Lesson 5: It is Never too Late Haggai 2:15-19
For 16 years Israel lived in apathy. The people spent their time and money on their homes and businesses. They left unfinished the Temple of the Lord, the earthly focus of His Kingdom at that time. Only a foundation, an altar, and some temporary structures had been put in place to carry out the Temple worship. God and the work of His Kingdom were no longer first in their lives. Israel thought that if they put their time and money into their homes and businesses they would be happy. But they were miserable.
Because of their self-centered lives the Lord withheld His blessing. They worked hard but brought in little. What they did bring in no longer satisfied them. Their only hope was to confess their sin of neglect, and prove their confession by renewing their commitment to the Kingdom work of God.
The restored Temple must not become a substitute for personal holiness. Since the fall of man health is not caught, disease is. So also holiness does not flow out of holy things to infect the corrupted ones with holiness. But sin’s pollution does flow outwardly. It infects our friends, family, society, and our worship.
God’s gift of grace at work in our otherwise rebellious hearts should stir us to gratitude and enable us, move us, to press on to be personally holy. Christ our Redeemer should be honored as Lord of more than just our spare time and our extra change. God’s glory must be our priority in life. Only then will what we have be appreciated as a satisfying blessing.
Matthew 6:33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
A repeated key word divides this section into two parts. It begins both verses 15 and 18. The word is “consider”. Literally the word means, “direct your heart to something.” They were to consider the situation “from this day forward.” The word translated as “forward” is “ma’al” (מעל) which literally means “upward”. It was used to mean moving out from some point either backward or forward, depending upon the context.
The apathetic should consider their
past disobedience and its results.
Haggai 2:15-17, “And now, carefully consider from this day forward: from before stone was laid upon stone in the temple of the LORD — since those days, when one came to a heap of twenty ephahs, there were but ten; when one came to the wine vat to draw out fifty baths from the press, there were but twenty. I struck you with blight and mildew and hail in all the labors of your hands; yet you did not turn to Me,” says the LORD.
In this first section they were to look backward in time to before one Temple stone was laid upon another. This was the time before they resumed rebuilding upon the foundation.
The people had suffered lack. A heap of grain sheaves that ought to have yielded 20 measures, after threshing only yielded 10 measures. The pressing of enough grapes to produce a draw of 50 measures of wine, produced only 20 measures. The crop was not as substantial as it should have been.
This can be put into economic terms we might better understand today. A person might work a 10 hour day, but seem to only get 5 hours worth of results, or only 5 hours worth of wages with the current dollar value. Sometimes both spouses work yet they still struggle with the bills as if only one worked.
What was the reason for this lack?
In this situation in the time of Haggai, the Lord Himself was smiting them for their misordered lives. This was a gracious warning from the LORD. It was the love of their Father that brought their lack. He had spoken to them so their obligations were made clear. He warned them when they were getting off track. He chastises his children out of His great love so they would learn and correct their ways.
Hebrews 12:6. “For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.”
Hebrews 12:9-11, “Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
Sadly, they did not come back. The Lord said, “yet you did not turn to Me.” For 16 years Israel continued in neglect of God’s Temple, putting their private comfort first.
That’s a long time in a persons life! Was your life different 16 years ago? Were your habits and life-styles different then? That’s how long they had lived in neglect.
It had become their way of life, the standard in their society. Their practices were modeled from what was happening around them rather than from God’s word. Their neighbors and friends didn’t give much to the Lord’s work so why should they? Their parents didn’t sacrifice much for the Kingdom. It was how they were raised. They figured that if everyone was going through hard times it must not be their fault. It’s just the way things are. They blamed it on the economy. But that’s exactly what happens when corruption infects the individuals in a given culture, all of society suffers.
Can we know if our lack is due to disobedience without the direct word of God through a called Prophet? On the one hand we all struggle against the fruits of our sinful world. Adam’s sin in Eden brought consequences that effect this fallen world. This is undeniably true. We will struggle all the way until the final judgment day. But God commands us to live in repentance of our misdeeds and to strive to live obedient lives.
Too often we are like a child trying to figure out how much disobedience his parents will put up with before they begin punishing him. We may be like a student trying to figure how late homework can be before a penalty is given. Or we may be like a criminal calculating how far he can bend the law before it becomes worthwhile for society to take the time to arrest and prosecute him.
If we really believe and trust that God is our Sovereign King, that Jesus is our Savior and giver of life, that God’s revealed principles are true, then we ought to try to live in agreement with what we believe. It’s the worst of hypocrisy to know God’s moral standards, yet make excuses for violating them.
