The Book of Haggai : Study No 2 Consider Your Ways (1:3-12)

Study No.2   Consider Your Ways (1:3-12)

(Vs.3-4) “Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your panelled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”

Procrastination and taking things easy spiritually speaking is always a danger for the local Body of Messiah when they are living in affluence and are “at ease in Zion.” This was the case of the Israelites living in Jerusalem in Haggai’s day because of their circumstances and their settled and somewhat comfortable lifestyles that God had taken note of concerning their thinking and said “This is what the Lord Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come for the Lord’s house to be built’” and then He said to them through Haggai; “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your panelled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”

God had been patient with them and understood their situation and their reluctance due to comfort and possibly the threat of more opposition as they had experienced in the past yet God was saying “okay you have had a break and there were times that were tough and discouraging however, now it is time to get moving again and finish the work I have called you to do. My House is in ruin and my glory is veiled by your lack of zeal for My House. You have spent enough money on your own houses and live comfortably in them. However the time has come to get busy again, to shake of your spiritual sloth, your fear of opposition and to trust Me again to guide you in all your ways and in the work of building My House!”

Today God is starting to stir the western Body of Messiah, which, for the most part, is living in comfort in the western democracies and many are “at ease in Zion” and yet God is saying in light of the soon return of the Messiah our Lord Jesus that it is time to reorder their priorities and start to engage in the building of God’s Kingdom in seeing many living stones added to the building. Sadly the only way He is starting to do this is through applied pressure from the pagan nations, not only being perpetuated on Israel, but also on Israel’s offspring the Body of Messiah spiritually grafted into the Olive Tree (Israel) (Romans 11:17-18).

The increasing opposition globally that we see coming against Israel is starting to come against the wider Body of Messiah, especially against those assemblies that are persevering in seeking to build God’s kingdom through seeing souls saved to become living stones in God’s spiritual temple and to live according to Biblical standards. In the western democracies there are godless leaders that are introducing legislation that is diametrically opposed to Biblical truth. Not only are the nations engaged in “Israel bashing” but are turning against the wider Body of Messiah spiritually grafted into the Commonwealth of Israel. Of course behind these things is Satan and his spirit beings operating in the unseen spiritual realm just above the circumference of the earth (Job 1:7; 2:2).

Now God uses opposition to galvanise His people into action with powerful supernatural results. We see this in the Book of Acts after persecution broke out against the Body of Messiah after the death of Stephen. We read where; “Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Messiah to them. The crowds with one accord were giving attention to what was said by Philip, as they heard and saw the signs which he was performing. For in the case of many who had unclean spirits, they were coming out of them shouting with a loud voice; and many who had been paralysed and lame were healed. So there was much rejoicing in that city” (Acts 8:4-8). One can only imagine the disastrous effects this had on Satan’s kingdom! The very gates of hell itself could not prevail against what God was doing!

Notice that they preached the Word of God and the blessed Holy Spirit attested to its divine power with miracles, signs and wonders following. Miracles, signs and wonders do not replace the preaching of the Word of God, nor are they substitutes for preaching the Word of God but follow after it (Mark 16:15-18). God’s rebuke that came through Haggai to God’s people was not intended to discourage them but to get them to act on their faith, to trust Him with their future, to deal with their enemies and to complete the work He had ordained for them, namely to build His House, the Temple, so that His people might worship Him and bring glory to Him in the sight of the pagan nations that surrounded them on all sides.

In these last days the time has come for the Body of Messiah by and large in the western democracies to start engaging in the work of serious evangelism and discipleship and investing in people’s spiritual needs instead of seeking to add extensions to their huge church buildings to accommodate the crowds which in many cases primarily warm the pews. When you consider the poverty and disease in third world countries and see the western Body of Messiah for the most part living in the lap of luxury it is little wonder that God’s power is restrained in many churches in the west. There are individual assemblies that are getting results of course but not due to grand buildings, glitzy entertaining worship, motivational preaching using the Bible as a prop with all kinds of so called miracles, signs and wonders and with many ‘ministers’ in skinny jeans and torn tea shirts who cannot rightly divide the Word of God to spiritually feed the soul and the inner spirit man of their respective congregations.

We are not all called to be ministers, missionaries or into full time work, but we can all be involved in the harvest in one on one conversations using the Word of God, or handing out gospel tracts. Some of us, who are not front line workers, can help in church offices where they pack and send out gospel materials and food packages with gospel tracts inside of them to those in need. God wants to use us all in building His house for His glory and His House we are if His Spirit lives and abides in us! (Hebrews 3:6) (Ephesians 2:19-21). The people in the time of Haggai were reluctant builders and were investing in enhancing their private homes while neglecting to build the Lord’s House which lay in ruins from God’s perspective.

