Noah: The Work of Faith
There are many passages in the Bible in which we are exhorted to make God the chief consideration, main love or top priority in our lives:
- “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). In this context serving God even comes before seeking after the basic necessities of life, such as food, shelter and clothing (6:32).
- “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind”. This is the great and foremost commandment” (Matthew 22:38). We could rephrase this and say such is the foremost obligation or commitment that we have. This is what we do before we do anything else.
- “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26). Here, our love and dedication for Jesus must rise higher than our love for parents, a spouse, children or even self-preservation.
- “They did not love their life even when faced with death” (Revelation 12:11). Here are Christians who are said to have gained favor with God because when faced with the choice between buying themselves a little more time on earth or remaining faithful to God, they chose faithfulness, which often resulted in persecution and or death.
Why Does He Come First?
That is a good question and even though many people may never actually say, “Well, why do I have to put God first?”; such is often what they are thinking. So let’s address that:
- God created us. I did not create myself. I owe Him my very existence (Acts 17:25).
- Every breath I take is due to the universe and earth that He created. Without Him, all would disappear. He is the One who is currently holding the entire universe together (Colossians 1:16) and providing the oxygen and everything else that is necessary for life: “But the God in whose hand are your life-breath and all your ways, you have not glorified” (Daniel 5:23).
- Someone noted that in the abortion debate those who defend the practice under every and all circumstances, including right up to the moment prior to birth will often argue that the most important principle to be upheld is that “a woman has control over her own body”. Yet the problem with that argument is that it isn’t true. I did not create the body that I inhabit. I am not the sole owner. Someone else is on the title. In fact, I am not sure if my name is even on the title or the deed. For I am simply renting this body. God reminded the Corinthians that “Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body” (1 Corinthians 6:13). So we are under obligation to honor God with the body that He created: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own” (6:19).
Maybe the idea that “I have the right to do with my body whatever I want” is one of the top ten greatest myths that have been embraced by the human race.
- Then there is the fact that Jesus came and died for us in order to deliver us from our sins, and such is true for all of us (Romans 3:23; “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each one of us has turned to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6).
- I should put God first, because God placed my salvation on a higher plane than the comfort and life of His own Son (Romans 8:32).
- Philippians chapter 2 is a great discussion on how we need to put others first (not to mention God), because Jesus put our greatest need ahead of all of His comforts (Philippians 2:3-8).
The Challenge of Remaining Grateful
Specifically remaining grateful after God has delivered or rescued us. The reason I bring this up is because I find this an ongoing problem in many of the examples that were written for our learning. After an amazing deliverance, the Israelites were anything but grateful, but were constantly complaining. Then after God removed the remaining nation of Judah from the land and then 70 years later allowed a remnant to return I find the same lapse away from gratitude. It was only by the mercy and power of God that even a remnant was able to return and start rebuilding the Temple and yet that very remnant struggled with keeping God first (Ezra 9:6-10; Nehemiah 9:31).
Haggai dates his work as “the second year of Darius the king” (1:1), which would be 520 B.C. Some sixteen years earlier in 536 B.C., about 50,000 Jews had returned under the leadership of Zerubbabel. They erected the altar and proceeded to offer burnt offerings thereon (Ezra 3:2-6). They also gathered materials for the rebuilding of the temple (Ezra 4:1-24). However, due to Samaritan harassment and eventual Persian pressure brought a halt to the rebuilding of the temple. Then spiritual apathy set in; and for about sixteen years until the rule of the Persian king, Darius Hystaspes (521-486 B.C.), the construction of the temple was discontinued. God then raised up Haggai and the prophet Zechariah to encourage the people to finish what they had started (Ezra 5:1-2). Because of the efforts of these two men, the temple was completed in 515 B.C.
1:2 “This people says, ‘The time has not come, even the time for the house of the Lord to be rebuilt’”:
It was by God’s sheer grace that these people were even back in their homeland and yet shortly after they arrived they developed the attitude that other things took a priority over the things of God. They started to think that:
- Rebuilding the Temple became viewed as a “luxury” that they could not afford right now. It was not a “necessity” (like their own house). Which is the complete opposite attitude of King David would could not bear the thought of God “being in a tent” while He lived in a house. And that rebuilding was “risky”, “dangerous”---while not rebuilding was “safe”?
- It is so easy to revert to thinking that says, “Now is not the right time, maybe later when my schedule is cleared”. We treat serving God like an annual exam that we need, but can be put off because of pressing issues. “I know I should do it, but it is not the end of the world if I don’t do it right now”.
- Often I run into people who know they should be serving God but who have the attitude, “I need to finish what I am doing right now. Clear my plate and yet the plate is never cleared”.
- It is easy to convince ourselves that we will obey in the future. “Yes, when I have the time I will be the Christian I need to be, but right now because of the circumstances that is not possible---and God understands”.
- “I know that I am not putting God first, but as it is this is the best I have to offer?”So easy to revert to the old ways. Easy to justify…skimping on God….I need the work. We need to eat. I need to survive. I need to keep myself “safe”.
“Is it Time?”: 1:4
Yet they had the time, effort and resources to work on their own homes, in fact, observe the emphasis on “paneled houses”. This may indicate that paneling meant for the Temple had been used on private homes. In other words, the time, dedication, effort and resources that should have went into serving God had been diverted to lesser things? Could this be happening in my life?
Consider Your Ways: 1:5
God asks them to give careful and honest attention to their conduct during the past years. “Ought you to continue on your chosen path? Did your refusal to give your money for the Lord’s house pay any dividends? What benefit has catering to your own selfish interests gain for you?” (Laetsch p. 388). In other words: So how is that working for you? Are you getting ahead or falling behind? Because these people, putting their own physical interests ahead of God resulted in falling further and further behind financially. The harvests did not pan out. Prices were high. Times were lean. The idea is that in skimming on God, life was paying them back in return. So just a heads up. Before I say, “Well I cannot afford to worship God every Sunday, pray every day, read my Bible, spend time teaching my kids about God, having a family Bible study”…the truth of the matter is that I cannot afford not to. Thus, serious questions to ask myself:
- How are my current choices affecting the quality of my marriage? Making it better and stronger or undermining its very foundation?
- How are my current choices affecting my soul? Am I drawing closer to God or further way?
- How are my current choices impacting my relationship with other Christians? More involved or more aloof?