Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Seek first God's kingdom (Haggai chapter 1)

This ad-hoc series of posts on Haggai is out of order! (Previous posts: one, two, three).

The small band of people in Judah had returned from exile around 16 years earlier. They were a faithful band, having made the 700 mile journey from Babylon, leaving behind their homes and their livelihoods and contacts there. They had come back to Jerusalem, where God had chosen his name to be. They had come to the place where he had appointed worship for his glorious honour - worship that had not been given for nearly 70 years since the temple had been destroyed.

The altar of God had been put up, and a start had been made on the foundations. However, discouragement had set in. Sixteen years later, the discouragement was endemic, and the excuses had become institutionalised. "It is not the right time" - in the absence of better excuses, blame providence and make unverifiable claims based on your reading of what's (not) in between the lines.

If it was not time to rebuild God's house, though, how had it been a time to build their own houses - and not just to a tolerable standard, but to the level of luxury? The people had poured their efforts into sowing, eating, drinking, clothing themselves and earning money, whilst continuing to hold that the signs were not yet aligned for them to work on the temple. All this activity, though, had not prospered them. God was not pleased, and he had refused to allow them to prosper. Praise God for his mercies when he foils all our plans and so at last gets our attention!

God did not agree with the peoples' verdict. If it was time for their houses to be nicely decorated, how could it be time for his house to still be in ruins? People always find time for what they really desire - where there's a will, there's a way. You don't have time for church prayer meetings; you're too busy to read and pray with your children; it's not the right time to start a neighbourhood meeting to share the gospel. What is it time for? Ah, there's plenty of scope for sport, for leisure, for eating out, for putting in some extra hours at work. Now therefore, says the Lord of hosts, consider your ways.

"But seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." - Matthew 6:33

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