In Haggai’s day, the people are stuck in a rut. Life is hollow. God used Haggai to speak to the floundering Israelite people. Life was meaningless for them: “You drink, but never have your fill” say Haggai (Hag 1:6). A thirst that cannot be quenched. That’s great in America if you are trying to sell a product ~ could you imagine what ads would be like if the truth were told: you’ll never perfect this video game, you’ll need more and more… how many ads are really the carrot on the end of the stick that you’ll never reach: the fun loving bar scene full of 20 something year old patrons all getting along with happy fulfilled smiles is a dream… The Lord Jesus Christ wants you to be filled.... a thirst that can-be-quenched. Jesus says to the woman at the well, a woman that is searching for meaning and satisfaction: “whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life (John 4:14). Our culture creates an unquenchable thirst, the desire for more, never enough ~ but this is not what God wants for us in our spirit. He wants us to find peace and satisfaction. Wholeness.
Cooking is sometimes an adventure. Here’s one person’s story: Long before HCTV Food Star came along, I was a kitchen whiz. I loved inventing dishes and much to my kids' chagrin, often gave them exotic names that didn't exactly reflect their ingredients. Names like Tuna Surprise or Thursday Mystery. Some recipes surprised me. They were actually pretty good, and didn't look bad on the plate, either. Others...well, let's just say they were met with raised eyebrows and investigative noses.
So there I was, trying to beat a publishing deadline. I had decided to make potato salad, so I brought a pan of six eggs to a rolling boil, then turned the temp down to Low for a few minutes. I'd work on my manuscript while the eggs hard-boiled.
My mistake was in trusting my brain to split itself between computer and kitchen. I should have set the timer, but nope. Didn't happen. About forty minutes later, I heard gunfire. My gosh! Somebody's in the house! You have to remember, I was working on a key chapter in a book of historical fiction for middle-graders. Tension was mounting as a boy unraveled his friend's closely-guarded secret. Gunfire in my house only added to the tension. Pop-Pop! Pop-pop! Pop-pop! I thought the shooting would never end. In a rush of bravado, I raced down the hall to the kitchen, and found that the pot had boiled dry. The buildup of heat had then popped those eggshells, and rocketed four of the eggs across the room like cannon fire. Remember This: A busy brain is not as efficient as an egg timer. (www.squidoo.com/cooking-disasters).
Cooking may be an adventure. It may be risky. The people in Haggai’s day are called to take a great risk. So are you. Are you ready for changes? You need some new ingredients in your life! If you feel a sense of emptiness, the answer isn’t just to cross your fingers and hope God tranforms your mind. It might be time to actually change your patterns. It’s easy to fill up your life with stuff. But stuff for stuff’s sake always proves to be empty, too. The way forward is forward.
Haggai says to the people, “It’s time to do something different… let’s get to work on the temple so we can focus on God. Maybe for you it’s to finally read your Bible. Maybe it’s to find Christian friends. Maybe God is calling you to do something wild like go to the Mission field. Here is a new pattern: A woman suffered greatly at the hands of her told her pastor, regarding her critics, she had taken a “vow of silence”. She decided that rather than lower herself to the level of her critics, which was her normal pattern, she would simply not reply at all. This is difficult, but at least it frees a person to move forward with God. More than one person has told me how much the pattern of going to church, rain or shine, has helped them in their spiritual journey, and they’ve had to endure the criticisms of their old friends who thought it was cute at first….
How do you adopt new patterns? It’s more than just resolving in your mind do something different. If you are tired of the food you eat, you get new recipes. Haggai says, here’s a new recipe. I love this recipe: it fits my criteria, three basic ingredients.
Ingredient #1: Listen for the authentic voice of God in your life. READ Hag. 1:12. The voice of Haggai had an authenticity because the people recognized it came from God. God sent Haggai at just the right time. This is more about God and less about Haggai… that’s the way it always is. … listen for the voice of God… Hag. 1:12 “because the Lord had sent [Haggai]” There is something wonderfully authentic. If your life is stuck in a rut, the odds are that you are listening more to your own voice than the voice of God, your logic, your reasoning. You are listening to peer pressure, expectations of your family, you have a reputation… In v. 12 the scripture says the people obeyed. What that means is that at last they are ready to listen. At some point, for you to find peace and satisfaction, for you to love your life, for you to be content and fulfilled, you need to listen to the voice of God.
