, in chapter one, as soon as the people decided to obey, the Lord encouraged them. Haggai 1:13 – “I am with you,’ declares the Lord.” God was concerned to give them hope, to know that they could do what he asked of them.

In chapter two when they were discouraged at the prospects of their work on the temple, the Lord spoke to them. Haggai 2:4-5 – “Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts, according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not.” Here we have lots of words of encouragement, so that they wouldn’t give in to discouragement and stop working.

When they began to obey the Lord, he told them in Haggai 2:19 – “from this day on I will bless you.” God wanted to assure them that his hand of judgment was lifted and they would have a good harvest to provide for their needs in the coming year.

Finally, the Lord encouraged Zerubbabel with a word to him and a promise concerning the house of David. Haggai 2:23 – “I will take you, O Zerubbabel my servant, the son of Shealtiel, declares the Lord, and make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you, declares the Lord of hosts.” Zerubbabel is not rejected, but will be used by God, along with his line.

It’s easy to be discouraged as we try to serve God. We have our own personal weaknesses, other people that discourage us and hard circumstances.

But we learn from Haggai that we need to receive God’s encouragement into our hearts, so that we can be strong and continue on. Whether it’s through other people, through the scriptures or straight from God, however it comes, we need to receive it.

7. God gives value to our work

This comes out clearly in the second message, when they fretted about their lack of ability to make the temple glorious with silver and gold. Their work wasn’t amounting to much. As God said, the temple is “as nothing” – Haggai 2:3.

  • But God promised to bring in silver and gold for the temple – Haggai 2:7-8.
  • And God promised great glory for what they were working on. It would be more glorious than the previous temple – Haggai 2:9.

God took what they had, which wasn’t much, and gave a value to it that it didn’t have in itself.

And in the same way, we need to trust that God will take our work and give it lasting value. Even if we can’t see it with our own eyes, or if it is off in the future.

———————-

So, the book of Haggai is a call to do God’s work. And I hope that by looking at this book you will be challenged and encouraged to do what God is calling you to do.

And I also hope that you will take to heart the lessons that we learn from Haggai about serving the Lord.

William Higgins

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We are looking at the final verses of Haggai today. We have already looked at Haggai’s first message: Instead of building up your own houses, get to work on rebuilding the temple – God’s house. And we have looked at Haggai’s second message: Even though the temple doesn’t seem glorious, God will give it glory; in fact, more glory than the previous temple.

In our verses today there are actually two messages that Haggai gives on the same day – December 18th 520 BC. (And so we will have two messages on the same day). In the first of these, or Haggai’s third message overall, he encourages the people by telling them that-

The  blessings are coming

The blessings are on the way.

Now this third message is connected to Haggai’s first message in chapter one, in that both of them note that they were going through hard times because of their disobedience. In other words, God was disciplining them. But the background to this third message is that they had been obedient now for some three months and things were still hard.

To address this, the Lord has Haggai ask two questions. v. 11 – “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Ask the priests about the law.” He is asking for an official ruling from the priests, as a way of making a point.

In v. 12 we have the first question, “’If someone carries holy meat in the fold of his garment and touches with his fold bread or stew or wine or oil or any kind of food, does it become holy?’ The priests answered and said, ‘No.’” After certain sacrifices, you would carry the leftover meat in the fold of your garment. The meat was considered holy, and the garment as well (Leviticus 6). But the holiness of the meat and the garment doesn’t make anything else it touches holy. And this is the point. As a general rule, holiness isn’t contagious.

In v. 13 we have the second question. “Then Haggai said, ‘If someone who is unclean by contact with a dead body touches any of these, does it become unclean?’ The priests answered and said, ‘It does become unclean.’” So if holiness isn’t contagious, uncleanness is contagious. We are dealing with the rotten apple principle here. A good apple can’t make a rotten apple good, but a rotten apple can make a good apple bad.

