BCC Introduction: In the last blog, we began a brief meditation on the problem of disordered priorities based on Haggai 1. The Lord sent the prophet with a message to the Jews who were allowed to return to Jerusalem after the exile. Though they were given the opportunity to rebuild the temple and resume worship in it, their initial enthusiasm stalled, and they were sidetracked with their own priorities for life. Consequently, twenty years after their return, God’s “house” remained in ruins, but theirs were evidently extravagant. However …
God would not allow the people’s materialistic mindset to bring them satisfaction. After some time of affluence, God brought decisive changes in their lives:
“You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house. Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the oil and whatever the ground produces, on men and cattle, and on the labor of your hands.” (Hg. 1:9-11)
In spite of what we might tell ourselves, God will not be second in our lives. His revealed purposes for us should prioritize how we live each day. For the Jews in Haggai’s day, that meant rebuilding the temple so that they would be reminded continually of God’s special presence with them (Hg. 1:7-8). They would be reminded “God is first; I am second.”
Fortunately, they responded appropriately to Haggai’s preaching:
Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the Lord their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the Lord their God had sent him. And the people feared the Lord. (Hg. 1:12)
Note the changes in wording: Earlier the phrase “this people” was used and suggested a relational distance from God, who was called “the LORD Almighty.” Now that the people have obeyed his word, he is “the Lord their God.” The people had not merely returned to their land and city; they had returned to their God in repentance and faith. Their new proper attitude toward the Lord is communicated by the phrase: “they feared the Lord.” The “fear of the Lord is a combination of:
- Awe (utter amazement of who God is)
- Apprehension (about the possibility of offending this great & awesome God)
- Appreciation (for the love, mercy, & grace he shows us)
Fearing God naturally motivates people to obey, serve, and worship him—to live like he is their first priority in life. Fearing God in this sense fosters the conclusion “I am second; God is first.”
Moving into the New Testament, we see another of God’s prophets teaching people the very same lesson as Haggai had. But this prophet was different from Haggai and the other earlier prophets. This prophet from heaven was the very Word of God in the flesh, Jesus of Nazareth. Luke tells us about a time when Jesus was hosted by Martha and her sister Mary. Although they both welcomed Jesus into their home, they had very different agendas!
“Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—actually only one. Mary has chosen the good portion, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)
Mary took the initiative to sit at Jesus’ feet, waiting to hear what the Lord had to say. Though Martha referred to Jesus as “Lord,” she did not show a humble attitude toward him. Her speech was peppered with “me” & “myself.” She was trying to use Jesus to get what she wanted rather than trying to learn from him what he wanted for her. In a most ironic twist, Martha is distracted from her relationship with the Lord because of her service to the Lord!
Martha was distracted & uptight about making Jesus a meal, whereas Mary was eager to receive a meal of God’s Word from her Lord. In order to have appropriate priorities in life, living like “I am second; God is first,” we also must seek out the “good portion” of the Lord’s teaching:
(1) … in the study of Scripture
A five-minute glance at a passage of Scripture in the morning is better than nothing, but that is not what I have in mind. I’m talking about spending quality time with passages of Scripture in which you ask yourself about the significant of the passage for your growth as a Christian.
(2) … in praying according to God’s priorities for you
Don’t allow your prayer time to be reduced to asking for a comfortable life. Pray for whatever is necessary for you to thirst & hunger for the righteous of Christ, for you to be able to say, with the psalmist, “Whom have I in heaven but you, [Lord]? And earth has nothing I desire compared to you. My flesh and my heart my fail, but [you] God are the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps. 73:25-26).
(3) … in meditating on how to reflect the character & purposes of God in your life
Meditation involves thinking through how your own lifestyle, values, & priorities compares to the teaching of Scripture. It involves thinking through how your life might need to change in order to put biblical principles into practice.
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