Haggai 1: 2 Thus says the Lord of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house. 3 Then the word of the Lord came by the prophet Haggai, saying: 4 Is it a time for you yourselves to live in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? 5 Now therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider how you have fared. 6 You have sown much, and harvested little; you eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and you that earn wages earn wages to put them into a bag with holes.
Haggai is writing to the Israelites who were finally allowed to return from exile in Babylon to re-build Jerusalem. However, after quite some time the people had only succeeded in building homes for themselves rather than rebuilding the house of the Lord (the temple). The Lord says in v.5 “Consider how you have fared…” – not very well. Two things come to mind for me this morning.
First is the idea of “first fruits” which is a common principal as it relates to things given by people to God. Giving first fruits means we give the first and best of our harvest to the Lord and live off the rest. In an agricultural culture the meaning was literal but the principal still applies today. We give to God first then live off the rest. In the case of the people in Haggai’s day, it would seem the people gave the first fruits of their labor to themselves rather than to God – hence God was still homeless long after people had housing.
Secondly I’m thinking about the outcome of the peoples’ failure to give to God the first fruits of their time. V.6 offers a clear description. They plant, but little comes from the crop. And even when they do produce a crop or clothing or wages it does not satisfy. It would seem that the human nature to see to their own provision before giving to God has been a failure for the people of ancient Israel. What about you and me?
I will tell you I’m no more pure in heart than the people to whom Haggai is writing. I am often tempted to provide for myself first then give the leftovers to God. Even giving to God the first fruits of my day to write this biblical reflection is hard for me on more days than I care to admit. My brain goes to all the things “I need to get done!” and I start thinking I really don’t have time for this. I’ll skip today, who will notice? Well, on many days I skip you all notice and I hear from you. I appreciate that accountability.
But more importantly God notices, not from a place of judgment but from a place of sadness. I’ve learned over the years that God wants to gift me with his Word at the beginning of the day, even on days when I don’t think the passages are that interesting. When I skip reading/writing I’m declaring that I don’t need what the Lord has to give me, that I’ll make it through the day in my own strength, providing for myself rather than depending on God. It doesn’t go well. I am so weak and needy but my sinful nature resists God. My pride resists a sense of needing God or anyone else.
So this morning I’m asking the Lord to forgive my hard-heartedness and asking for grace to trust in the Lord for all of my provision rather than trusting in myself. Lord let it be so. Amen.