I Am With You
Have you ever felt unwanted or unneeded? You may be a single person who faces another lonely night, a spouse who is met with cold indifference instead of warm affection, a ministry leader who has been replaced by someone with more charisma, an employee whose boss often criticizes your work, or a family member who has been shunned because of your beliefs. All of us can likely identify with times in life when we felt unwanted or unneeded. When these times come it’s important to remember the truth that God wants a relationship with us. One of the places in Scripture we see this truth is in the book of Haggai.
Forget Me Not
During the second year of King Darius’ reign, Haggai spoke God’s word to the governor and high priest of Judah, Zerubbabel and Joshua. The Lord accused His people of dwelling in nice houses while His house lay in ruins (Hag. 1:2-4). They had returned to Judah in 538BC under the leadership of Zerubbabel and prepared to rebuild the temple, but in the midst of hardship and conflict from their enemies they stopped work for sixteen years and built their own houses instead. So God sent Haggai to call His people into account.
The Lord exhorts Judah to consider her ways of futility and discontentment in trying to build their lives without Him (Hag. 1:5-6). Although they had plenty, it never seemed like enough. Like you and me they were discontent. But discontentment is often a tool God uses to teach us important lessons. First, we need to depend on God. Second, we need to repent of worshiping materialism. Third, we need to separate our needs from our wants. Finally, we need to thank God for how much we have and graciously give to others.
Through Haggai the Lord exhorts His people to consider their ways and commands them to build His house for His pleasure and glory (Hag. 1:7-8). Sadly, their life had been full of futility and frustration; they had neglected God’s house for the sake of their own houses (vv. 9-11). The people had their priorities wrong. They thought that if they got their work done, then they could offer what time was left to the Lord. But the Lord wants our firstfruits. Working a job, helping our husbands, caring for children, doing housework, serving elderly parents, and running errands is important, but giving our time to the Lord by studying the Bible and praying is most important.
By God’s grace, His people responded to Haggai’s message with repentance. They called Him “the Lord their God” (Hag. 1:12). And God promised, “I am with you” (v. 13). The Lord wanted a house so that He could dwell with His people. But not only did He want a house, He enabled His people to build the house by His Spirit (vv. 14-15a). Dear believer, don’t miss God’s desire to be with you. You may be feeling unwanted and unneeded today, but the Lord is with you. Be encouraged by His presence and protection, and believe He will accomplish the work to which He has called you by His power.
Through Haggai God also exhorted His people to be strong and work in dependence upon His Spirit as they rebuilt His house (Hag. 1:15b-2:5). Such encouragement was vital. The people had realized the enormity of the task before them. Furthermore, they lamented the former glory days of Solomon’s temple. So the Lord confronts them, “Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes” (2:3)? The people were focused on their circumstances instead of their Savior and therefore, their spirits were downcast. So God turned their focus to His presence, “Be strong…Work, for I am with you…My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not” (vv. 4-5).
Focusing on our circumstances often leads to disillusionment, despondency and depression, but focusing on our Savior leads to hope, joy and peace. One day our Savior will return and God will shake the creation and the nations in order to fill the temple with greater glory and peace than before (Hag. 2:6-9). In the new heaven and new earth the glory will be so great that a temple built by human hands will not contain it at all. The temple will be “the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb” (Rev 21:22).
Maybe today you are feeling unwanted and unneeded. Let the message of Haggai encourage you to stop looking at the kingdoms of this world and fix your eyes on the kingdom of Christ. Ask God to turn your anxiousness into awe, fears into faith and worries into wonder, as you remember His presence and refuse to fear.
Sarah Ivill (ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary) is a Reformed author, wife, homeschooling mom, Bible study teacher, and conference speaker who lives in Matthews, North Carolina, and is a member of Christ Covenant Church (PCA). To learn more, please visit www.sarahivill.com.