Several weeks ago I addressed the subject of how we are to depend on God, I also addressed how that dependence is not independent of others in the faith. What I would like to do here is build on that understanding as I seek to answer what it means to be blessed by God.
Through wisdom, the house is built
When Christians collapse under the weight of something which they have carried before, they have moved spiritually and practically from trusting in God to trusting in themselves. This move from God to self should be something that God’s people are consciously aware of, however, it is often something that can take us by surprise only to find that when we think about how it happened it is no surprise at all. “Through wisdom, the house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the room are filled with all precious and present riches” (Prov 24:3-4).
The world lives under the authority of God and all Christians know this and affirm it, but when that affirmation is acknowledged as a general truth they can believe that there are somethings which escape that authority. God’s people historically have acknowledged the authority of God in general ways but then they live under an assumption that their business, money, plans and many other things somehow do not come under the specific authority of God, but this is not something they would say out loud.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (Prov1:7) for all areas of life. Therefore, we do not believe that the word of God is altered by the current conditions we find ourselves in as if to say that God’s word had it application back in the day when it was spoken and written down, but it is now ill-equipped to deal with the complexities of life now. Since the Word of the Lord remains unlike the flower which fades, we can be confident in trusting every word of God and we must be aware of when this is being threatened in our hearts and mind.
Can we live without the blessing of God?
No, we cannot live without the blessing of God, but neither should we trust in them, “He who trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf” (Prov 11:28). Sometimes the blessing of God are so great that God gives them with clear warnings, concerning how to handle them, think of the people of God entering into the land flowing with milk and honey. At other times they are known the moments of hand to mouth, where the person gives their last pennies and trusts God for everything and give thanks to God for everything.
How does a person trust in the hand to mouth blessing of God, which they don’t have before they need them and they don’t have enough left over for a rainy day? A person will trust in God when they are convinced on God’s specific authority over all things and this will stop them from trying to make ends meet under their own strength.
When Haggai addressed the people of God, he did so from a thoroughly covenantal position. God through Haggai speaks to His people because they are His people. The relationship which exists between God and His people cannot be overlooked when trying to understand why He is dealing with His people in the way that He does. Haggai tells his listeners that they should obey God and build the temple, the people are preoccupied without their own houses, but why? As we read the text (Haggai 1:1-11) we cannot be sure how many of these houses were objects of expensive and elaborate decoration given the observable knowledge that the people were living in poverty. The reason why this matters is that it will help us to understand the beliefs and actions of the people of God.
Hardships are not an excuse for why we displace the work of God from the high position it is given
Throughout history, you will find rich people and poor people. You will find rich people who belong to God and those who don’t, you will also find poor people who belong to God and those who don’t. Therefore, it is possible that some of God’s people can live above the poverty line even when life gets tough and this can look like they are trusting in their riches to get them through or it could be that they are trusting in their riches. Then there are those who are affected by every recession and cut back.
The people of God may have turned from trusting in God to trusting in themselves and in turn they began to neglect the work of God on earth, which could have been because of their hardships. In other words, in hard times there needs to be a reordering of priorities but the priorities which need reordering should not be the one’s that God gives to us. In Haggai, the people of God are no longer committed to the rebuilding of the temple and this could have been because their minds are preoccupied with their own hardships, rather than the reason for those hardships. Is it the case for many followers of Christ to respond to hardship by trusting more in self than in God without fully realising what it is that they are doing wrong?
Hand to mouth blessings
The connection which the people of God failed to make was the specific connection between what they were doing and not doing on a daily basis and God’s authority over everything. The blessing of the Lord makes one rich and He adds no sorrow with it (Prov 10:22), however, some will read this and believe that since it is an Old Testament promise it cannot be taken seriously. Therefore, what these people are saying is that God can make promises without keeping them. Since we are blessed by virtue of our union with Christ, salvation, grace and faith are gifts from God we can easily recognise that faithfulness to God is full of faith.
Recognizing that many of God’s blessings are received in a hand to mouth fashion, or to put it another way the manna came from heaven on a daily basis “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.” (Exodus 16:4-5). notice how this is a test, the test is to see if the people of God will walk in the law of God. This is the very thing that the people of God in Haggai’s day were not doing. The reason why this is important for us to understand is so that we do not commit the same type of sin as they did.
Many blessings of God are hand to mouth blessings and we are reminded of this when Jesus teaches us to pray for daily bread. Hardships have a unique way of turning our attention away from God and the work He has given us to do. However, even these hardship must be understood as being under the authority of God, which is something we can forget.