Re-igniting My Focus – Haggai 1

Re-igniting My Focus

 

 

 “1 In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua [a] son of Jehozadak, the high priest:

 2 This is what the LORD Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come for the LORD’s house to be built.’ ”

 3 Then the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”

 5 Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 6 You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”

 7 This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 8 Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the LORD. 9 “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the LORD Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house. 10 Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. 11 I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the oil and whatever the ground produces, on men and cattle, and on the labor of your hands.”

 12 Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the whole remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the LORD their God and the message of the prophet Haggai, because the LORD their God had sent him. And the people feared the LORD.

 13 Then Haggai, the LORD’s messenger, gave this message of the LORD to the people: “I am with you,” declares the LORD. 14 So the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of the whole remnant of the people. They came and began to work on the house of the LORD Almighty, their God, 15 on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month in the second year of King Darius.”  Haggai 1:1-15 NIV

 

When Haggai is written, the 70 year Babylonian exile was over and Israel had begun to return to their home land.  When the captivity began, hundreds of thousands of people went into captivity and now only 50,000 returned to Israel.  Those who returned from the captivity were the most committed to the Lord and also were the most committed to the restoration of Jerusalem.  Others had grown comfortable and accustomed to life in Babylon. 

 

The message of Haggai enters the picture about 18 years after their return to Jerusalem.  By this time, the work of re-building the Temple had been idle for 14 years.  This shows that even the most spiritual of people needed to be reminded from time to time to stay focused on doing what God had called them to do and to hear the warning of the Lord.  Even the most spiritual of Israel had the tendency to start well, but eventually lose focus of what they were doing.  Was it out of contempt for God?  Probably not.  They were very busy because the economy was bad.  There was lots of work to do and not enough workers to do it.  The labor was very hard as they tried to restore land that was vacant for 70 years.  As a result, they suffered crop failures and drought.  There were enemies who resisted the work they started.  Overall, they remembered easier times in Babylon while they were in exile!  All things considered, they probably thought they’d get things together in their lives first then they’d re-build the temple when things were more stable.    

 

Here are some of the lessons that Haggai teaches me:

 

1 – Even the most spiritual people can lose their focus and misplace their priorities.

1 In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua [a] son of Jehozadak, the high priest:

 2 This is what the LORD Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come for the LORD’s house to be built.’ ”

 3 Then the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”

Haggai 1:1-4
Haggai shows me that my true priorities can be revealed in how I spend my time and my money. 

The people in Jerusalem surely thought that their priorities were just fine. Shortly after returning from their seventy year exile they rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem under the leadership of Nehemiah. They also laid the foundation for the Jewish temple under the leadership of the Jewish priest Ezra.

But that was sixteen years earlier. They started out strong, but something happened along the way and they lost their focus.  By the way, that still happens today.  We start out strong in our passion and enthusiasm for God and somewhere along the way we lose focus and lose steam. 

 

Israel knew that it was their job to rebuild the temple, they just began to procrastinate.  I remember at our home in Hilo, when Laura and I moved in, there was a cabinet door missing beneath the bedroom sink.  When we moved in, I was sure that I was going to fix it, and fix it quickly.  After awhile, I got busy doing other things and kept putting off fixing the cabinet door.  Then I got used to begin able to see what was in the cabinet.  The cabinet door actually stayed broken the entire time that we lived there, until we moved out and had to fix it for the next people moving in!  Sometimes when we procrastinate, we lose the enthusiasm and momentum that we need! 

 

For Israel, they didn’t deny that it was their responsibility.  They just kept putting it off for another day.  While we know that the first sixteen years they were back in Israel were filled with economic struggle and political instability, so putting off rebuilding the temple probably made sense from a human perspective.

Still, God knows that the real problem for Israel and the real problem for believers today is not the economy.  The real problem is not what others say, or how difficult my work is.  The real problem was and often times still is, a loss of focus from God’s people.  The real problem was when the people of God lost their focus and put their priorities on other things.

 

2 – Even the most spiritual people face the consequences of living with a loss of focus and misplaced priorities

 5 Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 6 You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”

 7 This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 8 Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the LORD. 9 “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the LORD Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house. 10 Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. 11 I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the oil and whatever the ground produces, on men and cattle, and on the labor of your hands.”  Haggai 1:5-11

Haggai teaches me that when I lose focus and misplace my priorities, life stops working the way I want it to.

