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.



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.”



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.”