Next, Haggai makes the application, which is that the people of Judah were unclean. v. 14 – “Then Haggai answered and said, ‘So is it with this people, and with this nation before me, declares the Lord, and so with every work of their hands. And what they offer there is unclean.’” They were unclean due to their disobedience in that they put themselves first and didn’t work on the temple. And this uncleanness infected all that they did and had. More specifically it is the “work of their hands” that is unclean; that is, their harvests and their animals – all that they brought before God as sacrifices.

They thought that, even though they were walking in disobedience, their sacrifices would make them acceptable; that they would cover over their disobedience and make them holy. But the message of Haggai is that their disobedience made their sacrifices unclean and unacceptable.

The holiness of their sacrifices didn’t make their actions holy. But the uncleanness of their actions made their sacrifices unclean.

Next Haggai reminds them that because of their prior disobedience God disciplined them. vs. 15-17 – “Now then, consider from this day onward. Before stone was placed upon stone in the temple of the Lord, how did you fare?” He is asking, ‘how were you doing before you started working on the temple?’

And then, in words similar to what we find in chapter 1, he says, “When one came to a heap of twenty measures, there were but ten. When one came to the wine vat to draw fifty measures, there were but twenty. I struck you and all the products of your toil with blight and with mildew and with hail, yet you did not turn to me, declares the Lord.”

And then Haggai points toward the future. Since they began work on the temple; since they began to be obedient, God will now bless them. v. 18-19 – “Consider from this day onward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month. Since the day that the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid, consider: Is the seed yet in the barn? Indeed, the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have yielded nothing. But from this day on I will bless you.” [The time reference here is unclear. Is it looking back three months to when they began work on the temple and they are now, on December 18th supposed to start looking for the blessing? Or is it saying that the foundation was laid or finished on December 18th  and because of this the blessings will start on this day?]

This is a bold prediction. At this time of year (December) the seed would have just been planted after the late fall rains, and the orchards would not have been bearing fruit. And so without any outward indication of the kind of harvest the seed will bear, and without any indication of the kind of harvest the orchards will bear next season, the Lord says, “from this day on I will bless you” – v. 18.

The problem that they had complained about – hard economic times, would be dealt with. God’s discipline would be lifted, and God would bless them.

What Haggai is really doing in these verses is presenting a before and after picture. Before, they were disciplined because of their disobedience. But now, after, they will be blessed because of their obedience.

Lessons

Let’s see what we can take away from Haggai’s third message. First of all, obedience brings God’s blessing. They were under God’s corrective discipline because of their sin. God was trying to get their attention; to wake them up.

And God does the same with us. As Hebrews 12:6 says, “The Lord disciplines the one he loves.” When we allow sin in our life, we get discipline, not blessing.

But like them, if we submit ourselves to God and obey the Lord, we can know the fullness of God’s blessings for us.

I guess it’s just human nature that everyone thinks they will find happiness by doing their own thing; making their own choices apart from God. But it only comes by doing God’s will. This is how we find peace and happiness.

Second, you can’t cover over sin with good or religious practices. Or to say it another way, you can’t cancel out a life of disobedience to God by doing other good things, so that you say I have done some bad things, but I have also done some good things and they balance each other out.

They thought that since they offered up sacrifices, their disobedience could be overlooked. Sometimes we do the same. We think, ‘I will pray to God,’ or ‘I will come to church,’ or ‘I will help in the soup kitchen’ even though we are willfully choosing to sin. We think, ‘It will be OK. God will accept me. Things will be alright.’

But our unrepented sin contaminates all that we do, just as their sin contaminated their sacrifices. The only remedy is repentance – as Haggai 2:17 says, to turn to the Lord.

Haggai’s fourth message, given on the same day is brief. It has to do with a –

A promise concerning the house of David

By way of background, in Jeremiah 22 King Jehoiachin, or Coniah, as he was also known, a descendent of David, is rejected. v. 24 says, “As I live, declares the Lord, though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, were the signet ring on my right hand, yet I would tear you off . . ..” And in v. 30 the Lord says, “none of his offspring shall succeed in sitting on the throne of David and ruling again in Judah.”

