November 6, 2022
Scripture Reading: Haggai 1:15b-2:9
Last week we took a quick look at what Habakkuk had to say to us and I thought we might take another quick look at another Minor Prophet – Haggai! This man could only manage 2 chapters! Prophets were something like pastors. Habakkuk and Haggai lived maybe 70-80 yrs apart with Haggai coming later. The Babylonians had completely conquered Israel and had destroyed the temple. Cyrus, and the Persians had conquered the Babylonians so now Israel had a new occupying force.
Times had been hard. The temple had been burned to the foundation, roof gone. harvests had been bad, food scarce, warm clothes hard to come by, money had little value. Both physical and spiritual spirits were at a low point.
It must have torn Haggai apart on the inside. There are indications that he had actually been around to see the grand, old temple and he shared the grief of the people. Not only the loss of their own personal prosperity and security, but almost worse: the loss of the focal point for their faith – the temple.
From this distance, looking back, you can sense that Haggai understood the grief of his people, but he didn’t seem to understand the spiritual dimension. It all seemed to be more about bricks and lumber, plenty of food and finally freedom from oppression.
He seemed to be thinking that if God’s people would just bend their backs to rebuilding the temple, all would be well. You can understand his reasoning but you have to wonder if he understood the heart of God! God never seems to be all that fired up about buildings and prosperity. It is so easy to fix buildings, so hard to fix the heart. And God is about fixing our hearts – growing our spirits – building a Beloved Community out of the most diverse and unlikely individuals.
And how does God do that? By walking with us THROUGH the tough times, THROUGH the disappointments, THROUGH the times that test every person’s character, trust, and devotion. It is so human to expect that the way God rewards those who put their faith into God’s hands is by moving us one step forward toward OUR GOALS and our dreams. It is sort of a linear pathway – a straight line. We tend to see it like climbing the corporate ladder. Each promotion leads us one step closer to the top – toward our goal.
But God is not all that invested in our title, our ideas of success and our definition of advancement. God wants us to be people who have been polished by the abrasions of life until they literally reflect the spirit of God in their lives: Malachi 3:3 And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.
I never want to minimize the very real experience of grief – whether it is the grief of a lost loved one, the grief of a lost job or a lost reputation, or the grief of one set-back after another through no fault of your own. But I know the beauty of the one who has endured that kind of grief and has not been overcome by it, but has been fired by the flames of adversity until the raw and abrasive edges are gone and the true spirit of Jesus is more and more evident in his/her life. I truly wish there were another easier way to come by that kind of character, but I don’t know of one. In that sense, grief becomes Good Grief!
One final word. As hard as this word is today, there is one deep and abiding consolation. You never go through those places alone. Isaiah nailed it when he spoke the words from God:
But now, this is what the Lord says—
he who created you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
3 For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
God wants us to be people who have been polished by the abrasions of life until they
literally reflect the spirit of God in their lives.