I skipped blogging on Malachi. You know that passage, "Will a man rob God?" I've heard a lot of sermons about tithing built on Malachi 3. It's a good passage. I think I quoted it in a previous post.
But I've never heard a sermon from Haggai. Maybe because prophet's name isn't culturally pleasing. (I don't know how Hebrews pronounce this name, but Americans usually say something like "haggy eye.")
Haggai wrote this book during the exile, during the reign of King Darius.
At any rate, the Babylonians completely destroyed the temple. The people who stayed and the exiles who returned pretty much left it in ruins. I suppose there's no point in restoring the temple of a God who commands you to do things you don't actually plan on doing.
They gave a better excuse. They said, "The time has not yet come for the Lord's house to be built." Their excuse sounds pretty spiritual, actually. Sort of like, we're praying about it, but God hasn't give us a sign that it's time yet. Or we're waiting for God to tell us to built the temple or until we have a peace about it.
I'm really used to those kinds of excuses. I keep a few in my back pocket to use when I don't want to do things. (Seriously, these can be legitimate excuses, but not always.)
But God's not fooled by high-minded phony spirituality, and he tells Haggai, "Okay, so it's not time for you to build the temple. I get that. I guess it's time for you to improve your already nice homes, to build your businesses, and to grow your wealth. It's definitely not time to go about restoring my house, my kingdom, my honor. Your stuff is definitely more important."
And then God issues a challenge, saying, "So how's it going for you? You plant a lot, but you're not harvesting much. You eat, but you're always hungry. You drink, but you're always thirsty. You wear warm clothes, but you're always cold. And you earn money, but you can never save it because there's always some sort of emergency. It's like your purse has holes in it." (See Malachi 3:11.)
One more thing - "Give careful thought to your ways."
It was true. Their fields were full of blight and mildew. I'm not sure what blight is, but it sounds bad. They never had enough wine. Their crops got hail instead of rain. And the vines, figs, pomegranates, and olives didn't bear fruit.
Once they started giving to God, rebuilding the temple, and serving him, God blessed them. But he warned them, "Give careful thought to your ways." Apparently they needed to maintain their change in lifestyle.
As I read this passage, but immediately thought about the connections to Malachi 3. I thought about the way we honor God through our giving. The excuses we make for not giving. "I'm waiting for God to bless me, and then I'll give." Or "God hasn't really told me how much I should give to him."
I've had to work through those challenges in the past. Our tithes and offerings really do go to building the church. Not just the actual structures, although there's always maintenance and improvements, but also the ministries of the church.
And then there's the way we spend our time. Sometimes we wait to get into a ministry because we don't know which one we should join. We're waiting until God shows us specifically. Or we think we're too busy to get into a small group or to lead a small group. We're waiting for God to tell us what to do, until we're sure it's time.
All these things are part of building the church.
The second part of this applications hits home most for me. In the past I've done a lot of ministry, helping to build Newbreak. And sometimes I've done too much.
Right now I'm sitting on the sidelines, mostly, asking God what should I do. And I'm waiting for a dramatic word. I'm waiting for God to say, "Do X."
I'll be praying about that today.