There is so much more to life than surviving in the ranks of the world, so why is it often so hard to break past the daily needs into the fulfilling and exciting parts of life?
The book of Haggai shows us that we can’t break through the surface level survival needs until we have our priorities straight. God must be our foundation because nothing else is great enough to fulfill us.
Haggai was written after the exile (in the second year of King Darius)–there is peace among the nations and the Jews have returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. It was really a sacrifice for the Jews to return to Jerusalem because they were making so much money in Babylon. So not too many returned, and those who did lost their nice houses and nice jobs, and fertile land and all that Babylon had given them. (Hag 1:1)
When the book begins the Jews have stopped trying to rebuild the temple because they are frustrated and are instead just struggling to survive. They say to themselves, “The time has not come for the house of the Lord to be rebuilt” because since ceasing the construction of the temple they’ve experienced even worse poverty. But through the prophet Haggai, the Lord rebukes them saying, “Consider your ways!” He shows them they are focusing on rebuilding their own houses before focusing on building the temple, and that is why the Lord Himself has caused them to suffer (agriculturally, economically, and so forth). He says it’s like they’re putting money into a purse with holes, and exhorts them to get their priorities in order–to first rebuild the temple that He may be glorified. (Hag 1:2-11)
We too, must have our priorities in order. I don’t think it’s uncommon to find ourselves caught up in trying to make a better life for ourselves. Perhaps, some of us have even experienced a similar move toward worse and worse situations in the attempt to pull together the basic pieces of our lives (or ministries). Why? The Lord answers here that it’s because we run to our own houses as His lies desolate–we turn to our own needs before we consider Him who has provided everything.
Fortunately, when Haggai gave this rebuke, the people listened, “obeyed the Lord” and “showed reverence for the Lord.” And as a result, the Lord promised He would be with them and stirred up their spirits so that they would be productive in building the temple! (Hag 1:12-15)
Notice, the promises the Lord gave the Jews were not physical, but of spiritual strengthening. This is so simple: when God’s people demonstrate they love Him more than anything else, He provides them with all the tools to carry out their calling–above all, giving the Holy Spirit: God with us. When the first things come first, the rest are easily carried out.