Why is this relevant? Zerubbabel was the grandson of Jehoiachin, and this pronouncement would certainly put a cloud over him and the line of David.

And so Haggai speaks to Zerubbabel, personally, but also as a representative of the Davidic line. vs. 21-22 – “Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I am about to shake the heavens and the earth, and to overthrow the throne of kingdoms. I am about to destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations, and overthrow the chariots and their riders. And the horses and their riders shall go down, every one by the sword of his brother.”

This shaking of the nations is also referred to in Haggai’s second message. Although here it seems more uniformly to point to the end of all things.

v. 23 – “On that day, declares the Lord of hosts, I will take you, O Zerubbabel my servant, the son of Shealtiel, declares the Lord, and make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you, declares the Lord of hosts.” A signet ring is the seal of a king. It functioned like a signature. It was an instrument of authority and a symbol of a most prized possession, usually kept on the possession of the king. And so Haggai is saying – if Jehoiachin is rejected, Zerubbabel is accepted. He is precious, like a signet ring that is not cast off, but kept near. He is God’s servant. He is chosen.

But God is also speaking to him as a representative of the Davidic line. And he is saying that when all other kingdoms have run their course and are judged – the line of David will continue on.

This is similar to the second message about the temple. Even though it seemed paltry, there was a glorious future for it. So also here, even though Zerubbabel is a mere governor in the Persian empire, what will come from him will be great and beloved by God.

The fulfillment can be seen in that:

  • God preserved the line of David through Zerubbabel
  • Jesus comes from this ancestry, from Zerubbabel, through Joseph – Matthew 1:12.
  • When Jesus returns all kingdoms will be judged and he will reign as King of kings and Lord of lords.

Lesson

From this last message of Haggai we learn something about God that we need to remember. And that is that God is in control. Certainly the nations seemed all powerful to small and insignificant Judah. But God can shake them and judge them when he chooses. And even though they sin and rebel, ultimately, they are under his control.

And God has a plan for the world which he will fulfill in the proper time. God is in control of the outcome of history, and this will include the line of David.

But God also has concern for individuals, as we see with Zerubbabel. And so in the midst of our confusion, our inability to control things and our inability to see into the future – we can trust the God who does see into the future, who is in control and who cares for each of us. And we can know that if God can make all of history turn out like it should, he can certainly do the same with our lives – as we seek to follow him.

William Higgins

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We are continuing on in our series on the prophet Haggai. Today we look at his second major message in chapter 2:1-9.

Introduction

As we saw last week in Haggai’s first message, God challenged the people to build the temple. They thought that bad economic times meant they should delay the work. But God told them that the hard times were a result of their not working; of their disobedience; of focusing on their own houses and not God’s house. So they should get to work on the temple. And this is what they did. They began to work about three weeks later.

Haggai gave his second message on October 17th, 520 BC. This was during the feast of tabernacles which was a time to remember how God brought them “out of the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 23:43). Everyone would have been gathered together in Jerusalem for this event. Once again the message is for Zerubbabel the governor, Joshua the high priest (the two leaders) and “all the remnant of the people” – v 2.

The background to the message is that –

The people are discouraged

It had been about seven weeks after Haggai’s first message to begin work on the temple, and about three weeks after they began. And it was becoming clear to them that they would not be able to equal the glory the temple used to have, before its destruction. The building would be much the same in design and size, but it would lack the gold and silver – the carvings, items overlaid in gold, the numerous utensils and treasures. They simply didn’t have the resources to provide all this. So they felt their rebuilt temple would be shabby by comparison.

A part of this is that when Haggai spoke this message, as we saw, it was the feast of tabernacles. This was when Solomon dedicated his elaborately ornate temple – 1 Kings 8:2. And so this would have brought back memories of it, as well as the inevitable comparisons between what Solomon produced and their efforts. And the crowds gathered for this holiday may well have made critical comments about the building project. ‘It will never be the same.’ ‘It’s better to do nothing, than to do a poor job.’ ‘What are they thinking?’

