Summary: The Lord of the Angel Armies Says: “I Am with You!” 1) Take his work seriously; 2) Take his word seriously
“This has been no laughing matter — people have lost their homes and livelihoods. I have a pit in my stomach that hasn’t gone away since yesterday at noon. I’m a single mom who has a worry now as to where I’m going to live and how I am going to clean up” (Tammy B. – High River, Alberta resident).
That was a typical reaction to the flooding that occurred in our province last June. Are you familiar with such feelings of insecurity? The Israelites who lived 2,500 years ago were. They had returned from their Babylonian exile to a devastated Jerusalem. There was so much to do to make Jerusalem a livable and secure city again. But Israel was far from the powerful nation it had once been under King David. What could it accomplish on its own? That doubt fostered an every-man-for-himself attitude. People busied themselves in their fields and building their own homes while God’s ruined temple remained neglected. They would get around to repairing that once their own lives were sorted out, the people thought.
We can understand that sentiment can’t we? If St. Albert had been devastated by the June floods, would we have insisted that we rebuild the church while trying to carve out time and money to fix our own homes? That’s what God expected of his Old Testament people and they had made a good start, but then became absorbed with their own problems…and selfishness. Work on the temple stopped for the next 16 years while the people focused on rebuilding their own homes, making them quite luxurious with panelled interiors.
This didn’t make God happy of course so he sent a couple of prophets, one of whom was Haggai, to encourage the rebuilding of his temple. Through Haggai the Lord assured his people that he, the Lord of the angel armies was with them. There was no need for them to feel insecure about their future. God wanted his people to take his work and his word seriously. That’s also God’s encouragement for this small congregation. Let’s find out how these words apply to us.
When God says that his work is to be taken seriously he means that it’s to be a priority. It hadn’t been that for the people of Haggai’s day and they suffered as a result. God said to his people: “Give careful thought to your ways. 6 You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it…You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the LORD Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house. 10 Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. 11 I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the oil and whatever the ground produces, on men and cattle, and on the labor of your hands” (Haggai 1:5b-7, 9-11).