The name Haggai means “my feast.” It’s likely the prophet Haggai was either born or conceived during one of Israel’s 7 different feast times. God tells his people 7 times a year to stop and feast as part of their relationship with him. How big is feasting in our faith, how might that help us grow closer to God and each other? Jesus also spent a lot of time around the table, teaching, building friendships and enjoying the blessings his Father has given us. Our faith is so much more than just doctrine and theology, it’s also about a heart relationship with our Father, with Jesus through the Holy Spirit and with each other. Haggai is about having a healthy spiritual vibrant relationship with God. This is why celebrating the sacraments like the Lord’s Supper is important in strengthening and nourishing our faith and relationship with Jesus using the everyday events like eating. Our faith relationship with Jesus is about life, living a full life of family, work, love, community in a way that shows our connection to Jesus.
We all want a full meaningful life, but too often we try to do it in our own strength, focusing on our own goals and desires, putting Jesus’ way and desires off to the side. We usually don’t even do this deliberately, it just kind of happens because we tend to love ourselves so much more than anything else, including Jesus. This is a big part of why Jesus came to earth from heaven, to help us remember that life without our heavenly Father leads to a life measured by how much we can do, how well we can follow or break the rules and get away it, or by how much we can collect for ourselves. This is fine for a while, it can feel satisfying for a while, but sooner or later life this way begins to feel shallow and empty.
Jesus came to earth to invite us back into a relationship with the Father again, to focus on a heart relationship with the Holy Spirit because that’s when we’re transformed, when our focus in life, our priorities in life gets changed from us to Jesus. Jesus takes the hurts, the brokenness, the selfishness, the dirt and stained parts of our souls and hearts that come because we live our way instead of the Jesus way and he takes them to the cross where our sin is washed away and the weight of our selfishness is lifted so that we can experience life as God intends for us.
Haggai is chosen by God to call the people of Israel back into a meaningful vibrant spiritual life with God. The Jews came back to their land after spending 70 years in exile in Babylon and now they’ve rebuilt Jerusalem, revived their orchards and fields, built new homes and have settled down. When Israel first came home, they had begun working on the house of God, but the peoples around them knew that with the temple rebuilt, this would make it more difficult to get rid of the Jews again, so they opposed the Jews and intimidated them until they stopped working on the temple and focused instead on their own houses, businesses and the rest of the city. Over time, the Jews put off working on God’s house so long that it lost all importance to them.
Haggai goes to Zerubbabel and Joshua, the civil and religious leaders of Israel. Haggai knows that people tend to do what their leaders do, not necessarily what their leaders tell them to do. If Haggai can convince them to place a priority on God and his temple, on shaping their lives around the Lord’s desires instead of their own, then the people will follow. This is a message to leaders in the church everywhere, if you want change in the church you first must be changed by Jesus in that same way. Haggai comes straight out and asks Zerubbabel and Joshua, “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house. Is it time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” Haggai echoes King David’s heart hundreds of years earlier when he’s looking at his grand palace, at everything he has and sees that there’s no building for the Lord. The people are coming to a tent where the Lord’s ark is being kept. David’s heart begins to pound with a deep desire to build something magnificent to show the world how wonderful God is.
Haggai twice says, “Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways.” It reminds me of what my mother would say as a warning that we were getting really close to digging ourselves into more trouble than we were already in. She would say, “Be careful about what you say next.” She wanted us to think first and this was her way of reminding us of who we were, kids, and who she was, our mother and that we needed to be respectful to her. Haggai goes on, “You’ve planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but aren’t warm. You earn wages, only to put them into a purse with holes in it.” Haggai tells Zerubbabel and Joshua to go up into the mountains and bring down timber to build the Lord’s house. Haggai reveals why they’re never satisfied, “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house. Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the olive oil, and everything else the ground produces, on people and livestock, and on all the labour of your hands.”
Basically, the Lord is saying, “You don’t pay attention to me and yet you want me to do everything for you; you disrespect me, ignore me and still expect me to give you everything you desire without caring about what I desire.” Kind of sounds like a parent who’s frustrated with their kids who want what the parents can give them, but without the parents. In some ways, the Lord must feel like a jilted lover, yet the Lord stays committed to his people, “I am with you,” is the great promise he gives them. This is a promise given over and over again in the Bible to people like Joshua in Deuteronomy 31:8 “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Jesus’ last words to his followers were, Matthew 28:19–20 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
We’re given this promise over and over again so that we can live without fear. God wants the people to focus on him instead of the peoples around them. Today, we can live focused on Jesus, knowing that he is always with you, having given us the Holy Spirit to guide us, reminding us of all that Jesus taught, and filling us with peace and confidence as we walk through life. Jesus tells us in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” The thief is anything that creates fear, anything that draws our attention from Jesus, anything that leads us away from Jesus. Jesus came so that you can experience a full abundant life. Ed Stetzer writes, “abundant life is about what we receive as a gift from the Lord and to live knowing we are stewards of the blessings of God. We know we have an abundant life—when we have shared our life with others. When we have enough of the blessings of God such as mercy, peace, love, grace, wisdom, etc to share with others, and then actually do it; that’s when we truly have abundant life.”
God and Jesus, whether it’s in Haggai’s time, New Testament times, or today wants you to experience a life filled with blessings that pour out from you into the lives around you and the communities you live in. This happens when you shape your life on Jesus, allowing the Holy Spirit to guide you and transform your heart, soul and mind to look more like Jesus each day, honouring him in every way with a servant life, focusing on building his house rather than your own.