And so, after beginning the work, the leaders and workers were now discouraged. This brings us to –

God’s message

Haggai asked the people gathered in Jerusalem, “Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes?” – v. 3. There would have been a few old enough to remember the temple as it was before it was destroyed 66 years before.

And he acknowledges what these people were saying and thinking, this temple is “nothing” in comparison. It lacked gold and silver. It lacked glory; the glory suitable for the one true God.

But the Lord speaks words of encouragement to them. Despite all this, he tells them to keep up the work! v. 4 – “Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord.” He tells them to be strong three times, once to each of the parties that are addressed by the message. He is saying, even though your work looks insignificant, and others are criticizing it – don’t let that cause you to stop.

Rather, the Lord says, “Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts, according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not.” – vs. 4-5. God has promised to be with them, according to the covenant. God has not abandoned them. And his presence is more than enough to sustain them and empower them to do his will, despite obstacles. And so they should not fear failure and thus give up, but continue to work.

After these words of encouragement to the people, comes an amazing prophecy that –

God will take care of the glory. God will provide glory for this temple. vs. 6-8: “For thus says the Lord of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts.”

The basic point here is that God is going to do something “so that the treasures of all nations shall come in and I will fill this house with glory.” God is going to personally take care of what is causing them to be discouraged. What they don’t have, he will provide. As he says in v. 8, the silver and gold are all his, and so he can bring all that he wants.

In the background here is the Exodus out of Egypt, which Haggai has already mentioned, and the people would have been thinking about as they celebrated the feast of tabernacles. Two things in particular from this are highlighted:

1. At the Exodus, God shook the earth. This refers to how God “shook” up Egypt so that Israel could escape. Several Scriptures speak of this in terms of the whole earth trembling and shaking – Psalm 77:18; Judges 5:4-5; Psalm 68:8. God shook the order of things and caused his will to be done.

God is saying he will do this “yet once more,” just like at the time of the Exodus. (So here, as elsewhere, the return of the exiles is seen as a second Exodus). vs. 6-7 – “I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all nations . . ..”

2. At the Exodus, God brought forth treasures. When the people left Egypt, the Egyptians gave them gold and silver – Exodus 12:35-36. And it was no doubt from this that gold and silver was later given to make the original sanctuary in the wilderness – Exodus 35:21-29.

In the same way, God will shake the nations again. Why? v. 7 – “so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory.” So what they don’t have in resources – gold and silver – God will provide, just as he did at the time of the Exodus.

And finally, the Lord says in v. 9: “The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.” The temple that they are working on, which seems so meager in comparison with the one before – will become more glorious than before! So, if the source of their discouragement was that their temple was not as glorious – God gives them a look into the future to say that it will be more glorious.

And God will give peace or wholeness through the temple. God will accomplish through it what it was meant to accomplish.

God shares all this with them, to encourage them not to give up, but to keep working.

The fulfillment. Just briefly, this prophecy was literally fulfilled in stages:     1. Within months of the prophecy, as it says, in “a little while,” Darius, the ruler of the nations of the world, paid for the expenses of building the temple – Ezra 6:8. So they had all that they needed to build and furnish the temple as it should be.

2. About 60 years later, Artaxerxes, ruler of the nations of the world, gave treasures for the temple – Ezra 7. He himself gave silver and gold, plus v. 16 speaks of “all the silver and gold in the whole province of Babylonia . . .” being available.

3. And then, still hundreds of years later, Herod made this temple literally more glorious than Solomon’s. It became a true wonder in the ancient world.

