“From this day on, think carefully; from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, from the day the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid; think carefully. Is there still seed left in the granary? The vine, the fig, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have not yet produced. But from this day on I will bless you.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Have you ever started a project only to get interrupted before it was completed? Did you ever go back to finish it? Sometimes we start things with the best of intentions, but life gets in the way. We don’t have any control over that. The real challenge for any project is not avoiding interruptions. Those will come. The real challenge is sticking with it until it is done. For some projects, stopping short really doesn’t matter. For others though, there is a great deal more at stake. This is what was facing the people of Israel here in Haggai.
As we have talked about over the course of our stroll through this little collection of prophecy, when the people of Israel returned from exile, they did so with all the excitement and hope that is normal at the beginning of a new venture. They marched back from Babylon with joy as their constant companion. They were finally going home. They had grand visions of what it was going to be like. They were going to be reestablished firmly and finally as the people of God in their capital city. Nothing would shake them again.
Then they arrived.
The destruction was worse than they remembered or imagined. In particular, Babylon’s destruction of the temple was so thorough that there was literally not a single stone left standing on another. It was a giant field of rubble and chaos. This project was turning out to be bigger than they ever imagined it would be.
But, that initial excitement at being home was still burning brightly in their hearts and so they got to work. They dug in and after just a few months’ of work had completed the foundation for the temple. The celebration was grand, but also bittersweet. It was grand because they had poured their whole selves into it. They had put rebuilding their own lives on hold while they gave this their total focus and attention. It was bittersweet, though, because it wasn’t as good as it was before. The oldest among them knew it. It was something to be sure, but it wasn’t what it was. But it was a start; an important first step in the direction of becoming once again what their God intended for them to be.
But then something happened.
They turned their attention back to their own lives for a time. And this made sense, right? They had to have houses to live in. They had to have food to eat. They had to have jobs to work. Their city had to be protected from raiders and those who otherwise sought to do them harm.
A few months ago I started a project. My boys received the Lego Millennium Falcon a few years ago. It was fantastic when it was all put together. But, over time, as life happened, it was broken down back into parts and pieces. I wanted to rebuild it for them. So I started pulling pieces. All 1,200 of them. I started out pretty strong. I netted several hundred that first afternoon. Then life happened. I’ve worked on pulling pieces a couple of times since then, but after several months I still don’t have anything more than about half the work completed in two buckets with a checklist that still has more blanks than checks. I’m going to finish it at some point. Life’s just gotten in the way.
For the people of Israel, life got in the way. They didn’t necessarily mean for it to happen. It just did. And if this was a project like pulling Legos to rebuild a big set, it really wouldn’t have been a big deal. But this was more significant than that. And not just because it was the temple of God either. It was a bigger deal because the thing they were letting slip away as life happened was their relationship with God.
The problem was, the people of Israel weren’t like any other nation. Their national prosperity and security were tied directly to the state of their faithfulness to the God who established them as a people. That was the covenant. He was going to be faithful, but if they weren’t, they would not experience the benefits of His faithfulness. And without that, they weren’t enough as a people to stand against any of the various threats facing them.
So through Haggai and one more time here at the end of the prophecy, God called them to think: Life hasn’t been easy since you finished the temple’s foundation has it? Why do you think that is? The answer was clear: They’d forgotten about Him. They weren’t necessarily looking to any other gods to replace Him, they were just not looking to Him. They were looking instead to and at themselves. And it wasn’t working. It wasn’t going to work. But if they would return to Him, His faithfulness was right there waiting to bless them.
Here’s the point of connection for you and me: What have you started with God that you haven’t yet finished? Where have you started following Jesus on a journey, but have drifted off track into the weeds of life and haven’t come back out yet? To what task has God called you that you haven’t yet completed? If you have been called to something but haven’t finished yet, it just may be that you are feeling as stuck in life as the Israelites were. You will stay stuck until you finish the work. So get to it. Life is waiting to unfold before you, you only need to get moving and finish the work. He’s got more and greater for you to do, but He’s not going to give you the next thing until you’ve done the last one. So get to it. Whatever it is, get to it. Life is waiting.