Category Archives: HAGGAI

An in-depth study of the Old Testament book of Haggai: “2 Chapters, 3 Words, Major Message.”

Haggai: Two Chapters, Three Words, Major Message: Part Eight

Well … here we are in part eight of our study of the messages contained in the book of Haggai … how those messages pertain to us, and our lifestyles today … and, the messages don’t get any easier. Last time, we looked at how important it is, who our friends are … who we “hang with” … how important it is to us, who (and what) we allow to influence us.

Now, we turn to Haggai 2:15-19, and look at the consequences of our actions. Plenty of “ouch!” space here. As humans, isn’t it odd that, often, even though we know-full well-what the consequences of our actions will be … that doesn’t stop us from doing those very actions which we know will only hurt us. And, hurt others. And, yes, even today, our actions, and the consequences of those actions can affect not just those closely around us … but … if enough people engage in enough actions … an entire nation can be affected. Or, perhaps the better word is not “affected,” but “infected.”

In verses 15-19, God reminds the people that it was due to their unfaithfulness, the people’s disobedience, that “I smote you” (verse 17). But, God is, indeed, merciful … and, His ear is always open to the cry of repentance. Depending upon our actions, the “bad news” can be turned into “good news.” When we change our purpose, our focus, our will, to His purpose, His focus, His will, His work, then the promise is there: “From this day I will bless you” (verse 19). We remind ourselves again that, in order to be blessed, we must put ourselves in a position to be blessed. This will always start-always-by being obedient to God’s Word. This hasn’t changed … nor will it ever change.

The book of Haggai closes with a promise to “Zerubbabel, governor of Judah” (verse 21), that, again, God will “shake the heavens and the earth” (verse 21). This reminds me of many times in history, when God gave a prophet a message to deliver to those in authority. The messenger had to be faithful/obedient to deliver the message. Then, the one in authority had a choice: To heed the message … or, not. What happened next strictly depended upon that choice.

As the book of Haggai closes, there is a final promise to Zerubbabel, which is a shadow/type of promise which still holds true today: God called Zerubbabel “my servant” (verse 23).
Today, we are even more than God’s servants … we are God’s sons.
God said, here in verse 23, that He “will make thee as a signet: for I have chosen thee.” The “signet” is a signet ring, used by those in authority for signing official documents and letters.
Here, Zerubbabel, as us today, carry God’s seal, meaning we carry the honor and authority of God-and we represent Him. As saved, children of God, we carry His seal upon us. By carrying God’s seal, we are His representatives in everything we do.
I am reminded in this verse that God “chose us first,” meaning that He first chose us to be His representative, to show forth His light to a dark world. His official Seal, and His hand, will be on us … and it should show … in everything we do.
So, as we bring to a close this study of the book of Haggai, let us “consider our ways,” in order to put ourselves in a position to be blessed. Let us remember that when we put God’s purpose and will for our lives first, He will, indeed, “shake the heavens and earth” on our behalf. Why? Because when our will and purpose become His will and purpose … everything changes. We change, and then, everything around us changes. And, yes, if enough people are influenced by this change-in us-even an entire nation can be changed. And, by so doing … yes … it can change the course of history.

Yes, there is work involved, but God has promised to be with us. His main purpose in our lives is to “build His temple” for all to see … so that others will want to come and worship Him, too.

Blessings,
R.V.R.

P.S. This whole time, I really “got” the idea that God was telling us to “consider your ways.” However, God has also revealed to me that we should turn these three words back to Him: To be successful, to be blessed, we must, from our knees, look toward God, and “consider Your ways.”
R.V.R.
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Haggai: Two Chapters, Three Words, Major Message: Part Seven

As we begin with Haggai 2:11-14, we are reminded of this valuable lesson … unfortunately, a lesson so many of us just never learn:
Holiness cannot be transferred from one person to another.
But … uncleanness can be.
Ouch!
It is important who your friends are. It is important who-or what- you allow to influence you.
Ouch!

