Haggai 1: 5 - 11
Have you ever been through an experience that God used to arrest your attention? It might have been stress - the loss of someone you love - a sin exposed in your life - getting laid off from a job - a relational rupture - money worries - family friction or just a general sense of frustration. We’re going to learn today that dissatisfaction is designed to lead us to find satisfaction in God alone.
Sometimes we suffer when we’re doing what’s right. We’re called to trust God through the circumstances, no matter what happens. Sometimes we suffer because we’re doing something wrong. God may allow bad things to happen so that we turn from bad things. God loves you too much to let you keep going the wrong way.
Let’s put our text in historical context again. Because of their deliberate disobedience, the Babylonians destroyed Judah and God’s people were captured and brought to Babylon to live. Many of God’s prophets predicted this captivity would last for 70 years after which God’s people would be allowed to go back home.
2 Chronicles 36: 22, 23“Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing: Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the LORD his God be with him. Let him go up.’”
After this decree 50000 Jews returned to Judah, rebuilt the altar and began offering sacrifices. 2 years later they finished the foundation of the Temple. It’s difficult for us to know how important the temple was - The temple is where heaven and humanity met. But then they stopped working and honed in on their own homes for 16 years. Haggai comes on to tell them to put God at the centre of their lives and get back to work.
Let’s see what God has for us in these verses -
1. Pause and Ponder v. 5
God again refers to himself as the LORD Almightyin order to get their perspective back to where it should be.Simply put, they had lost their view of God as big and mighty. We need to recapture how mighty and majestic He really is because when our understanding of God’s immensity slips, we allow other things to overshadow Him. Instead of praising Him, they were living for their own pleasure.
After reminding them of His immutable immensity, God says “Give careful thought to your ways…” This is the major message of the book and is unique to Haggai, occurring 5 times in 2 chapters.It has the idea of inspecting, ruminating and reflecting. To use more popular language, we’re to think about why things stink in our lives. NLT -“Look at what’s happening to you!”
That’s not easy to do, is it? This is especially the case when we’re surrounded with mindless pursuits and shallow thinking. Have you ever thought about what the word “amusement” means? To “muse” means to think and when the letter “a” is put in front it means to “not think.”
Have you become so bored you’ve stopped bringing your mind to bear on things? Let’s be honest. Most of us are experts in considering the ways of others but not so much in considering our own ways. It’s easy to slam someone else while excusing ourselves. But God says: “Consider your ways.”He’s calling each of us to engage our minds and do a serious inventory, much like we’re instructed to do before communion - “Let a person examine himself.”If we don’t, we’ll default to living for ourselves and not for the Almighty.
“The Christian Atheist” - Craig Groeschel suggests that many Christians believe in God but live as if He doesn’t exist. Let’s pause and ponder right now as we soak up some other Scriptures.
• Lamentations 3: 40“Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord.”
• 2 Corinthians 13: 5“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves…”
Dissatisfaction is designed to lead us to find satisfaction in God alone. After pausing and pondering, God calls His people to go deeper by looking at what’s happening and learning from it.
2. Look and Learn v. 6
This is what happens when we don’t put God first. God hit their agriculture and their economy hard. The message is clear – we will never find satisfaction until we find our satisfaction in Him. There was a lot of action but they could get no satisfaction.
The phrase “you never have enough,” means that they never experienced abundance or satisfaction. God is saying something like this: “However much you have is never going to be enough; whatever you do turns to dust; however hard you try you are not satisfied; whatever work you do tastes like ashes in your mouths.”
God was assigning their affliction in order to get their attention. This frustration was seen in the 3 basic needs of life – food, water, and clothing. This led to futility because whatever they thought they had disappeared like money put into pockets with holes in them. It was like a double curse. They brought little home and then it leaked out of their wallets.
Friend, if God is not at the centre of your life, even if you get what you think you need it won’t be enough. Micah 6: 14“You shall eat, but not be satisfied, and there shall be hunger within you.”
God not only understood their circumstances; He was the One who arranged them. Sometimes God gives us what we crave so that we’ll experience some consequences, with the ultimate goal being that we turn back to Him. Psalm 106: 15“He gave them what they asked, but sent a wasting disease among them.”
Dissatisfaction is designed to lead us to find satisfaction in God alone. Let me say it as clearly as I can: If we put our purposes above God’s priorities, we will never get what we’re after. Only God can satisfy your soul. Until you worship the Lord as number one, life won’t work. The more we marginalize Him, the more we live without margin.
v. 9 - Don’t miss who is behind their difficulties. It’s not Satan or a spouse or a neighbour or a co-worker or a classmate. God says, “I blew it away.”God links their situation directly to their sins when He says emphatically, “Because of my house…”They loved being busy with their own business so much so that they stopped doing God’s business. Philippians 2: 21“For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.”
