Will Graham Devotion: Struggling to Prioritize?

Bible Reading: Haggai 1, NKJV

Priorities and idols can be a constant struggle. Though we call on Jesus as our Savior and Lord, we tend to let the things of this world assume an exaggerated level of importance that crowds out our focus on Him.

It could be our jobs, our hobbies, our comfort or even our children’s sports teams. We would rather skip church than miss the first five plays of an NFL game. We prefer sleeping in over gathering for worship.

Haggai may be one of those Old Testament books that gets quickly skipped over, but the whole account of Haggai is incredibly practical for the 21st century. One may even think that it was intended just for us living in this post-modern era, though it was written in 520 B.C.

In the first chapter, we see that the people had begun putting themselves before the Lord, focusing on building their own houses while neglecting the temple. In the years since returning from exile in Babylon, they had disregarded the house of God.

In verse 4, God–through His prophet Haggai–says, “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?”

This question tells us that the Israelites were doing the work required to build a certain level of luxury for themselves. Rather than having walls of mud or stone, their homes were overlaid (paneled) in wood. Conversely, no one was working on the temple. It laid in ruins.

The Israelites to whom Haggai was speaking were putting themselves before the Lord. The sin was not living in luxury or “paneled” homes, per se, but it was the idea of satisfying themselves instead of working on the things of God.

There are consequences to sin, and this was no exception. In fact, Haggai declares in verse 6 that many of the hardships that Israel was encountering were a direct result of their disobedience:

“You have sown much, and bring in little; You eat, but do not have enough; You drink, but you are not filled with drink; You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; And he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes.”

(This sounds a lot like our modern age, doesn’t it?)

In other words, the farmers would work hard on their crops every year, but the harvest would be inadequate. There was food, but children and adults alike would still be hungry at the end of the day. Those who could afford new clothes in order to stay warm were still cold. In essence, God showed them that if they try to meet their own needs, they would never be satisfied.

However, in verse 8, God gives a prescription for renewal with three imperatives: “Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified.”

Go, bring and build. These were immediate marching orders. God demanded obedience now, not later.

The Israelites responded, reordered their priorities, and rebuilt the temple for His glory. In doing so, they grew spiritually as they returned God to His place of Lordship in their lives.

Let me ask you this: Has God given you direction, but you are waiting because you think it is not the right time? Are you avoiding your God-ordained calling because the work is too hard? Are you giving God the scraps while putting the majority of your focus into your own pursuits?

Or perhaps you’re accumulating all of the “toys” (your own version of “paneled walls”) you can get while neglecting your church.

I don’t ask these questions to make you feel guilty, but to encourage you to follow God’s prescription in the first chapter of Haggai. If you take a fair assessment of your spiritual life and realize that you’ve elevated other items or comforts above God, it’s time to go, bring and build.

Go get the idols in your life–your education, your job, your hobbies, your addictions, your comforts. Bring them to God and lay them at His feet, repenting of your disordered priorities.

In their place, build your relationship with God by obeying His commands, through prayer and studying His Word. Just as the Israelites grew spiritually as they turned back to God, you will find a new and deeper fulfillment in Him.

Place God as the one true priority in your life, and everything else will fall in place.

Scripture Reference: Haggai 1

1 In the second year of King Darius, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, saying,

“Thus speaks the Lord of hosts, saying: ‘This people says, “The time has not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built.” ’ ”

Then the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet, saying,

Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?”

Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: “Consider your ways!

“You have sown much, and bring in little;
You eat, but do not have enough;
You drink, but you are not filled with drink;
You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm;
And he who earns wages,
Earns wages to put into a bag with holes.”

Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Consider your ways!

Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified,” says the Lord.

You looked for much, but indeed it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why?” says the Lord of hosts. “Because of My house that is in ruins, while every one of you runs to his own house.

10 Therefore the heavens above you withhold the dew, and the earth withholds its fruit.

11 For I called for a drought on the land and the mountains, on the grain and the new wine and the oil, on whatever the ground brings forth, on men and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands.”

12 Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the Lord their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the Lord their God had sent him; and the people feared the presence of the Lord.

13 Then Haggai, the Lord’s messenger, spoke the Lord’s message to the people, saying, “I am with you, says the Lord.”

14 So the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God,

15 on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month, in the second year of King Darius.