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.


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.”


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.



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 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.”



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

Here we go … For reasons I didn’t know at the time, “from out of nowhere,” God laid it on my heart to study the book of Haggai. Haggai? Who???
So, I started to read the book of Haggai. I had read the book many times, as I have read through the Bible, but, somehow, the richness of the book had eluded me. Why Haggai? Why now? As I read, I kept thinking, “Why didn’t I see all of this before?”

What I discovered was a remarkable book of Scripture, and what really surprised me was how many “Major” lessons there were in this little book of only 2 chapters. Lessons that are just as real and meaningful and helpful today, as they were when they were written. Which really explains how wonderful the Bible is, how remarkable it is, and how important it is for us today. Haggai is considered one of the “Minor” prophets, but the lessons we learn from the book are “Major.”

Haggai has been called “The Prophet of the Temple,” and we’ll discuss that shortly. He was a colleague of the prophet Zechariah, as we read in Ezra 5:1 and 6:14. In brief, Haggai proclaimed the word of God to the Jews, and as happens today … when we heed God’s word … “they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai” (Verse 14).

The time is 520 B.C. As God’s spokesman, Haggai encouraged the captives who had returned to Jerusalem to complete the reconstruction of the Temple. Yes, this was “Solomon’s Temple,” which had been destroyed, and was still in ruins in Jerusalem. The work on the Temple had started after the first exiles had returned from captivity in Babylon, but the work was soon abandoned-because of discouragement and oppression. Things haven’t changed. How often do we begin a great work for God-including His greatest work-that of restoring/re-building us … when we get discouraged or oppressed, and the restoration/re-building stops?

Within the 2 chapters of Haggai are 4 distinct messages just as real for us today:
1. To rebuild the Temple (what God wants to do inside of us).
2. To remain faithful to God’s promises.
3. To be holy and enjoy God’s great provision.
4. Keep their (our) hearts set on the coming of the Messiah, and the establishment of His Kingdom.

These 4 messages haven’t changed.
See if this sounds familiar: The Jewish people were held captive by a foreign power. Then, they were released from captivity. At first, they worked diligently at rebuilding the Temple, but, soon, they grew tired of the work-the effort involved-and, they gave up the work altogether.
Sound familiar?
Just as now, when we get discouraged, get tired, and want to quit … God will send someone to encourage us to “get back to work.”
Enter Haggai.

I am reminded again that we are “the Temple.”
God is still in the restoration business! Just as Haggai exhorted the people to re-build the Temple, God is still exhorting us to restore our Temple. And, just like Haggai, God offers sharp rebukes for the neglecting of our Temple. It takes work! And, just like with Haggai, God offers promises to those who will “work at it.” Once again, It Takes Work!

Have things changed since Haggai’s time? How about since the Apostle Paul’s time? Don’t you know, don’t you remember … have you forgotten … have I forgotten …that you … yes you … and me … are the Temple? What??? Me???

Point-blank from Paul: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).
Ouch! But … that may explain a few things. But, it can’t explain why we often forget just who we are “in Him.” In this case, we often forget who He is that is “in us.”
Oh, No! Here’s Paul again: “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Think about this: In speaking of the physical building, the Temple in Jerusalem, Jesus said “That in this place is one greater than the temple” (Matthew 12:6). So, if Jesus dwells in us, lives within us … then one “greater than the temple” is inside of us! Wow! The question still begs to be asked, just as it was in Paul’s time … what foundation is your temple built upon? “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11). It’s still true: A building, any building, even a Temple, is only as good as its foundation.

In Haggai’s time, there was work to be done. But, guess what? The people were more concerned with their own affairs than with the Lord’s work (Haggai 1:4). Did I say in Haggai’s time? Or, in my time? Ouch again!

Before I close, I must address the “Three Words” of which I wrote, which make up what I think is the major lesson I got from the book of Haggai. Those three words are “Consider your ways.” To me, this was the life-changing message which I got-immediately-upon beginning to read the book. I got the message early, and often. These 3 words contain the real “secret” to success or failure: “Consider your ways.” We’ll write more about that later. These 3 words, “consider your ways,” would be echoed often by Paul in his letters, with Paul using the phrase “take heed,” as in “let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon” (1 Corinthians 3:10).

For now, we close with this message of hope, aimed at us, just like it was the audience in Haggai’s time. If we will just do the work … the hard work which is required … and, not give up … stay focused on what God wants to do, especially within us, to our Temple, we have this promise: “Be strong … be strong … be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the LORD, and work: for I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts” (Haggai 2:4).