They were absorbed in their own pursuits. This is how Jesus describes the pursuit of pagans in Matthew 6: 31, 32“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek [run after] after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.”
Do you feel like all you’re doing is running around from thing to thing? Have you ever noticed how many times people answer the question, “How are you?” with this phrase, “I’m busy.” It’s like we need to validate our lives by letting people know how busy we are. When people tell me why they haven’t been to church for a while, the number one answer I hear is, “We’ve just been so busy.” Listen. Our busyness can keep us from God’s business. Let me say it strongly: If you’re too busy to regularly gather with God’s people on Sunday, you’re too busy.
v. 10, 11 - God hits their 3 main crops in the 2 main growing seasons – grain, grapes and oil. He also afflicts the animals and the labour of their hands. Listen. God is not doing this because He hates them; He’s doing it because He loves them and longs for them to come back to their spiritual senses.
Let me give an important disclaimer. It doesn’t necessarily mean that because you are having problems that God is punishing you. There’s often not a direct correlation between your suffering and your sin. Just ask Job or Jeremiah.
Having said that, because God loves us so much that when He sees us drifting, His aim in our adversity is to get our attention. If we end up broken and on our knees, that’s a good thing! “Experiences of hardship should always become opportunities for spiritual reflection.”
God cares too much to let you meander through life, pursuing only your own pleasure. As a result, God blew it all away. Drought came because of disobedience. God’s house was in ruins while each was “busy with his own house.”
C.S. Lewis – “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” He blows stuff away and calls for a drought so that we will return to Him. If it seems like what you’ve been chasing has just vaporised before your eyes, if you make money only to find it flowing through holes in your pockets, if you feel like you never have enough, the Lord Almighty may be knocking out the props in your life to get your attention.
Dissatisfaction is designed to lead us to find satisfaction in God alone. It’s not enough to just pause and ponder or even to look and learn. God also wants us to -
3. Go and Get v. 8
The command to “go up”refers to upward motion. It’s time to right what is wrong - go, bring and build. It’s not enough to just say we love God; we must live out our love. Words are good, but actions are better. God wants us to work. The logs won’t come rolling down the mountain on their own. They had to go up and then bring down and then get to work building.
Don’t miss that God had already provided the resources they needed; they just needed to go and get them. That’s encouraging to me - God will provide the resources as we give what He has already given to us.
If you want things to change, how badly do you want to change. If we sort of, kind of…want to get back to where we need to be spiritually, it probably won’t happen. We have to go after God if we want to change because our default setting is selfishness and we’re all prone to procrastination. We always head south if we stay passive. Sometimes we need to go and get resources, seek out help, sign up for counselling, and pursue accountability. If we’re serious about rebuilding our relationships or finding fulfillment or aligning ourselves with God’s purposes, we’re going to have to go and get.
We do this not just so we’re satisfied but ultimately so that God is glorified. We don’t make changes just to get out of our predicament but to please God because when He is glorified, we will be satisfied as well. “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” God finds great pleasure when we give Him His rightful place. He is honoured when we honour Him.
“People who worship God above them will work for justice in those around them.” We must strive for justice in racial matters, justice for the preborn in the womb, justice for the widow and orphan and refugee, justice for those who are sexually trafficked, and justice for those persecuted for their faith. Some of us shy away from standing against injustice but here’s what God says in Micah 6: 8“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Our worship must lead to work. Our faith must be lived out through our feet. What we proclaim with our lips must be fleshed out in our lives. If we’re saved, we will serve. Love for God must lead to love for neighbour.
Let’s refuse to displease or disgrace God. His name and His fame should be what we proclaim. We’re not in the practice of reciting creeds or confessions but I love the profound simplicity of the Westminster Shorter Catechism: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”
Too many of us just give God part of our life, like a cake that is cut up into different slices – my social slice, my job slice, my family slice, my hobby slice, my school slice, my retirement slice, my sports slice…oh, and my spiritual slice. God doesn’t want a slice of your life; He deserves and demands the whole cake. I don’t know what’s worse – deliberately disobeying God or not giving Him first place in my life.
Has God got your attention? Is there an area of neglect you need to address? Is there a sin to confess? Is there something God is calling you to do that you’ve been delaying to obey Him in? Delayed obedience is disobedience.
Psalm 119: 59, 60“When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to your testimonies; I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments.”
“I Will Follow”