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Priorities In the Life of a Believer
A Bag Full Of Holes
It’s the dreaded nightmare of every child. It happens without warning, and without appointment. One reaches into his or her pocket anticipating that prized possession called a quarter, only to discover a pocket full of holes. Make no mistake; this is a story all too common to those of us who are willing to confess to it. The well-known concept of supply and demand paints a good picture of the common situation. The self-pleasing demands of people all across the world are perpetually rising while the supply to meet those demands is continually falling short.Too often, the reordering of priorities in order to rectify this problem is the last option and people spend a large portion of their lives drinking from the shallow puddles of muddy water rather than the fountain that never runs dry. The people of God addressed by Haggai the prophet had this very problem. After being in exile for numerous years, they were given freedom; however, rather than pursuing a life of spirituality by rebuilding the house of God, they focused on the less important things and sought after the pursuit of happiness. Haggai confronts the people rather bluntly and points out not only their deceptive procrastination and distorted priorities, but assures them of God’s dependable presence. It's a message that is quite applicable to each of us who find ourselves with misplaced priorities.
Webster’s dictionary defines procrastination as “putting off intentionally the doing of something that should be done”. Likely, there is not a single person to have ever walked the face of this planet, other than Jesus himself, who were not infected by the infiltrating worm of procrastination. It is quite paradoxical that we experience the most joy out of life when we accomplish those tasks that we consider most important; however, we spend most of our time frustrated over not doing those important things.In other words, rather than making the most of every opportunity, we find ourselves carrying on our shoulder a bag full of good intentions that gets increasingly heavier as we grow older. In Haggai 1:2, the prophet says the following, “Thus speaks the Lord of hosts, saying, this people says, the time has not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built”. Although there were a few somewhat logical reasons for such an excuse, one would do well to remember that logical reasons are not found on the list of what God desires from His people. The Jews who had returned from exile had already laid a foundation for the new Temple; however, after receiving opposition from the Samaritans, and having the King of Persia put up a stop sign, the work came to a sudden halt. The lack of work on the new Temple during this time of restriction is understandable; however, even after the barriers were lifted, the people placed rebuilding the Temple on the bottom of the “to do” list. The deception of their procrastination was that they could plan on doing tomorrow what God desire for them to do today. It's the very deception many of us are dealing with today. In a world that is getting increasingly busy and is flooded with imposters that seek to steal our attention, we must persistently battle against the danger of procrastination. Unfortunately, far too many of us walk around with the ghosts of "things left undone" haunting us with every step we take.
Not only did the people neglect the rebuilding of the temple in the name of procrastination, but they also were living a life of distorted priorities. Haggai 1:3-4 records the following, “Then the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet, saying, Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses while this house lies desolate?" It’s sad but true, God’s people were spending more energy, time, money, thought, effort, and life preparing elaborate homes for themselves rather than preparing the house representing God’s presence. The Temple during this time was not merely a building, but was a visible symbol of God’s presence and a place in which God’s people would come to be near Him. The neglect of rebuilding the Temple was simply a symptom of the neglect to place God first. God may have been on the list; however, He doesn’t delight in taking a number. This is a great reminder for each of us to consider our priorities. Is it possible that we consider serving and living for God important but not most important? Could it be that we have allowed far lesser things to crowd our attention and keep us from living in a manner that righty reflects our love for God? such was the case for those whom Haggai was speaking to and I suspect it is the case for many today as well.
As if this were not enough, Haggai 1:6 records the following, “"You have sown much, but harvest little; you eat, but there is not enough to be satisfied; you drink, but there is not enough to become drunk; you put on clothing, but no one is warm enough; and he who earns, earns wages to put into a purse with holes." The prophet gives the people a proper perspective. God’s people by neglecting to rebuild the Temple were neglecting Him, and therefore neglecting the abundant life that only He can give. In fact, their predicament is so bad, they are described as people who spend tremendous energy preparing the ground and sowing seed only to receive next to nothing at harvest time. they are described as people who eat on a consistent basis but their appetite is seemingly insatiable. They are described as people who drink in order to chase their fears, failures and faults away but there is never enough to accomplish such a task. They are described as a people who put their finest and highest quality clothing on each day only to discover that the chill is never averted. Finally, the prophet describes them as a people who work hard to earn a living only to discover that the pockets in which they place their riches are full of holes. It's a sad and depressing life when one discovers that all he or she hoped would bring satisfaction only leads to greater depths of longing. Such is the lot of all who resign God to the back of the line in order to search for fulfillment in things that are empty.
In verse 7 the prophet goes on to say “Thus says the LORD of hosts, "Consider your ways!” What a powerful and needed word this is for each of us today. Consider your ways! Consider whether or not you get more excited about the things of God than the things of the world. Consider whether or not your relationship with your spouse reflects the love and grace that has been shown to you by your Lord. Consider whether or not you spend more time, energy and money on things which will rot, fade and disappear than on things which possess eternal value? Consider whether or not you have built idols and erected them into your life while leaving God on the dock. Consider your ways!
Evidently the people in Haggai's day got it! Approximately three weeks later the rebuilding began, and the people were once again on the road of blessing. It is after this step of obedience that the prophet assures them of God’s dependable presence. Haggai 1:13 records the following, “Then Haggai, the messenger of the LORD, spoke by the commission of the LORD to the people saying, " 'I am with you,' declares the LORD."
At times it is easy to find oneself placing the most important things in life on hold. The pursuit of hopeful happiness often times outweighs the pursuit of righteousness when our vision has grown cloudy. Yet we must remember that it is those who hunger and thirst for righteousness that will be filled, not those who seek happiness. May we all be challenged to lay aside the weights of good intentions, in order to have lives full of God rather than holes!