Today in our society everyone is faced with hundreds of choices and options. We live in a consumer-driven culture where you can have your choice of anything and everything you desire. Unfortunately that concept has crept into the culture of church life and our choices concerning church. We pick and choose church life almost the way we choose products in a store.
We want life to be comfortable. We want to meet our needs and our desires with little consequence. We like to talk about the blessings of God but all too often we are afraid to deal with the requirements of following God. What we must understand is that one feeds into the other. I like that I live in this time in history. I like that I can have fast food, microwaves and a car. I would not survive very long if I were having to plow a field for my food. But, sometimes all of those traps of life can cause us to miss the main focus and purpose of life.
The Glory of God must be our number one priority.
We can so easily get caught up in our own life circumstances that we miss out on what is most important. We lose sight of the concept that we were created to bring God glory. Life runs at a fast pace and if we aren’t intentional about focusing our lives on the glory of God, we can easily lose our direction. The people in Jerusalem had stopped focusing on the importance of building the temple. The temple was significant not because it was merely a building, it was significant because it was where you met God. Creation declares the glory of God.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Psalm 19:1 (NIV)
Scripture teaches over and over again that the main reason humanity was created was to bring glory to God. In particular the reason the nation of Israel was brought into being was to bring honor to God in a culture that worshipped many gods.The nation of Israel declares the glory of God.“And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.” So the Israelites did this.” Exodus 14:4 (NIV) God’s promise of restoration declares the glory of God.“Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, ’Give them up!’ and to the south, ’Do not hold them back. Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth– everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” Isaiah 43:5-7 (NIV) Isaiah wrote in the 8th century B.C. that judgment was coming upon the nation of Israel because they had disobeyed God. He was writing either during the time of the beginning of the exile of the nation to Babylon or right before that time. But in this passage, he has a promise from God that God will lead his people out of the nations of their exile to return to the land of promise.
In the 18 years that the people had begun to return to Jerusalem they had not begun work on the temple. The Temple of Solomon that had been built in 959 B.C. was destroyed in the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. Without the temple, worship and connection with God was not possible for the people of the nation. When the people returned to Jerusalem, they were expected to begin construction on the temple so that God could be worshipped and glorified.
They were so preoccupied with their own lives that they ignored building the temple.God had called the people to a specific task to bring glory to him. Now, they were ignoring that one task. So God, through Haggai tells them to get on with the task at hand. It is time for them to build the temple.“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.” Haggai 1:8 (NIV)
What does it look like for us to bring glory to God?
To bring glory to God is to choose obedience. What Haggai was telling the people was that the way they were to honor God was to obey what he had called them to and to build the temple so that they can worship properly. Jesus gave his followers the same instructions 500 years later.“Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross daily, and follow me.” Luke 9:23 (NLT) God is not calling us to crazy things that we could never be expected to follow. Jesus said the way to follow him was to love God and love others. It is so easy to let your life get off track and to chase after things to satisfy us. It is easy to do that even in church life. What we must do is focus our lives so that we are giving God the priority in all we do.
To bring glory to God is to contemplate our actions. God calls us to do more than simply blindly follow. God calls us to reason and to examine why we do the things we do. One of the dangerous misconceptions of Christians is that because we live by faith we don’t have to think. Haggai reminds the people of Jerusalem over and over again that they must think about the actions of their lives.
“Give careful thought to your ways.” Haggai 1:5 (NIV) “Now give careful thought to this from this day on–consider how things were before one stone was laid on another in the Lord’s temple.” Haggai 2:15 (NIV) ’From this day on, from this twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, give careful thought to the day when the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid. Give careful thought.” Haggai 2:18 (NIV) We must be able to understand on a mental level the depth of what it means to follow Christ as best we can. We have to carefully weigh out the choices and consequences of the actions of our lives.
To bring glory to God is to turn from disobedience. God doesn’t desire that any of us should live in disobedience to him. Instead what he desires is that we take our lives of disobedience and change how we are living. There are consequences for our actions. Haggai reminds the people of Israel that there are consequences for disobeying God.
“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.” Haggai 1:6 (NIV) “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 1:11 (NIV) “When anyone came to a heap of twenty measures, there were only ten. When anyone went to a wine vat to draw fifty measures, there were only twenty. I struck all the work of your hands with blight, mildew and hail, yet you did not turn to me,’ declares the Lord.” Haggai 2:16-17 (NIV)
Our lives are to be lives devoted to obedience to God. We must understand that God uses consequences in our lives to help us to understand that he wants us to continually seek to honor him and follow after him. God’s discipline illustrates his love for us.”The people I love, I call to account—prod and correct and guide so that they’ll live at their best. Up on your feet, then! About face! Run after God!” Rev. 3:19 (The Message) There are consequences for disobeying God. When we find ourselves willingly disobeying God, we should expect God to discipline us to draw him back to ourselves.
To bring glory to God is to receive his blessings. Haggai reminds the people that God blesses their obedience. He gives them six different areas that God promises to bless those who are obedient to him.
A) Enthusiasm “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.” Haggai 1:14 (NIV) There is an excitement that comes from doing the right things. When we are controlled by God’s Spirit we want to follow him.
B) Strength “But now be strong, O Zerubbabel,’ declares the Lord. ’Be strong, O Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the Lord, ’and work. For I am with you,’ declares the Lord Almighty. ’This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.” Haggai 2:4-5 (NIV)
C) Resources, Presence and Peace ’The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty. ’The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ’And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty.” Haggai 2:8-9 (NIV)
D) Prosperity “Is there yet any seed left in the barn? Until now, the vine and the fig tree, the pomegranate and the olive tree have not borne fruit. ’From this day on I will bless you.’ ” Haggai 2:19 (NIV) The people had lived in a drought and famine because God had withheld his blessing because of their disobedience. Now, God blesses them because they have focused on the most important things in life.
To bring glory to God is to trust Gods’ faithfulness. We may feel like we can’t trust God or that we must take matters into our own hands in order to make sense of life. Ultimately as we establish the priorities of life we must realize that God is faithful to do what he has promised.” ’On that day,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ’I will take you, my servant Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel,’ declares the Lord, ’and I will make you like my signet ring, for I have chosen you,’ declares the Lord Almighty.” Haggai 2:23 (NIV) A signet in that day was as good as a signature. It was a seal, the impression of which was laid in wax or clay and was worn either on the finger or on a cord around one’s neck. The significance was that the signet was used as a pledge or a guarantee of full payment. It meant that the one who used it was going to make good on his promise.
That is exactly how Jesus is in our lives. He will make good on his promises with us when we choose to put the priority of our lives into his hands. “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”- Jim Elliot.
Jesus said it this way: “If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find true life.” Matthew 16:25 (NLT)
We must establish our lives with the right priorities and the right focus. What is the focus of your life? What are the priorities of your spiritual journey? We cannot have life changing experiences unless it changes our life.