"Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways." Haggai 1:7
We need to understand the context of this verse before we can make a proper application to ourselves.
Haggai is probably the human instrument who wrote this book by inspiration of God. (II Peter 1:21). The date is in the second year of Darius (Hag. 1:1), king of the Persian Empire, approximately 520 B.C. This date was about 16 years after Zerubbabel with a small remnant of Jews had come back to Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity for the purpose of rebuilding the temple which had been destroyed in 586 B.C.
It was easy to get the work started when they first arrived, because everyone was dedicated, enthusiastic, and excited about building the temple so they could worship God. But as they begin to build, their adversaries tried to stop the work by: 1) The Samaratians desiring to join up with them (Ezra 4:1-2), 2) By weakening the hand of the people of Judah by stopping supplies from coming into Jerusalem (Ezra 4:4), 3) By accusations against them (Ezra 4:5, 12-13). These things continued until about 521 B.C. when the King of Persia at that time ordered them to cease the work. It probably was not too hard a task to get them to quit, because in reality they were not getting much done because they had become weary, worn, discouraged, sidetracked, and very unconcerned about the things of God.
As a result, God raised up Haggai along with Zechariah to reprove the people for their neglect and to arouse them to immediate action. Haggai had his work cut out for him, but he got right to the point in Hag. 1:5, 7 when he says, "Consider your ways." "Consider" means to set or fix your whole inner being on what you are doing: your ways, your actions, and your attitudes.
For them to consider their ways Hosea in essences said: 1) Consider your excuses (1:2). They said "The time to build the Lord's house has not come." 2) Consider your houses (1:4). They were finished on the inside and the house of God was not even built yet. 3) Consider your lack (1:6). 4) Consider the work to be done (1:8).
In Hag. 1:12-15, we see the people's reaction to the messages: (1) They received the message with reaol heart conviction (verse 14). 2) They repented thus having a change of mind and action, because they obeyed (verse 12) and came and did the work (verse 14). 3) They reverenced God (verse 12). 4) They made preparation (verse 15).
The result was that the temple, the house of God, was completed about 516 B.C. thus fulfilling the dual prophecy of 70 year captivity of the Jews by Babylon (608-539 B.C.) and 70 years the house of God lay desolate (586-516 B.C.; Zech. 1:12).
Now let us apply this to ourselves. Just as the prophet said "Consider your ways" may we as preachers and leaders in the Lord's churches apply this phrase to ourselves and say, "Consider our ways."
Motive for our Participation
First, we need to consider the motive of our participation. What is the motive for our participation in the ministry? Many so-called Christians and even preachers are motivated by lust and are walking in liberalism. Some are motivated by law and are walking in legalism. But the motive for our participation in the ministry should not be lust or law, but love which allows us to walk in liberty (Gal 5:1,13).
Love is the motive: 1) His love for us (John 3:16). Paul said in II Cor. 5:14, "The love of Christ constraineth us." "Constraineth" means to urge, to impel, and to press on every side. The tense reveals a continuous action. 2) Our love for Him. This does not come until we are saved and that "love is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." (Rom. 5:5). We would never love Him if He had not loved us first (I John 4:19). 3) Our love for others by reaching out with compassion to those who are on the verge of hell (Jude 22-23).
Love is the motive for our participation, and Jesus said that all the law and prophets hang on two commandments: loving Him and loving others (Mat. 22:37-40).
Message of our Preaching
Second, we need to consider the message of our preaching. What is the message that we preach? 1) The truth or the Word is what we should be preaching according to Paul's charge to Timothy in II Tim. 4:1-4. The Word of God will get the job done (Heb. 4:12). 2) The gospel should be preached, the one Paul preached. He defined it in simple form in I Cor. 15:3-4 as the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. It involves the virgin birth of Jesus, His sinless life, vicarious death, burial, resurrection, ascension, ministry of intercession, and His bodily coming back for the saints in the rapture. 3) The whole counsel needs to be preached as Paul said he did in Acts 20:27. "Counsel" means advice or purpose. To preach the whole counsel means to deliver the advice and purpose God has for a particular congregation on a given day.
Method of our Practice
Thirdly, we need to consider the method of our practice. What should be the method of our practice? Let me say if our method is wrong, it will negate the message. To find out the method we should use, let us look at some methods being used to day which we should not use.