True, holiness only comes from God’s Spirit working inside of us. And, yes, we can all be an example of what holiness in our daily lives looks like. But, the decision (and yes it is a decision, a choice) to live holy is an individual choice. It may be influenced by others, but, ultimately, it is an individual choice. How we live is a choice we make … how we allow others to influence us … is a choice. And, accepting God’s salvation is a choice. Your Mother, your Father, your brothers and sisters … in fact, your entire family may be saved, serving God … on their way to Heaven … But … that won’t get you in. God’s free gift of salvation is just that: A gift. A free gift. But, it must be accepted individually. Jesus is a Personal Savior. Other people’s decisions can’t save you. But, they can sure influence you.

In Haggai 2:11-14, while it is true that Haggai is referring to ceremonial uncleanness under the Law, the message applies to us today: Holiness can’t be transferred from one person to another … but uncleanness can be transferred. So, be careful who your friends are, who you “hang with.” It is important who you allow to influence you. Here’s a tough one, but it may make all the difference in your life … and, your lifestyle: We must remember that to “be separate,” sometimes, we really need to “be separate.” This will always be one of the toughest decisions we’ll have to make.

A couple of examples: I’ve always heard that “If you want to know how your kids act, look at their friends.” I guess this is self-explanatory.
When I was working in the High School Library, there was a young lady who was one of my favorite, and best customers. A real reader. On the personal side, she came from a Christian family, a family which I knew very well. She used to help me out whenever I would ask her; she was quiet, well behaved, and always willing to help. She was a good student, conscientious, and personable. Then, suddenly it seemed, she changed. Her attitude changed. Her grades plummeted. She didn’t seem to be interested in reading anymore. Maybe it does, or does not, go without saying, but the way she dressed changed dramatically. Teachers were having trouble with her behavior. I just couldn’t figure out what had happened. What had caused what seemed to be a total transformation in her attitude and character? Then, one day shortly thereafter, I was driving through town. I saw this young girl walking, but she wasn’t alone. She was walking with another young lady … a young lady whose attitude and demeanor was, shall we say, widely known. A young lady whose attitude and character matched exactly what my young friend had now become. I couldn’t help it, and I was trying not to be judgmental … but, as I saw these two ladies walking side-by-side down the street, there were only three words which came to my mind, and I uttered them in disbelief: “That explains it.”
Since then, I have seen this young lady on occasion around town. I’m not really sure if she finished High School. Let’s just say that her lifestyle has become the result of what could only be considered as “bad” choices.

Just like you, how many times have I seen a complete change in someone … after they started “hanging out” with new people, new friends. And, how about the total change we’ve seen in people after a new girlfriend or new boyfriend? For an example, when I worked in a factory down in Georgia, I can’t say how many times I’ve seen someone’s entire work ethic change, their whole attitude and character change, after they began dating someone new. I’ve seen their production numbers drop, from being one of the best workers, to someone who needed to be replaced.

Throughout my life, I have made some really bad, bad choices. While it was ultimately my decision to do certain things, much of my mistakes have been a direct result of allowing myself to be influenced by others. That’s about as honest and truthful as I can be. Elbert Hubbard was an American writer, publisher, artist, and philosopher. Here’s a quote from him, which someone gave me, just yesterday: “We are not punished for our sins, but by them.” I only use this quote to make the point, as given.

This idea of “being separate:” It would be easy to just say that, “Hey! It was God’s idea!” But … it was! Repeatedly, in the Old Testament, for example, when God was leading the Israelites out of captivity (interesting), into the Promised Land, He would warn the Israelites about “making new friends.” I am paraphrasing, in a way, but God warned the Israelites about remaining separate, to be careful “who they hung with.” God’s concern wasn’t that the Israelites would influence these new people … but, that these new “friends” would influence them!

