Where do your priorities lie?

The next prophet who we have the privilege of looking at is Haggai. His message is specifically for the leaders of Judah – Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah and a descendant of King David, and to Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest. His message is delivered specifically in a three month period in the year 520BC.

The people have returned to Jerusalem after years in exile in Babylon. By this time, Persia has replaced Babylon as the superpower in that region and King Darius 1 is ruling. When the Jews first returned to their homeland, there had been plans to restore the temple, but the people became distracted by poor harvests and harassment from their neighbours in Samaria. They’ve concentrated on rebuilding their own houses but God’s temple is still in ruins.

And God speaks specifically into this situation.

This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘These people say, “The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house.”’

Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: ‘Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your panelled houses, while this house remains a ruin?’  Haggai 1:2-4

God is questioning their priorities. It’s as if they’ve lost sight of what is important. Yes, rebuilding their homes deserved their attention initially, but they have gone too far. They’ve ignored the rebuilding of God’s temple. They claim it’s not the right time.

But through Haggai, God asks them to look around them. Their harvests are failing. They never have enough. They work hard and yet they’re still poor. This is a direct result of neglecting God’s house.

Give careful thought to your ways.  Haggai 1:5

Give careful thought to your ways.  Haggai 1:7

This is a specific message given at a specific time to a specific people and yet its significance is timeless, isn’t it?

How easy it is to get distracted by the everyday, to concentrate all our time and resources and energy on building our material lives. We lose sight of that which is beyond the material, that which is spiritual, that which connects us to God. In concentrating all our attention on things, we neglect connection. We don’t have time to meet with others because we’re engrossed in the latest home improvement project. We don’t feel able to invite others into our home until we’ve created the ideal home. We work to make the money to have all that we want – that which is often far beyond that which we actually need. We have no time to create the time and space to sit in God’s presence – sitting around feels lazy when there’s housework to be done.

And none of it is ever enough. We never feel satisfied.

You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little.  Haggai 1:9

God has invited us to take part in His work, in building His kingdom on earth. That may not be a physical building like a temple, although being part of God’s kingdom on earth may involve playing our part in maintaining a physical building for God’s people to meet in (although sometimes building bigger and better premises can become a distraction from the work of God in our area in itself).

Yes, we need a roof over our heads, a safe home for our families, a comfortable home with an open door to offer hospitality…but the work of eternal significance is not in cushions and throws and fancy gadgets and pretty wallpaper.

Let your kingdom come on earth as in heaven.

This is what really matters.

And so, at the beginning of this new month, at the beginning of this new school year, I ask you to reflect on your priorities today. You and me both.

Give careful thought to your ways. Haggai 1:5

Give careful thought to your ways. Haggai 1:7


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