Inspiration from Haggai By Margaret Lepke
Haggai is the second shortest book of the Old Testament, but it is powerful. Have you read it? Could God use it to speak to you? Many Christians believe that the Old Testament is more of a historical legacy because it shows God’s plan for humanity, points forward to the birth, death and future reign of Jesus Christ, and predicts the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel. The New Testament, on the other hand, contains letters that are addressed directly to today’s church and, by extension, to each one of us as individuals (much like personal mail). These views are certainly true, but it is also true that God can speak to us directly and personally from the pages of the Old Testament. He has done so many times during my Christian life, and even my initial conviction of sin came through hearing Isaiah 53:5-6 (NKJV): “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” I was recently prompted to take another look at the little book of Haggai and felt very much spoken to by its message. Have a quick read of it in your Bible; it’s only two chapters, and Ezra 4–6 gives the relevant background.
Here’s my abbreviated version: When the Babylonian exile came to an end and the first Jews returned to Jerusalem, God’s people were eager to rebuild the temple. But with constant opposition from the Samaritans and physical hardships due to their circumstances, it didn’t take long for them to loose sight of God’s hand in their building program. During their captivity they had become relatively comfortable in the Babylonian culture, but now, back in Jerusalem, they only saw hardships – does this remind you of their forefathers in the wilderness? When things got tough their enthusiasm waned, and they soon stopped looking to God. “This isn’t the right time yet to rebuild the temple,” they excused themselves. And instead of doing what God had asked, they followed their own way, looking after their own interests. And so the LORD responded with a question (my paraphrase from the first chapter of Haggai): “Is it time for you to dwell in your own paneled houses whilst my house, the temple, lies in ruins? Consider your ways! Your own pursuits are not bringing the fruit you desire; I wonder why? How can you expect to be blessed when your priorities are wrong? Go get the building materials and build the temple!” God, through Haggai, highlights an important principle: when God’s people place their own selfish interests first, their circumstances become more difficult and they loose their joy in Him. On the other hand, when they put Him and His work first, they will find renewed joy in their lives. How did these Scriptures speak to me? Well, I know that I am not building a physical temple for the Lord. But I am part of His living temple, and He has sent me to share His love with others. He has a plan for my life, and He has prepared those works that I should walk in them (Eph.2:10). I know what He has given me to do, but sometimes I let myself get sidetracked by other things (even though none of them are wrong in themselves). And I have also noticed that I can loose the joy of the Lord as I get caught up in all these other things rather than being ‘caught up’ in Him, delighting in Him and His grip on my life and, most importantly, BEING Christ to those around me through a Christ-like attitude. I hope that this devotional look at Haggai will speak to you also and inspire you to build great things under the guidance of our Lord and Saviour. Y