Haggai 1:12-15 (NIVUK)
12 Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and the whole remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the Lord their God and the message of the prophet Haggai, because the Lord their God had sent him. And the people feared the Lord.
13 Then Haggai, the Lord’s messenger, gave this message of the Lord to the people: ‘I am with you,’ declares the Lord. 14 So the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua son of Jozadak, 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, 15 on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month.
It’s never easy to start again whatever it might be, and after the national trauma of conquest and a seventy year exile in Babylon the Lord had honoured his promise and brought a faithful remnant back to Jerusalem. Things began well but as so often happens, the enthusiasm soon waned and people became burdened with the challenges of life in hard economic times, and were waylaid into a self-centred lifestyle. True enough things had to be done, the harvest brought in, life was sometimes a struggle; it may have been that a military campaign in Egypt by their political masters had put a tax burden on them but the spiritual malaise into which the returnees had fallen was reflected in the abandoned temple. Work had stopped for some 16 years. Things spiritually were on the slide!
At that point God stepped in and challenged the people with the facts. They said it wasn’t the right time and they would get round to it but not just yet. On the other hand they had put the time and resources into building something more than basic homes for themselves which they claimed were not there to rebuild the temple. It was a question of priorities! However, as we’ve read when God challenged the people of Haggai’s day they responded in obedience to the message of the prophet. When that happened God sent a new message of assurance through the prophet “I am with you”. In turn their spiritual desire was stirred and they resumed work with almost lightening speed.
It’s never easy to start again (deliberately used) and I wonder how we will start again as a church when this present health crisis is over, or do we see even now a kind of spiritual lethargy in some Christians. If, as psychologists tell us, it is important in a time like this to establish routines, it is even more important to do so spiritually. Personally, it amazes me how quickly I can fall into a new pattern of behaviour and follow the least difficult course. So, when the economic shock of Covid-19 strikes us, as we’ve been told to expect, will concern for everyday life pull down our spiritual desire to a new low in an age when it wasn’t that high anyway? Let alone society in general, is it time for us, God’s people to hear the challenge Haggai brought from God “Give careful thought to your ways.” Haggai 1:5. It’s not that having the means of life and supporting our families is unimportant quite the opposite but it should not be the cause of anxiety that leaves no room for perusing God. Luke recorded Jesus words ( 12:29-31) on the matter “.... do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
Challenges lie ahead for our nation and the church, so listen to the inner prompting of the Spirit. To those who respond and seek His face with renewed vigour the promise is the same “I am with you”