Let me also say very briefly that this prophecy will also be fulfilled in a spiritual way with the coming of the kingdom, with regard to the spiritual temple. Hebrews 12:26-29 applies this prophecy of shaking the nations (at least in part) to the coming of the eternal kingdom. And Revelation 21:26 says that “they will bring into [the new Jerusalem] the glory and the honor of the nations,” referring to Haggai 2 and several other Scriptures.

——————-

Now there are lots of lessons in these verses – about God’s ability to look into the future, about God’s control over the nations, about God’s ability to provide – but I want to focus on the central theme, and say to you –

Be encouraged as you do God’s work

It is easy to become discouraged in the work of God, just like these people were. If we are honest with ourselves, we will see that we don’t have the resources to do God’ work like it should be done; that our work is as “nothing” like Haggai said their temple was as “nothing.”

We will be criticized, just as, no doubt, some criticized their work on the temple. And our work will be compared unfavorably to others, like their work was compared to the former temple and was determined to be not as glorious.

But as Haggai said, we too need to “be strong” – v. 4. We need to keep working – v. 4 and not allow our lack of resources, criticism and comparisons to stop us from doing God’s work. And we need to stop fearing failure or set backs – v. 5.

For just like with them, God is with us to help us, to empower us and to sustain us. And God will provide what we lack. Here it was material resources, but whatever it is – inner strength, talents, skills – God will make up for our lack of resources if we are doing his will and work. And even if it looks meager now, we can know that God will give true significance and value to our work. God is able to do that.

So be encouraged. It’s not about what we do or can do. It’s about what God can do and will do through us. Let’s keep this lesson in mind as we prepare to do God’s work in Kentucky this week and next week with Vacation Bible School.

William Higgins

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The Call to Work: Haggai 1

Today we begin a series on the book of Haggai. Haggai is one of the 12 so-called minor prophets. They are called “minor” because they are shorter. And by this reckoning he is really minor since his is the second shortest book among these prophets.

But, as we will see, being brief is no obstacle to being a good word from God. And there is much that we can learn from his messages.

Introduction

Last week, among other things, we overviewed the time period of Haggai. And today I have given you a handout on the historical background of the book – Haggai Background. You can look at that. For now, let me just give the basics:

  • The exiles have returned from Babylon to Judah
  • They had begun to work on the temple, but then stopped
  • By 520 BC, the work had ceased for 16-17 years

That’s a long time! And it is after this long delay in 520 that Haggai gives his messages, focused on building the temple.

Haggai has the distinction of being the first post-exilic prophet. Nothing is really known about him personally. What is recorded of his messages in this book only cover a 15 week span of time.

In verse one, we get some basic information about his first message. It’s delivered on August 29, 520 BC – v. 1. Haggai is quite precise about his dates all throughout this book. The message is given to Zerubbabel the regional governor and Joshua the high priest. These two together are giving leadership in Judah. But he is also speaking to the people of Judah, for they would have been gathered together on this day to celebrate the new moon festival.

This first message is presented as a dispute between God and the people. First we hear –

The people’s point of view

God articulates this in v. 2: “Thus says the Lord of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord.” If initially 17 years ago, the work on the temple stopped because of opposition from locals, as Ezra 4 tells us, now it is related more to the people’s own choices.

We learn in several verses that they were in tough economic times. v. 6: says, “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 he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.” They have their basic needs, but things are slipping backwards for them. They can’t get ahead. Things are getting worse.

So from their point of view this is a bad time to take up working on the temple. It makes perfect sense to them. It would be better to wait until the economy improves. After all, putting time and resources into building the temple would take away from their resources. So nothing was being done. Next comes –

God’s message

The first thing God focuses on is a disturbing contradiction. vs. 3-4: “Then the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, ‘Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?’” The people complain about times being tough? They are waiting for a better time to build the temple? Their houses look pretty good. At least some of them were living in paneled homes – a sign of luxury in those days. They seem to have enough to take care of their needs; their houses. Yet God’s house, the temple, “lies in ruins” – v. 4. As the Lord reiterates in v. 9: “My house . . . lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house.”

