Haggai: 8 Lessons in Priorities (Part 2)

Posted on February 8, 2018

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By David Ettinger

For those who don’t know, I have been a longtime writer for the magazine Zion’s Fire. Here’s one I wrote from 1999, and felt it would make for a good blog series, to run in four parts. (I freshened it up a tad.) Today, Lessons 3 & 4. Read Part 1: Introduction plus Lessons 1 & 2 here. 

Lesson 3. Blessings of Right Priorities (Haggai 1:12-15)
Man’s Priority: To obey God.

Outcome: The outpouring of God’s Spirit will enable us to do His will.

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One of the rare instances in history when the Israelites united as a nation to obey God is recorded here; and the results are wondrous. “Then Zerubbabel [the governor of Judah] son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and the whole remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the Lord their God and the message of the prophet Haggai, because the Lord their God had sent him. And the people feared the Lord” (1:12).

Sixteen years was long enough! The Israelites had ignored God and the work He gave them to do had suffered. In fact, things had gotten so bad that the Lord had to raise up a man among them (Haggai) to be His spokesman just as He had done in Israel’s pre-exilic days with the likes of Isaiah, Micah, and Amos. With the message made clear and their own living conditions a witness against them, the people acted wisely by fearing God (Proverbs 9:10). There was a new promise of much better things to come.

God’s Priority: To enable His people.

Once the people came around to God’s way of thinking and were ready to obey His wishes, he was ready to make them able to do so. “So the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of the whole remnant of the people. They came and began to work on the house of the Lord Almighty, their God” (1:14, italic added).

The real shame here is that the pouring of God’s Spirit upon the people in order to achieve His priorities came 16 years later than it should have! However, when it did come, the Israelites took hold of it and went to work. As Christians, we must not hinder God’s will for us. As demonstrated in this portion of Scripture, whatever God has in mind for us to do, He will empower and enable us to do it – EVERY TIME. What we cannot do by ourselves, we can do “through him who gives [us] strength” (Philippians 4:13).

Haggai’s Message to Us: When me make God’s priorities our priorities, He works with us every step of the way.

Lesson 4. Disappointment Despite Right Priorities (Haggai 2:1-5)
Man’s Priority: High expectations.

Outcome: Disappointment in ourselves.

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It had taken 16 years, but at last the Israelites were ready to obey their Lord. They set out to rebuild the Temple, and no doubt they had dreams of a structure so glorious and marvelous, it would rival that of Solomon. However, as the Temple began to take shape, it was obvious that this post-exilic house of worship would be nowhere near the scope of Solomon’s awesome creation.

It was difficult for the people who worked so hard to see their labors resulting in what they perceived as mediocrity. This was even more of a reality to the older Israelites, those who were around in 586 B.C., just before the Babylonians destroyed the Solomonic Temple. No doubt some of these elderly men and women shared with their younger countrymen about the magnificence of Solomon’s Temple and how perhaps the new one would be even better. However, it did not take a trained eye to see that what the current crop of Israelites were constructing was no Solomonic Temple. “Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing?” (2:3).

It was God Himself, through Haggai, who brought up the issue. No, He was not rubbing it in, but instead sought to teach His people a greater lesson.

God’s Priority: To comfort His people.

As our Creator, God has far greater understanding of our weaknesses than we do. He knows that, even when we as Christians intend to do well, we often bring too many of our desires and expectations into the picture. We want to save the world. God’s will is to save each soul, one at a time. We want to accomplish great things in His name. God often works in the quietness of our hearts (Isaiah 30:15). We have dreams of grandeur. God seeks humility (1 Peter 5:6). And God certainly was not disappointed in His people. In fact, He sought to encourage them. “… now be strong … all you people of the land,’ declares the Lord, ‘and work. For I am with you …” (2:4).

If the Israelites were beginning to think they had “let down” God by building an inadequate structure, God made clear that they could not be more wrong. So it is with so many Christians today. We want to impress God with our good works and impressive deeds, when all He is seeking are servants with contrite hearts (Psalm 51:17).

Haggai’s Message to Us: See things through God’s eyes and not our own.

Up Next: Lessons 5 & 6.

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