Time to consider what we’re doing and why we’re doing it….
Now we come to a tricky section in the second chapter of Haggai. It’s hard to understand and even harder to explain.
So leave it out, my husband suggests, skip over it.
He should know by now that that’s not how I do this thing. I just apologise in advance if you feel I don’t make a very good job of it. We’ll find something in here to take away with us into the day. We always do.
We’re now two months on and the work on the temple is well underway. God has more to say to the people however.
This people. This nation.
That’s significant in itself. There’s still a long way to go.
Haggai is prompting the people to ask the priests what the law says. There was a time when every member of God’s nation would have been familiar with the law. This is the law given to Moses that the nation had been founded upon. Times have changed. The priests would be able to explain to them about consecration and defilement. If someone carries consecrated meat in the fold of their garment, and that fold touches some bread or stew, some wine, olive oil or other food, the item that it touches does not become consecrated. However, if a person defiled by contact with a dead body touches one of these things, then it become defiled
‘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.’ Haggai 2:14
Holy things cannot make a person holy. Even doing the right thing cannot make a person holy if what’s going on on the inside isn’t right. The people have experienced that before. Offering sacrifices in itself is not what will bring them back into connection with God if their hearts are still consumed with evil and greed and injustice. God has made that abundantly clear before. It’s all about the obedience of each individual. Disobedience separates us from God, however good our lives appear to others.
It’s much easier to be influenced by that which is unclean, by sin. It’s easier to spread defilement than consecration. Think of a jug of water: one drop of dirt will defile the whole jug of clean water, but many drops of clean water will not make the dirty water clean.
And then God goes on to remind the people of how things were before they started rebuilding the temple. About what had prompted them to start rebuilding the temple in the first place. God had removed His blessing from the people of Judah. Whilst they had returned from exile to Jerusalem, life was tough. There was not enough food, not enough of anything. It was all they could do to survive.
Two months in and it has not got any easier. They’ve been doing what God asked of them, but their circumstances have not changed. Life is still tough. And it’s at this point that God makes this announcement.
From this day on I will bless you. Haggai 2:19
To me, this seems like God is testing the people. If they’d gone into this simply as a transaction to make life more bearable and comfortable, then they would have given up by now. God had not blessed what they were doing. He hadn’t kept His side of the bargain. There was going to be nothing in this for them.
But if they’d gone into it having realised their mistake in neglecting God’s temple, then they would continue the work, regardless of any instant blessing. They would trust that it was the right thing to be doing and just get on with it. They would simply obey God. That is what is going to consecrate their hearts, not any outward show of obedience to the law. They would place their trust in God that He knew what He was doing.
And that is the point at which God would reveal His blessing, when this people would become my people again.
I told you that we would find something in this.
There’s plenty to think about here.
Now give careful thought to this from this day on (v15)
Consider how things were… (v15)
Give careful thought to the day when…(v18)
It makes us reflect on all that we do and why we do it…
Do we do it to look good in front of other people?
Do we do it to impress God and make Him bless us with good things?
Do we do it because we’d scared of the consequences if we don’t?
Or do we do it because this is what trust and obedience look like in our life?
Others may not understand. We may not understand. Whatever it is we’ve been called and created to do may not make sense to anyone else. There may not be any obvious success indicators. It may be hard to point to how God is blessing our work. But that’s not why we’re in it, is it? We’re in it because this is our path.
People around here use the phrase ‘knowing if something is a good idea or a God idea’. I hate that. How could we know? Is it that God will bless it if it’s a God idea and that blessing will be obvious to see exactly as we expect to see it? It’s not as simple as that.
I have a lot of ideas every single day. I have given up agonising over which are God ideas and which are good ideas – and which are downright crazy ideas! I hold loosely to all of them. Some pass through my life like clouds and I never see them again. Some drift off for a while and bob to the surface again in a different context. Others stick. They will not go away. I commit to them and see them through regardless of any outward success – rather like this five and a half year journey through the Bible that I’ve undertaken.
Sometimes it is clear what the right path to take is. Other times, not so much. But in all things. we are called to trust and obey, that’s the bottom line. It’s the attitude of our heart that matters the most. And more often than not, it’s much more about how we do what we’re doing than what we’re actually doing.
I hope you find a moment today to give this some careful thought today in case God has a particular message for you right now.
So glad I didn’t leave it out or skip over it.