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Haggai: Part 4 Discouraged?

Posted by Lorraine Serra on November 13, 2010 at 10:52 AM

Did you ever notice how any time you think you’ve got it all figured out, something changes and you are back to square one again?


As my children were growing up, we would seem to come to a plateau or a resting place where things ran smoothly, systems were working and all was clear sailing….for a season.


Then, one son would grow into a new sense of himself, the stubborn and contrary self, and upset our peaceful coexistence.   Things are always changing.  Grrrrrr. 


How about in a workplace, where everyone enjoys their co-workers, morale is good; efficiency is the rule of the day.  Then, a new manager comes in and there goes the apple cart;   tension, new rules, grumbling attitudes.   


If your spouse ever announced a sudden need for more recreation time apart from you, no doubt a twinge of hurt, rejection and bewilderment would take root.  


In a struggling economy where each day brings us no closer to stability and security, fear can color every thought and decision.


When the present and the future look bleak, our memories of better times in days gone by may further propel us into despair over the current climate. 


A “Big D”: Discouragement


Chapter 2 of Haggai addresses just such a situation for the Jews as a second word from the Lord is issued to His discouraged people.


Evidently, the word of the Lord which exhorted the people to obey God and stick to the plan in Chapter 1 certainly was effective …for a short season, actually for only about a month.   The people, the priests and prophets worked diligently, side by side, moving the temple project forward. 


But, let’s face it.  This was a long term project, a long haul commitment.  No easy fix was going to bring a beautiful edifice to arise from that foundation laid years before.   Discouragement began to set in.


Let's remember the back story told in Ezra 3:10.   It was only 2 years after the exiles had returned to their homeland.  With joy and expectation of resuming a prosperous life with their covenant God, the Jews implemented the Principles of Worship and Obedience. 


But, even as the foundation was laid for the new temple, the old men who had seen the splendor and glory of Solomon’s temple, burst into loud weeping with despair over the good old days!   Such terrible loss, what pain and mourning. 


Even though they knew from the scriptures that the glory of the new temple would far exceed the former, still, gloomy thoughts suffocated them and required consolation and encouragement. 


Isn’t it the truth?  We can be overwhelmed with despair and discouragement soon after our initial enthusiasm fades, particularly when we approach a significant date such as a birthday, anniversary or holiday.  


We pause to consider the general condition of our lives.   Memories of the past may surface to produce sweetness, or suffering.


Friends, though this may seem overly simplistic to those in great despair right now, hope is here!   Encouragement and hope with a promise for all believers throughout every generation reverberates in verses 4 and 5:  "BE strong and work. I AM with you. Fear not.”


Did the Jews believe God?  Do you?  Do I?  It had been a very long time since the former days when God stretched out his mighty hand and delivered them dramatically out of Egypt.  There were no glorious Pillars of Fire leading them now.  Now, God used a man to speak to men.


You see, God knew their thoughts.  Here in Chapter 2, it is about 19 years since the exiles returned from Babylon. A familiar pattern had developed once more:

Redemption and restoration; Worship and Obedience;  Struggle and disinterest; Judgment in the form of drought; Reconciliation and Obedience;

Struggle and discouragement.     


What comes next?   Stop the CYCLE!


Sadness and despair, heavy thoughts over the reality of the present must be entrusted to the power of God whose pledge to us is that we will find strength and comfort in HIS presence.  


“I AM WITH YOU”   His Holy Spirit will give you rest.

(Isaiah 63:14)


Principle  #3   Trust in God's promise to be all that you need.


Relief and renewal will become reality as we surrender all and trust HIM. To be sure, that is not always easy.  Nevertheless, the Principle of Obedience requires that we

“Fear Not!” (Josh 1:9) no matter how hard.


Listen, the Jews had good reason to be sad.  God speaks to the people through Haggai here in Chapter 2 with a specific remedy for discouragement.


It is the 21st day of the seventh month, the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles.  This was the annual seven days of celebration; a commemorative feast in memory of God’s bringing them out of Egypt. 


Gratitude for guidance through the wilderness and provision every step of the way, for 40 years!   It was a time to make sacrifices of praise for the harvest as well.  


But, during this year, a measly harvest, poverty and still no rain!   A half-hearted burden to obey God and rebuild His temple, which could never be as glorious as before!

 

God knew their thoughts.  What is there to celebrate?  The past only reminds us of our present lack.    We are few, and the challenges are great.  What’s the use?


ASSIGNMENT:  Do you journal?  I am sporadic at best.  But, I have found that a listing of answered prayers and moves of God can be a personal memorial of God’s faithfulness to me.


Joshua made a memorial of stones at Gilgal to commemorate God’s deliverance out of the wilderness into the Promised Land.  An awesome story you might want to read in Joshua 3 and 4)  


You and I can erect a memorial, too.  I call it my


“Standing Stones of God’s Faithfulness”


written on a piece of paper and tucked into my Bible in order to encourage my heart.


Take some time this week and remember.   Write down the times God displayed His trustworthiness and care in answering your prayers, spoken and unspoken!  In big ways and small ways.


Remember how He was with you, how He brought you through trials, gave you strength to stand, and worked things out for your good. Rom 8:28


He knows your need. He feels your pain.  HE IS with you. (Matt 28:20)  Fear not!   Thank Him and praise Him over each of those memorial stones you have written down.


TRUST HIM for what is to come.  (Jeremiah 29:11)


 I guarantee discouragement will vanish as you realize just how much you can trust Him.  Never forget! 


How good is God, and how timely that today's study and this assignment comes right before Thanksgiving Day!   ( I never could have planned it this way!)


Thank you, Jesus, that You always make a way, that You are our all in all.  Increase our faith, hope and trust in You and You alone.   Amen!


I love you!   Have a blessed week in His strength.  If you’d like to share a testimony of God’s Faithfulness from your list, we would all be blessed and encouraged to praise Him with you!

 

 


Categories: HAGGAI STUDY

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2 Comments

Reply Lorraine Serra
11:30 AM on November 20, 2010 
Thanks, Val, for reminding us of the Footprints in the sand.

It seems to me that your humble faith speaks very loudly to others. What a blessing!

You are right. Why not us? We all suffer pain and hurt. Jesus feels it, too. And I praise Him that He alone gives beauty for ashes. Put on your garment of praise, Val! Enter His courts with thanksgiving, and feel genuine security as a Princess in His kingdom. The King walks by your side always. I love you !
Reply Val
8:01 AM on November 19, 2010 
This is so true! Thank you Lorraine... This cycle, for me, is often hard for me to see until I am, head over heels, in the throws of despair, complaining, or the like.

God's profound faithfullness in my life has been that he has always been there. Does this sound as simple to you all as it does to me? I guess it's that I have heard myself crying out to God time and time again "Where are you, please just show yourself to me, even a glimpse PLEASE..." All of this to find, like the Footprints in the sand, that he WAS there. My faith seems so small sometimes. People ask how I have faith, with all that I have been through. I don't think I could have lived through without faith, even if it has been as small as a mustard seed. I am certain that without the covering of the grace of God, I would not be here. Why? This is the question so many ask. Why not? I am certainly no better than any other person in the world. Why did God choose me to go through these pains and hurts? Why did he choose you? My only answer is: why not? I am just grateful that I have not had to go through it alone. He has truly carried me most of the time. Perhaps if I just stop asking "where are you?" with my fists in the air....and instead... wrap my arms around the one that is carrying me through...I bet I will feel the security that surrounds me.