In the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet: “Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to all the remnant of the people, and say, ‘Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes? Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts, according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not. For thus says the Lord of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts. The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.’ ” Haggai 2:1-9, ESV.
The temple, the place where God dwelt with His Old Testament people Israel, had fallen on hard times. Those who knew it in its former days of glory could testify to this fact. God commands Israel and her leaders, “Be strong . . . Work, for I am with you . . . Fear not.” How can He ask this of them? He answers that question, “I will fill this house with glory . . . in this place I will give peace.” Instead of longing for the past, they are to get to work and trust God for the results.
Some say that the New Testament church, the body of Christ indwelt by God’s Spirit, has fallen on hard times. Many long for its greater glory from bygone days. In this internet age, some have even found a way to make a living bemoaning the state of the church. It is time for the New Testament people of God to consider and apply the words God spoke to His people through the prophet Haggai.
The right response to struggle in the church is not despair or finger-pointing. It is trusting in the Spirit of God that dwells among us for strength and fearlessly getting to the work God has called us to. What is that work? It is making disciples, incorporating those disciples into the fellowship of the church, and teaching them how to follow Jesus (Matthew 28:16-20). It is time to stop feeling sorry for ourselves because our circumstances are less than ideal and to start pointing people to Jesus. We, like Israel of old, can trust that God will be faithful. He will one day fill His church with glory and settle her in peace.
Today I am praying that this will be the day when we will all turn our eyes upon Jesus, get busy pointing others to Him, and start trusting God for the results!
Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, 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. Then Haggai, the messenger of the Lord, spoke to the people with the Lord’s message, “I am with you, declares the Lord.” And 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. And they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God, on the twenty-fourth day of the month, in the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king. Haggai 1:12-15, ESV.
The people had been told to look at their indifference toward the work of God and consider their ways. In response, they feared and obeyed God. Consequently, God stirred up the spirit of the leaders and the people and they began the work. Temple construction got underway!
The progression is important. The fear of God and obedience to God’s command to “Consider your ways” arouses a commitment to do the work of God. This is a good start, but it is not enough. For them to actually accomplish the work of the Lord, it was necessary that God be with them and stir up their spirit. It took a divine operation of the Word of God upon their hearts to get them out of their paneled houses, and down to the temple construction site. They were enabled to get to work once God lit a fire under them.
We can relate, can’t we? Maybe you took to heart the rebuke to “Consider your ways” from Haggai 1:5-7. You understand that you are guilty before God for not pursuing His will and doing His work. You may have even decided to change. But you woke up this morning with the same schedule and the same daily priorities you had before you considered your ways. What to do? Let today’s passage send you to your knees. It is time to pray to the God who calls you to the work—to pray that He will stir up your spirit. Acknowledge your dependence on Him and ask Him to change your heart.
I will join you in that prayer. May God light a fire under us all, for our good and His glory.
“Thus says the LORD of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the LORD.” Then the word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now, therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways. 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. “Thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways. Haggai 1:2-7, ESV
Things were bad in Israel. It was a bad year for the farmers: much planting and little harvesting. This agricultural failure led to a lack of sufficient food and wine on the table. Their clothes could no longer keep them warm because there was not much insulation on their bones. The farm problem had hit the rest of the economy such that nobody had money in their wallets. It sounds like nature had been unkind.
But when God who reigns over nature speaks through His prophet, He bookends the description of calamity with a command to “Consider your ways.” The people have devoted themselves to their own wealth and comfort (paneled houses) and forgotten their relationship with God (the house of the Lord remains unbuilt). Thus, in verses 9-11, God explains, “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. Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast, and on all their labors.” Their suffering is punishment for sin.
This is not the condemnation of a secular nation. It is a rebuke of the people of God. Thus, as we look to apply this passage, we do not read it nationally but as the church. And in light of current events, this may be that this is the time for the body of Christ to consider her ways. Are we paneled house people or house of God people? Have we invested in the American dream or in the kingdom of God? Are we bemoaning our fate when we should instead be trusting in an all-powerful God?
My prayer today is that we, the people of God, will reflect on the sovereignty of God, admit the possibility of divine judgment, consider our need for repentance, and recommit to the work of the Lord.
So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts. Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible. Ephesians 6:21-24, ESV.
This is the close of Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church. What a gift it is to have these last few sentences. Paul was not just a superhero missionary or the church's foundational theologian—though he was those. Paul was a Christian who loved the church. He cared deeply about his brothers and sisters in Christ.
Paul, after dealing with the deity of Christ, the gracious nature of the gospel, and matters of ethics, expresses his love in this farewell paragraph. But that is not all. He cares so much about his personal relationship with his brothers and sisters in Ephesus that, unable to go himself, he sends one of his best ministry partners to them. He wants them to know more about his situation and to be encouraged in their situation.
Theology matters greatly. Even so, theology is at its best when it inspires expressions of love for the saints. As Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). When our theology includes the belief in a God who loves us, we love one another. And there is nothing more loving to offer the saints than this: the peace, grace, and love of God.
My prayer for you today? “Peace be to you, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with you who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.”