Haggai New International Version (NIV)
When I was in Seminary a young pastor gave me some of the best advice I have received in my Christian walk. He said, “Get to know God.” Coupled with that advice was the knowledge that this particular preacher would take walks at night to really talk with God and seek out His wisdom. It was the core of his ministry, private and public. He directed me to the attributes of God – His goodness and greatness. One of the things I learned there was that holiness is the foundation of God’s throne. Things like integrity, veracity and compassion matter to God. When I have had to make decisions, these core values have led me. While studying Haggai this month, I have also been in Philippians, hearing Paul exhort us to “know, really know Christ.” Both of those things have helped me hear Haggai’s heart a little better than before.
According to Jack Hayford– Haggai was self-aware. He realized that God was speaking to Him and that He could actually hear His voice. If you write down all the references to God’s word, His voice and His message, it is pretty impressive that Haggai was so in tune with the Lord. That is a rare thing now a days as many soak up devotionals and sermons but few dig into the riches and wealth of God’s actual word.
Although Haggai is only two short chapters long it is packed with wisdom. More than likely Haggai was an Octogenarian – fancy word for old guy. If he had seen the original temple that would place him well beyond these young guys memories. They had passion to press forward but needed the wisdom on how not to repeat the same mistakes. IMAGINE 70 plus years of learning a lesson only to repeat it! Would anyone remember God’s instructions or to put Him as a priority? The value of older people in the congregation cannot be emphasized enough. They bear the glory scars and have seen the larger picture. Haggai was crucial to inspire and remind them that God was the focus. Note that early on we are told that there is a threefold team here – priest, governor and prophet. They work in tandem to get the job done. The people – well, they are a different story because some are clinging to the past, some are too lazy (or self-absorbed) to move into the future and if they had a theme song it would sound like “I can’t get no satisfaction” by the rolling stones.
We can discuss the plurality of the Godhead and enter the debate the scholars have about Haggai or you can just praise the Desire of all nations and know that God likes using all three circles of influence – civil leadership/ governor, church leadership/ priest and spiritual realm/prophet. When one of those elements is missing –God won’t dance, as He likes to work with the full enchilada. It’s just His way – unity, diversity that is holy and honor.
2 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house.’”
We can trust that God hears what we are saying – about Him, His house and one another. For some that is relief and security and for others it is frightening. Nonetheless, still true. I think God said this tongue in cheek. It makes me laugh when I read it because the Sovereign Lord had things to say but they were all listening to one another instead of Him. It’s kind of like organizations on Facebook that make declarations on where they stand on various issues, while the Sovereign God sees/hears from above. When each household is focused on their own interests, it is easy to crowd God out. I found it interesting that God never said not to build their own houses, but merely stated that His house was in ruin. He who created the solar system, the rivers and fields of flowers and could create everything– left His own castle and home up to the hands of mere men. He gave special instructions and stated He would NOT dwell in temples made with hands. What do we build with then? Who will inhabit it ?
The One who is preparing a grand place for you and me or maybe “them and those”, was waiting to see what kind of place they would build for Him. He was having faith in them while waiting to see if they had faith in Him.
In the midst of the work God wanted them to know that He was among them and WITH them. He wanted to give them rest and peace which would come after their obedience. These leaders do not represent just modern leadership –they represent Jesus as He builds HIS kingdom, not a building with walls. I love that in the midst of all the resources, occupations and opinions God sends those who are worshiping Him in first, to do the heavy lifting, breaking down barriers and setting God in His priority – Lord. When we establish altars of prayer and places of lifting God up, we are doing the same and making places where God can come and abide with us.
So back to the earlier mention of God’s throne built on the foundation of Holiness. I know a pastor in Missouri that decided to sell the huge church building for something smaller and it caused a ruckus. His focus on integrity (paying bills, avoiding debt, changing focus to Kingdom giving) was greater than the focus on appearance. It reminded me of Haggai. Zerubbabel’s temple would be much smaller, less grand and absent of ornate design, yet God’s presence would be there. Years later a guy born in a barn amidst smelly cattle would walk in and think it was pretty awesome. This same guys’ early dwelling had a dirt floor, so this new crib was very fancy. It was HIS opinion they were after.
After years of exile Haggai, the seasoned old guy recognized (unlike the young pups) that size doesn’t matter but heart does. After years of being in exile he was weary of missing God and probably desired something that satisfied more than the culture. True satisfaction ONLY comes from God and His Kingdom –and His direction. Although they could not see it then, they were working towards a spiritual structure that would house an eternal King – a Kingdom. Haggai wanted them to build it the right way – unlike they had done before. Priority, choices matter.
I don’t know all the people on Lake street in Minneapolis but as they baptize people in water, I recognize God’s signature. I don’t know what churches they are all from but as they pass out Bibles, I recognize God’s resources. As they partner with various types of gifted people, I recognize God’s way of leadership. They are not sitting waiting for things to return to the way they “once were” but they are actively building a NEW structure that looks like the Kingdom we see in the scripture.
There is much to say about Haggai. The birth line through Jeconiah is fascinating. The contagious defilement of sin and non-contagious holiness debates are thought provoking. However, I’d like to learn from old guy Haggai and be short, so the point isn’t missed:
God’s kingdom is about God’s ways. He has preferences and standards. He likes the plurality of leadership that includes civil, sacred and spiritual. What the people say– isn’t the story of the day, but God’s Word IS. CHOICES MATTER and we can base them on God’s character or popular opinions but those choice have consequence either way. Godly choices direct Godly behaviors and attitudes. Worship, putting God first, building His church and playing well with others is all part of that Kingdom plan.
Choose God and get to know Him. Build His kingdom and start by sending forth the worshippers….