Haggai’s Call to Feast.
Sunday morning. We had the day all planned out. We’d go to church where we would worship and then be commissioned as a family to go on our mission trip to the Dominican Republic. Right after the commissioning, we would have a quick lunch and then drive Mariana in our decorated car to her first-ever week of sleep-away camp. We’dget to stop at Buc-ee’s on the way there AND on the way back. (If you don’t know what Buc-ee’s is, run, don’t walk, to Texas to come find out for yourself. It’s the bomb. I’m considering starting a fan club.)
Based on the length of time it took to pack Mariana for camp, she should be gone for six years. But then my heart would explode, and that would be no bueno. So I’ll just pretend that it only took us two hours to pack for her 6 1/2 day camp experience instead of what seemed like 4,927,638 hours. Plus a trip to Walmart on a Saturday afternoon.
But it was set to be a great day. And it was. After it was el stinko first.
One of the littles was out of sorts and disagreeable before church in a way that pummeled said little across the Robison Family Acceptable Behavior Standards (RFABS) boundary lines, and this didn’t just kinda sorta cross those boundaries: this behavior rode Hayley’s Comet across those boundaries and snubbed a nose at the rest of us while on the ride into the stratosphere. No bueno.
In our 12 1/2 years as parents, Brian and I have used words, sit-downs, do-overs, re-directions, diversions, extra chores, incentives, and various other strategies to correct wrong behavior. We dispense what I hope is a good balance of grace and justice, and we learn and move on.
But cross those RFABS boundary lines, sweet child of mine, especially if you do so repeatedly, and I’ll be introducing you to the concepts of hierarchy and authority. And to what happens when a moveable force (errant child) slams (metaphorically) into an immovable force (me).
Sunday morning brought *that* kind of parenting ‘opportunity.’
Yes, said little needed to be brought back not only to reality but also to said RFABS boundary lines, but I don’t know that I did it just right. I know I didn’t botch it completely (which I have done before), but it still just left me feeling yick. (Yes, that’s a word I made up. Yes, I use it often. Yes, it describes the feeling and the situation perfectly.)
And cattywampus. Definitely left me feeling cattywampus.
Worship at church and connected family time at lunch and en route to camp as well as more clear reminders of RFABS got us back on track, and the rest of the day was amazing. Truly one of the best ever.
But as the day wound down, I still didn’t have full peace in my spirit about the morning’s parenting yick. So while Brian and the boys swam, I went back to the Word and God let me to Haggai. At only two chapters long, Haggai (pronounced HAG-ee-eye) is surprisingly full of historic and prophetic instruction, and it was exactly what I needed to read in exactly that moment. Turns out He knows.
Haggai was a prophet who prophesied to the people living in Jerusalem and to those who had returned from exile. In the 6th century B.C., Babylonian armies had destroyed the temple in Jerusalem. That temple had been more than a mere place of worship: it had been the symbol to all the Jews of God’s presence among them. They looked on it – and had been instructed by God to look on it – as His house among them. Having it fall was a blow to the Jews, and to add insult to injury, they then were exiled.
Fifty years later, King Cyrus let the Jews return to their beloved city and rebuild the temple. The Jews did return and began their work, but soon they lost sight of what they were doing. They lost their focus on their bigger picture big goal and instead let the day-to-day become what governed their lives. They abandoned their purpose. They let distraction and discouragement turn them away.
That feels startlingly familiar.
The Lord spoke through Haggai to the Jews in Jerusalem: “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses while this house lies desolate?” (1:4).
In verses 5 and 6: “Consider your ways! You have sown much, but harvest little; you eat, but there is not enough to be satisfied; you drink, but there is not enough to become drunk; you put on clothing, but no one is warm enough; and he who earns, earns wages to put into a purse with holes.”
The people had stopped working on rebuilding the temple. We might be tempted to read that and think, on some level, ‘Yes, it’s the Lord’s house, but it’s just a building. God lives inside us! Is it really that bad?’
Remember that this is before Christ came, before He taught us of the miracle of our being new in Him, of His in-dwelling us. Not taking care of the temple in this historic context was an affront to God because the disrepair of the unfinished temple was the physical, outward evidence of God’s chosen people not choosing to put Him first. (We do the exact same, day after day; we are no better. I’m just giving perspective on why this particular building – a non-living, physical structure – was of paramount import to the Jews and to God’s relationship with them.)
Verses 7 and 8: “Consider your ways! Go up to the mountains, bring word and rebuild the temple, that I may be pleased with it and be glorified.” (emphasis mine)
And then in verses 9, 10, and 11 we get the zingers, the there-are-consequences-to-our-actions-no-matter-how-much-modern-day-culture-wants-to-believe-otherwise: “‘You look for much, but behold, it comes to little; when you bring it home, I blow it away. Why?’ declares the the Lords of hosts, ‘because of My house which lies desolate, while each of you runs to his own house. Therefore, because of you the sky has withheld its dew and the earth has withheld its produce. I called for a drought on the land, on the mountains, on the grain, on the new wine, on the oil, on what the ground produces, on men, on cattle, and on all the labor of your hands.”
I called for a drought on all the labor of your hands.
Basically this: ‘You work hard, you do your best to make things happen, and I the Lord chose to turn them into nought because you were not turning first to Me.’ Wow.
Once again, startlingly familiar.
Fortunately for the Jews, Zerubbabel the governor and Joshua the high priest heard the words of the Lord through Haggai. In verse 12 we read that they “obeyed the voice of the Lord … And the people showed reverence for the Lord.”
And do you know what our wonderful Father in heaven did? He spoke through Haggai again to say to the Jews, “I am with you.”
He was good enough to speak to them through Haggai about how they had fallen away from Him by neglecting His temple on earth (instead of just abandoning them altogether), and when they obeyed and showed reverence, He assured them of His constant presence with them. A good, good Father.
And the people’s response? They did the work. They honored their God. They rebuilt the temple.
As I read, it occurred to me that the parenting yick of Sunday morning was one in a series of ups and downs that reflected that my *desire* to put God first – here specifically in my parenting – has lately been more of a desire than a practice to live out the reality of God-first parenting. I can’t really expect to rebuild that temple without clearing away debris, moving some big stones, and paying heed to the bigger plan, the greater goal, the grand design.
The second (and only other) chapter of Haggai is rich with God’s encouragement to His people and His promises to be with them and to be glorified … and His reminders always to put Him first because, as He reminded His people in the final verse of this short book, “‘I have chosen you,’ declares the Lord of hosts.”
Somewhere along the way, I learned that the name ‘Haggai’ is most widely understood to mean ‘feast.’
God used an everyday man whose name means ‘feast’ to remind the Jews 2,400+ years ago and to remind us right now that when we live a God-first life – in our parenting, in our marriages, in our workplace, online, in our neighborhoods – that is when we get to partake in the feast He has in store for each of us. How grateful am I that He used Haggai’s message to the Jews to call my weary parent soul back to Him.
I know there will be more parenting yicks, and I know there will be more days when I don’t live out the God-first desires of my soul. But I’ll always have Haggai, a virtually unknown and obscure Hebrew prophet, pulling me back to the God of the Jews, the God who is the Father of my Lord and Savior, the God who sees all and knows all and loves us all anyway. A feast indeed.
Amen and amen.