It would also be easy to give examples about being a good example to others … how we’ve influenced others in a positive way … and, that’s true. The whole idea of Christianity is to show forth God’s glory in our lives … to be that light to influence and lead others … But, let’s not forget how vulnerable we are to someone else’s influence. And, the closer we are to someone, the more they will influence us. My Pastor used to say that, “What we attach ourselves to, we become a part of.”

My prayer is that I, and us, will use discernment, as we are supposed to do … in all we do, for the principle remains the same: Holiness can’t be transferred, but uncleanness can be.”

Blessings,
R.V.R.
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Haggai: Two Chapters, Three Words, Major Message: Part Six

Now, we continue our thoughts on vision, in particular when God gives us a vision of a work He has called us to do, and allows us to see the end result along the way.

I think of people like Abraham, Joseph, and Paul. God showed them how things would turn out-the end result-before the great work began. We must always remember, that often, a large part of a “great work” which God calls us to do, will be a “great work” of faith. Especially at the very beginning. In fact, often, it takes a great work of faith on our part to even get to the beginning, just to “get started.” The old proverb is true: A great journey always begins the same way. With the first step. It could also be said that the largest obstacle we will face at the beginning is our lack of faith; our unbelief. And, once this obstacle is removed, we are, then, at that very moment, “on our way.” It can’t be stated too strongly that one of the reasons that God will allow us to see a glimpse of the end … is to help us with the beginning … to get us “jump-started.”

As with the case of so many like Abraham, Joseph, and Paul, knowing that God would never leave them, that He would see them through until the glorious end, gave them the encouragement and motivation they would need to persevere until the end. Doesn’t it encourage us, motivate us not to quit, when we know how things will turn out? If we will just “hang in there,” not give up, and continue to be faithful to the work?

The greatest example of all is still, and will always be, Jesus. Period. I just like to write that. Jesus, who suffered more pain and anguish than any man who ever lived, also knew how things would turn out, that there would be a “glorious end” to His pain, humiliation, and suffering. This is another reason why Jesus will not leave our side during the hardest, most difficult of times. He really does know what we’re going through, and He will stay with us, encouraging us, motivating us, until “the glorious end.” This is a fact. There is no greater example, nor will ever be, than Jesus, when it comes to “not my will, but your will be done.”

So … hang in there … next time, we look at the importance of “who you hang with,” as we look at the valuable, life-changing message beginning with Haggai 2:11.

Blessings,
R.V.R.
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Haggai: Two Chapters, Three Words, Major Message: Part Five

Last time, we wrote about God’s promises. Today, we discuss God’s vision. In particular, a vision which He gives us, and helps us to fulfill. As we’ve stressed, God will never give us a work to do which we won’t be able to do. Almost always, it will take the help of others to make it come to pass. But first, we must be willing to follow His direction, His leading. Others will join in the effort as we go, but first, we must be “all in” before we can expect God’s help … or the help of others who will come along beside us.

Another amazing thing about when God calls us to do a great work for Him: It will, almost every time, be something that we feel we can’t do. Our first thought is usually one of fear, that we don’t have the talent or ability to do what He is calling us to do. Chances are, you are right: You don’t have the talent or ability-and you won’t succeed-without His help. But, with every vision He gives us, He gives us whatever we need to make it happen. And, again, that will involve the help of others. Perhaps the greatest example is Moses, who responded to God’s call, immediately, with, “Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11). God’s answer came just as immediate: “Certainly I will be with thee” (Exodus 3:12). And, then, see if this sounds familiar: Moses, when given his first chance to speak after God had laid out His plan for him, told God, “But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice …” (Exodus 4:1). It’s true, then, just like now, that God doesn’t care about our ability … He cares about our availability … God told Moses, “Now therefore go, and I will … teach thee …” (Exodus 4:12).

