On D-Day, after the Allied forces were finally able to overcome the German defenses on the beaches, there was a general pause on the part of the Allied troops. Units had been broken up so badly, and the fighting had been so intense, the troops needed time to gather themselves. There were other objectives that had to be attained but for a time, those had been set aside. This is not a criticism of their actions. Obviously, those soldiers did what they came to do, but they needed time to drop back and consider before they were able to carry on.
The word translated “consider” in Haggai 1:5 is picturesque. It comes from three Hebrew words which roughly translated mean “put the heart above.” The image is that of putting something up for careful examination. These words of the prophet Haggai were to the Jews who had returned to the Promised Land following the Captivity. The elation of having returned (Psalm 126) had faded and given way to complacency. God sent Haggai to re-awaken the people to their purpose.
(2) Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the LORD’S house should be built.
(3) Then came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying,
(4) Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste?
Whenever reading passages like this, it’s always good to put yourself in the shoes of the original recipients and ask: “Would I have behaved any differently?” These people had retuned to Jerusalem with the blessing of King Darius. They were still under the control of a foreign power, but a benevolent one. Their task was to rebuild Jerusalem with special attention to rebuilding the temple. Of course, they needed shelter, but creature comforts had become their focus. Wants had somehow morphed into needs and their real purpose had fallen out of focus. Sound familiar? “We have to make ourselves secure…and comfortable,” they said. Therefore, “The time is not come, the time that the LORD’s house should be built.”
Their priorities were wrong. We can easily see that about them. We don’t always see it so clearly about ourselves. This is why the prophet challenged them to consider their ways. It’s something every believer must do, as painful as it is. If we neglect to do so, it should come as no surprise when the Lord does it for us. Do you remember as a kid hearing your parents say: “Clean your room!” and there was your level of clean and then there was your parents’ level of clean? My dad was a stickler for a clean room. I was not. Rarely did I ever pass one of his inspections. I used to think the problem was his inspections. Looking back, I realize my problem was not his inspections, but my own heart.
Whether we notice it or not, our priorities always come out in our actions and in our environments. We can develop some serious tunnel vision when we fail to see ourselves objectively. The Jews who had returned to the Promised Land saw themselves as being sacrificial. They were. It was no small feat to leave the comforts of where they were to go and rebuild a ruined city. That might as well have been a mission to Mars, but they were so busy doing what they were doing that could not see what needed to be done. They, in their minds, were building necessary shelter. God looked at that same picture and saw they were building nice homes to the neglect of the Temple, which meant that in their heart, they were neglecting Him. I doubt the Jews in that city saw themselves that way. So, is it any wonder that Haggai had to tell them twice “consider your ways?”
If we want to keep our priorities right, we must step back and look at our lives objectively. That means examining our lives through God’s lens and sometimes that means having someone else hold the lens for us, like Haggai did when he rebuked his people.
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