1) Some practice having sinners pray "the sinner's prayer." They base this on what one man prayed in Luke 18. What did the woman at the well pray? or the eunuch? or the Philippian jailer? There is no prayer recorded. Salvation is not in a prayer but in a Man, Christ Jesus (John 1:4; I John 5:12). If you practice this method as I have heard some who say, "We had 25 pray the prayer," then you are negating the message of the gospel. Paul said in Gal. 1:8-9, "Let that group be accursed."
2) Some say raise your hand and repeat after me. If you practice that, you are making men "two-fold more the child of hell" (Mat. 23:15). Wrong method! I don't care how many of the "so-called big preachers" practice that, it still is the wrong method. Consider our ways.
3) Some use Rom. 10:13 to pressure people in the altar into saying they got saved when in reality the Holy Ghost has not finished His work of reproval (John 16:8-11). They even go to the extent of saying if you ask Him to save you and He did not, you are calling God a liar. Wrong method again. The Holy Ghost is the one who gives assurance (I Thess. 1:5). By the way, I Cor. 12:3 states, ". . .No man can say that Jesus is Lord, but by the Holy Ghost." He can call all day long with his lips, but will not be saved until a work of Godly Sorrow has been worked in his heart (II Cor. 7:10).
4) Some say, `Just open your heart and let Jesus come in.' Only God can open ones heart just as He did Lydia's in Acts 16:14. Wrong method.
5) Some say, `Take Jesus as your Saviour.' Wrong method. You must take him as your Lord. He is Lord of all or will not be Lord at all.
What is the right method to practice? The answer: the method that Jesus used. When you study the Word of God, you will find that Jesus never dealt with any two the same. For example:
1) Nicodemus in John 3:1-21: He said "Ye must be born again." But He never told anyone else that. Why? Because Nicodemus was depending on his first birth, his being Abraham's descendant, for his ticket to heaven. The Lord said your first birth is no good, you must be born again or born from above. Jesus knew what Nicodemus was depending on and He pulled that prop from under him.
2) The woman at the well in John 4: He told her to go call her husband knowing that she had had five and shacking up with another. He dealt with her sins trying to get her to see her unbelief. She quickly changed the subject to worship, which she knew nothing about. He slowly revealed Himself to her, and she got saved. You will never find another person the Lord dealt with like He did her.
3) The rich young ruler in Mark 10:17-27: He came to Jesus asking a good question, "What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" The Lord said to keep the commandments, of which He named six that had to do with man's responsibility toward his fellow man. The rich ruler spoke up quickly that he had observed them from his youth. Then Jesus said, "One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor,. . . and come, take up thy cross, and follow me." (Mark 10:21). And the man went away sorrowful but lost, because he had great riches. Why did he go away? Because the Lord put His finger on his problem--he had other gods such as money and possessions. Jesus then made a statement in Mark 10:25, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." The disciples understood that it was impossible for a camel to go through the eye of a sewing needle. So they asked the question in verse 27, "Who then can be saved?" And the Lord said, "With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible." The Lord Jesus never dealt with anyone else exactly like the rich young ruler.
4) The disciples in John 6: In verse 53, Jesus said, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you." To which they said it was a "hard saying" (verse 60) and walked away from Him never to return (verse 66). They were following Him, because they had eaten of His fish and loaves (wrong motive), but Jesus said you must eat of Me which means a wholehearted reception of Jesus as Lord.
5) Many of the Jews which believed on Him in John 8:30: In John 8:31-32, Jesus said to those Jews which believed on him, "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." They became angry at His words. Jesus later identifies them as children of the devil in John 8:44, which proves that they only believed with their head and not their heart.
The method our Lord used is the right method to practice. What method is that? He dealt with their problem and brought them or least tried to bring them to Himself. He was God, and He knew their problem. We are not God, and we do not know another's problem. That is why it takes time dealing with some, because we must allow the Holy Ghost to put His finger on the root problem, deal with it, and bring them to Jesus. The Holy Ghost does this as He works the work of reproval of John 16:8-11.
When we practice the same method on each person, we will short circuit the work of the Holy Ghost and make those we deal with two-fold more the child of hell. If this occurs, we will have their blood on our hands. May the Lord help us to "Consider Our Ways" by taking inventory of the: 1) Motive for our participation, 2) Message of our preaching, and 3) Method of our practice.
THE PERSUADER - Dec., 1994-Jan., 1995