“‘Thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways. […] You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the LORD of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house’” (Haggai 1:7, 9).
During the seventy-year Babylonian exile, the people of Israel returned to God. They repented of their constant idolatry and restored themselves to the worship of the one true God. As people began to head back to their ancestral land, they were hopeful that things would begin looking up for them. They had come back to God; surely He would bless them.
Though this was a reasonable hope, things didn’t go quite like they’d wished. After settling in, their first thought was to make houses for themselves. God’s temple lay in ruins, but they decided to wait on getting around to fixing it up. It was far more pressing to build their own houses first. They focused all their attention on creating nice homes for themselves and planting their fields. The work on God’s house was pushed farther and farther aside.
By the time of Haggai’s ministry, however, things were quickly going downhill. They sowed bountifully, but they reaped little rewards. They had practically nothing to show for all their hard work. Haggai had a simple answer to this: they had neglected the work of God. So caught up in their own interests and comforts, they had failed to devote themselves to the things of God. He instructed them to begin work on the temple right away.
The people did just that. Haggai gave his message on the first day of the month; by the twenty-fourth day, construction had begun. And before long, the people began to see evidence of God’s favor. He gave them a fruitful crop that year, providing for all their needs.
It takes faith to put the work of God above our own interests. We look at our own needs and consider how much we could do for ourselves if we put all of our time and materials toward making ourselves comfortable. But this is not how God calls us to live. We are to put Him first, giving the first of everything to Him. And when we do that, He blesses us and provides for us in extraordinary ways. He has rich rewards for those who richly invest in His kingdom!