Lesson 2: The Blessing of God in Our Lives Haggai 1:7-15
The Jews had returned to Jerusalem after seventy years of captivity. They built an altar, resumed God’s sacrifices, and started to rebuild the Temple which had been destroyed many generations before.
The Elders of Israel did not want the heretical cult of the Samaritans to have a part in that reconstruction. The Temple was to be for the worship prescribed by God himself. The Samaritans persuaded Persia to force the work on the temple to stop. After sixteen years the Temple remained a mere foundation. During that time the Covenant People had become apathetic. Their own material wants distracted them from honoring God’s word.
At that time, the message of the Lord came through Haggai. He rebuked them for working so hard on their own homes and businesses while allowing the house of God to remain unfinished. They came on Sabbath, they brought their sacrifices to the make-do altar that got the job done passably, but God had little importance in their daily lives.
For their disobedience, they suffered a double cursing. They took in little, and had little pleasure in what they did have. There is a moral connection between our obedience and our blessings.
The Lord calls His people to actively serve Him.
Haggai 1:7-8, Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Consider your ways! Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified,” says the LORD..
Christianity is not a spectator religion. As God’s people, we are to show loving obedience to our Lord, and sincere dedication to promoting his glory. Believers before the time of Christ looked to the yet to be fulfilled promises with confidence that God will send the Messiah to restore his people to full fellowship with their Creator.
The Lord called them to “Go up to the mountains.” (Haggai 1:8)
This is where they would generally go to get the wood needed for their construction projects. They were to bring their wood to the temple foundation and rebuild the house of God. They were to use their resources, time, and effort to get the materials they needed to correct the problem.
Obedience is the evidence of true biblical faith. James 2:17, “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
If we call ourselves God’s people we are saying that we belong to Him. It doesn’t mean mere agreement the theological facts of the Bible. James 2:19 tells us, “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe — and tremble!”
It’s not that what we believe is unimportant. God calls us to submit to the truths God has revealed. False theology leads to wrong living and a perverted view of God. Our theological convictions alone do not make us to be one of God’s people.
Our cultural and political views do not make us God’s children either. Cultural liberty and political convictions are only honorable within the boundaries of God’s moral law when obeyed out of gratitude for Saving Grace.
The Bible also makes it clear that performing good deeds make no one a true child of God. While it is certainly important to help the truly needy, and to attend times of worship, deeds done without giving glory to our Lord robs Him of His glory.
Those who think they can earn God’s blessings by what they do treat God as an unnecessary element in doing moral good. They deny our fallen nature and our need for redemption. Our obedience must give glory to the Lord as the source of all good. We’re told in James 1:17 “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” And Paul tells us the real motive behind every proper obedience. In 1 Corinthians 10:31 he tells us, “… whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
A true saving faith will change us. It wakes us up from our apathy, and moves us to get busy with what God calls us to be doing daily. Our personal distractions need to be set aside so that they will not keep us from our responsibilities to the One who redeems us. The true believer understands from 1 Corinthians 6:19 that he is not his own. In verse 20 of that chapter Paul explains, “For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
We need to confesses that we are made to serve our Creator. Due to sin we cannot fulfill that purpose. God promised from the beginning that He would send a Messiah to meet the demands of His justice, and to deliver His people from evil. Jesus perfectly fulfilled that covenant promise by His obedient life and by his death on the cross in the believer’s place. Through faith in that now completed work of God’s grace, the Christian today has life restored by the Savior.
God calls His true followers to nothing less than full obedience. We are to forsake all else to follow Him It’s not that we can neglect the other responsibilities He gives us in life, but God is our priority. In Matthew 10:37-39 Jesus said, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.”
If we cling to ourselves more than to our Savior, we are left to wonder whether we really rest in Him alone for our salvation. If we are true believers, we belong to our Savior and are no longer our own.
When redeemed, we will want to serve our God faithfully. We will most humbly repent when confronted with our sins. We will also delight in giving all honor to our Lord as we serve Him.
The Lord promised that He would be pleased with their obedience.
He would be pleased if the Jews newly restored to the Promised Land would worship Him as prescribed in His word (at the finished temple). He would be pleased to bless them again if they put the Lord first. He will turn His cursing into blessing upon the people and the land. He will display His glory in them to be seen by the watching world.
