“You have sown much, and bring in little; you eat, but do not have enough; you drink, but you are not filled with drink; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes.” (Haggai 1:6)
With the country in such turmoil and the future more bleak and dicey than it has been in a long time, many people are turning inward, hoping to carve out a safety net of some sort—“just in case.” While the Bible certainly cautions prudence and careful consideration of our personal responsibilities for our families, we are never told to trust either our own wisdom or the world’s advice for the future.
Lessons from Israel
The prophet Haggai lived in a challenging time in Israel’s history. Cyrus of Persia had just let some 50,000 of the Jewish captives in Babylon return to Jerusalem with orders to rebuild their temple and restore worship in their land. That land had long been held under the horrible mismanagement of pagans. The city was in shambles, and local political rule was both ungodly and hostile to the worship of Jehovah. However, Zerubbabel was given authority from Cyrus to rebuild and was in a direct genetic line from King David. Ezra had come with Zerubbabel with priestly authority, some of the major implements of the temple plundered by Nebuchadnezzar’s armies, and a deep and passionate desire to bring revival back to God’s people.
There was hope, but opposition was both immediate and forceful.
It wasn’t long after the foundation of the temple was laid that the will of the people began to sag, and the work dribbled off in various spits and starts until it finally stopped—for 16 years! Haggai was among that initial group and was at first swept up in the malaise and spiritual letdown that engulfed God’s people to the point where they began to be more concerned with survival than with carrying out God’s work.
Apparently, one day the Lord pulled Haggai out of his lethargy to challenge Israel with some very serious admonitions—and gave Haggai the vision of God’s promise of fulfillment and victory. Those four messages, two chapters, 38 verses, and 1,133 English words startled Israel and encouraged Zechariah, Haggai’s friend and fellow prophet, to get busy and finish the work God had called that generation to do—build the temple of God and make a place of focus for God to return and rebuild the nation.
Two Stern Admonitions
“Consider your ways!” (Haggai 1:5, 7). Sometimes the Lord seems like an old revivalist preacher. “Look at yourself!” the Lord says through Haggai. “You are working hard but are hardly making ends meet. You keep trying to satisfy some thirst with what the world has to offer, but it does not (and will never) satisfy. You shop at the fancy stores and buy the latest fashions, but they don’t give you either the pleasure or the warmth that you thought they would. And to top it off, you are struggling to increase your retirement funds, but the 401K is dropping faster than the money you put into it!”
Yes, that’s a rather contemporary paraphrase of what Haggai was told to tell the Lord’s people of his day—but the parallels are easily seen among God’s family today! Every so often, the family of God has to go through a shakeup. The biblical history is easy to see. God would bless Israel, prosperity would ensue, then Israel would slowly become more and more worldly and ultimately end up in an economic, political, and spiritual imprisonment of their own making. One wonders why God’s people can’t seem to learn from their own history!
“Build my house!” God demands (Haggai 1:8). Stop focusing on your own plans for prosperity, bigger and better houses, and attempts to drape yourselves with the “look and feel” of the godless world around you. All you are doing is dropping the resources that God has provided you into a “bag with holes.” There is no eternal sense in that. Get busy with the necessary work to accumulate the materials to “‘build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified,’ says the LORD” (Haggai 1:8).
Learn from your own past experience, the Lord says. Every time you invested in something that you thought would make you a fortune, “it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away” (v. 9). Do you want to know why, says the Lord of hosts?
“Because of My house that is in ruins, while every one of you runs to his own house. Therefore the heavens above you withhold the dew, and the earth withholds its fruit. For I called for a drought on the land and the mountains, on the grain and the new wine and the oil, on whatever the ground brings forth, on men and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands.” (Haggai 1:9-11)
From time to time we all need reminding that we are here on Earth to glorify our Creator, not to use His resources for our own pleasure and aggrandizement. Yes, God has graciously allowed us to “occupy” until He returns (Luke 19:13, KJV) and has given us a tremendous amount of liberty to do as we wish with the station in life, genetic inheritance, and practical acumen that can be developed within our lifetimes. However, once we are twice-born we are primarily His children, granted positional holiness and status for an ultimate eternal reign with the Lord Jesus as “joint heirs” (Romans 8:17).
