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To the elect of the Holy Spirit, gathered from the four ends of the Earth, “‘Now give careful thought to this from this day on—consider how things were before one stone was laid on another in the Lord’s temple.  When anyone came to a heap of twenty measures, there were only ten.  When anyone went to a wine vat to draw fifty measures, there were only twenty.  I struck all the work of your hands with blight, mildew and hail, yet you did not turn to Me,’ declares the Lord.  ‘From this day on, from this twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, give careful thought to the day when the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid.  Give careful thought:  Is there yet any seed left in the barn?  Until now, the vine and the fig tree, the pomegranate and the olive tree have not borne fruit.’ ”

See what the Lord said to those who returned from the exile again and again, “Give careful thought…” to get them to see and reflect on what was and what is.  The context of this conversation was Haggai was sent to challenge the people to finish the second temple, for they had laid the foundation, but after they had done it, they did not finish building the Lord’s temple.  The Israelites suffered lack and their fruit trees were unfruitful, not because Satan was against them, but see what the Lord said, “I strike all the work of your hands with blight, mildew and hail…”  When you are an agricultural society and you have blight, mildew and hail, it is as disastrous as an industrialised economy to run out of credit, oil and stable government.  Nothing gets done and what has been achieved is destroyed as well.

Why was this so?  If you go back to chapter 1 verse 9, the Lord said, “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little.  What you brought home, I blew away.  Why?” declares the Lord Almighty.  “Because of My house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house.”  For in verse 7, God has already told them, “Give careful thought to your ways.”

You see, God does not want you to speak without having thought first, or act or do without having thought first, for those who speak without thinking are babblers and those who act without thinking are rash at worst and robots at best.  And a rash, babbling robot is not the image God has in mind for Himself, but rather, a person who gives himself over to careful thought, that is, consideration with fullness of care in his thinking.  Careful thoughts are not just thoughts that take into account all the details and options in courses of action available only, but it also means they are thoughts that are full of care for a person and his ways.  That care being an expression of their love for all that love is – patience, kindness, gentleness, perseverance, trust and so on – are descriptors of the care that you have for the person you love.

Thus, when the Lord says, “Give careful thought to your ways,” He is not just talking about thinking that takes into account every detail of the way of doing things, but also the emotional care that you show in your thoughts for the person that you are speaking about and doing everything to and for.  Thus, the ‘carefulness’ of your thoughts is not the caution, prudence and detailed assessment carried in your thinking, but the fullness of care you have in your thoughts about the subject, be they God, man or things.  It is not about the lack of thought as much as the lack of care in our thoughts.  And that lack of care in our thinking is then displayed in our speech and action.

You see, through Haggai the Lord’s complaint was, “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come for the Lord’s house to be built,’” and yet they had been building their own houses.  As it is written, the Lord had to ask, “Is it time for you yourselves to be living in your panelled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”  What a joke and a disgrace, the only nation who worships the God they know was building their houses whilst their God’s house remained ruined.  Now compare that with the behaviour of nations who only worship the gods they believe and who build great temples for their gods.  You see, God’s temple in Jerusalem was not the largest, biggest and grandest temple built for a ‘god’, for history shows us that the Egyptians built much larger, more complex and grander temple complexes.  Indeed, the actual temple itself in size is small compared to some Egyptian, Greek and later, Roman temples. 

However, it was never about the size or grandiosity that God permitted a temple to be built for Him.  It was the care that David had in his heart for God when David said to Nathan, “Here I am living in a palace of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.”  And Nathan said, “Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the Lord is with you.”  And the Lord said to David, “Because it was in your heart to build a temple for My Name, you did well to have this in your heart.”  It was the care David showed to God in his heart and therefore in the inclinations of the thoughts of his heart that impressed and moved God, so He went on to say, Nevertheless, you are not the one to build the temple, but your son, who is your own flesh and blood—he is the one who will build the temple for My Name.”

The first temple was built not because God wanted to show off to other nations what a God He is with a huge impressive temple complex.  That would be like a Pharisee trying to show off his piety with his special flowing robes and wide phylacteries.  If God wanted to have a temple complex of stones, mortar and wood worthy of Him, the universe would not be big enough to house it!  Rather, it was permitted as a token and a reflection of God’s appreciation of David’s care for Him, David’s consideration for Him.

And that is what giving careful thought to your ways and actions is all about, showing due care and consideration to the person you know and are supposed to care about, and in this context, the Person of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Like the Hebrews of Haggai, we are very good at building for ourselves panelled houses to live in whilst God’s house remains in ruins.  Whereas, in their days, they were building their ‘houses’ with wood and stones, now we build our houses with the knowledge and time that God has given us.

The Lord said, “Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honoured.”  The purpose of the building of the temple was to pleasure and honour the Lord.  Now, in our version, we go up to the spiritual mountain to bring down timbers, which are revelations, knowledge and prayers, to build for ourselves our houses for our honour and our plans.  It is the ‘God bless me’ mentality that is the modern day version of what the Lord had to deal with regarding the Hebrews of Haggai’s days.  It is when we pray so that we are blessed, our family is blessed, our work prospers and we are honoured by society as ‘good Christian’ people.

It is when we devote ourselves to ministry so that we will be rewarded both on Earth and later in Heaven, depending on our doctrines, which distresses the Lord.  It is the attitude that is perpetrated, which says, “Now God has saved you, He is obligated to bless you,” and when He does not bless you, you deny Him and even give yourself to apostasy.  One way of defining apostasy and heresy is this:  Apostasy is the total denial of God’s purposes and heresy is the twisting of God’s purposes to suit you.  The seed of all heresy and apostasy comes from the master of apostasy and heresy himself, who once said in his heart, and therefore thought in his heart, “I will ascend to Heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the Mount of Assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain.  I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”  Not a care about God in Satan’s heart, but rather, all he cared about was how to dispose of God.  His apostasy and heresy were to replace God with himself, and using all that God had given him, his perfection, wisdom and beauty, to twist God’s purpose for him to suit himself instead of being satisfied to be the guardian cherub he was anointed to be.  He wanted not only to be like God, but to be greater than God.

