GOD'S DISCIPLINE OF DISASTER
By Henry Jaegers
When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The Lord hath done great things for them.
(Psalm 126: 1,2)
As I was studying through the book of Haggai, in preparation to post a new section in my guide for teaching the Bible, the message of the book began to work in my own heart and mind, and I discovered a series of messages that I thought would be of great encouragement for those facing some kind of disappointment in their life.
To put it simply, the message of Haggai is not a message from Haggai to the people but a message from God through the prophet himself. It took a special person to deliver this message to the Israelites at this time and Haggai was a man that God chose to do so. We must remember, as we learned from the book of Hosea, that God chooses certain people who were compatible with the situation to which they were sent.
But let us back up just a moment and consider a little history concerning the Israelites in Babylon. In Jeremiah chapter 29, do you remember God gave the Israelites two admonitions to prepare them for their stay in Babylon? First, they were to settle down and build houses and do what they would ordinarily do if they were back in Jerusalem. And they had the liberty to do so in Babylon. The next thing God told him to do was to be a blessing to the people of that land. They were not to engage themselves in self-pity but be a blessing to those who lived in the place where God was sending them.
At first, as we review Psalm 137, it was not easy but eventually, they found God true to his word and they settle down as God instructed them and now for 70 years, they lived at peace and security in the land of Babylon. Now during that time of peace and prosperity, it was not easy to make changes or to leave that place of blessing. But as he did with Abraham, he now instructs the people to leave and trust God in facing an “Unknown Future”.
I'm sure it was not easy for them to leave being fully settled in their present circumstance, but as God often does, he sends other disciplines like the discipline of disturbance, that shakes us out of our state of complacency.
The verse above describes the general reaction of the people when they realized that they were free to go back to Jerusalem; their homelands. We must also remember that these people had only a remembrance of Jerusalem and what it was like before the complete devastation performed by Nebuchadnezzar. They had only the memory of the past and had no idea of what lay before them. But for now, their heart was filled with joy as they recognize a new change that was about to take place. They needed some help in leaving Babylon, and because they were tightly secure where they were, God raised up Cyrus who commanded them to leave with instructions to leave to build the temple of God. In this sense, they were thrust out of this security and in one sense, were forced to go back to Jerusalem. This gives us a background.
But the book of Haggai contains a message from God dealing with the problem that many of us may face many times in our life. I call it the “Discipline of Disaster” because the disaster comes not before we leave but when we arrive and find out the difficulty that lays before us. God, when he gave this prophecy, was not only thinking about Israel. He was speaking a message to people who are forced to leave their present security (like Abraham in Chaldea) and go to a place that he has prepared for us.
I never heard a message from Haggai given to missionaries or pastors who were facing the first types of ministry and what they must do when they arrive at a place that is less than ideal.
I must close this particular portion of our message but I am excited to share what I have discovered about how God helps us to deal with similar challenges that seem to be most applicable to those facing a foreign mission field, but it also applies to pastors who are engaged in their first church ministry. May God use these messages to be a great form of encouragement to all of us.