Many a minister of the Word of God and their congregations have been gripped by the love of money and for self- aggrandisement and personal wealth and have made shipwreck of their faith and that of those who listen to them. Today we see this in the hyper faith prosperity churches and in those churches that emphasize miracles, signs and wonders and all kinds of ‘manifestations’ they claim are from the Holy Spirit, while neglecting the solid exposition of God’s Word (2 Timothy 4:2-5). Let’s continue…

(Vs.5-6) “Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”

Satan is a past master at wandering thoughts especially when we are seeking to draw nearer to God in times of prayer. God now speaks to His people through Haggai and says to them literally “set your heart upon”; “consider what I am about to reveal to you concerning your ways and the consequences that have accompanied your attitude to your spiritual, priorities before Me.” The expression “consider, set your heart,” is used by Haggai no fewer than four times in this short book, (1:5; 1:7; 2:15; 2:18).  To “set one’s heart” is more than just entertaining thoughts intellectually about the need to change. It is a heartfelt spiritual condition that leads one to scrutinise their thoughts and actions and to have a deep sense of a willingness to change direction. This is the mark of true repentance.

It is to set the compass in the control centre of our lives in the right direction and to sail the ship of our lives and by carefully watching the compass, being His Word empowered by the Holy Spirit keeping it on course with our final destination in view, being that safe harbour that all of us will find when we have served our generation in the will of God as King David did and receive our eternal reward (Acts 13:36).

We will have many distractions, some from our fleshly natures, and some from others, some from Satan especially when we are engaged in times of prayer and sometimes distractions come through our daily activities such as our secular work, or spending a lot of time with family members, which activities in themselves are not wrong or unnecessary, but can become distractions. In Haggai’s time the remnant at Jerusalem had experienced a lack of provisions in every rea of their lives. It invaded their businesses, their crops in the fields, and their harvest of food. The meals had been scarce, they had lacked in clothing to keep warm, but the clothing they had was not have sufficient to keep them warm. Their wages they earned were never sufficient to meet all of their material needs. They were neglecting God’s work.

I believe it was the famous Missionary to China Hudson Taylor who once said; “God’s work done in God’s way never lacks God’s supply.” Serving in the will of God does not automatically bring with it material or financial prosperity. Much of the missionary work today lack finances because the western churches in many cases are spending their money of beautifying their churches while neglecting to support the work of God on the Mission field. To be fair not all churches of course are doing this and those assemblies that give to the mission field above their weekly offerings are blessed by God and never lack funds for the work of God in their local assemblies.

However, many today are building their own empires via the internet. They may be rolling in the money now but the time is rapidly approaching when the wider Body of Messiah into money and somewhat opulent infrastructure will be dismantled by opposition and persecution as we see in those third world countries under the heel of Communism and Islam. In those countries the Body of Messiah does not have much by way of material prosperity but the Lord meets their needs in ways that we in the western assemblies cannot even imagine because we have so much materially speaking. However, things will change!  It also needs to be mentioned that there are genuine ministries that do lack financial support and this is a grievous matter to God and yet those who are in these ministries are still faithful and testify how God does meet their needs for food, clothing, shelter, transport and those who can come alongside to help them in their work.

One of the deceptive ways of thinking to the Jewish people is that wealth is a sign of God’s blessing and one cannot deny the tremendous contribution that the Jewish communities have achieved in the fields of science, technology, medicine, military technology, business, and in finance, because they are the seed of Abraham. However, this is not entirely true as in Torah there are blessings and curses attached to God’s requirements for His full blessing in His Word (Deuteronomy Chapter 28).

God does bless His people materially and financially who walk by faith in Him and seek to do His will. Unfortunately today in most of the hyper faith, have it good in this world mega churches, they, and their ministers, think that wealth is a sign of God’s blessing, a mistake the assembly at Laodicea made and which the Lord Jesus rebuked in the Book of Revelation for being lukewarm in spiritual matters. It was Francis of Assisi, who, when visiting the Pope at the Vatican, the Pope showed him the silver and gold of the papacy in the Vatican treasury at that time. He said to the Pope something like the following; “You can say silver and gold I have in plenty, but you cannot say silver and gold have I none, but in the name of Jesus of Nazareth rise up and walk!” Let’s continue…

(Vs.7-8)” This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honoured,” says the Lord.

