The overall message of this little book is that "O" word again -
God uses different methods to renew our interest in Him. The people in this book were exiles. They had no interest in rebuilding the temple. Somehow their spirits were renewed and they set at the task. So, how does God do that? What can we learn from these two chapters for our lives? Does God renew our spirits when they become complacent, ambivalent, or discouraged? How can He possibly do that?
These people had returned to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon with the challenge of rebuilding the temple. They had begun the work, but somewhere along the line had quit. They became discouraged and downhearted. The rebuilt Temple would not have all the gold and silver it had originally had. The comparison was a "joy killer."
How many times do we begin something full of excitement and even joy, but become discouraged by negative comparisons? Unfinished projects. How many can be found in your life or mine? Can we possibly renew our own resolve to complete the project even knowing it won't be as wonderful as we'd like?
Just as he did with these people, our Father will get our attention. As He did with them, He will get us where it hurts! Uh oh, now am I saying WE have to do something??? Hang in there with me and I promise, there is Light to be seen in this story!
As we read through Haggai, it becomes evident that God is telling these people some very valuable things we can learn and grow from.
God does renew our spirits, and He uses a variety of methods.
That's the wonderful news!
1. He uses a messenger.
He uses human beings as His instrument. Just as He used the prophet Haggai for the exiles, He may use a friend, family member, a teacher, a parent, etc. He will use someone insightful to tap us on the shoulder (spiritually speaking) and remind us of our previous commitment to Him, and to confront us with our neglect to that commitment. That same person will challenge us and stand alongside us with sensitivity and love as he/she holds us accountable. Our responsibility is to listen and obey!
2. He uses a call to personal evaluation.
"Give careful thought to your ways." is repeated many times in this small book. They hit me like a ton of bricks, and keep bouncing off of me as I go through my day. It is a direct appeal to set our hearts on something and to address it so deeply that we won't let the situation stay the way it has always been. Sometimes it's a Word of God through a book we're reading, a TV or radio program, a song, or a word 'fitly spoken" from just the right person at just the right time. It may be a word of exhortation saying, "It's time to make some changes." And we do.
3. He uses adversity to turn people around.
Haggai talks about holes in purses, being cold even when clothed, eating and still being hungry, planting much and harvesting little. Can't we all identify with that? It has been said that adversity is a motivation with teeth in it. It gives an opportunity to respond with obedience and renewed commitment, to develop a spirit of faithfulness and patient endurance, to grow closer to the Lord and to God's people.
4. He uses encouragement to renew our spirits.
Haggai ( as well as Zephaniah) was raised up to encourage these people in the tough times to start their lives all over again. God wants to instill in us a sense of hope and purpose, just as He did in them. You see, we aren't the only ones with unfinished projects! God isn't finished with us yet, and He won't quit until He brings us to a place of putting Him first. Haggai reminded the people that they were working for God's purposes. All the silver and gold in the world already belonged to him (1 Chronicles 29: 14,16; Haggai 2:8) and the Lord did not need a sacrifice, because every animal was already His as well. (Psalm 50:9-10.) Haggai knew that God could provide everything they needed to rebuild the Temple in its original splendor, but He chose to work in a different way. All He asked was for the people to remain faithful.
We need to get our priorities straight - and keep them there. The Israelite exiles excused their inactivity by saying it wasn't a good time for building. God differed with them! What is it we are putting off for the "right time?"
Misplaced priorities rob us of finances and fulfillment. Just as Haggai challenged the people to consider their actions to see why they were broke, unfed and unhappy, God sends us challenges to see why we are not where we want to be. OUCH!
C.S. Lewis says, "You can't get second things by putting them first; you can get second things only by putting first things first." (God in the Dock.) This is wise advice for setting priorities. Unfortunately, it's so easy for us to focus on second, third , fourth, fifth, and even sixth things instead. Our relationship with God has to be first place.
The Temple was not just another church building. This was where sacrifices were made. This was where the people came to meet with God. It symbolized the nation's close relationship with Him. It was not a building at stake. It was their relationship with Him. The Spirit of God did not reside in them as He does in us now. The presence of God was manifested in the Temple. As long as there was no Temple, there was no tangible presence of God. For 16 years the people had left the Temple in ruins and dishonored Him . They failed to meet with Him, because they had failed to rebuild the place that symbolized His presence. At the same time, they had rebuilt their own homes. They put their own goals ahead of His.
God blesses us when we respond by being responsible. When the Israelite leaders responded, God unleashed what He had withheld .
What are we missing out on by our disobedience?
If we go with God, our future can be far greater than our past. Haggai encouraged the people by saying God's blessings on the second Temple would far exceed the first.
God can use us so that we positively impress all we touch. "I will make you like my signet ring." Isn't that what we desire? To be so like Him that His stamp is on all we do?
Oh, Lord, help me live so close to you that I touch everyone with Your love and tenderness. Help me keep my priorities straight giving You first place in my life. Help me see what You are telling me to rebuild. Open my eyes to the unfinished projects for You that I have abandoned out of fear or discouragement.