On day, just over 2500 years ago – August 29, 520 BC to be precise, a man stood up in the middle of his community in Jerusalem and began to challenge them about where their priorities lay. That man’s name was Haggai.
Having returned from exile in Babylon, the first thing the Jewish people did was clear away the rubble from the area where the temple of Solomon had stood. They marked out a new foundation and put up an alter so they once again could offer sacrifices to God. But then more practical matters became the priority. The people needed houses to live in, and markets in which to trade and fields planted to grow crops …. and any further work to rebuild the temple was neglected. For 16 more years weeds covered the temple’s foundation. The people in their spiritual complacency had convinced themselves that if they made themselves prosperous and satisfied their own needs, they would be in a better position to meet their obligations to God.
Haggai stood up in a society like ours where people were busy, where people had to work hard to make ends meet. He looked his community squarely in the eye with a message from God and put it to them – “Consider your ways” – a theme he repeats throughout his short book (1:5, 1:7, 2:15, 2:18).
“Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your panelled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways” (Haggai 1:4-5)
His challenge was for the people (and us reading his words today) to evaluate their/our lives in the light of God’s direction and biblical priorities. The people had worked hard to have it all, yet they never seamed to get ahead.
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. (v6)
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. (v9)
His words where a bombshell that awoke his community of spiritual couch potatoes from their slumber and propelled them to a new level of commitment. The penny had finally dropped why they weren’t getting ahead in life – the God who had brought them out of exile had not been their Number 1 priority.
Overnight from the top down, the entire community was transformed – its focus was shifted from self back to God.
Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel (the governor), and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the Lord their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the Lord their God had sent him. And the people feared the Lord. (v12)
While many of the Old Testament prophets were either ignored or attacked, Haggai had success – the people of Jerusalem responded to the message with joyful obedience and the work on the temple recommenced.
And God responded with the words that Ron shared in Sunday’s sermon – “I am with you” and the spirits of the people were stirred.
May we today take the time to “Consider our ways”.
Our New Testament reading from Ephesians 4 is entitled “Unity in the Body of Christ”.
Reflecting on this passage after the all the work that went in to stage Figtree Community Carols – I see afresh how important these words are. We all have different gifts – musicians, singers, dancers, sound technicians, food preparation, cooking, serving, security, librarians, welcomers, face painters, cleaners and all the many other ways that people served – when we work together “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love” in unity as one body – we can so effectively be the hands of Christ reaching out to our community.
Stay united Faithful Daily Readers