It’s TIME to EXAMINE our PRIORITIES & SET them RIGHT: In the second year of King Darius, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, saying, “Thus speaks the Lord of hosts, saying: This people says, ‘The time has not come, the time that the Lord's house should be built.’” Then the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet, saying, “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?" (Hag. 1:1-4)
C. S. Lewis, in his book ‘God in the Dock’, has written the following about setting priorities: “You can’t second things by putting them first; you can get second things by putting first things first”. God’s message through Haggai was about setting the right priorities as well. About twenty years ago, the Israelites had returned to Jerusalem from their Babylonian exile with the challenge of rebuilding the temple of God. They had begun this good work, but sometime later they had left this work to stand idle for sixteen years. Instead of God’s temple, they built fine homes for themselves but had left the temple in ruins. They had got their priorities all wrong, and God would have to remind their misplaced priorities through His prophet Haggai. Haggai is the first of three prophets to minister after the return from Babylon, along with Zechariah and Malachi. The unique thrust of the book of Haggai is to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem!
Although Haggai is the second shortest book in the Old Testament with only thirty-eight verses, it is rich with profitable teaching, and in the words of Frank Gaebelein: “Few prophets have succeeded in packing into such brief compass so much spiritual common sense as Haggai did.” So Haggai was commissioned by God to exhort the lethargic Jews to get back to work in rebuilding the temple. The Book of Haggai addresses three problems common to people who are engaged in God’s work, and gives three inspired solutions to those problems. The first problem is disinterest (1:1–15), the second problem is discouragement (2:1–9), and the final problem that Haggai has to face is dissatisfaction (2:10–23).
God spoke through Haggai to Zerubbabel and Joshua for all the people, thus calling for a unique collaboration of the prophetic, priestly, and political leadership in seeing that God’s will is accomplished in His people. The need to rebuild stemmed from the apathy of the people due to which the house of God remained incomplete (vss. 2–4) and the experience of the people due to which God’s blessings had ceased (vss. 5–6). So, Jehovah God addressed His people as ‘this people’ because they were both disobedient and apathetic. The problem was not that the people had built such fine houses for themselves, but rather that they had done so to the neglect of God’s temple. They had got their priorities totally out of order as they had put their own self-interests above that of God!
Since God’s temple remained in ruins while the people were “living in paneled houses,” so God withheld from blessing the people. For years their planting had resulted in only small harvests. Their problem was misplaced priorities as they put their interests above honoring God. They were living in comparative luxury while God’s house lay in ruins. The people were looking for a convenient time to finish the work but God’s time was now. Haggai’s solution was simple: the people had to get right with God and get back to constructing the temple of God!
Haggai issues a clear call to his own people and to us that we should set ourselves to the task assigned to us by God. We should not allow difficulties, enemies, or selfish pursuits to turn us aside from our divinely given responsibilities. Perhaps, in light of God’s word through Haggai, we should also take time to rethink and examine our priorities in order to set them right. If our spiritual life has been slipping, maybe it’s time to put first things first and place God back at the center of our personal commitments.
Oswald Hoffman in writing about ‘Deciding Life’s Priorities’ in his book Practical Christianity has mentioned that we should keep three things in mind while deciding our life’s priorities: our relationship to God, our relationship to other people, and our relationship to self. Our first priority should be to know God and glorify Him forever. God, His kingdom and His righteousness should come first in everything (Matt. 6:33). Our second priority should be to love others just like God did (John 3:16). Our third priority should be to live daily in obedience to God’s Word (Col. 3:15-16). If we have not prioritized our time, talents, and treasures in the order described above, can we realign our priorities starting today?