Summary: The ancient prophet Haggai teaches us about how to fulfill Jesus’ first great commandment.
Who’s First in Your Life?
The prophet Isaiah declared, as recorded in Isaiah 6: “In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims; each one had six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he did fly. And one cried to another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.”
Prayer: help us to respond properly to your holiness and your glory.
Jesus’ first great commandment has to do with our response to God. Today, we will think about that commandment and our response to it. Please turn to Matthew 22. 36, 37, & 38: “Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said… You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment.”
Jesus said that this is the first commandment. It is the earliest in time or order, before anything else, the beginning, foremost in position, rank, or importance, sufficient by itself, unsupported by others, basic or self-evident. This is what ‘first’ means. Is this what this commandment is in your life? Is God in such a position in your life, and is God your first love?
Jesus said that this was the great commandment. It is the biggest, most admirable, preceding others, distinctive, beyond the ordinary, important, elevated, distinguished, farther removed upwards, chief. This is what ‘great’ means. Is this what this commandment is in your life? Is God in such a position in your life, and is God your great love?
The commandment is not the end, but points us to the end, which is a profound relationship with God. Does the holiness and glory of God hold you in such awe that your life’s direction toward God reflects His place as first and greatest? I think this is difficult in today’s world, and that many tensions and pulls work to keep this from being true today. However, this is not distinctive to today, but has been the struggle of God’s people always. This reality does not diminish our need for this commandment and relationship to have the top billing in our life, but shows us the struggle of all, and that we enter into that struggle, too, when we respond to God and become ‘his’.
The first prophet to the remnant of Judah, after their return from captivity in Babylon, was Haggai. He was contemporary with Zechariah and Malachi. Back in the years after 534 BC, so back over 2500 years, God’s people struggled, as we need to, to put God first. In fact, the reality is that they did not struggle enough; in fact, they justified what they were doing and didn’t see their need to shift their perspective and to re-order their lives.
Hag. 1. 2-10- read. There’s a constant question, here. Who is first? We see this clearly in v. 2, 4, 8, 9, 10. They were working so very hard and were pursuing all the interests they could conjure up at that time. They were excited about being back from Babylon and in their own land again, and that excitement translated into an incredible flurry of activity to ‘get ahead’ and to make sure their children didn’t have to suffer like they suffered. It led to the very normal effort to build houses, and have yards and gardens, and to begin to develop new herds of cattle, and to get the economy going again. There had been no economy for 70 years or more, so this was their hour, blessed by God, Who had brought them back to their Promised Land.
But, God shouted to them, “Who is first? Are you first? Am I first?” The answer, sadly, was that they were first and God was not first. Oh, it seemed justifiable. They needed just a bit of time to get things going- just a bit of release from piety in order to establish things so they could really devote themselves to God, eventually. But that was not how God saw it.
What is keeping you from God today? Think about it. What is in your mind that leads to the same conclusion where God could declare to you, “This people say, The time is not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built?” What is in your mind that would cause God to ask you, “IS it time for you, O you, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste?” What gets in the way in your life? What is first…really? Is it God? Really?