“I am the LORD, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another.” (Isaiah 42:8)
Two Significant Warnings
“Consider your problems and my judgments,” the Lord admonishes (Haggai 1:7-11). Give some serious thought, He says, to what is happening to you and your country. Pay attention to the long view of history. Remember what made this God-founded nation so strong in its beginning and trace the decline over the decades as God has withdrawn His blessing from the country and from His people as both have grown further and further away from seeking the Kingdom first (Matthew 6:33).
One does not have to be a trained theologian or wise counselor to see the hand of God’s judgment in weather-related disasters, economic surprises, and business greed that have manifested themselves in the labor troubles, bankrupt companies, swindles, and outright fraud that have become more normal than not. The legal system in our country has done little to “bear the sword” as “God’s minister” (Romans 13:4), and because “the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil” (Ecclesiastes 8:11). “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when a wicked man rules, the people groan” (Proverbs 29:2).
“Obey my voice!” (Haggai 1:12) is the command and the solution. Once the people of Israel paid attention to the message of history and the voice of the prophet, God began to bless and restore the nation. Once the message got through, the people of God “hitched up” their work clothes and got busy with the real work of eternity. Haggai was even told to mark the day that the decision was made: They started on the 24th day of the six month (Haggai 1:15).
Remember and Separate
Once the decision to work was made and the change in behavior begun, the Lord reminded His people that they must remember what it was like when they were in disfavor and keep their families, their temple, and their identity as God’s people separate from any kind of mixture with the ungodly principles of the world (Haggai 2:10-19). Just so, the New Testament is replete with similar warnings (2 Corinthians 6:17; 7:1; Romans 12:1-2).
God even went further in His promise: Stay committed and I will bless you from this day onward. “Consider now from this day forward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, from the day that the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid—consider it” (Haggai 2:18). God loves to bless His people—and will bless His people—if they do what is expected and asked of them to do.
Finally, the promise was extended and extrapolated to eternity (Haggai 2:20-23). Ultimately, God will shake the heavens and the earth to eliminate anything and everything that is contrary to His will, and establish the “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13). With Haggai setting the stage and the positive response of the people, Zechariah is given some absolutely marvelous insights to the coming events that will consummate in the total takeover by the Creator and those who have trusted Him for their salvation.
Well, So What?
Why the reminder from Haggai and the attempt to draw parallels to our time? ICR’s folks come from a wide background within the Lord’s family. In many ways we represent a small group of “returning” Christians who had been held captive by an educational and a social matrix that either ignores or denies the Creator. A few “prophets” like ICR’s founder have led the way to build a testimony to the accuracy and authority of the biblical foundations of a recent creation, a rebellious fall, and a horrible destruction of the planet by God’s judgment through the Flood of Noah’s day.
Millennia have passed since the Flood and since Israel failed to follow the leadership of its prophets and godly kings. Even after the great Incarnation of our Lord Jesus, the Church has struggled to keep its focus and its commitment to God’s Word. Our country saw a return to a creation-based science in the early 1970s but has been bombarded by friends and enemies alike to abandon the need for a recent creation. Zeal for the truth of Scripture has faded into a need for entertainment and broad acceptance by the people of the world.
God has graciously empowered ICR with the knowledge and the initial resources to build an ICR Discovery Center for Science and Earth History as a lasting legacy tool that will teach many generations to come. But we are sensing a concern on the part of some that the state of our country is so tenuous that some have lost sight that the human effort to stave off personal difficulties has never worked—especially when the focus of faith has shifted from the work of the Kingdom to the “bag with holes.”
Help ICR “Build the House”
Please accept this as a word of encouragement from me. I make no claim to be a prophet or even to classify myself as a “righteous man” like Elijah (James 5:16-18), but we are on a mission. A museum is by no means a temple, but it will be a unique place of focus where God’s creation is profoundly showcased. I have learned that God is always faithful, and honoring His Word and His work always brings about sufficiency, satisfaction, and success.
If you will help us “build the house,” God will bring both blessing to us and glory to Himself. Some can give significant gifts out of significant resources, but most of us can give something to share in the work. Join with me in “gathering the wood” from the mountain (Haggai 1:8) and bringing it to the site where the building is beginning to rise on the foundation laid in years past. “‘Consider now from this day forward....Is the seed still in the barn? As yet the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have not yielded fruit. But from this day I will bless you’” (Haggai 2:18-19).
One thing I can most certainly guarantee both the reader and myself—with a rather obvious allusion to the illustration in Haggai, our Lord made this marvelous promise to each of us: “Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:33-35).
* Dr. Morris is Chief Executive Officer of the Institute for Creation Research.