We live in a culture that is so self-focused and self-driven. We are consumed and preoccupied with our own goals, desires and dreams that we often put God’s will on hold. We seek our own pleasures and comforts, which never seem to satisfy, instead of investing in God’s kingdom, which always provides a rich and bountiful harvest.
God has much to say in the small but impactful book of Haggai, which looks at this very issue of living for oneself versus living for God. The book of Haggai takes places some 18 years after Cyrus conquered Babylon. He issued a decree that allowed the Jews to return to Judea. The Jews returned to their homeland and began settling back into their everyday routine. They were eager and excited to re-establish the lives they left behind. They sought the comfort and amenities that they were accustomed too rather than seeking to rebuild the Lord’s Temple.
“This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: The people are saying, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord.’ Then the Lord sent this message through the prophet Haggai: “Why are you living in luxurious houses while my house lies in ruins? This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Look at what’s happening to you! You have planted much but harvest little. You eat but are not satisfied. You drink but are still thirsty. You put on clothes but cannot keep warm. Your wages disappear as though you were putting them in pockets filled with holes!” (Haggai 1:2-6)
We live in a culture that never seems to be satisfied. People are working long hours and tedious jobs but see little profit or gain. We see that the Israelites were planting much- building luxurious homes, establishing businesses, making a name for themselves, but they were harvesting little- a constant feeling of discontentment and dissatisfaction. How frustrating it is to be in this vicious cycle of putting out maximum effort and receiving minimal gain.
“You hoped for rich harvests, but they were poor. And when you brought your harvest home, I blew it away. Why? Because my house lies in ruins, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, while all of you are busy building your own fine houses.” (Haggai 1:9)
It becomes very obvious that the things we are investing in are the wrong things. They are things that don’t bring honor to the Lord. He does not take pleasure in the things that don’t fulfill His will or build up His Kingdom. The mismanagement of our time and money yields poor returns.
So, we must ask ourselves, what must we do to yield a rich bounty. Well, if we read on in verse 12, it says, “Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the whole remnant of God’s people began to obey the message from the Lord their God. When they heard the words of the prophet Haggai, whom the Lord their God had sent, the people feared the Lord.” (emphasis mine) We are to stop prioritizing our goals, desires and dreams above God’s will. We are to obey what He has called us to do. We must seek His counsel and direction in our lives and choose to walk obediently in His path for us.
When we finally decide to walk in obedience, He will do two things: impart His Spirit and spark enthusiasm. In Old Testament time, the Lord’s Spirit was not always with the people. There were times throughout history that the Lord would impart His Spirit upon them so they could do great things. We see the Lord impart His Spirit upon each of the judges and the prophets throughout the Old Testament. Whenever He called a judge or prophet to do His will, He imparted His Spirit upon them so they would be equipped to unify God’s people and stand against the enemy. The second thing we see is a stirring in the hearts of the people. Throughout history, we see the Israelites stray from God, but whenever they chose to obey Him, He would stir their hearts back to Him. They would flee from slavery, conquer nations, defeat giants, and rebuild the Temple to name a few.
“So the Lord sparked the enthusiasm of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the enthusiasm of Jeshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the enthusiasm of the whole remnant of God’s people. They began to work on the house of their God, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies” (Haggai 1:14)
When we reposition ourselves to hear from God, His voice becomes incredibly audible. We can easily detect and recognize exactly what He has planned for us. We need not hesitate to respond, but should confidently step out in faith. With a boldness and enthusiasm, we can rest-assured that He is with us every step of the way.
My Spirit remains among you, just as I promised when you came out of Egypt. So do not be afraid.’ (Haggai 2:5)
Unlike, the Israelites who had God’s Spirit intermittently, we have His Spirit upon us at all times. In 1 Corinthians, Paul reminds the us, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16) I think we often forget that we have direct access to His Spirit whenever we need it. We are never alone or ill-equipped. He is there to help, encourage, strengthen and guide us. Jesus also promises us the gift of peace: “Peace I leave with you; peace I give to you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27).
As we see in Haggai 2:9, the Lord promises the Israelites this same gift: “The future glory of this Temple will be greater than its past glory, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. And in this place I will bring peace. I, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, have spoken!” In my life, the Lord’s peace has been an ever present blessing. I hold it of greater value than any riches. It is a comfort unlike any earthly possession. The satisfaction and contentment that the Israelites sought after in earthly possessions continually let them down, but the peace of God that transcends all understanding brings about contentment and satisfaction like no other.
The second chapter of Haggai is rich in blessing over the Israelites. In verse 18, the Lord says, “But from this day onward I will bless you.” And in verse 23, He says, “I will honor you, Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, my servant. I will make you like a signet ring on my finger […] for I have chosen you.”
What more could we ask for or seek? To be known and chosen by the Lord is the greatest blessing and riches we can ask for. This truth should make us see our value in His eyes and motivate us to do His will. The book of Haggai encourages us to get our priorities straight, quit worrying and seek His kingdom. We often seek comfort over serving and worshipping Him, but we can choose today to put Him first. God promises to strengthen and guide us through whatever path He lays before us when we put Him first. It is there that we find abundant riches, true contentment and endless satisfaction.
SHARE: What is the Lord asking you to put on hold in your life to prioritize Him first? How has the Lord blessed you abundantly when you walked in obedience to His will?