Listen for the voice of God, he will send a Haggai, he will speak through his scriptures, the still small voice… When you are restless, stuck in a rut, the Lord will speak. The ladies of WOW have been talking about the noise. Somehow, through the noise of your life, listen for the voice of God. When I go to one of Forest’s musicals, on the scenes when the entire cast is singing, I can single out Forest’s voice. How much more God. God is speaking. We just need to hear. God’s voice is there. The timing was right… The people knew this was a God experience… not about Haggai, but about God! The people are ready to hear. When you and I are at last teachable, open to God working in us in a new way, for a new time, in a new situation, that is when the game will change and you’ll be able to go forward. The first ingredient is the authentic voice of God.
Ingredient #2 comes at the end of Hag. 1:12, it’s a surprise ingredient: “the people feared the Lord”…. What it means to fear…. Fear of the Lord is an incredibly freeing and motivating attitude… as opposed to taking God for granted. Careless indifference. As opposed to assuming God is with us to do our bidding…. Add to hearing the voice of God, respect for the voice of God. To fear the Lord indicates a measure of respect, recognition of authority and power. Fear is a good thing. We love to talk about loving God, and we should, “Love the Lord with all your heart, soul mind strength” (Dt. reference), but let’s not forget fear, not the cowering sort of fear like God is a bully, but the sort of fear that recognizes God is God and it is only by his hand of mercy that any blessings at all are given to the people, fear is to look to God to be the one that controls the course of human history, and the course of my life. If I’m going to allow God to change me, then I must fear him. Similar to a doctor. I want a doctor to operate on me that is so far above my knowledge. If I have a tumor in my brain, how foolish to decide I’m going to operate on myself, yet that’s what we do with the unhealthy patterns, the depression we face, we dig in our heels and ask for no help.
To fear the Lord is what one person described as a “holy awe.” I love that phrase. To be amazed by the Lord. There is nothing more healing, more life changing, more motivating, than to recognize that God is high above us, all knowing, all powerful, all gracious, all merciful… To be in Holy Awe… to fear the Lord is to put life in perspective… to see the Lord in the truth of his character….
I find this so instructive, the richness of the Bible…when Isaiah saw a vision of the Lord in the temple, his first response was to declare himself dead. To catch even a glimpse of God almighty contrasted with our sinful nature is overwhelming. But so quickly, so quickly, so quickly, the way it is written down. In Haggai 1:13, another ingredient is added to the recipe: listen for the authentic voice of God, add a fear of the Lord, and the final ingredient….
Ingredient #3: God says, “I am with you.” This is the final word of earth bound Jesus when he ascends to heaven: “and surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Mt. 28:20). “I am with you” is the mystery ingredient. This is a sweet and sour recipe, or perhaps a “sour and sweet.” First the fear, then the abiding presence of God. To be in Holy awe of God puts us at a distance because suddenly our sinful nature is highlighted, but then the surprise ingredient: “I am with you.” We’d never expect the two could go together. “I am with you” is an ingredient of comfort. Have you ever eaten a chocolate chip cookie without chocolate chips! “I am with you” makes all the difference!
The word remnant was used of the people in Hag. 1:12. The people felt very small and vulnerable, just a shadow of what they once were. The sort of feeling that creeps into our minds: a remnant… and God blows us away with an amazing promise: “I am with you.” How often people ask me here in Sumas to go with them to court. I go to the Sumas court many times a year. Why do they want me there? Not a thing I can do, except one: be with them. I keep being told that somehow my presence makes a difference to them. You know who else always thanks me? Chris Hogan, the Police Chief… he knows it makes a difference. If my presence, a mere man, makes a difference, how much more God, the very one of whom it is said we are in Holy Awe… “I am with you.”
Three powerful ingredients that is a game changer in your life: Listen for the authentic voice of God. Fear the Lord. And when God sprinkles in the promise of his presence, look out… Just one more thing is needed. I am turning in the etch-a-sketch this morning for a spoon…. I love this… the Lord Stired up… and stired up… and stirred up…. READ through Mal. 1:14… to be stirred up, a different mix, a different way of looking at the situation of your life. Understand this well: The Lord Jesus Christ is the Master Chef in your life. He is doing the stirring. When the Bible says, “the Lord stirred up the Spirit of ______” that means you are becoming a new person. This is the transformation process, as you allow the Lord to stir you up.
The result: They came and began to work on the house of the Lord Almighty, their God. The emptiness of their life is lifted, and the people are stirred to action. The people have received the Lord and been renewed in their heart and mind and aroused to new patterns. May you be renewed in your heart and mind. It’s a simple recipe. All it takes is three ingredients: listen for the authentic voice of God, Fear the Lord, and at the last the sweetest ingredient: the Lord will say, “I am with you.” May the Lord stir your spirit creating a new life.