Change can be upsetting. Not every time, but often the necessary changes are disruptive to my life. The first time my future husband asked me out, I turned him down. Now, twelve and a half years into our marriage, we are so glad I did because God had a better timing for us. God changed my heart.
He has changed my heart and my mind many times since then. Some big changes, like a move to another state. Some smaller ones, like relaxing a little in an area of parenting. God’s changes can tax me and at the same time there is comfort there. He wouldn’t change me if it wasn’t for the better.
Sometimes when I read the Bible I wish it could turn out differently. The Israelites fall so many times it would be comical if it wasn’t so heartbreaking. There are small windows of obedience, then they fall again. It hits too close to my own walk with God.
I spent the summer listening to my audio Bible. It was a rough summer. We put offers on houses, only to lose them. We totaled a car. My daughter broke her arm. We had an offer accepted and then the closing on our house was delayed again and again. A million little things happened in between that were overwhelming. I needed the Scripture to be as much a part of me as breathing. So I downloaded a 90 day audio Bible and turned it on.
I thought it might annoy my kids, but they ended up asking for it if I didn’t have it on. I would turn it on when my alarm went off in the morning, and listen as long as I could until my kids woke up, and often through breakfast. It was on in the car and at night when I lay in bed. Slowly, the anxiety calmed.
Haggai is two small chapters of the Bible that are often overlooked. At least, I had never taken the time to read them carefully enough to remember anything of note. It’s a tiny book that falls chronologically after Daniel, right in the middle of Ezra.
God commanded the Israelites to rebuild the temple. They began the work and then stopped. How often have I done that? Began a work God called me to, only to allow complacency to take over.
This is one of the encouraging books, because God calls to them and asks how they can feel comfortable in their own houses, when his is left in ruins. And they obey.
A quick look at Ezra explains the second chapter. They began to rebuild, only to meet opposition. They had been complacent so long that there was a new king, and he wasn’t so sure they should be building this temple.
God speaks to them words of comfort and encouragement. Be Strong. Do Not Fear. They needed these words. I needed these words.
Even though it was a long summer, Ken and I felt so certain that we were in God’s will. We simply had opposition. Everything that should have been one or two steps turned into an eight step process with a waiting period in the middle!
God encourages the Israelites in chapter two to continue to work. He didn’t pull the temple together without sweat, without opposition. He simply said ‘keep going.’
God’s Change Can Be Hard
The Israelites were not in a period of plenty. God points out that their crops have failed and that times are hard when he commands them to begin again on the temple. It took a leap of trust to set aside their work to focus on this huge project.
God reminds them that he brought them out of Egypt. He is the creator of the heavens and the earth, and he promises to shake them. Change shakes our world. My job in change is the ‘yes.’ My job is the work, and God is the changer. Whether the king would allow construction to continue was out of the Israelites hands. But they could show up each morning, hammer in hand to rebuild.
Holiness is Not From Me
Look at the questions Haggai asks;
“‘If someone carries holy meat in the fold of his garment and touches with his fold bread or stew or wine or oil or any kind of food, does it become holy?’” The priests answered and said, “No.” Then Haggai said, “If someone who is unclean by contact with a dead body touches any of these, does it become unclean?” The priests answered and said, “It does become unclean.” Then Haggai answered and said, “So is it with this people, and with this nation before me, declares the Lord, and so with every work of their hands. And what they offer there is unclean.” ESV
The holiness in our obedience does not come from us. It comes from God. We cannot make it clean or right, but if our heart is not right, we can make it unclean. The entire story of the Old Testament is one time after another when man contaminated God’s desire for us with an unclean heart.
It was only when Jesus came to make a way for our hearts to be permanently clean was there a way to escape this cycle of sacrifice and cleansing. For the first time, it wasn’t a losing battle, because Jesus fought it one time for all of us. When he died on the cross he made a way for anyone to become clean by accepting him as Lord of their life.
What has God called you to do that you haven’t finished? If you aren’t sure, turn to the Bible. Ask him what change needs to happen for you.
“Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”