Once again the LORD says to His people; ““consider, set your heart, to your ways.” Go up into the mountains and bring down the timber for My house. In Biblical terminology in Old Testament times metaphorically speaking, to go up to Jerusalem was to go up into the presence of God in His temple to worship Him and to consider and embrace His way and His will, and to receive His spiritual and material blessings. To go down from Jerusalem was to walk away from where God resided in His temple and to not have the blessings of God. The people were to go up into to the mountains as a sign of their willingness to complete His work to get the timber God needed for His House. This act of faithfulness would please God immensely and bring Him honour. After all shouldn’t He have the best whether it is out time, our talents, our money and our worship and fellowship with our brothers and sisters around the Word of God and the Communion table? Faith confessed and acted upon always gets richly rewarded by God and pleases Him beyond measure! And then we read…

(Vs.9-11) “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house. Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the oil and whatever the ground produces, on men and cattle, and on the labour of your hands.”

The people had been going up to the mountains to haul timber but for their own houses and not for the house of God. They were very undoubtedly busy in building and feathering their own nests but not in doing God’s work. However, God did not let them get away with this. His issue with them was that His House was in ruin, atrophying while each of His people was busy building their own panelled ‘mansions’ as they were. Today we see this in many mega churches. They may build their huge churches and see prosperity automatically as a sign of God’s blessing but not have the spiritual depth needed to spiritually sustain their ministers and congregations. There are some big churches that are all the time going on about money because they have to repay their mega loans from the bank.

Now in the Word of God when we see dew withheld in the physical ream, it speaks of spiritual drought and the lack of the Spirit’s power. Hence there will be no spiritual fruit for God produced. The drought upon the fields and the mountains indicated a drought or famine for hearing and receiving the nutritious grain of the Word of God, the wine and the oil of the Spirit was being quenched, and a lack of successful living by God’s standards which is always a sign of a lack of the Spirit’s power and a total reliance upon Him who can produce the spiritual fruitfulness and power in a life consecrated to and set apart to God (Zechariah 4:6).

Joy is a fruit of the Spirit and also a source of spiritual strength for us as believers (Nehemiah 8:10). If there is no joy in serving the Lord Jesus and seeking to please Him then there will be no zeal and those to whom the Holy Spirit wants us to minister to will be left spiritually dry, without joy and without the zeal God requires in serving Him. Added to this evangelising the unsaved will also be ineffective (Joel 1:12).

Whether we worship in a palatial mansion, or a humble country cottage, or in a factory, or in the forest or even in a cave, if we are seeking to worship God in Spirit and in truth then we will have whatever we need because His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence (2 Peter 1:3). For such worshippers who worship Him in Spirit and in truth are those God seeks to worship Him (John 4:23-24). God is not into buildings and religious infrastructure and especially not into denominations which He originally never intended!

(Vs.12) Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jehozadak, 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.

Obedience to God will always bring the blessing of God and it starts with those who have spiritual oversight of the flock of God in spiritual and temporal matters. Here we are told that the leaders and the people were moved by the Word of God coming through Haggai and had a revived willingness to obey Him and in continuing the work of building His temple. They not only recognised that the Lord their God had sent Haggai to them but that they also feared the LORD. They had in fact carefully and with due diligence considered their seemingly nonchalant ways and repented before the LORD!

Their heartfelt repentance was accompanied by the fear of the LORD. The word “fear” used here in the Hebrew text of the Bible is “to fear, to be afraid, to stand in awe of, to be awed by, to reverence, honour and to respect, to be fearful, to be dreaded and feared, to cause astonishment and awe or to be held in awe, to be inspired with a reverence or godly fear or with a sense of awe, to make afraid or to terrify.” All of these expressions are contained in this Hebrew word “fear” or “to be feared.”

Sadly in many churches today the fear of the LORD is lacking in multitudes of assemblies where the ministers are into feel good doctrines and some into frivolity up the front and scratching the ears of their congregations with what their itching ears want to hear, being a conspicuous mark of the last of these last days, where, due to spiritual deception of false teachers and prophets and to the increase of wickedness, the love (agape) of most of the Body of Messiah has become cold (2 Timothy 4:2-5) (Matthew 24:11-12).

Now is not the time for the Body of Messiah within wider western Christendom to keep building their panelled houses and beautifying their churches, but to be actively involved in some way seeking to see sinners saved and saints sanctified and who are living stones being added to the living temple of God! As we read in the Book of Acts when the Messianic community at Jerusalem were engaged in building God’s Kingdom, having been filled with the Spirit corporately as a group, we read…

“They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2: 42-47).

 Go to Study No.3