Haggai 2: 15 - 19
Have you ever asked questions like this: Is it really worth it to follow God? Why am I still struggling so much when I’m trying to do what’s right? I’m trying to obey but why isn’t God blessing me?
After returning from exile in Babylon, God’s people have been tasked with rebuilding God’s Temple. They eagerly laid the foundation but because of opposition and their own selfish priorities, they stopped working for 16 years. Haggai was called on the scene to mobilize the people to get back on the job. After putting God back at the centre of their lives, they went to work doing what they were called to do. But now it’s been 3 months since they started the rebuilding project and frankly the people are wondering where God’s blessing is.
READ - Today is the day I will obey!
As we walk through the passage 3 words will become evident and we’ll see that the order is really important – most of us won’t return to the Lord until we first reflect. And we can’t receive blessings from Him until we reflect and return.
Haggai is picking up on a theme that he hammered home in the 1st chapter as once again the people are told to “consider” how they’re living. This is really the major message of the book and is unique to Haggai, occurring 5 times – v. 15 and twice in v. 18. NLT - “Look at what’s happening to you!”
God knows that his people are going to get distracted during Haggai’s sermons (imagine that) so He uses “consider” as an attention-getting device.
Are you aware the average person sees between 4000 and 10000 ads every day? Because we’re bombarded with constant information and infinite distractions, whatever captures our attention has a lot of power over us.
The average attention span in 2000 was 12 seconds. By 2013, the length of time we pay attention dropped to 8 seconds, which is a second less than a goldfish!
Marketers and advertisers are constantly trying to get our attention. Have you noticed when you watch a YouTube video that another one is cued up to auto-play, using algorithms that know what you like, along with the ads companies are trying to get you to watch? Netflix is designed to get us to binge watch, with subsequent episodes automatically playing within seconds. While marketers use algorithms to get our attention, the Almighty God often uses hardship to get our attention.
v. 15, 16 - Haggai is asking them to carefully consider how life was working out when the Lord was not at the centre of everything. For almost 2 decades, they focused only on themselves and things fell apart. The grain harvest was down 50% and the grape harvest was down 60%. God brought His discipline because they were chasing the wrong things. God’s people were not proud of their past. Some of you can relate to this.
v.17 - God was behind this - No matter how much they persisted, they were still plagued with problems. Blight came from the east winds that whipped out of the desert while mildew came from the moist Mediterranean winds from the west. On top of that, hail came down from heaven, which crushed what was left of the crops.
Consider this…God’s people should have known that these disasters were coming on them because of disobedience.
v. 18 the people are told “to consider” twice. God was calling them to focus not on the time they had stopped working but to remember the day they started to work again. This is a good word for us. Instead of staying locked into the pain of the past and being suffocated with shame, remember how far you’ve come. Think about the things you are doing right instead of the ways you previously went astray.
“I wish you could see my now. I wish I could show you how…I’m not who I was.”
Consider this…Hooray, today is the day I will obey!
The first step is to reflect - the second is to –
Why were hard times happening? Was it because God just arbitrarily likes to punish people? God’s purpose in their problems was ultimately redemptive. He was trying to get their attention so that they would reflect and then return to Him. Remember God disciplines us in order to disciple us; He sends hard times in order to grow us in holiness; and adversity is ordained in order to get our attention.
But even with all their struggles, they didn’t fully surrender. v.17b - It’s interesting that even though their hands were back at work, their hearts were far away.
Consider this…The issue is always the heart. Psalm 51: 17 “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” So many of us are just so stubborn, aren’t we? God may be trying to get our attention through afflictions but we refuse to return to Him. We’re often stiff-necked and hard-hearted.
Let’s soak up some Scriptures and ask God to shake some things loose in our souls:
Isaiah 9: 13 “The people did not turn to him who struck them, nor inquire of the LORD of hosts.”
Let’s not be like King Ahaz who went south spiritually when tough times came: 2 Chronicles 28: 22 “In the time of his distress he became yet more faithless to the LORD”
How about you? Do you become more faithful or more faithless when you go through trouble?
Consider this…Today is the day I will obey!
Are you ready? Will you reflect and then return so that you can –
We will receive but it won’t always be on our timetable or in the ways we expect – v. 19a. There was not much seed in the barn because they had planted it in the ground, hoping for a harvest that would be bountiful. It takes faith to plant seed, doesn’t it? After experiencing 16 years of poor harvests, the people could have just stopped planting and stored up the seed in their barns. Instead, they took this precious seed and put it in the ground. It would be months before they would see a harvest, if any.
Psalm 126: 5, 6 “Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.”
We do that as parents and grandparents, don’t we? We plant when our kids are younger, hoping they’ll be able say, “I’ll obey” when they’re older.
v. 19b - These 4 crops were essential to their economy - involving food (fig tree), drink (vine), dye (pomegranate) and fuel (olive tree) v.19c – “But from this day on I will bless you.” Let’s unpack this phrase:
Point in time – “But from this day on…” Since they decided to obey today, the focus is on the future. The past is now behind them so they can move from lamentation to celebration. Since the foundation is now laid, they can move into the future with hope. This is a turning point for them, even if they don’t feel it.
- Person – “I…” means that God Himself will do this.
- Promise – “I will…” refers to the certainty that what God says He will do.
- Purpose – “bless…” God’s purpose is to bless. This is the first use of the word “bless” in the book.
- Personal – “you...” God loves you and cares about you and wants to personally bless you.
8 truths about blessings from the Bible -
1. Blessings begin the moment we obey. Some of us think we’re too far-gone so we just give up. We’re in such a deep hole that we don’t think it’s possible to ever see the light again. Maybe you’re thinking something like this, “What’s the use? Why bother trying? Things will never be different.” Listen. As soon as you obey, blessings begin...though they might not come in ways you expect.
2. We are blessed when we obey but we don’t always see it right away. After delaying for 16 years they had finally started to rebuild the temple. But they had a long way to go and their fields were still barren. It’s now the month of December and they won’t see any harvest until May or June. It takes time.
3. Do the next right thing. Sometimes we do suffer because of sin. If you’re in a mess today through some decisions you’ve made, just remember that you didn’t get that way overnight. You got there by taking a thousand steps in the wrong direction over a long period of time. Therefore, don’t be surprised if it takes quite a few steps to get your life back in order again. If you’ve ever dieted or started an exercise program, you know that results are not immediate, but the steps you take are often rewarded. Discipleship has been defined as a long obedience in the same direction.
4. Consequences will still come. Just because you’ve returned to God doesn’t mean that He will take away all the consequences. You can be forgiven but mistakes can still mess with us years later. Turning to God does not immediately undo the results of our rebellion. Some of you know exactly what I mean.
5. The harvest will come eventually. Gardeners and farmers understand this principle. You don’t plant today and then harvest tomorrow. Historically it took God’s people 4 years to finish rebuilding the temple. But by starting to rebuild they were planting fresh seed in the ground. Things often look bleak before God brings His blessings. God loves to do much with our little.
Seed is meant to be sown. “Harvest Principle” - Galatians 6: 7 - 9: “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
6. If you want to be blessed then honour God with your giving. I’ve been reflecting on Proverbs 3: 9, 10 as I pray about our finances and our renovation plans: “Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the first fruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.”
7. If you are a born again believer, you’ve already been blessed. Once you put your faith in Jesus Christ, you really don’t have to beg God to bless you…because He already has.
8. We are blessed in order to bless others. Genesis 12: 2: “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.”
Are you ready to reflect, return and receive? Will you say, “Today is the day I will obey!”
Maybe you need to make today the day you decide to…
- Surrender - Get baptized - Forgive someone - Begin giving