Thursday

4 August 2022

Haggai 1:1-8

Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider how you have fared. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honoured, says the Lord. (vs 7-8)

Psalm 23

Background

In the opening of the book of Haggai, the people of Israel have just got back to Jerusalem after their exile. The city they left 70 years ago is still in a state of disrepair. There is lots to do and the people get to work. But in the opening verses of Haggai, we discover that their priorities have been misaligned. Instead of rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem, they have been working hard on making their own homes comfortable. They have placed their own needs and desires above the need to set God at the centre of the community.

Using Haggai as a prophet, God speaks to the people. He reminds them that since they returned to Jerusalem they haven't been thriving. They aren’t receiving much from the harvest, and what they do have is not satisfying. Even though they eat they are still going hungry. Haggai suggests that the reason for this is that the people haven’t set goals which honour God, and, as a consequence, all their labouring is in vain. They have prioritised themselves and their own comfort over worshipping God.

The passage ends with God calling the people to begin rebuilding the Temple. This isn’t just a calling to start the practical work of rebuilding God’s house, but to change their priorities. God is calling on the people to show repentance and faithfulness, so God might once again become the centre of their lives.

What’s interesting about these verses is that it’s not just one person who’s got the wrong priorities, but the whole community. Collectively, they’ve turned in the wrong direction and are now seeing the consequences. There are many parallels we could draw with contemporary society, particularly when we consider systemic issues such as the climate crisis. Collectively, we have chosen to prioritise our own comfort over the flourishing of God’s creation – including other people. We’re all seeing the consequences, as the harvest fails to satisfy, extreme weather rocks people’s lives, and the tools we have to respond aren’t working well enough.

Today, where might we need to turn once again to serving God first? How might serving God enable us to live in a way that all are enabled to flourish, because our resources are enough to go around?

To Ponder:

  • As well as the climate crisis, can you identify any other challenges in society today which call us to realign our priorities with God’s?
  • What are the consequences of these challenges for our communities?

Prayer

God of justice, when we have got it wrong your gracious love calls us back to yourself. Your justice looks like healing, and the chance to try again to serve you faithfully. Where our priorities are misaligned, help us to fix our eyes on you and to seek to honour you first and foremost with our lives. Amen.


Bible notes author

Hannah Fremont-Brown

Hannah Fremont-Brown is the Campaigns and Church Engagement Officer for the Joint Public Issues Team. Her work involves helping to empower local churches to engage with social justice and effective change-making.

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