Haggai – Prophet of Introspection and Exhortation (4 of 4)
Focus Text: Haggai 2.4-5
“‘Yet now be strong, Zerubbabel,’ says the LORD; ‘and be strong, Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; and be strong, all you people of the land,’ says the LORD, ‘and work; for I am with you,’ says the LORD of hosts. ‘According to the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, so My Spirit remains among you; do not fear!’”
“Be strong!” That was the LORD’S message to every one of His people; from the lowest in the social, religious and political order to the highest of the high, God’s admonition through Haggai was, “Be Strong!” Furthermore, He instructed the people to work! Three certainly was work to do, work which could help in uniting a divided and weakened people as they rallied around the task of rebuilding the temple. As a further encouragement for them to be strong and to work, the LORD assured them all that “…I am with you.” What greater encouragement could be imagined than that! But to even add to that God said, “…My Spirit remains among you; do not fear!
There is an implied truth here that deserves our attention and meditation. It surely is the case that if God is for us, no power on earth or in any other realm can defeat us (see Romans 8.31). However, notice that in Judah’s case even though God had promised His support and also the abiding presence of His Spirit, the determining factor to success or failure still rested with the people. If they failed to be strong, if they failed to work, if they became fearful, defeat was sure! These had been some of the contributing factors to Judah’s demise and ultimate captivity. God’s will regarding Judah had not changed; He wanted them to succeed as a nation while calling faithfully on His name. Yet, surely it can be seen that only their change of attitude could result in their successful return to national sovereignty and power.
The free will of man is involved, even implied, in Haggai’s admonition to the people of Judah to work courageously and without fear. God has never done for man that which man was not willing to do for Himself. This statement is a far cry from saying that God will not do for man what man cannot do for himself. In fact, that is what God frequently does; He does that which we cannot do – but only if we are willing! That basically is what He said through Haggai! “If you will demonstrate your willingness to follow Me and work courageously, I will guarantee your success!” Just to make a distinction, that is also a far cry from God saying, “I will guarantee your success in spite of your will and intentions!” Nothing could be further from the truth even as today’s focus text demonstrates.
Paul put this same principle this way: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4.13). Paul was not bragging on his own abilities and strength; he was merely stating the possibilities that he attained through Christ. He did not mean that Christ would work through him in spite of his own will and actions; it truly is God working through willing hearts and hands!
He is the potter, but as clay, we must yield ourselves to receive His mark! Praise be to God!
1. Was it enough for the people to work on just anything? Why or why not?
2. Why would God tell the people to be strong and work?
3. Why wasn’t it enough for God to be with them in spite of their attitudes?
4. What part does our free will play in serving God? When we choose to serve the LORD, to whom does the honor and glory belong?
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