Our responsibility is not to wonder if our lack is directly due to our disobedience, or if it’s because of other things. We are not to decide if our disobedient life is serious enough to warrant repentance, or to speculate whether or not our sin is causing us sufficient discomfort. The proper thing is to allow our lack or suffering to do its most noble purpose. It should provoke us to self-examination leading to repentance and more faithful living where we may be lacking in our obedience to the one we call our “Lord.”.
Our obligation is to repent of any past failures and sins we are aware of, ask the LORD to help us to be delivered from them, and avoid temptation as the Lord instructs us.
Israel’s current condition was due to their past sins.
Haggai 2:18-19, “Consider now from this day forward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, from the day that the foundation of the LORD’s temple was laid — consider it: Is the seed still in the barn? As yet the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have not yielded fruit. …”
In this next section Jehovah is calling the people to consider from this day looking forward in time from the 24th day of the 9th month (same date as in verse 10), from the day of this message.
The people are asked, now that the Temple is being rebuilt are you still suffering lack from your past neglect? Is there still seed in the barn? The poor harvest from the time of disobedience was already consumed. The vine, fig tree, pomegranate, and olive tree had not borne fruit.
The effects of past sins continue for a time. When we determine to obey the Lord things don’t improve over night. The Lord generally does not miraculously double our investments just because we have resumed tithing this week. He may not suddenly grant us satisfaction in what we have because we became involved with one of our church’s outreach programs.
When we’re dealing with the fruits of our past sins we need to hold faithfully to our commitments to God’s promises and instructions for how we should live out of gratefulness for our redemption. We resume our responsibilities while we wait patiently for God to bless us in ways that promote his glory and fit in with His grand plan. We are driven to obey because we love God supremely, not so that we can get the things we want in this material world. In God’s good time He will take care of our needs as He sees fit. That should both satisfy our concerns, and stir us to live obediently showing our sincere faith in his word.
From this day on God promised to bless them.
Haggai 2:19, “… But from this day I will bless you.”
God’s blessing is always a work of pure grace. Grace is that the unmerited redemptive favor of God that blesses those who in no way deserve it. It lies at the very heart of the gospel. God’s grace alone explains why Israel was moved to resume the Temple work after all the past warnings had fallen upon deaf ears. The whole process of being saved by faith is a work of God upon hearts that would if left to themselves have no part in the redeeming work of the Savior. They would not appreciate their need for intervention from influences or powers outside themselves.
Like Israel in its time of corruption, we must not wait to feel blessed before we obey. If so, we display that our heart is far from restored fellowship with God. We are not called to wait for a blessed feeling before we bother to consider the provisions and promises of God. He calls us to do what he tells us is right and good. That is our calling. God’s part after first moving us to love him, is to bless us as his dear children.
Ephesians 2:8, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,”
How then should we respond to this message?
A person’s response will reveal one of 3 conditions of his heart:
1. Some hearts are cold toward God, and none of this seems important.
To them it all seems remote and for someone else. These ought to become concerned and pray that God will move in their heart of stone. The remedy is found in humble repentance for neglect of God. They should pour over His word, hear His messengers, and seek encouragement from Christian friends. They should not let it rest until the matter is changed, and the cold heart is set on fire for the things of God.
2. Some hearts feel worthy of their blessings.
Religious pride is a most distasteful hypocrisy. No one in this life can live as obediently as he ought. A person may say he puts God first, or even that he intends to, but he may displace Him in presumed importance the next day if he is not resting only upon the promise of grace. Those who paneled their homes while the Kingdom of God was neglected expected that God ought to bless their labors. They expected abundance while they refused to recognize the Lordship of the God of the Covenant. Someone may easily say “I love the Lord”, while his life shows that he supremely loves himself.
Hypocrisy can be the enemy of any one of us. It knows no single group of racial, cultural, or ideological allies. It isn’t just the disease of others (though they are the easiest to judge and blame). It battles away against the heart of everyone lifted up in the pride of expecting blessing by their own merit.
3. Some hearts are troubled and disturbed when they see their moral failure.
To those it seems beyond their ability to honor God as He deserves. Nevertheless, they know it’s vitally important to do so. They should pray that God will take away their desire to put other things before the work and worship of God.
Whatever the condition of your heart, there is hope. Blessing can again fill your life. You can find that lost or long sought for joy of the Lord. Regardless of your rebellion, or of how long it has been since you honored the Creator, grace knows no limit. It does not depend upon your deeds. Any good attitudes and Christ-honoring behaviors in your life are evidences of God’s work in your life. So we humbly and thankfully give him all the glory, rather than to take credit for those good things ourselves.
Set aside what ever has gotten in your way. Determine to do what honors Him who made you. This is what He deserves.
(Bible quotations are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)