This is the same attitude and thought that is expressed in Acts 1:6 when they asked Jesus, “Lord, are You at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”  Their thought and attitude were exactly the same as what we have now, that is, “When are You going to bless us?”  You see, they asked the Lord to restore the kingdom to Israel when they should have asked when is the kingdom to be restored to God, for Israel was the one who rejected God as her King.  As the Lord lamented to Samuel, “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected Me as their King.  As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking Me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you.”

You know what is written, but can you feel the hurt that is in God’s heart when He said that to Samuel?  If they had given careful thought to all they had heard, seen and felt during their time with Jesus, they would not have asked such an insensitive question to the Son of the King they had rejected.

Again, enough of their faults; what of ours?  Our failure to give careful thought and consideration to what we have seen and heard as well, has left the house of the Lord in ruins and a mockery amongst all the nations it abides amongst.  For how many have read the Bible carefully with consideration for God rather than casually or professionally for their own enjoyment and advancement?  To read the Bible with careful consideration for God is to read it so that God can enjoy you reading it, and to read it to seek God’s advancement for His honour.

In the main, the majority of us read the word as a snack or we prefer to receive it pre-packaged by someone else, much like fast food, rather than take the trouble to cook it ourselves.  We read it so that it can teach, bless and prosper us, and if we are professional clergy, we do so to advance our career up the Episcopal ladders until one day we are ‘popes’ of our denominations.  Thankfully there are a few who do desire better things for God before they desire better things from God.  And this is the gap; those who are superficial will always desire better things from God. 

It is like a man who had children, one who didn’t know her father, one who didn’t understand the father and one who didn’t care for the father.  The one who didn’t know the father was well-meaning and always doing things for the father that were not what the father wanted or needed.  The one who didn’t understand the father just did things for herself assuming that the father was pleased with her.  And the one who didn’t care just never bothered to do things at all, but minded her own business.  Yet because the father loved them all, he still gave to each of them out of his riches equally.  And these three who didn’t know, didn’t understand and didn’t care were interested in getting more from the father and keeping it for themselves.  But blessed was the father by the other children who took the time to listen, hear, watch and come to know him, and gave careful thought and consideration for him.  Their desire was always for better things for their father, to raise themselves up to take over the father’s work so that he could rest and to avenge their father against all his enemies.

Your election by the Holy Spirit is because He sees in you the ability to give careful thought to God’s ways and needs.  You see, through Jesus Christ, you get to hear and see what God is saying and doing, but Jesus never revealed to us what God is thinking.  That is why, even though He said that when we see Him we see the Father and that They are One, nowhere did Jesus ever reveal what the Father’s thoughts were to the disciples.  Rather, He revealed to us what our thoughts were and showed us He knew our thoughts.  And if He knows our thoughts, then He surely knows the Father’s thoughts, but He never revealed the Father’s thoughts because He was leaving that to the Holy Spirit.  As Paul wrote:  The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God… no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God… but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit.

Thus, a disciple of Jesus Christ who listens to Jesus and puts His words into practice, comes to know what God has said is truth and what God does is righteous, but a disciple of Jesus Christ will find it difficult to know what God is thinking, for a man who listens to Jesus does not get told what God is thinking.  It is the one who listens to the Holy Spirit who gets told what the thoughts of God are, for it is the Holy Spirit who knows the thoughts of God and reveals them to us, as Jesus said, “He will bring glory to Me by taking from what is Mine and making it known to you.  All that belongs to the Father is Mine.  That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is Mine and make it known to you.”

Do not for a moment be mistaken into thinking that the Lord Jesus does not know what is on the mind of the Father, for He does.  It is just that for the pleasure and the honour of the Holy Spirit, He has chosen to let the Holy Spirit make known to us the very thoughts of God.  That is why seven times He commanded His churches:  “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

So then, give careful thought to your ways, our ways, looking not at anyone else, not at any other religion, denomination or church, just us, ourselves, and let us judge ourselves and not judge others.  Let us take the plank out of our eyes and the dullness out of our minds, and consider how much care for God are our thoughts full of for Him.  When you begin to learn to do this, then you will be doing all that you do, not for your pleasure or honour or glory, but for His glory and honour and pleasure.  It is no longer thinking of how God can bless you or how you can be blessed because you believe His word, stand on His word and speak His word, even declaring it so that you will be honoured before men for your pleasure.  But rather, it is thinking of how God can be blessed by you believing His word and practising His word so that He is honoured and glorified and receives pleasure.

Be the sons and daughters who seek to know, understand and care for their Father so that their Father is honoured and glorified throughout the land.  Be like ones who give careful thought to each day and way for the welfare of God and His family.  For when you do, this is what the Lord’s promise is:  “From this day on, I will bless you.”  For sons and daughters who love their Father enough to know, care and understand, there is no greater blessing, no greater pleasure, no greater honour or glory than to see their Father honoured, glorified and enjoying the fruits of His labour, at rest and in peace.

May He who searches hearts and minds repay each one of us according to our deeds, for as He has said, “Then all the churches will know that I am He who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.”  Know this then; surely you see the wisdom in God’s advice to His people everywhere, both Jews and Gentiles:  “Now give careful thought to this, from this day on…”

 

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