Haggai tries to open the eyes of the people of Israel to help them see that when they were struggling it wasn’t because of their outward circumstances.  It was because they had lost their focus and lived with misplaced priorities.  Israel had many unmet expectations and found themselves living unsatisfied in their personal lives. They’d eat, but never really got full. They’d drink, but it was never enough and they found themselves thirsting for more.  They’d make money, but as soon as they cashed their check it seemed to be gone. It seemed like they never had enough to meet their needs.

 

Because of their struggle, they lost sight of how they could take the time and the finances to rebuild the temple.  How could they rebuild the temple when they harvested so little, lived unsatisfied lives, and were constantly broke?  I’m sure they thought that things would turn around soon eventually and then maybe they’d think about rebuilding the temple.  That is often my thinking too.  When I am less busy, I will serve more.  When I make more money, I will give more. When I have more influence I will lead more. 

Haggai comes on the scene and says they’ve got it all wrong.

 

The ultimate cause of their trouble isn’t just a bad economy, bad luck, or bad weather.  The real cause of their problems is actually their loss of focus on what God wanted to do in and through them. Haggai says that God is the one who’s caused their crops to be smaller than expected.  God is the One who had caused their economy to struggle.  God was saying that until they got their priorities straight, life would continue not working for them. God didn’t want them to wait until things were ideal for them to serve Him. He wanted them to be faithful where they were.  He wants the same from me. 

 

Just like the people of Haggai’s generation, when I edge God’s priorities out of my life, life stops working for me.

3. What is the solution to a loss of focus and a misplacement of my priorities?

“ 12 Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the whole remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the LORD their God and the message of the prophet Haggai, because the LORD their God had sent him. And the people feared the LORD.

 13 Then Haggai, the LORD’s messenger, gave this message of the LORD to the people: “I am with you,” declares the LORD. 14 So the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of the whole remnant of the people. They came and began to work on the house of the LORD Almighty, their God, 15 on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month in the second year of King Darius.”   Haggai 1:12-15

I need to spend time re-prioritizing my schedule and aligning my will to His.

 

Haggai calls Israel, starting with the leadership, to give careful thought to their ways.  In Haggai 1, the change started with Zerubbabel, the governor or Israel and Joshua the High Priest.  In other words, God’s people need to lead the way to re-prioritizing and re-aligning our plans and wills.  It doesn’t start with anyone other than me. 

 

I need to allow the Lord “stir up my spirit.”

 

I remember the story of the old man and his granddaughter sitting down to have a tea party. 

 

The little girl got her cup and put some tea in it and then she put some tea into grandpa’s.  Next she got some sugar and a spoon to add some flavor.  She put one scoop into grandpa’s cup.  Then another, another, another, and another.  She kept putting spoonfuls of sugar into grandpa’s cup until he asked, “Honey, don’t you think it’s going to be too sweet?”  She said with a smile, “Not if I don’t stir it.” 

 

The Word of God and the Spirit of God cannot make a difference in my life unless I allow it to be stirred within me.  I need to allow God to stir up my spirit. 

 

I need to get to work on living out His priorities and not mine. 

 
It’s been said, “Christianity has not so much been tried and found wanting, as it’s been found difficult and left untried.”  That statement true when it comes to this issue of how I use my time and money.  The New Testament teaching about stewardship, giving, and obedience to God has not so much been tried and found wanting, as it’s been found difficult and left untried.

Even the spiritual need to be reminded that a real faith requires that actions be taken.  Every believer needs to be reminded that walking with God means walking with God rather than simply believing.  Every believer needs to be reminded that our faith requires perpetual action.  Just because God has done great things before in my life, does not mean that I am right with God now.  Just because I have seen great things happen before (Israel had seen the Babylonian captivity end and had been a part of re-building the wall with Nehemiah), does not mean that they are always right with God.  They needed to obey today!  They could not live off of past experiences with God, they needed His power to be alive and well as they continued to serve Him.  I need to do likewise.

 

Lord forgive my loss of focus and procrastination.  Renew my heart, vision, passion, and empower my hands and feet to follow You.  Amen. 

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