The Old Testament, don’t you love it? We should at least since it’s a part of God’s Word. Many people these days try to focus on the New Testament more since they think it’s easier to understand. “Jesus came to set aside the old way of the law, right? Why should we worry about the Old Testament?” They’d be happy with five books out of the Old Testament and that’s it: Genesis, Psalm, Proverbs, Ruth, and one more, like Jonah or Esther. They’re missing so much! The point is there’s a lot to be learned from the Old Testament, and it’s too bad it gets overlooked so often.
Read Haggai 1.
Now for what we’ll be focusing on today. The nation of Judah had been in captivity for seventy years (see Jeremiah 29:10) and had recently been released to go back to their country. The territory of Judah was in a state of ruin when they first got there, but at the time Haggai wrote this, the people had done a fairly good job at building their homes and were trying to settle back down. But they forgot something extremely important.
The people of Judah had forgotten about the Lord’s house, the necessary place of worship at the time. This was where the people would offer sacrifices and meet with God. God says in verse 2 that the people were saying, “The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house.” But He then immediately asks in verse 3, “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” The people hadn’t just waited until they got their tents put up or some kind of temporary housing; they were living in “paneled houses,” nice houses. They were even working to grow their harvests and reach a level of comfort where they were. But it would never work and they were never satisfied because the people had put off doing God’s work and were trying to advance their own work. We should always keep God’s concerns first in our lives, and He will take care of our needs. If you look at Matthew 16:23, you can see that Jesus rebuked Peter for having his own concerns in mind instead of God’s concerns also.
Then the Lord sent word to Haggai the prophet to show the people what they were doing. The people had been putting themselves first for so long they couldn’t even tell it was a problem anymore. Do we ever do that? The Lord tells them to give careful thought to what they were doing and the result of it. They worked for themselves but were never satisfied. Verse 6 even gives examples of all the ways they were working but failing to succeed. In verses 10-11, God tells them that He was the One keeping them from being prosperous because they had not rebuilt His house. God’s discipline here actually also works as His protection. God is God and is the only One Who can save, and He loved His people. He wanted them to return to Him, but would they have turned to Him again if everything went their way? Would they have remembered God or relied on Him if they didn’t realize He was the One giving them success or defeat? In Matthew 19:23-24, Jesus tells us how hard it is for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. The people probably would not ever return to God if He did not discipline them.
When the people realized the magnitude of what they were doing, they obeyed the Lord’s message and feared God. God then reminded and assured them that He was with them, even after what they had done. God stirred up the spirits of everyone, even their leaders, and they worked on the Lord’s house. Do you wonder what that looked like, this group working for the Lord? As it says in Zechariah, “So he said to me, ‘This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord Almighty.’” (Zechariah 4:6) This is the message an angel gave the prophet Zechariah to give to Zerubbabel. We can only live for God by the power of His Spirit, not by our own strength, and the Holy Spirit gives us the power we need. So the people began rebuilding the Lord’s house.
There are many things we can learn from this passage, but three in particular are: we need to keep God’s concerns ahead of our own, God disciplines us for our own protection because He loves us and knows what’s best for us, and we can only live for the Lord by the power of His Spirit. We need to give God the control in our lives to put His agenda first, above our wants, stubbornness and weakness. He will supply what we need if we make Him the Lord (Master) of our life.
Lord thank You that You are here with us and active among us. Thank You that You love us and care about us. Please help me put Your will above mine. Please help me accept and learn from Your discipline. And please help me surrender all to Your Spirit and let Him live through me instead of trying to do it on my own. Please show me my constant need for You and help me humbly depend entirely on You. In Your Son Jesus Christ’s Name i pray. Hallelujah! You are truly Master of all, and You love us! You are powerful enough and omnipotent! Hallelujah! Amen.