God’s vision is so much greater than ours. God can see the end result of our labors, and He will encourage us by allowing us to visualize how things will turn out. In Haggai’s time, the Temple was in ruins, but God saw ahead, to a time when the Temple would be finished. This is why it is so important to be a witness, especially to those we don’t want to be a witness to. I pray every day for God to allow me to see others as He sees them, not as I see them. He sees what they will become; we see what they are now. As the saying goes, when speaking about David, “Man saw a shepherd; God saw a King.” I think that it is just as important to ask God to allow us to see ourselves as He sees us. To allow us to see ourselves, what we are right now, through Him. We see someone who has been broken, whose life is in ruins … but God sees what can be … a Temple, dedicated to His glory.

In Haggai, staring at the rubble of what was left of the Temple, just like our shattered, broken, “ruined” lives, God saw ahead, to a time when He would “fill this house (the Temple) with glory … The glory of this latter house (the Temple) shall be greater than of the former …” (Haggai 2:7-9). When God gives you a vision, He will always show you the end result. I always think of Paul. God showed the Apostle Paul things which, perhaps, He has never shown anyone else. Why? I believe that God showed Paul “the end” in order to give Paul the strength and encouragement to make it through the “now.” In 1 Corinthians 2:9, Paul wrote, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” We know that God had taken Paul up into a part of the Heavens which no man had seen, and shown Paul things which no man had ever seen. I believe for the same reason: Paul, who would suffer so much, would need this strength and encouragement to make it through. By knowing the end, he could make it through the middle. I believe that it is the same way with us. Isn’t it so much “easier” to struggle through hard times now, when we know what the results of our struggles will be? I say this knowing that there is just no way I can image the pain, torture, and persecution which so many of the founders of the early church went through. I also say this knowing that most of us just can’t image the pain, torture, and persecution which Christians are suffering in other parts of the world right now. How can they make it? By knowing the end, regardless of the middle.

God knows that by showing you the end result, how things will turn out, it will encourage, even enable us, to go through what is always the toughest part of any work: The beginning, the middle, the “now.”

We’ll continue these thoughts next time.

Blessings,
R.V.R.
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Haggai: Two Chapters, Three Words, Major Message: Part Four

Who would have thought we’d be at part 4, and we’re still in the first chapter!?

We closed Part Three with encouragement to allow ourselves to submit to God’s will. And, if we’ll do that, He will “stir us up” and allow us to do great things. That both understanding and obeying God’s will for our lives will always bring action. God never moves without a purpose, and, along the way, God will “stir frequently.”

Make no mistake: To serve God, to submit to God, to do the work He has called us to do-it takes work. Hard work. And, it is work we must be willing to do. Then (in Haggai’s time), just like now, if God calls you to do a certain work, He will give you the strength and help to do that work to which He has called you. It is true that “where God guides, He provides.” And I have learned this over the years: God rarely calls us to do something that doesn’t require the help of others. God will always provide the people and resources to help you accomplish His goal. Once again, note the wording: It is His goal, His work we are called to do … not ours! Jesus said that “I must be about my Father’s business” (Luke 2:49). True … if we are in the center of God’s will for our lives … just as Jesus was … “His business” will be “our business.”

Once again, what God calls us to do, He will give us the power to do. When God commands, He enables.

But, first, you must be willing to do the work. In Haggai 2:2, three times God says to “be strong.” As we see in this verse, God’s command applies not just to government and spiritual leaders, but “be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the LORD, and work: for I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts.” So often, we want all that God has for us, but we aren’t willing to do the work which many of His blessings and promises require. My Pastor used to say that, often, we are more interested in what is in God’s hand than in what is in God’s heart.

Let’s look at this phrase, “promises of God:” If God makes you a promise, He never forgets that promise. Ever. In Haggai 2:5, God confirms that He is true to His Word-regardless of when, or how long ago, that promise was made: “According to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not” (Haggai 2:5).

Please allow me to say again one of my most important teachings on the promises of God … and why it is ok for you to keep reminding God of them: It’s ok to keep reminding God of a promise He made to you, and here’s why: It’s not so that He won’t forget … It is so that you won’t forget!

