James Cowgill – The Problem of ComfortGuest Posts
Whilst reading Haggai, I was struck by the similarity between the situation back then and today, particularly in the challenge of comfort. Haggai is set in a time of relative comfort and peace, where the political system seems stable and the people have lost their focus on God. Haggai tells the story of God turning the attention of his people back to him throughout the story of rebuilding the temple; a symbol reminding them of the covenant he made to them.
We see that materialism struck the people in the time of Haggai to which their focus turned to building for themselves and not for the glory of God. We also see God allowing the people to face challenging circumstances during this time of relative peace, circumstances to pull the people back to God – yet they didn’t turn to him. Circumstances such as not being satisfied in their endeavours. Haggai 2:17 (ESV) summarises
‘I struck you and all the products of your toil with blight and with mildew and with hail, yet you did not turn to me, declares the LORD.’
At first glance it may appear to be harsh but in context it is God making the decision easier for the people. The decision between God and something not worthless but just worth a lot less than him. It is the act of a loving and caring God to get us to focus on him as he is better than materialism. The point I hope is clear; when your heart is lost towards the things of this earth, it is better for God to tear those things down to bring you back to him.
In bringing his people back to him, we see the image of the temple. In the beginning of Haggai we see people having panelled housing (relatively luxurious housing for ~520BC) whilst God’s temple lay in ruins. The temple’s significance can be seen in exodus 25:8 (ESV)
‘And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst.’
Although not its only significance, the temple symbolised God being with them. We find during the circumstances and through materialism people strayed and didn’t turn to god, or at least make him the foundation of their lives. In times of comfort it can be easy to lose sight of God. We can take much from the book of Haggai, not only how the people strayed but their response to God and more importantly God’s response to them turning back to him – blessing. We may live in a new covenant today – one not of financial blessing but of rest and peace beyond understanding for those in Christ but we can still learn from the people in Haggai to fight during times of comfort to keep our focus on God.