Today’s Reading: Luke 20:41-47, Haggai 1
Today is the first of two days looking at the short book Haggai.
The book of Haggai is addressed to the faithful Israelites who had returned from Babylon to the Promised Land after the exile. Haggai’s oracles take place in 520BC 19 years after the resettlement. What they encountered on their return was unrelenting difficulty. Haggai’s message in Chapter 1 was intended to stir them into action.
The Exiles: Not yet, I’m Busy
It seems the returned exiles were more focused on re-establishing their families, their households and their livelihoods than they were on rebuilding the temple. They left Babylon full of righteous fervour and enthusiasm for temple building. However, 18 years on after meeting heavy opposition to their construction efforts under Kings Xerxes and Artaxerxes (Ezra 4), the rebuilding had stopped. They had lost their enthusiasm for temple building and were caught up in just “making ends meet”.
“These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord” v2
The Lord’s priorities.
Jesus said “Seek first his kingdom, and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). Haggai’s clear message to the exiles echo’s Jesus Words spoken hundreds 500 years later.
God rebuked them because they had their priorities wrong. The people thought that their economic circumstances – their poverty – prohibited religious activity, whereas Haggai proclaimed that their economic plight was caused by their lack of commitment to God. His message to the Israelites was “Build the temple first – Honour God first – get your priorities lined up with God’s priorities – and he will bless your hard work and establish your success himself”
When the Israelites heard the Word of the Lord, and they obeyed it, their fortunes changed.
Obedience before motivation
I find it interesting that God moved in their lives to motivate them to build the temple in response to their obedience. It was only after they obeyed that ..
… 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.
God demanded their obedience to His Word as their first priority. And when they obeyed he provided the motivation and resources and determination to get it done. In other words – they obeyed even though they didn’t feel like it!
The 21st Century Christian: Not now, I’m busy.
I find it hard to criticise these hardworking Israelites. They had tried to rebuild the temple and had been stopped under heavy opposition. It seems sensible to me, even responsible to work hard – to provide your family – to establish your livelihood having been uprooted and carried everything you owned on the back of a camel to resettle in a new land.
It’s busy being me! Being a dad / father / worker in 21st Century Australia is time consuming – sometimes all-consuming. There are weddings and school fees and career and family and a host of other things to do. However it would seem the message to me from Haggai today is if in doing these good things I neglect the best thing – obedience to God – I am missing the point and missing the fantastic plan God has to use and bless me and my family, for his glory.
Pray that today God would “Stir up our Spirit” to obey and seek His Kingdom as our first priority today.