If God has made a promise, yes He will “move Heaven and earth” to make that promise come true! Proof? The promises made to the Jews at the time of Haggai directly involved re-building the Temple in Jerusalem, with an eye toward the future. See, God’s direction is, yes for now, but it will always involve His will for the future. That’s why so many of the prophecies made by the Old Testament prophets were in 2 or 3 stages: Many involved the immediate future, the not-too distant future, and the distant future. God sees the future … that’s why we can so easily trust His Word and promises to us … about the “now.”

Back to God moving Heaven and earth: Here’s what God said in Haggai 2:6-7: “For thus saith the LORD of hosts; Yet once (once more), it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house (the Temple) with glory, saith the LORD of hosts.”

Today, we touched on God’s promises. Next time, we’ll talk about God’s vision.
In closing, whenever I read God’s command for us to “Be strong,” always coupled with the fact that He will be with us, I think back to God’s promise to Joshua: “There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Be strong and of a good courage … Only be thou strong and very courageous … that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest … Have I not commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest” (Joshua 1:5-9).

Just this week, I have seen these very words fulfilled in my life. God can be believed, and He can be trusted. I’ll leave you with this verse from Isaiah, which I saw fulfilled before my very eyes just a few days ago. A verse I held onto while going through a real test … a verse I trusted in … because I trusted in the One who made the promise:
“Behold, they shall surely gather together, but not by me: whosoever shall gather together against thee shall fall for thy sake.”

Blessings,
R.V.R.
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Haggai: Two Chapters, Three Words, Major Message: Part Three

Next to Obadiah, the book of Haggai is the shortest book in the Old Testament. With a total of 38 verses, it is the only book which contains a total of 2 chapters.

God always provides a way-regardless of the national political circumstances-for His will and purposes to be accomplished. Haggai was the first of the prophets to minister to Israel following the Jews’ return from captivity by the Babylonians. The Persians had defeated the Babylonians, who had destroyed Solomon’s Temple (under Nebuchadnezzar), in 586 B.C. The Persian king, Darius, was kind to the Jews, allowing them to return to their homeland, and then, allowing them to rebuild the temple.

Here is the situation the Jews were in: Because of their lifestyle, they did much … but had little. Haggai said it this way: “Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes” (1:6). Nothing they did worked out. Why? “Consider your ways” (1:7).

When we understand God’s Word, and His will for our lives, it will always bring action. It will always motivate us to do something. We often read that the first word in “Gospel” is “go.” As we see from Haggai 1:8, when we “go,” when we do God’s work, when our motivation is right, when we are obedient to God’s Word, “I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified.”

In 1:9, we see why God wasn’t pleased: Because the Jews were more concerned with their own will, their own wants, than with what God wanted. Their focus was their own will, not God’s will. The same battle which rages today, which Jesus overcame in the Garden, was the same battle and struggle in Haggai’s time: Their will, not His. If God is not the head of your house/home, then your home is not a sanctuary. This explains why so many people are miserable “at home.” Haven’t we all experienced that co-worker who always arrives at work miserable … and whose intent seems to be to make everyone else miserable around them? Here is the way I always explain it: “They were miserable when they got here.” If God is not head of your home, it won’t be the calming sanctuary it was meant to be … and which your workplace was never meant to be. Haggai explains that “Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it (blew it away). Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of my house that is waste (in ruins), and ye run every man unto his own house” (1:9).

The result? “Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from (withholds) dew, and the earth is stayed from (withholds) her fruit” (verse 9). When we don’t seek and do God’s will for our lives, the result is drought and famine.

It is remarkable to me how the people responded to this message from Haggai. They listened to God’s Word, spoken through His prophet, and obeyed God’s message! Verse 12 says that “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 did fear before the LORD.” We all know what happened when they did their own will instead of God’s … but, what happened when they listened, then responded to God’s Word, and began to do the work which God called them to do?
“I am with you, saith the LORD” (1:13). What a great encouragement to us today! When we obey the Word of God, and do His will-and not our own-“I am with you.”

