The Book of Haggai

Seeking God First

"Since the day that the foundation of the LORD’s temple was laid, consider: Is the seed yet in the barn? Indeed, the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have yielded nothing. But from this day on I will bless you."
~Haggai 2:18-19 (ESV)
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
~Matthew 6:33 (KJV)

“If instead someone takes pleasure in himself and wills to enjoy his own power in a perverse imitation of God, he becomes more and more insignificant as he desires to become greater. This is pride, the beginning of all sin; and the beginning of pride is apostasy from God.”
~Augustine of Hippo, On Free Choice of the Will
The Prophet Haggai: An Introduction

Difficult times have a way of sharpening our focus. We may take time to examine our priorities and emphasize what is truly important. We may take stock of our relationship with God and begin to seek Him with renewed vigor. At the same time, when a period of intense suffering or trial comes to an end, anxiety over the future and desire for comfort tempt us away from seeking God’s kingdom. To combat this tendency and train our desires, God’s people have always observed seasons of fasting.

We live in a peculiar time of stress and anxious worry. While we hope to see a return to normal, we can learn from the history of God’s people how to return to normal while sharpening our desire for God and His kingdom. When the first group of Jewish exiles returned to Jerusalem, they faced a daunting set of tasks: to rebuild the city, rebuild the temple, and rebuild their lives. In one sense, the worst was over. They were no longer captive in a foreign land. They had experienced God’s discipline and were living in the fulfilment of His promise to them. Even so, in 520 BC Haggai was called to preach a difficult message of criticism and encouragement to people who were barely hanging on.

Like us, the people were worried about their own future. Where would they live in the ruins of Jerusalem? How would they obtain food, clothing, and the necessities of everyday life? Would there be any comfort after their long period of anxious waiting? Like us, they focused their attention on improving their lives, and like us, they tended to seek their own interests at the expense of worshipping God. Haggai’s message likely sounded harsh, even impossible, to the people struggling to survive and hoping to thrive: focus on building God’s house before you build your house, seek Him before you seek your own needs and desires. More than this, Haggai made it clear that God Himself was behind their disappointing harvests and the lack of progress towards comfort and security. God was not just calling to his people, He was disciplining them, too. If they would not seek Him, they would not find their own happiness either.

At the same time, if God’s people would listen, there was also a tremendous promise: in seeking God first, they would find God AND their own happiness. It would require trusting God’s Word in the face of difficult and anxious times, but God was willing to be put to the test, if the people were willing to listen. As Haggai’s contemporary, Malachi, said:
“Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.”
 ~Malachi 3:10 (ESV)
 As we look for a future, as we hope, beyond the scope of pandemic and political turmoil, we face a greater challenge. Will we seek the Lord, even though it may seem foolish or counterproductive? Let us seek the Lord, in the confidence that God is seeking us!

Haggai Study Guide

If you would like to follow along with the sermon series using our Gospel you may access an electronic version below.

Special thanks to Anna Kaye Schulte for the sermon series artwork!