Summary: Putting God first results in reaping His blessings.
Last Sunday, we saw the command to put God first. One way of showing that the Lord is first in our lives, that we are dependent on Him, is through our prayers.
One time, a pastor found himself seated beside a Muslim during a plane ride. He then shared the Good News to him. To his pleasant surprise, when he challenged the Muslim to receive the Lord as Savior, he readily said, “Yes!” So, the pastor led him in a prayer of acceptance. After praying, the Muslim exclaimed, “Isn’t that wonderful? Now I have Jesus AND Mohammed!” There are times when we are like that Muslim. We treat God as an add-on. We want a convenient God, Someone who would not disturb our lives, our daily routine. Yes, we will pay our dues by faithfully going to church and giving our money. But, we want it our way. We don’t want this God to dictate what He wants from us. It is good to have Him with us. Of course, we want Him to bring us to heaven. Yet, here on earth, we want a comfortable life. Yes, we will receive His blessings. We want Him to help us deal with our problems. We want to be pampered. But, as far as His commands are concerned, we ask for more time to think about it. We want to enjoy life on our own, without Him meddling in our affairs. But, God is not a plug-in. He is Lord, the master of our lives. He does not want just to be in our lives. He wants our lives to revolve on Him.
That is the message of Haggai. He challenged the people to RESUME work on God’s temple: This is what the LORD Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come for the LORD’s house to be built.’” Then the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” There are times we think the same way. It’s always time for our selves. But, not for God. He can wait. He would understand. We do not mind when the basketball game goes over time. But, we complain when the worship service goes overtime. We always find time for our friends or our favorite TV show or we can always adjust our schedule when our boss calls for a meeting. But, when it comes to church activities, we make it appear we are too busy.
As a result of their misplaced priorities, the Lord punished them. The Message version vividly captures their situation: “Take a good, hard look at your life. Think it over. You have spent a lot of money, but you haven’t much to show for it. You keep filling your plates, but you never get filled up. You keep drinking and drinking and drinking, but you’re always thirsty. You put on layer after layer of clothes, but you can’t get warm. And the people who work for you, what are they getting out of it? Not much… You’ve had great ambitions for yourselves, but nothing has come of it.” And we can reap the same punishment. Is there an “unfinished temple” in your life?
Thus, Haggai commanded the people to put God first. “This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,’ says the LORD.” Putting God first REQUIRES RESETTING our priorities. The people responded. They picked up where they left off. They started work again on the temple. However, this was not just another building project. Rebuilding the temple was an expression of their faith to God. It was an act of worship. What is it that the Lord has been asking you to do?
And the Lord is not yet through with them. He dealt with them not only corporately and also personally. It has been around four months since they started work on the temple. Yet, they still experienced difficulties. Haggai answered through an illustration: “This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Ask the priests what the law says: If a person carries consecrated meat in the fold of his garment, and that fold touches some bread or stew, some wine, oil or other food, does it become consecrated?’ The priests answered, ‘No.’ Then Haggai said, ‘If a person defiled by contact with a dead body touches one of these things, does it become defiled?’ ‘Yes,’ the priests replied, ‘it becomes defiled.’” In other words, if a clean thing touches an unclean one, does it make that clean? The answer obviously is “No.” If I pour clean water in a glass of dirty water, does it make it clean? No. If an unclean thing touches a clean one, does it make it unclean? The obvious answer is “Yes.” So, if I pour dirty water in a glass of purified water, does it make it unclean? Yes. What was Haggai’s point? Verse 14 says, “‘So it is with this people and this nation in my sight,’ declares the LORD. ‘Whatever they do and whatever they offer there is defiled.’” The temple is clean. But, even if they work on the temple, that does not make them clean. They have to deal with their sins. They have to confess it before God. Warren Wiersbe wrote, “It is not enough to do God’s work; we must do it with clean hands and a pure heart. Unconfessed sin is one of the greatest obstacles to accomplishing the Lord’s work.”