This first of our 2-part study of the book of Haggai was given by pastor Barry Forder at Calvary Chapel Portsmouth on 27th March 2022.
Haggai was one of three prophets that God sent to speak to the nation of Israel following their return from captivity in Babylon (Zechariah and Malachi being the other two). For 19 years they had been back in the land, but had failed to rebuild the city of Jerusalem or their beloved Temple. Much of this was due to the intimidation and hostility of those now inhabiting the land. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah detail the oppression and threats the Children of Israel faced, and even the letters sent to the kings of the ruling Persian Empire seeking an injunction – which was granted – preventing the Jews rebuilding.
It was a time of national discouragement. Yet into this gloomy scene comes Haggai. His ministry is remarkable, for in just 24 days he changed the heart of a nation!
His message was clear. ” Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste? Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. (Haggai 1:4-5)
‘Cieled houses’ refers to panelled houses, i.e. houses that had wood panelling. Nothing wrong with that you may think; but this cedar panelling had originally been destined for the rebuilding of the Temple. Because of the oppression they faced, it had ended up being used to line their own homes instead.
The devil will ‘let us be’ if we forsake the work of God’s house and invest our time building our own. It is no threat to the kingdom of darkness if we are occupied trying to build our own houses, trying to provide for ourselves. We toil and labour to put bread on the table, we work hard to clothe ourselves, yet Jesus made it clear: “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you”. (Matt 6:25-33)
Oswald Chambers comments: “Take no thought for your life.” “Be careful about one thing only,” says our Lord—“your relationship to Me.” Common sense shouts loud and says—“That is absurd, I must consider how I am going to live, I must consider what I am going to eat and drink.” Jesus says you must not. Beware of allowing the thought that this statement is made by One Who does not understand our particular circumstances. Jesus Christ knows our circumstances better than we do, and He says we must not think about these things so as to make them the one concern of our life. Whenever there is competition, be sure that you put your relationship to God first”
The Jews who returned from exile had lost sight of how big their God was. This was the God who rolled back the waters of the Red Sea, who caused Jericho to fall down flat, who subdued nations and giant kings before them, who made their enemies tremble at the thought of Israel’s God! This was the God that Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael boldly declared could deliver them from the fiery furnace… but even if He didn’t, He was still Almighty God, who’s ways are perfect and just, who is good and does good!
These Jews, like so many of us, had fallen for the world’s propaganda, “It’s foolish to trust God“; “You must do something yourself, you can’t just expect God to do miracles“; “God helps those who help themselves”… That is NEVER found in the Bible! God’s unfailing Word declares that He “is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us” (Eph 3:20), He says “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved” (Psalm 55:22). He says “Be anxious for nothing” (Phil 4:6). He says “Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity… Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday. Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him” (Psalm 37:1-7)
Haggai steps onto the scene to tell the people that the reason “Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house”. (Haggai 1:9)
True blessings come not from our labour or endeavour, but from walking in the Way, walking with the LORD. From seeking Him first, building His house not our own.
This message is as timely today as when Haggai first uttered these words from the Lord.
May you be encouraged to consider your ways today!