Summary: Haggai brings to our attention that the true Christian needs to consider his ways...the Christian needs to be alert, mature and strong.
Exodus 20: 1-6
Haggai 1: 2-7
Consider Your Ways
Again, today, I have the privilege to speak to you from God’s Word.
As you can tell from the title of this sermon, I’m going to talk awhile about how we, as humankind, sometimes have our own ways…how these ways may not be God’s way.
There was a humorous story that I read that kind of tells on us, as humans beings and how we sometimes stray.
“There was a Mrs. O’Flaherty, who went into the confessional at her church, she noticed an unfamiliar face behind the shutter. ‘You’re not our regular priest’, she said. ‘What are you doing here?’ The man on the other side of the shutter said, ‘I’m the furniture polisher, ma’am. ‘Well, where is Father Dolan?’ ‘I couldn’t tell you’ the man said, ‘but if he’s heard anything like the stories I’ve been listening to, he’s gone for the police!”
Well, I’m sure that some of us have stories of how we have strayed and forgotten to consider God first…stories that we too could take to a confessional.
In the past few weeks, I have been reading the book of Haggai. The book of Haggai is one of the shortest books in the Old Testament…in my Bible, it’s about two pages long. You might wonder why it has taken several weeks for me to read it…but those two pages are just packed with some real truths that can speak to us today. Truth about how we, as men and women, should “Consider Our Ways”
To give you a little background on the book, it’s about the return of the Judeans to Judah from Babylonia in about 536 BC. You see, after the destruction on Jerusalem, seventy years earlier by the Babylonians, the Judeans had been scattered into several countries, including Babylonia. Well, in 539 BC, the Persians conquered the Babylonian Empire and the Persian King, Cyrus the Great, issued a decree granting permission for the exiled inhabitants of Judah to return to their homeland and rebuild their city of Jerusalem and the Temple there.
Well, King Cyrus, of Persia appointed two men to lead this population of about 50,000 people back to Judah. Their names were Zerubbabel and Joshua. So, as this returning population of 50,000 came to Jerusalem, they encountered difficult conditions. The initial enthusiasm to rebuild the city of Jerusalem and its Temple gave way to discouragement and apathy as the struggle to provide the necessities of life became the prime focus of the people. Consequently, work on the Temple ceased and did not resume for sixteen years, in about 520 BC. The reconstruction was renewed in response to the prophetic ministries of Haggai and Zechariah.
In addition to the struggle to provide for daily needs, the inhabitants of Jerusalem faced opposition from the Samaritans. When the exiles returned to Judah, the Samaritans had initially requested to help rebuild the Temple. Although the Samaritans were distantly related to the inhabitants of Judah, the returning exiles regarded the Samaritans as violators of the Mosaic Law. The Samaritans had married people who worshiped gods other than God who had made the covenant with Israel.
So, when the leaders of the exiles rejected the request by the Samaritans to help reconstruct the Temple, the Samaritans were insulted and tried to disrupt and to prevent
work on the Temple and the city of Jerusalem.
These two factors of providing for the daily needs and the harassment from the Samaritans discouraged the people and the work on the Temple, God’s house, came to a stop.
As we come into the story, Haggai is bringing God’s message to Zerubbebel and Joshua, since they are the leaders. God sends his message in the form of a question.
“Is it right for you to be living in fancy houses while My Temple is in ruins?”
He was saying, “Why have you built nice homes for yourselves (and it says in one translation, paneled homes) while God’s house is still destroyed?” He is asking them to “Consider their ways” Had they forgotten the first of the Ten Commandments? You shall have no other Gods before me. God was really asking the people where they were, Spiritually. Just like he asked Adam and Eve after they had eaten from the tree of knowledge and were hiding in the garden…Where are you?, God asked. God wasn’t concerned about their physical whereabouts, He knew where they were…He was asking, “Where are you, spiritually…what has happened to your relationship with me…your God?
God asked the people of Judah to look at their lives and ask themselves where they were spiritually, and to realize and admit to themselves that they had fallen away from Him. The rains were not falling on the vineyards or the grain fields or the olive trees, anymore. Their labor was not being blessed by God, because they had not obeyed…they had forgotten Him. They had forgotten to consider their ways and put God first in their lives and their prayers.