February Reading from The Message
Haggai’s message doesn’t sound very spiritual. Instead of “repent” he says “rebuild”. Instead of focusing on our own homes and ambitions, he calls us to realign our priorities. It is a practical directive that will lead to essential growth.
A Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies: “The people procrastinate. They say this isn’t the right time to rebuild my Temple, the Temple of God.”
3-4 Shortly after that, God said more and Haggai spoke it: “How is it that it’s the ‘right time’ for you to live in your fine new homes while the Home, God’s Temple, is in ruins?”
5-6 And then a little later, God-of-the-Angel-Armies spoke out again:
“Take a good, hard look at your life. Think it over.
You have spent a lot of money, but you haven’t much to show for it.
You keep filling your plates, but you never get filled up.
You keep drinking and drinking and drinking, but you’re always thirsty.
You put on layer after layer of clothes, but you can’t get warm.
And the people who work for you, what are they getting out of it?
Not much— a leaky, rusted-out bucket, that’s what.”
7 That’s why God-of-the-Angel-Armies said: “Take a good, hard look at your life. Think it over.”
8-9 Then God said: “Here’s what I want you to do: Climb into the hills and cut some timber.
Bring it down and rebuild the Temple. Do it just for me. Honor me.
You’ve had great ambitions for yourselves, but nothing has come of it.
The little you have brought to my Temple I’ve blown away—there was nothing to it.
9-11 “And why?” (This is a Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies, remember.) “Because while you’ve run around, caught up with taking care of your own houses, my Home is in ruins. That’s why. Because of your stinginess. And so I’ve given you a dry summer and a meager crop. I’ve matched your tight-fisted stinginess by decreeing a season of drought, drying up fields and hills, withering gardens and orchards, stunting vegetables and fruit. Nothing—not man or woman, not animal or crop—is going to thrive.”
The Hebrews in Haggai’s time were dominated by a sense of national disaster: the destruction of their city, their Temple, their economy, their entire way of life. It was a natural reaction for them to be self-protective, adopting an every-man-for-himself ethic that focused on their own needs and the needs of their immediate families. But however natural their reaction was, it wasn’t admirable. At least not to God. And he put his finger on the problem in Haggai 1:9: “You’ve had great ambitions for yourselves” (emphasis added).
The people were dragging their feet on God’s project because they were knee-deep in their own. So God confronted them: “[You’re] caught up with taking care of your own houses, [while] my Home is in ruins” (verse 10). Before they were ready to rebuild that Home, God had to realign their priorities. He did that by withholding the rain. But he sent a more merciful rain in the form of his Word.
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