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Written by Jim Jordal   
Friday, 28 August 2009

AMERICA, CONSIDER YOUR WAYS

By Jim Jordal

 Then the Word of Yahweh came by Haggai, the prophet, saying,  "Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies waste?  Now therefore this is what Yahweh of Armies says: Consider your ways.  You have sown much, and bring in little. You eat, but you don't have enough. You drink, but you aren't filled with drink. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm, and he who earns wages earns wages to put them into a bag with holes in it."  This is what Yahweh of Armies says: "Consider your ways.  Go up to the mountain, bring wood, and build the house. I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified," says Yahweh.  "You looked for much, and, behold, it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why?" says Yahweh of Armies, "Because of my house that lies waste, while each of you is busy with his own house.

Haggai 1:3-9 (WEB)

Haggai prophesied in the years immediately following Judah’s return to Jerusalem after their 70-year captivity in Babylon. His message was for the resurgent nation to "consider your ways" because of the excessive attention being paid to personal interests rather than the affairs of the nation. The immediate problem was that people built ornate (paneled) houses for themselves while ignoring the former glorious temple—typifying national power and cohesiveness—that now lay in ruins.

Haggai’s message urged the people to consider the outcomes of their selfish inattention to God’s will. They sowed much, but reaped little, ate and drank without being satisfied, put on clothing without getting warm, and earned wages without prospering. So we might say that the nation was in a self-serving posture emphasizing individualism at the expense of community, getting rather than giving, seeking rather than finding, and wishing rather than having. A sort of national malaise clutched the nation as great opportunities passed by because no concerted effort to move toward them existed.

If you believe with the apostle Paul that Old Testament examples were given for our learning and admonition (see Romans 15:4, I Cor. 10:11), then there is something for us in these seemingly outdated and irrelevant accounts. Haggai’s message is as current now as back then, and perhaps it’s even more needed.

Haggai’s prescription for national malaise was to go out, gather wood, and get to work building God’s house, thereby restoring a sense of national purpose and activity directed, not toward individualism, but toward unity and community united by purposeful effort. And this is what occurred under the leadership of civil administrator Nehemiah as the temple and walls of the city were rebuilt.

Today we also need to get to work building a post-Wall Street economy based upon what is good for the people rather than what is good for wealthy plutocrats. Everyone complains about unemployment, but the present economy build upon the manipulation of money cannot provide the necessary jobs because it literally produces nothing (except massive debt). An economy based upon Main Street values would produce needed goods and services that would not only serve the people but would create greatly needed jobs involving production and service, not manipulation of money and debt.

We can recover our national sense of purpose, but only to the extent we abandon the values of greed and arrogance that got us in trouble. We need to replace these with kingdom values of compassion, sharing, mercy and justice. These will foster increased national unity and the involvement of all society in creating a better world.

Haggai said, "Get to work." So what are we waiting for?