As we read the book of Haggai, we see that it was not only the citizens who responded to God’s message … it was also the government and religious leaders! Wow! We see this throughout the book, and in the verses (1:1, 12,14) we’ve already studied. Want real change? Need we say more?

To close, here is more encouragement for us: When we submit to God’s will … He will “stir us up” and allow us to do great things. Understanding and obeying God’s will for our lives will always bring action. Verse 1:14 says that “the LORD stirred up … the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and did work in the house of the LORD of hosts, their God.”

Blessings,
R.V.R.
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Haggai: Two Chapters, Three Words, Major Message: Part Two

Haggai urged the people to put rebuilding the Temple at the very top of their list of priorities. When we “consider” the 3 important words of Haggai’s message, “Consider your ways,” I think of how important these three words are to us today. Where are we going? Why are we going? And, perhaps the most important question we can ask ourselves … “How did we get here?” “Where we are” just doesn’t happen by accident. “Where we are” is a result of a series of decisions, tied together in succession, all leading us to “where we are” today. I believe that when our priorities change … our lives change. Unfortunately, it is only after we do things our way, that after we “mess things up,” that we then, and usually only then, “Consider our ways.” We look at “what happened;” what actions we took, which resulted in “where we are.” And … it is usually … only then … we start to examine our priorities … and, start to change them. As our priorities change … our lives change. As we see from the example in Haggai, and as we look at our lives, and the lives of others, we plainly see that changing priorities can be either good, or bad.

When Haggai urged the people to put the Temple at the very top of their list of priorities, this showed the importance of worship, and gives us the same message: To put worship at the top of our list of priorities. Of all the things which God desires for us, it is to have an intimate, personal relationship with Him. We can’t have this relationship with God without worship. Worship begins with recognizing God for Who He is, and What He is. When we fully realize Who He is … What He is … we will then begin to realize who we can be-through Him … the natural reaction to this realization is for us to worship Him.

Notice also that the first step for the Jewish people, upon returning to their native land after being released from Captivity, was to build the Temple … their place of both worship and sacrifice. When Haggai arrived on the scene, he had a clear, distinct message, which is just as true today as it was in Old Testament times: Ready for this? National adversity is the result of national disobedience to God. Yes … that does explain-fully-a lot of things …

Two times, in chapter 1, God gives us the best advice for “turning things around:”
“… Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways” (Verses 5, 7).
Of all that I have gotten from this study of the book of Haggai, this was the major lesson for me, and I “got it” the very first time I read the first chapter. When things aren’t going well … when everything we do turns out wrong …nothing, and I mean nothing good seems to be happening … THIS IS THE ANSWER: “Consider Your Ways.” Chances are the reason things have changed is because our priorities have changed. And, the way to bring change in those circumstances, is to first “Consider our ways,” and then change our priorities.

When we “Consider our ways,” I’ve learned that, often, it is what I don’t do which is just as important as what I do. Sometimes, that “peace which is beyond all understanding,” which I have at the end of the day, has as much to do with what I didn’t do today-as what I did do today.

We learn that blessing from God depends upon obedience. We must put ourselves in a position to be blessed. In just 2 chapters, Haggai has the “Consider” command 5 times. We read it in 1: 5, 7, 2:15, and two times in 2:18.

Here are the definitions of the word “Consider:”
1. To think about (something or someone) carefully especially in order to make a choice or decision.
2. To think about (something that is important in understanding something or in making a decision or judgment).
3. To think about (a person or a person’s feelings) before you do something in order to avoid making someone upset, angry, etc.

Yes, I did go back and read # 3, and how it pertains especially to obedience.
Because of the consequences, Haggai 2:15 and 2:18 both make this statement: “Consider now from this day and upward (forward) …”

It is interesting to note that Jeremiah, who warned against the coming captivity, and then became a captive, said this in Lamentations 3:40, a thought that continued to echo throughout the pages of both the Old and New Testaments: “Let us search and try (examine) our ways, and turn again to the Lord.”

Blessings,
R.V.R.
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