Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: “Consider your ways! [Haggai 1:5]
In a world seemingly turned on its head, some self-examination may be in order. Instead of clamoring for personal rights, preferential political agendas, and social media arguments, perhaps we should each heed Haggai’s warning to “consider your ways.”
Haggai was a prophet whose ministry took place around 520 BC. A small remnant of Israelites had returned from Babylonian and Persian captivity and started rebuilding Jerusalem and the temple. As with most daunting tasks, they became physically, emotionally and (most importantly) spiritually exhausted. For several years, the temple rebuilding efforts lagged as people focused on their personal homes and lives. This resulting spiritual apathy is what prompted God to send His prophet Haggai.
“Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?” [Haggai 1:4]
The Absence of God’s Presence
See, the absence of the temple symbolized the absence of God’s presence. Without focusing on the spiritual benefits of aggressively finishing the temple, the general consensus was one of personal focus and gratification. They “lost their first love,” so to speak, and prioritized personal agendas over God’s explicit purpose.
And yet, they did not realize that without the active, daily presence of God, the normal activities, desires, and goals of life are not fulfilling.
You have sown much, and bring in little;
Eat, but do not have enough;
Drink, but you are not filled with drink;
Clothe yourselves, but no one is warm;
And he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes.
Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Consider your ways!
That said, the parallel application for followers of Christ is the same. Without the active, daily pursuit of God’s presence, normal everyday life will be unsatisfactory. In the absence of intimacy, reverence and fellowship with God, life becomes purposeless and unfulfilling.
Sure, we can go about our lives feverishly building, working, eating, drinking, debating, busying ourselves with the “cares of this life” [Luke 21:34]. Yet there remains a gnawing emptiness, a deep-seated dissatisfaction, a void only God can fill. We know it’s there—so maybe it’s time to stop fooling ourselves and “consider our ways.” “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it” [Psalm 127:1].
Obedience and Reverence Precede God’s Presence
Here’s the great news. Once the Israelites “obeyed the voice of the LORD their God” and “feared the presence of the LORD,” God said, “I am with you…my Spirit remains among you” [Haggai 1:12-13; 2:5]. Obedience and reverence precede God’s presence. They prioritized their attention on rebuilding the temple, finishing it four years later. Additionally, they regained a sense of the awesomeness of the God they served. He wasn’t some distant, uncaring, disinterested essence who once in times past was actively engaged in the affairs of men. No, He had not changed in the least. Their hearts had simply grown cold and distracted in their exhaustion.
God remains the same today [Malachi 3:6]. He desires our obedience [1 Samuel 15:22]. Above all, He longs to have a personal relationship with each person [John 3:16]. As part of that relationship, He desires growing fellowship and deeper intimacy. More importantly, I firmly believe His purposes for this age of grace are quickly drawing to a close. The time is very near when He will look to Jesus, sitting at His right hand in the throne room of heaven, and say, “It’s time—go get My children.” In an instant, earthly things will fade from view and His genuine followers will be “caught up together…to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” [1 Thessalonians 4:17].
“Consider Your Ways”
The beauty of this phrase is that it contains no judgment or direction. It doesn’t say, ‘Because you have done this therefore this shall happen.” Nor does it say, “This is what you should do.” It leaves plenty of latitude for personal application as each person compares His life to God’s Word and listens to the influence of the Holy Spirit. God’s Word is a lamp that enlightens [Psalm 119:105]. It is also a sword that surgically pierces the soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and is a “discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” [Hebrews 4:12]. Along with such precise scrutiny and surgery, the Holy Spirit convicts of sin and guides into all truth (John 16:8-13]. But rest assured, He does not leave as He found us.
As followers of Christ, believers have all the tools necessary to “consider their ways.” We do this by:
- Applying God’s Word to every aspect of life – obediently, humbly, and quickly
- Adhering to His moral standard – not cultural pressure or personal preference
- Avoiding any conformity to the world [Romans 12:1-2]
- Allowing the Holy Spirit free reign to remove, replace, and restore whatever necessary to transform us into Christlikeness [Romans 8:29]
- Repenting of what God’s Word and the Holy Spirit reveal as sinful
- Recapturing a glimpse of His awesome majesty and glory
His People – His Temple – His Presence
God’s Word asks believers, “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” [1 Corinthians 6:19-20]. Every believer, indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God, is the temple of God. We are purified and sanctified by His blood, alive by His resurrection, and anointed for His service and purpose. We should live as continually in His presence. Therefore, just as in Haggai’s day, our overwhelming priority should be on “building up” our temple through obedience and reverence. Only then will we enjoy the intimacy and fellowship of His sweet presence.
In this prevailing time of chaos, may all authentic followers of Jesus not add to the turmoil. May we not become entangled in the affairs of this life [2 Timothy 2:4] or pursue the things of this world [1 John 2:15]. Instead, may we consider our ways, align hearts and minds to God’s Word, follow His Spirit’s leading, and live daily in His presence.