He also reminded them that the cause of their suffering was their disobedience.
Haggai 1:9-11, “You looked for much, but indeed it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why?” says the LORD of hosts. “Because of My house that is in ruins, while every one of you runs to his own house. Therefore the heavens above you withhold the dew, and the earth withholds its fruit. For I called for a drought on the land and the mountains, on the grain and the new wine and the oil, on whatever the ground brings forth, on men and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands.”
It was because of their apathy and self-centeredness that they took in little, and had little pleasure in what they did have.
There is an interesting play on words in the Hebrew text. Verse 4 tells us that the house of the Lord had been left in “ruins.” The Hebrew word there is “kharaev” (חרב). In verse 11 God called forth a “drought” upon the land. The word for “drought” is “khorev” (חרב). Only the vowel pointing of the Hebrew word is changed. They left God’s house “kharaev”, God made their land “khorev”. Both are based upon the same Hebrew root word which means, “waste, desolation, ruin, dried up” When they left God’s temple desolate, God made what they loved more to become desolate.
The LORD calls His people to covenant obedience
Haggai 1:12, “Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the LORD their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the LORD their God had sent him; and the people feared the presence of the LORD.”
They obeyed God.
The word translated as “obeyed” is the Hebrew word “shma`” (שׁמע). It is usually translated as “heard”. It goes beyond simply hearing sounds. It means, “to hear with understanding and to honor what is heard.” Those who obeyed were the remnant of Israel, the ones who remained faithful to God.
They who obeyed, showed a “fear of the LORD”.
This “fear” is not a sense of uncertainty or of being afraid of an unexpected attack or calamity. It is an awareness and respect for God’s awesome powerful and holiness. His word is clear and certain. By it we know that we fall short of His glory. Our fear of God is a holy awe and wonder that humbles us in praise and thanksgiving that the almighty Lord of Hosts (verse 14) has, by the symbol of sacrifice at the temple, revealed His plan to redeem us who deserve only His anger.
Covenant obedience brings covenant blessings
Central to covenant blessings is the “Immanuel Principle.”
Haggai 1:13, “Then Haggai, the LORD’s messenger, spoke the LORD’s message to the people, saying, ‘I am with you, says the LORD.’ “
One of the names of God in scripture is “Immanu-El” (עמּנוּאל). It means, “God with us.” The promise that the Messiah would be Immanuel was made in Isaiah 7:14. This verse was quoted in Matthew 1:23 when God’s angel spoke to Joseph applying this name to Jesus, assuring him that the baby Mary carried had been conceived by the Holy Spirit.
The Lord many times declared, “I am with you.” This is the central covenant promise to his people in every era. In several places Jehovah said, “I will be God to you, and you shall be my people” (for example, Leviticus 26:12, Jeremiah 11:4, and 30:22).
The LORD stirred the spirits of the people.
Haggai 1:14-15, “So the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and worked on the house of the LORD of hosts, their God, on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month, in the second year of King Darius.”
Spiritual renewal and obedience are related in scripture. The revivals in the times of Josiah and Ezra followed a repentant restoration of God’s word.
Since our obedience and love for our Redeemer is a work of grace, doing what God calls us to do is a blessing in itself. When we see him at work in our lives we appreciate all the more the redemption that draws us closer to our Lord. As he draws us to himself we are more and more enabled to honor him with our words, thoughts, and deeds.
Do we want revival in our lives, churches, and nations? If it is legitimate, it begins with the use of the means God has given us: knowledge of His word, prayer, proper worship, and the encouragement and discipline of the church. When we show apathy and atrophy in our spiritual lives we see the need for coming to our Savior repentantly and in faith, trusting his grace to revive us and stir us to obedience to the ways that please our Creator. Rather than looking for excuses, look to the One who can deliver you from that spiritual laziness which is lethal to the soul. Nothing else will ever satisfy.
Go into your mountain, the places where God provides your opportunities. Take advantage of his provisions and do what you are called to do for your Savior. Then, when you see spiritual growth, humbly praise God with worship and thanksgiving for his amazing grace and the work of Jesus Christ.
(Bible quotations are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)