It always seems easier to find time for home improvements than to make time for building God’s kingdom. Of course, these needn’t be mutually exclusive. The challenge, of course, is balance.
The Jewish exiles who returned to the Promised Land began rebuilding the fallen temple of the Lord. But harassment from the locals and the Persians produced apathy toward the project—and the work stopped. After sixteen years without progress, God raised up the prophet Haggai to ignite in God’s people a passion for God’s priorities.
Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses while this house lies desolate? Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Consider your ways!’ —Haggai 1:4–5
Haggai’s words help us as well when we’re not sure how to keep first-things first.
Haggai Deals with the Ho Hum
Some of the elderly among the Jews had seen the former glory of Solomon’s temple, and they wept because the new temple the Jews were building paled in comparison. But Haggai urged the leaders and the people to “take courage . . . and work” (Haggai 2:4) to rebuild the Lord’s temple. One day, God told them, the glory of the future temple will outshine even Solomon’s:
I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations, and I will fill this house with glory. . . . The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former. —Haggai 2:7, 9
The book of Hebrews quotes this context from Haggai about God “shaking” the nations and contrasts them with the kingdom we will receive when Jesus Christ rules the earth: “a kingdom which cannot be shaken” (Heb. 12:28).
How Haggai Shakes the Ho Hum from Our Hearts
As in Haggai’s day, so we also look forward to the latter glory of Jesus’ magnificent kingdom. Until then, “let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe” (Heb. 12:28).
Good intentions accomplish nothing without good works, and putting off biblical priorities until a better time is a carrot-and-stick approach to progress. We never catch the carrot. Why?
- After today’s distractions disappear, tomorrow has a new set of “good reasons” waiting to keep us from putting first things first.
- Our circumstances will never prove favorable to our priorities; it takes a choice.
As Jesus said, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). For the believer, living our priorities remains an act of faith.
We trust God for our needs and serve Him.
Tell me what you think: What helps you keep first-things first? To leave a comment, just click here.
Adapted from Wayne Stiles, “Haggai,” in Insight’s Bible Application Guide: Isaiah –Malachi (IFL Publishing House, 2015), pages 198-199.