12/08/W – First Things First

Haggai 1:1-15; Revelation 11:1-14; Psalms 139:1-12; Proverbs 29:15-17

OT: “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, the governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest: “The Lord of Armies says this: These people say: The time has not come for the house of the Lord to be rebuilt.” The word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: “Is it a time for you yourselves to live in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?” Now, the Lord of Armies says this: “Think carefully about your ways: You have planted much but harvested little. You eat but never have enough to be satisfied. You drink but never have enough to be happy. You put on clothes but never have enough to get warm. The wage earner puts his wages into a bag with a hole in it.” The Lord of Armies says this: “Think carefully about your ways. Go up into the hills, bring down lumber, and build the house; and I will be pleased with it and be glorified,” says the Lord. “You expected much, but then it amounted to little. When you brought the harvest to your house, I ruined it. Why?” This is the declaration of the Lord of Armies. “Because my house still lies in ruins, while each of you is busy with his own house.” (‭‭Haggai‬ ‭1:1-9‬ ‭CSB)

Haggai ministered to the Jews who returned from exile in Babylon to rebuild and repopulate the land of Israel. He was a contemporary of the prophet Zechariah. When the Jews returned from exile under the leadership of Zerubbabel the appointed governor and Joshua the high priest, they initially began rebuilding the temple of the Lord – but then got sidetracked from that very important work. Years went by as the temple site lay abandoned. The Jews were much more occupied with getting their own lives in order than reestablishing the worship of God in the land. God sent Haggai to address the issue and get the Jews refocused on what should have been their primary task.

It has been said, and is born out in scripture, that when you focus on primary things, you get both the primary and secondary things added to your life – but when you focus on secondary things instead, you lose both the primary and secondary things. That was happening to the Jews that had returned from exile: their focus had been turned from primary things to secondary things, and they were coming up short in both the primary and secondary things. The Jews became focused on building up and supporting their own quality of life to the detriment of their spiritual life – and in doing that, the harder they worked the less satisfied they became. Through Haggai, God told them that if they focused first on rebuilding the House of God instead of their own houses, God would be glorified once again through their lives, and in turn, He would bless them with an abundance of secondary things.

Jesus taught that we are to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness… and if we do that, all the secondary things of life will be added to us. Yet, how often do we ignore those words of Jesus and become more like the Jews who had returned from exile? Often times we focus all of our energies on building up our lives, and put off building the kingdom until we get to the place where we feel comfortable. I know personally, I have been guilty of that. Having the “American dream” of home ownership, a nice car, plenty of food on the table, fashionable clothes and a padded bank account has, at times, taken my focus away from my primary call of fulfilling the great commission. Perhaps that is a big part of the reason why we are 2,000 years removed from Christ’s commission and it has yet to be completed. Do we truly trust the Lord’s words, that if we make the kingdom and His righteousness a priority, then all the things that we need to have a fulfilling life will be added to us? Could part of the reason we feel the need to keep adding to what we have be because we aren’t allowing ourselves to be satisfied by doing the work of the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ (John 4:34)?

NT: “I will grant my two witnesses authority to prophesy for 1,260 days, dressed in sackcloth.” These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. If anyone wants to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and consumes their enemies; if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this way. They have authority to close up the sky so that it does not rain during the days of their prophecy. They also have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every plague whenever they want. When they finish their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the abyss will make war on them, conquer them, and kill them… Those who live on the earth will gloat over them and celebrate and send gifts to one another because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth. But after three and a half days, the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet. Great fear fell on those who saw them. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” They went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies watched them. At that moment a violent earthquake took place, a tenth of the city fell, and seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake. The survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. The second woe has passed. Take note: The third woe is coming soon!” (‭‭Revelation‬ ‭11:3-7, 10-14‬ ‭CSB)

Before John reported on the sounding of the seventh trumpet, he described another scene that he saw in his prophetic vision. The scene that he described is not a scene that was playing out in heaven, but was simultaneously being played out on earth. Up until this point, John was reporting the tribulation from heaven’s point of view. In chapter 11, he changed his perspective and described a vision of things happening on earth during that same time of tribulation.

In his earth-bound perspective, John described two witnesses of God who were prophesying on earth for a period of time during the tribulation. Because they prophesied on behalf of the Lord, their message was unpopular with the people who were of the earth. Once their time of testimony was over, they were killed by the anti-Christ and their death was celebrated the world over… until the power of God raised them back to life and called them up to heaven.

There is no clear consensus on who those two witnesses are. Based on some of the biblical references in John’s description, some think they are Moses and Elijah, others think they are Zerubbabel and Joshua, while others see them as a symbol of the church. Aside from the mysterious identity of the two witnesses, the important truth to take from this vision is this: during the tribulation, in the midst of the ever-darkening state of the world, there will be a present witness for Christ on the earth. To some degree, whether these two witnesses are specific people or not, I believe them to be symbolic of the church’s ongoing, Spirit-empowered witness (with accompanying signs and wonders) for Christ. As the world grows darker and the anti-Christ spirit grows stronger, the church’s witness will become increasingly unpopular. At some point in history, the anti-Christ spirit in the world will become so powerful and invasive, that it will seem that the church is once-and-for-all defeated and that God’s witness on the earth is finally snuffed out. But in one last earth-shaking powerful testimony to His Lordship, God will resurrect His church and call them home.

Ever since Christ left this earth and ascended to heaven, job-one for the true disciple of Christ… job-one of the global church has been to be His witnesses, to proclaim the gospel, and make disciples of those who respond in faith to the gospel message. Souls saved and disciples made, until we die, or until Christ calls us home – that is our priority. As we make first things first, God will be glorified – even in the midst of an increasingly hostile world… and as we seek His kingdom and His righteousness first, the Lord will provide for and preserve our lives until the time for our testimony comes to an end and He calls us home.

Prayer: Lord, I thank You that You are always 100% committed to Your plans and purposes. I thank You that You are 100% committed to fulfilling Your plans and purposes in and through me as I remain faithfully committed to You. Help me, as You lead and empower me by Your Holy Spirit, to keep first things first and be primarily about establishing and extending Your kingdom on earth. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

%d bloggers like this: