Many of us tend to avoid reading an Old Testament Prophet. I can think of lots of reasons NOT to read them. For instance, they lived thousands of years ago in a land far, far away. Usually, the specifics of their God-given messages were for the people of their day or for the not-too-distant future. And very often, their messages are hard for us to understand or just, well, strange.
(Also see “Tips to Help You Understand the Prophets.”)
Recently though, a prophet named Haggai reminded me how very valuable every part of God’s Word is for believers today – including biblical prophecy.
You know, people haven’t changed much since Adam and Eve got locked out of the Garden of Eden. We still want to do things our own way. We still cling to pride. We still put ourselves, our own goals and our own desires first. We still struggle to honor and obey God.
So, I shouldn’t be surprised when an Old Testament prophet says something that steps on my toes and gives good spiritual direction. Sure, they can call out those ancient Jews all day long. But when I see myself in the prophet’s words…
It happened again just this morning when I was reading the first chapter of Haggai. Let me take a minute to set the stage.
Yes, an Old Testament Prophet is Interesting!
The prophet Haggai spoke for God during the “post-exilic” period in Jerusalem. The Jewish remnant had only been back in Judah from exile in Babylon about 18 years.
They first arrived back in Jerusalem in 538 BC under God’s command to rebuild the temple Babylon had destroyed. They quickly got to work. They built the altar and started on God’s house. But in 530 BC, when the surrounding peoples strongly opposed the re-building of the temple, God’s people stopped the work. When things got hard they just gave up, turned away from God’s purposes, and took up their own activities.
Then a decade later, God called Haggai to be His prophet.
On August, 520 BC the prophet Haggai received a message from God to give to the governor, the high priest, and the people in Jerusalem. Here’s my paraphrase of parts of Haggai 1:
“Why are you relaxing in your nice, comfortable houses while MY house is still just rubble? You’ve spent all your time pursuing your own agenda. But pretty much everything you’ve invested in hasn’t paid off. I withheld my blessings because you didn’t obey me. You put yourself and your desires before Me. You need a heart check, to give some serious thought to how you’re living your life. Will you obey me or not?”
Find the eternal, timeless spiritual principle
When we read and study Scripture, part of our task is to find the foundational spiritual principles on which the details and the time-bound events rest. (For more about solid Bible study see “4 R Bible Study Method.”)
No, we aren’t living in ancient Jerusalem. God has not commanded us to build His temple. But we have a lot in common with the people described in the first chapter of Haggai. The underlying principles of God’s message are just as applicable to us today.
For instance, twice God told the people to “consider your ways” (Haggai 1:5, 7). The Amplified version reads “thoughtfully reflect on your conduct.” The original Hebrew contains the concept of the inner most person, our heart.
Essentially, God asked them to examine their hearts and minds, to evaluate their spiritual condition and their priorities. He called them to reflect on their lives and where they were going. Would they continue in rebellion and stay out of God’s favor? Or would they choose obedience and experience God’s favor (Haggai 1:13-14)?
The message of Haggai hit me right between the eyes. God calls me to “consider my ways,” to keep my priorities straight. He wants me to put Him and His purposes ahead of my own. To obey His commands. Only then can I fully experience His presence and favor.
Let’s not neglect any part of God’s Word. Every piece has value for us today. (Also see “6 Reasons to Read and Study the Old Testament.“)
Want to study a couple of Old Testament Prophets with me?
I lead an ongoing Bible reading group on Facebook. On Monday, August 7th, we start 3 weeks in Haggai and Zechariah. All women are invited to join in! By the way, the introduction to the books will post Saturday, August 5th.) We keep a doable pace, an average of about 20 verses a day, 5 days a week. Each day’s post includes the reading, some commentary, and discussion questions. It’s come and go. Pop in when you can. The posts are scheduled for 5am central each day so it will be there when you’re ready. To join, follow link to “Reading the Bible Together,” request to join, and answer the 3 easy questions!
Have you ever read Haggai or Zechariah?