God is saying, and this is the contradiction, if the times are too tough to build my house, why are your houses built – some of them quite nicely?

They had put themselves and their needs and desires ahead of God. They had their priorities all wrong. And God is challenging them on this. He says in v. 5: “Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways.” Think about what’s going on here.

Next a new perspective on their situation is revealed, which is that God has brought about their hard times. vs. 9-11: “You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house. Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast, and on all their labors.”

The people are saying: times are bad so let’s delay work on God’s house. In other words, bad times are an excuse for not doing God’s work. God is saying the exact opposite: times are bad because you delay work on the temple. In other words, it’s because of your disobedience. So the solution is not further delay, but rather to work on the temple.

Now, a note here. Just because we experience bad times, doesn’t mean we are disobedient. There is no simple one to one correlation. The evil do prosper. And Jesus, who didn’t sin, was murdered. But sometimes God points out a correlation, as is the case here.

What God is doing in this case is disciplining them trying to get their attention to correct them. And he is doing so according to his covenant with them – the agreement the Israelites entered into with God. And one of the stipulations is that they will have hard economic times if they are disobedient to the Lord – Deuteronomy 28:38-40.

What should they do? vs. 7-8: “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the Lord.” Their circumstances are a wake up call for them to do what they should have been doing a long time ago.

Now perhaps you are wondering –

Why was the temple such a big deal?

The temple was an expression of God’s love for them, a place where he could be present among them. As the Lord says in Exodus 25:8, “Let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst.” It was a gift of grace to them (Alec Motyer). And through their actions, whether intentional or not, they are spurning that gift; they are dishonoring God.

The people’s response was vigorous

  • They obeyed the voice of the Lord – v. 12.
  • They showed reverence to God – v. 12.
  • They worked on the temple – v. 14. They began three weeks later, on September 21st. Haggai tells us that the Lord “stirred” them up and “they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God.”

And God encouraged them saying to them through Haggai, “I am with you” – v. 13.

Considering our ways

Haggai told the people to “consider your ways” two times. And we also need to think carefully about where we might have a wrong perspective on things.

1. Are you ignoring the gift of God’s presence? God was offering the gift of his presence to them once again. But they were caught up in the everyday tasks of surviving – working and trying to get by.

Do you do the same thing? We are so busy, going in several directions at one time, stressed out, chasing after food and clothing; trying to get ahead, keeping up with family activities and obligations.

We, as individuals and the church are God’s temple now and his presence dwells in us. But do you work at allowing God to be present in your life – putting in the time and focus needed to receive this gift?

2. Are your priorities right? Like in this passage you can find out what your priorities are by looking at how much you busy yourself with your house and your work versus how much you busy yourself with God’s house and God’s work.

  • You say you don’t have enough money to give to God’s work. But your needs are taken care of (not desires mind you, but your needs).
  • Perhaps, you don’t use your talents to serve God, but you use them to provide for your needs.
  • You don’t have time to invest in your church – which is called “the temple of God” in the New Testament, but you have time to do all of your activities, both regular and extracurricular.

Your house is fine, but God’s house is pretty shabby by comparison. Your work gets done, but God’s work doesn’t. If this is true in your life, your priorities are wrong. You have put yourself ahead of God; giving God the leftovers; the scraps. And like the people of Judah you need to make some changes.

3. We are to do God’s work even when times are bad. The people of Judah rationalized not doing God’s work because things were hard. But God calls us to have faith in him, right? And to trust that if we give ourselves to do God’s work, he will take care of us. When we prioritize him, he will make sure to provide for us.

It is like Jesus said in Matthew 6:33. Instead of following the world focusing our lives on getting ahead, he tells us, “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” When we seek God first we set our priorities right and then God provides for us, he supplies our material needs.

Don’t say I will wait until I have all I need and then I will do serve God; I will wait until my house is in order. Serve God first and above all. And trust that God will take care of you even as you give him the best of your time, energy and resources.

William Higgins

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