In our study, we will learn about priorities from the exiles that returned to Jerusalem from the Babylonian captivity.
In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest:
We are given a specific date (September 1, 520 B.C.) for the events that are to follow. The prophet's name means "my holiday" and he is sent to the political and religious leaders in Jerusalem.
This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'These people say, "The time has not yet come for the Lord's house to be built."' Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: 'Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?'
Many of God's people had returned to their homeland with great anticipation. But, when they got there, they faced opposition and went and built their own homes in their own towns. They justified this in their own minds by saying it was not God's timing for the temple to be rebuilt. We see that God sent the prophet to give them a wakeup call about priorities as He asks them if it is right for them to have nice homes while God's house is still a burned out mess. In our world today, many Christians have their priorities messed up in much the same way. Many build fancy homes or buy all kinds of things and have to spend all of their time at a job to pay for their lavish lifestyles. This does not leave any time for the things of God such as prayer, Bible study, and serving Him. There are even those who say that it is "God's will" for them to make as much money as they can so that they can support the work of God. The funny thing is that they give a very tiny portion of that income to charities and keep most of it for their own use. There are also those that hide behind the "God's timing" excuse for not doing what He calls them to do. When they face a little opposition from those that are around them, they fold and retreat behind those excuses. As we see, God was not happy with His people doing this in the days of Zerubbabel. The simple fact of the matter is that it is "God's timing" and "God's will" to serve Him now without making excuses.
Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: 'Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.'
This wakeup call is for God's people to simply look around them at their efforts and examine the results. They had trusted in their own efforts instead of the provision of God and didn't even have all that they needed. This call is for us as well in that many today are struggling under their own efforts and their own priorities. We might ask ourselves: "How's that working for you?" That is basically what God is saying to His people here.
This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,' says the Lord.
Now, we see the call to put God first. He tells them to focus on building His house and this same call is for us today. The exiles needed to gather wood to build the house while we need to gather people that accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. There are many groups of believers today that are still gathering building materials to build a big fancy house of the Lord instead of realizing that the house is built in the hearts of His people.
'You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?' declares the Lord Almighty. 'Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house. Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the oil and whatever the ground produces, on men and cattle, and on the labor of your hands.'
Because their own homes had been their priority, God removed His hand of provision from the people. They had trusted in their own efforts and forgot that everything they had came from God.
Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the whole remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the Lord their God and the message of the prophet Haggai, because the Lord their God had sent him. And the people feared the Lord.
After an inspection of the things around them, the people realized that their priorities were messed up. They knew that God had sent Haggai to them to wake them up and they repented.
Then Haggai, the Lord's messenger, gave this message of the Lord to the people: 'I am with you,' declares the Lord. So the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of the whole remnant of the people. They came and began to work on the house of the Lord Almighty, their God, on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month in the second year of King Darius.
This repentance got them back into line with the priorities of God as they were able to hear the Spirit of God. This led to obedience and the work began on the temple. This same pattern is at work in the lives of God's people today; God can and will give us a message of correction to refocus our priorities on His will. If we repent and listen to the Holy Spirit, He will lead us in His perfect will.