As we have made our way through the Minor Prophets, we have seen that, for the most part, they have taken the form of warnings of impending exile. The prophets ministering to the northern nation of Israel warned of Assyrian exile while those ministering to the southern nation of Judah warned of Babylonian exile. Both of these exiles came to pass as the prophets warned.
The final three Minor Prophets do not warn of exile because each ministered after the respective exiles. Israel was displaced by Assyria and Judah by Babylon but, per the promises of restoration, God’s people had been granted favour under King Cyrus to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. A small minority had chosen to go back but, as we see in Ezra and Nehemiah, they did not find things easy. They faced overwhelming opposition, particularly to the rebuilding of the temple. The opposition discouraged them so that they ceased work on the temple. (For some, perhaps, the opposition gave them an excuse to stop.) Haggai and Zechariah were sent by God to encourage them to get back to work. Malachi was sent to correct their corrupt worship.
Haggai is a short prophecy—a mere two chapters. In the first of those two chapters, Haggai rebukes God’s people for misplaced priorities. Mark Dever may be correct in accusing the people of “godlessly selfish priorities.” The people had come to neglect the construction of the temple and had instead put what resources they had into building their own homes. Haggai accused the people of misplaced priorities. “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your panelled houses, while this house lies in ruins?” (v. 4)
To be fair, the economy was certainly under strain. “You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes” (v. 6). But Haggai ties the languishing economy to their misplaced priorities. “You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the LORD of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house” (v. 9). The poor economy was God’s doing because the people were prioritising their kingdom above his.
Haggai 1 places before us a very pertinent question: What do our priorities look like? We all invest in something. Do our investments display a concern for God’s kingdom as priority? Or are we all about meeting our own needs and adding to our own comfort? Are we generous in giving to kingdom work or do we give meagre tips to God while building our own panelled houses, stocking our own retirement portfolios, and planning our own lavish holiday getaways? None of those things are inherently wrong, of course. To the contrary, they are all good and important. But we are guilty of selfishly godless priorities if God’s kingdom languishes while our own kingdom advances.
The principle, of course, extends beyond financial investments. It speaks to every area of priority in our lives.
Do we prioritise knowing God? Do we invest time in prayer and Bible study, not as a means to ticking a box, but as a means to knowing and loving God? Is loving the Lord with heart, soul, mind, and strength our ultimate priority (Matthew 22:36–37)? Given the choice between investments that will build God’s kingdom and investments that will build our own, what do we choose?
Do we prioritise loving others (Matthew 22:39–40)? Specifically, do we prioritise loving them by helping them to prioritise the things of God? Are we leading our families to prioritise the kingdom of God? Are we leading our families to understand what it looks like to prioritise God’s kingdom and helping them to actually do so? Are we pointing our colleagues and friends to the gospel? If we are ashamed of the gospel, it displays misplaced priorities.
As you meditate on Haggai 1 this morning, ask God to help you identify misplaced priorities in your life. Like Haggai’s hearers (vv. 12–14), repent and pursue godly priorities for his glory.