For me, Haggai has always resonated deeply. I think I find it easy to connect with his message because I find myself connecting with his audience. He’s not speaking, as did some of the other prophets, to a people who had blatantly and overtly rejected God in pursuit of immoral pagan idolatry. Instead, he’s addressing folks who had left the life they were becoming used to as exiles in Babylon to return to a pursuit of the things of God. They rallied around a noble calling . . . the rebuilding of the temple . . . the reconstruction of Jerusalem . . . building once again a place where the glory of God might be known. But once they got back . . . after a good start . . . as time passed . . . they lost focus. And so, in its simplest form . . . as my truck-driver friend, Wynne, would always say . . . Haggai’s message to them was . . . “Give your head a shake!”
Five times in this short book (vv. 1:5, 1:7, 2:15, 2:18a, 2:18b), Haggai exhorts the people of God to think about how they’re living their lives . . . to “consider” (ESV, NKJV, NASB) . . . to “give careful thought” (NIV) . . . to “take a good hard look” (MSG) . . . to “give your head a shake” (Wynne). Think about it, he says.
“Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house [the temple] lies in ruins? Now, therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways. 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 he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes. Thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways.” (Haggai 1:4-7 ESV)
They were spinning their wheels . . . trying to re-establish the “good life” while neglecting the “abundant life” . . . trying to fill their cupboards without first emptying themselves for the things of God . . . so intent on putting clothes on their back that they forgot about putting on garments of righteousness. And it just wasn’t happening. They were working hard, but never seeming to get ahead . . . eating and drinking, but continually thirsty and hungry . . . the money coming in, but always feeling poor. And Haggai says, “Give your head a shake! Connect the dots! God has called you to return to rebuild the temple . . . it is in that pursuit they you will find blessing.” Said another way, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33)
Can’t we relate? What has God asked us to do? And then, don’t we find ourselves so often fitting what God wants us to do in around other stuff . . . and then wondering why it’s hard and why we have no joy? And the Spirit whispers to our spirits, “Give your head a shake . . . consider your ways . . . think about them . . . are you doing what the Father has called you to do . . .with the priority He wants you to place on it . . . with the passion He wants you to pursue it with?”
I’d do well from time to time to give “careful thought” to how I steward this life God has given me. Is it with my agenda, or His? . . . my priorities, or His? . . . my strength and wisdom, or in the power and leading of the Spirit of God within me? And, if my “to do” list has to be re-prioritized, then I need to shuffle the list and make sure first things are placed first. It says in Haggai 1:12-14 that the people “obeyed the voice of the Lord their God” and “feared the Lord” and that the Lord responded by “stirring up” their spirit. Once they re-focused on doing first the right stuff, God ignited them from the inside out . . . filled them with a renewed vision, and excitement, and energy for the work. Not a bad place to be . . . pursuing the things of God . . . with a passion from God . . . for the praise of God.
“Give your head a shake!” Not bad counsel to heed from time to time.