A Bible Study by Jack Kelley
Seek His Kingdom
On the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Haggai: “This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Ask the priests what the law says: If a person carries consecrated meat in the fold of his garment, and that fold touches some bread or stew, some wine, oil or other food, does it become consecrated?’ ” The priests answered, “No.”
Then Haggai said, “If a person defiled by contact with a dead body touches one of these things, does it become defiled?”
“Yes,” the priests replied, “it becomes defiled.” Then Haggai said, ” ‘So it is with this people and this nation in my sight,’ declares the LORD. ‘Whatever they do and whatever they offer there is defiled.
Note: Jack wrote this in 2008 during the great recession. For many of us, this year has been much tougher than it was 12 years ago, but no matter our current situation, the principles he talks about here are timeless. I’m also comforted by Jack’s reminder that as believers, we’re not held captive to the fate of our nation like the Israelites were. ~Samantha
” ‘Now give careful thought to this from this day on —consider how things were before one stone was laid on another in the LORD’s temple. When anyone came to a heap of twenty measures, there were only ten. When anyone went to a wine vat to draw fifty measures, there were only twenty. I struck all the work of your hands with blight, mildew and hail, yet you did not turn to me,’ declares the LORD.
‘From this day on, from this twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, give careful thought to the day when the foundation of the LORD’s temple was laid. Give careful thought: Is there yet any seed left in the barn? Until now, the vine and the fig tree, the pomegranate and the olive tree have not borne fruit. ” ‘From this day on I will bless you.’ “ (Haggai 2:10-19)
After returning from the Babylonian captivity the Jews had faced a lot of resistance in trying to rebuild their Temple. Finally they gave up, wrongly deciding that perhaps it wasn’t God’s timing. When they did, they faced another kind of trouble as well. They lost the Lord’s favor, and from then on no matter how hard they worked they weren’t successful. Each time they thought they were getting ahead, they discovered they were actually getting further behind. Even their offerings weren’t pleasing to Him.
On the day they they turned back to the construction of the Lord’s house, this all stopped and He restored their blessings. What was the lesson? He wanted them to put His house first, especially in times of persecution.
The Lord’s depletion of their stored up goods is a model of today’s losses, first in the decline of the dollar and now in the decline of property values. The dollar has lost much of it’s previous value in the world markets, making the foreign made products we buy, or those made of imported materials, more expensive. (Try to find something on your shopping list that doesn’t fit into one or the other of those two categories.)
In most of the US the average home is still worth less than it was a few years ago. Since most people didn’t have a lot of equity in their homes to begin with, that means the average home owner still owes more on his or her property can it can be sold for. Estimated losses for the Real Estate market are counted in billions of dollars. Retired Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan called this situation a “once-in-a-century” financial disaster, and it’s impacting financial markets all over the world.
The blight, mildew, and hail of Haggai 2 are models of the natural disasters that are also afflicting us now. As it was with the Israelites, the fruits of our labors are disappearing, and our offerings are not pleasing to the Lord.
Things that were external and physical in the Old Testament often become internal and spiritual in the New. In the Old Testament the Temple was a building in Jerusalem, but in the New Testament we are the Temple of God (1 Cor. 3:16) and things aren’t national anymore, they’re personal. The good news is that as believers we’re not held captive to the fate of our nation like the Israelites were. In 2 Chron. 7:14 the Lord promised the Israelites,
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
This was a promise to the Jewish people that if as a nation they would return to their covenant relationship with God he would restore His blessings on the Promised Land. The New Testament application of this promise for the Church can be found in Matt. 6:31-33.
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
This is a promise to each of us personally. We’re not to worry about how we’ll get by. We’re to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given us as well. The Lord’s feeding of the multitudes (Matt. 14:13-21, Matt. 15:29-39) was meant to teach us that He is able to provide when we’re willing to let Him. The feeding of 5,000 is the only one of His many pre-resurrection miracles that’s described in all four gospels, which means that except for the Resurrection it was His most important one.
Now that doesn’t mean we can sit back like baby birds with our mouths open crying, “Feed me.” Paul said that he who will not work shall not eat. (2 Thes. 3:10) But it does mean that we are to put our trust in Him to take care of us regardless of the circumstances, to do the work He gives us no matter what it is, and concentrate on coming closer to Him.
Let’s Get Personal
The time is coming soon when every Christian family in America will either have a personal experience of miraculous survival in the face of financial disaster or will know of one who has. In each case the story will be the same as it was for the Jews of Haggai’s day. As soon as they stopped worrying about their own lives and turned back to the business of building the Lord’s Temple, His blessings were restored. As soon as we stop worrying about how we’re going to survive the potentially difficult days ahead and focus our lives on Him we’ll experience the same result.
Please don’t misunderstand me here. I’m not talking about some external application of legalism. I’m not talking about mindless obedience to rules and commandments while our hearts are in rebellion. I’m talking about an inner reliance on the Lord, about restoring our faith in both His ability and His desire to provide for us.
There’s no prophecy we can point to for assurance that the Lord will save the United States. Applying Old Testament promises meant for Israel to the US is just another form of replacement theology. This is not a national issue. This is a personal one, and each one of us will determine the outcome for our own lives.
The very day that Israel decided to resume building the Lord’s House He restored their blessings. This is a part of the prophecy you can claim for yourself. The very day you determine in your heart to place your life in His hands He will begin blessing you.
That doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll all get to keep everything we now have. Some of our possessions are actually the cause of our problems, both because we’ve over spent to get them and because they’ve taken our focus off the Lord. Some of them have even enslaved us, and were much more fun in the getting than they are in the having. Many came with ongoing ownership costs like interest or other fees that eat away at our resources.
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10). You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God (2 Cor. 9:11)
The Lord will show you what, if anything, has to go. And don’t worry about incurring losses. If He tells you to get rid of something and you obey, then over time He’ll restore your losses. How do I know this? Three reasons. One, He wants you to store up treasure in Heaven. (Matt. 6:19-21) Two, He’s promised that if you follow His direction you’ll be made rich in every way so you can be generous on every occasion (2 Cor. 9:11). You can’t do either of these if you’re taking huge losses. And Three He promised to repay you for the years the locusts have eaten. (Joel 2:25) That means when you turn back to Him He’ll give you joy in return for the misery you’ve caused yourself.
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Luke 6:38).
But don’t think He’ll restore your fortunes just so you can keep all your toys, or get them all back. That’s the failure of the so-called prosperity gospel. The Lord’s promise is that we’ll be made rich so we can be generous, not so we can be irresponsible or selfish. It’s in being generous that we store up treasure in Heaven, where no form of property or currency devaluation can do us harm. Generous people are also the happiest people. See how it works?
Some will say, “I’m so far in debt even if I started today it would take 10 years to get out.” I say, “How much debt will you have in 10 years if you don’t start today? The way I see things shaping up, you can either downsize voluntarily and do it the easy way, or you can wait till you’re forced to and do it the hard way.
Now I know better than anyone that the rapture could come any day now and spare us all these things. But if you’re part of the 90% of believers with a secular world view, the longer He waits the more time you’ll have to finally start storing up treasure in Heaven, where it will benefit you forever. When you know you’re moving to a different city soon, you begin thinking about your new home and what your life will be like there. Take my word for it, you’re moving to a different city soon, so you’d better start thinking about it. Remember, our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ (Phil 3:20).
I used to pray for more money so I could pay the bills on my outrageous lifestyle. I didn’t get it. Now I live on less than one third of what I used to spend and in every sense I’m wealthier than I was. Now I pray for more money so I can give more to His work, and He always sends it. You think maybe there’s a lesson in there somewhere? Selah 09-20-08