Friday, December 01, 2006

Consider Your Ways: Thoughts on Haggai 1

“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.” (Haggai 1:2-7)

Our priorities reveal where our hearts are. How many times do I feel like I am simply “spinning my wheels” because I am caught in a rut of self-despair? Not to sound overly dramatic, but inwardly I do feel like I am at a point of self-despair many times. These times often come as a result of my “trying” to do the right thing rather than focusing on the heart issues that drive me to make right and wrong decisions. This method of pursuit will ALWAYS lead to either self-despair or self-reliance and often both. Self-despair births depression and loafing and causes me to neglect the One who has redeemed me from all despair, for “He has caused us to be born again to a living hope” (1 Peter 1:3). Self-reliance stems from an incorrect understanding of who is actually Sovereign in the universe. Self-reliance says that I am in charge, I am in control, and will cause me to be among the number of “some [who] trust in chariots and some in horses” (Psalm 20:7a) even though my Biblical response as a Christian should be to “trust in the name of the LORD our God” (Psalm 20:7b). Self-reliance will eventually lead to self-despair because I will always realize the limitations of my being and find myself quickly disappointed.

The people of Haggai’s day, “in the second year of Darius the king” (Hag 1:1), found themselves in a period of blind self reliance. Either simply unaware or deliberately choosing to ignore their own sinfulness, they found themselves working tirelessly yet yielding little. Trying but failing, reaping and not sowing, eating and drinking but never finding their fill. I can only imagine that discouragement had set in throughout the camp but no one could understand why. Then the Lord speaks with a simple statement, “Consider your ways…” (1:5) and all of a sudden things become clear. The people of Israel had neglected the temple of God. They had focused their attention on their own well-being, establishing their own communities, businesses, and personal affairs. All the while, they had neglected the most important thing about them: their identity as children and worshipers of God. Because of their neglect of the their relationship with God, and their subsequently misplaced priorities they were left with not finding satisfaction in their labors or even in their physical comforts and nourishment. When our relationship with God is neglected, it affects every aspect of our lives.

The Lord later reveals that the heavens “have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce” (Hag 1:10). The people of Israel had limited their receipt of the Lord’s blessings. How often I take for granted the very dew falling to the ground and accomplishing its purpose of watering the earth. How often I take for granted the earth yielding its fruit that finds itself in abundant supply at my neighborhood grocer. Without the Lord’s sovereign hand permitting this action, the earth would be dry, cracked, and dead. Were the Lord to choose to remove His spirit from me, my being would also be dry, cracked, and dead. Thankfully He will not do so, for “if we are faithless, He remains faithful – for He cannot deny Himself” (2 Tim 2:13).

If I am to be sure that my priorites are always in line, I need to understand what God's priorities are. Better said, what is God's priority, for there is one thing that reigns supreme above all others. According to Haggai 1:8 He says that “that I may be glorified.” This grand truth runs marathon throughout the entire counsel of God. In all things, we are to live so that He may be glorified. His glory is of supreme importance to Him and should be for His children as well.

So when I find myself at a point of self-despair, how then should I live? I should first, “Consider [my] ways” (1:5). Is my relationship with Christ and His church right in His sight? Have I been neglecting my duty and delight of worship? Am I spending adequate time worshiping through prayer and study and the communion of the saints? Have I properly resisted the temptation of reducing Him to an object of being studied and seen Him properly as the only One worthy of worship and Who rightfully declares, “I am the first and I am the last; besides Me there is no god” (Isaiah 44:6)? Do I need to repent of my own self-reliance and supposed self-sufficiency? “For you say, 'I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing,' not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (Rev 3:17)

The second thing that I should do is to “[obey] the voice of the LORD” (Hag 1:12). This should be obedience without delay, negotiation, caveat, or blurred interpretation. This may be the most difficult struggle of all . Complete obedience is costly yet rewarding. It will cost me my entire life, but I will gain real life through the process. “ For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” (Mark 8:36).

And now I must ask what promise there is for me if I am to biblically “consider [my] ways” and then “[obey] the voice of the LORD”? The answer is the greatest blessing of all, the promise above all promises. I will get God Himself. Not an angel, messenger, or other lesser vice-president. I will get Him Himself in His fullness, in His glory, and in His majesty, for He directly promises “I am with you, declares the LORD” (Hag 1:13).

Oh that You would be with me! That I would recognize my freedom from self-reliance and surrender myself completely to Your sovereign care! Would it be a great day when I could know You and see not just victory over sin, but the victor Himself (Tit 2:11-14)! Make Your priorities to be mine. Oh that I would be empowered to delight myself in You and have You give me the desires of Your heart (Psalm 37:4). Change my life, my direction, and my purpose to conform to You and Your purposes. That You may take pleasure in it and be glorified (Hag 1:8). O Lord, and may I not harden my heart if I hear Your voice today (Psalm 95:7-8). May today be that day.

**Apparently this is a reoccuring theme in my life (much to my chagrin). See an earlier article here.

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