Rebuilding a Better Future - Free Sample
It starts with us
What is the starting point if we desire some kind of new beginning in our lives? The answer is closer to home than we might find comfortable . . .
Read: Haggai 1:1-6
“Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your panelled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” (verse 4)
It’s 29th August 520BC and for the first time since the Jewish people have returned from exile in Babylon, an authoritative prophetic voice rings out in Jerusalem. It’s the first day of the month in the Jewish calendar, a holy day, perhaps a good day to catch the attention of the people. It’s felt like there had been a lot of silence from God for some time. Now He breaks that silence. And the first words of God that are heard are fascinating because they simply repeat what the Jewish people themselves have been saying. Of all our modern translations, the Revised Standard Version captures the original Hebrew well: “Thus says the Lord of hosts: This people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord” (verse 2).
“This people . . .” is a telling phrase. Not, “My people,” or even, “These people,” but, “This people”. It’s a descriptive phrase suggesting relational distance. God does not feel close to the Israelites and the state of their relationship is because of the heart attitude of the people. And, in the way God first speaks to them, He makes it very clear He’s pointing a finger at them. In verse 4, in the Hebrew, there is a double use of the word “you”, so we could translate it as, “Is it a time for you, you I say, to be living in your panelled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”
Whenever we desire a new beginning in our lives, the starting point is us.
Have you ever had a moment of realisation and found yourself saying, “How could I have been so blind?” Or, “I should have seen that coming”? For various reasons, whether knowingly or unwittingly, we had allowed ourselves to be carried along by circumstances so that we were blind to the real source of our problems. And then some occurrence lifts the veil from our eyes and we see everything clearly. That’s the kind of experience the Jewish remnant had in Jerusalem.
Through Haggai, God reminds the people to consider just how difficult their lives have been. Their harvests have been disappointing, their meals are unsatisfying, their clothes don’t keep them warm and their wages stretch so little across their expenses, that it feels like their purses have holes in them (verse 6). But the people had not connected these adverse circumstances with the state of their hearts before God. There was something else they hadn’t seen: the glaring discrepancy between the luxurious condition of their own homes and the ruinous state of God’s Temple (verse 4). Haggai’s opening words to the people are along the lines of, “How could you be so blind?” They had invested their energies in looking after their own homes, so that, even with wider economic challenges in the land, they looked rich materially, at least on the home front. Rich materially, but poor relationally towards God.
The remnant thought that they could define the timing of when to attend to God’s house. But we neglect God when we allow our ideas to champion God’s perspectives. God was in fact doing a bigger work of newness, wanting to establish His people back in Jerusalem. It was a brand-new start, yet the people were missing it, because they had failed to see the significance of the Temple in their midst. The Temple signified God’s name and honour, His presence among them. As long as the Temple lay in ruins, this signalled the side-lining of God and the dishonouring of His reputation among all the nations surrounding Israel.
The remnant had busied themselves in their own efforts of rebuilding. But our opening reading shows that no personal rebuilding in our lives is worth much if God’s place in our lives is ignored or side-lined. That’s why rebuilding always starts with us, with an honest evaluation of our lives before God. No self-denial here, I’m afraid, only transparency will do. We can’t hide it from God anyway, so why not just come clean with Him? Allow His Spirit to show you, as He did through Haggai, what the key issues are.
In your life are you trying to build in ways that neglect God? You may be busy, but are you building for Him? Like the Jewish remnant, allow God to speak to you through the circumstances of your lives. What may He be saying to you?
Even though we must start with ourselves, and that can focus us on our weaknesses, the opening message of Haggai carries hope, even as it carries challenge. It’s the way that Haggai describes God which shows where all this is heading. Haggai’s favourite way to describe God is Lord Almighty. It is rendered in various ways in our English translations, for example, Lord of hosts, or Lord of heaven’s armies. The Hebrew word does indeed mean “army” and the title is intended to convey that God is the Lord over all powers. It is because God is all-powerful, that He can rebuild our lives. Where we are weak, He is strong. He will fulfil His purposes for us. That’s a great encouragement as we look to Him to bring new beginnings in our lives.
Heavenly Father, I praise you that you are the Lord Almighty, powerful to create new beginnings for me. Search my life through the light of your Spirit and show me any ways in which I have been building in my own strength and for my own aims, rather than to build for you and with you. Help me to give careful consideration to my ways. Now I commit afresh to working with you, so that my life will experience your newness, which will bring honour to your name. Lead me as I choose to work with you. Amen.