GOD’S DISCIPLINE OF DISASTER
By Henry Jaegers
Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the Lord's house should be built. (Haggai 1:2)
After reading these verses, do you wonder how Israel could have come to this conclusion? Think about all that has happened to them thus far. Being thrust out of Babylon and to arrive in Jerusalem: having to face the difficulties along the way and facing the disaster that lay before them; and finally getting up enough courage and strength through the difficulty to start building once again. There was no doubt that God's hand was in the midst of all of this whether they recognize it fully or not, the fact remains that God's sovereign will was being accomplished like that of the clay in the potter's hand.
Having said that, at the time of this prophecy, the delay in building the temple had long begun and up to this time period, around sixteen years has elapsed causing this message from God to proceed forth from the mouth of his faithful servants, Haggai and Zechariah. There is much we can say about all of this but through this delay in accomplishing the purpose of God, we must remember the great love, patience, and purposes of God in the midst of all of this.
Before I continue with this message, I find it necessary to focus on the overall purposes of God for all those who claim to be his followers. In Jeremiah 29:11, we have these great promises of God declared to the Israelites as they were going forth into Babylonian captivity. "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end". The thought I want to emphasize is that we do if we are faithful followers of God, we do not have to be Israelites to claim these blessed promises. God's purposes for us at the end of our life are meant to be a blessing and not otherwise.
So now we want to consider, "why the delay?" The children of Israel are beginning to experience another one of God's disciplines, and as we continue our study in this book, we will see several more that they must face. Thus far, we have seen the discipline of disturbance in thrusting them out of Babylon into the land of Judah and when they arrived, they faced the discipline of disaster when they discovered what lay before them. And as we consider the verses before us, we note God's discipline of delay and discipline of darkness entering into their midst. And added through these periods of delay and darkness, is where the great temptation comes for us to think outside the will and purposes of God. It is hardest to experience God’s presence when we have no reasons for why certain things are taking place. And of course, Satan is always at hand to inject into our minds, negative thoughts about God that if we entertain them too long, we will find ourselves believing them and unconsciously acting upon them. And as we tried to dig ourselves out of that hole, we find that the hole only gets deeper and progress is slower. Then imagine for a period of 16 years, the people have entertained with their imaginations why the distraction occurred. We cannot always avoid that which comes our way and with the Israelites, the edict of the king to stop building had nothing to do with their desire to do the will of God. But during this time of delay, who knows what thoughts occurred in their minds and excuses that they made for not continuing with what God called them to do.
Before we become too harsh on others who pass through these kinds of difficulties, consider that oftentimes God must cause us to pass through the same kind of problems that others face in order for us to properly understand the meaning of compassion. I can testify that I had a similar experience that lasted about the same amount of time. I cannot go into detail about all the thoughts that occupied my mind. I thought that I was being punished for something for which I was unaware and that I must face the consequences of such actions. For 15 or more years, I labored under the delusion that God had left me and I was on my own now. I did some foolish things at that time which I regret today. But the good news in all of that came one day when God once again called upon me to begin a new work. Although I thought that God was finished with me, I discovered that he was not.
Then what about those fifteen years that were wasted during this time? Once again, the words from the prophet Joel came to me where God t made a promise to Israel "I will restore the years that the cankerworm has eaten". And I have found these words to be perfectly true. I am now 82 years old and 16 years after I begin to realize that God did was not finished with me yet. In these past 16 years, that I have accomplished much more for the kingdom of God than I did previously.
So, what am I trying to say at this time? It is simply this: although God may cause us to face the disciplines of delay and the disciplines of darkness, we must not give in to Satan who will cause us to be deluded in our minds and cause us to forsake diligent study in the word of God and meaningful prayer as well. We must remember that delay is not meant by God to destroy us. That is Satan's purpose; God's purpose in our difficulties, as we have mentioned previously, is development, not destruction.
Are you presently facing God's discipline of delay and darkness? Remember that God is always good, his purposes are perfect and he is faithful and is present even though our imaginations and thinking may keep us from believing this to be so.