The prophet dragged his sandaled feet across the parched ground, worn from the unanswered questions taunting his thoughts. Another poor harvest. A sigh birthed itself in his empty belly, sped through his heavy heart and burst from taut lips.
“Haggai, Haggai, where is that God of yours?” The neighborhood critic approached.
“Be still,” the prophet growled. “The LORD gives and the LORD takes away. His name is blessed forever.” He approached an unfinished structure, reaching out one hand to caress the hand-hewn stone.
“He’s sure doing a lot of taking now, isn’t he? First, he drags you all off to Babylon. After your return — which you insist was God ordained — your neighbors gave you so much flak that you stopped building this temple to your generous God.”
The taunts continued. “Let me think … oh yes, that was 14 years ago, wasn’t it? He really is some rock and fortress … shield … yikes…” Master Critic glanced at his timepiece. “…Gotta run … see ya….”
Haggai welcomed the silence.
“Good morning, Festive,” A resonant voice replaced the high-pitched whine so recently vanished. “Why the long face?”
“My name is a mockery.” A short, unpleasant laugh burst from Haggai’s tight lips.
“Why do you say that?” God asked.
“We have no cause to celebrate.”
“Why not? Are you not back in the land of your fathers as promised?”
“Yes, but it’s been much harder than we expected or imagined it would be.”
“The people work so hard for so little return,” Haggai complained. “And here the temple sits — unfinished.” He slapped at the unresponsive wall.
“Their homes are beautiful,” God pointed out. “Filled with all the latest interior decorating fashions.”
“But they tell me there’s no money left over to put into the temple after meeting their basic needs,” Haggai explained. “Harvests continue well below expectation.”
“I’ve noticed that,” agreed God. “They plant so much and harvest so little. And no matter how much they eat and drink, they’re always clamoring for more — running after the latest delicacies. They stuff their closets with clothes and moan for more. Money evaporates like water in their hands.”
“They’re hard workers,” Haggai grumbled. “King Solomon promised in his proverbs (14:23) that all hard work brings a profit, but we feel like we’ve been spinning our wheels here. Year after year our harvests fall far short of projected returns. It’s frustrating.”
“Give careful thought to your ways,” warned God.
“What do you mean?” asked Haggai.
“I’ve had to hamper their efforts.”
“You, Lord? You’ve done this?”
“To get their attention.”
Haggai rubbed his furrowed brow. “I don’t understand.”
“Ah, Festive,” God sighed. “Life is so much more than the false security money offers, the temporary satisfaction of fancy homes and cars. I want my people to experience real life … life filled with abundance. The false must be stripped away to reveal the true.”
“How can we do that?”
“Finish my dwelling place.”
“But Lord,” Haggai objected. “They have no time to spare for building and guarding against hostile neighbors.”
“Not in their own strength — no.” God gentled his voice. “Have you forgotten how King Jehoshaphat beat three enemy armies?”
Haggai rubbed his chin. “You instructed him to send the musicians out ahead of the army. They worshipped … you fought … we won.”
“Yes,” said God. “Worship maximizes my power while minimizing human challenges.”
“You mean it puts everything into proper perspective?”
“What do you want me to do, Lord?”
“Go to Zerubbabel, the governor of the people, and Joshua, their spiritual leader, with this message. Remind them that I AM the Almighty LORD and I AM with them. Tell them to invest in my kingdom first and I will prosper them, in spirit first, and then in their labor.”
“Thank you, Lord.” Haggai bowed low. “I praise you and honor your great name.”
The prophet hurried to the governor’s mansion, stopping at the high priest’s house on the way. “Come, Joshua,” he urged. “I have a word from our mighty Lord. He is with us!”
Haggai * 1:1-11
* meaning – Festive
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