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Cycle #1 can rise or go lower. In their case it had been low for many years. We do not know if God spoke earlier to them. He probably did. If so, they heard but found no real changes. Further difficulties came into their lives. Perhaps they just got more guilty. But this time when they heard God's voice, they positively responded.
We should note our response to God's revelation is critical. We will either despise or welcome God's Word. God's revelation always is an opportunity for good and positive changes.
The 'lift stage' of cycle #1 starts in Haggai 1:12. This occurs because they responded to God with obedience. In this particular situation all of them chose to obey together. They picked up a tremendous amount of momentum. If this obedience was only chosen by one or two groups, then there would also have been a lot of conflict between the two sides. In this case the leaders encouraged the people, and the people encouraged the leaders.
Obedience might sound difficult, and of course it does have certain difficult ramifications, but really it is only doing what one ought to have done. In this case, there was neglect of duty. They would have to stop their work on their own houses if they were going to work on God's house. Obedience always require prioritization of God' wishes and often requires the subduing of our own preferences. The scripture describes this process as 'repentance.' The last phrase of 1:12 wonderfully describes their change of attitude.
And the people showed reverence for the LORD. (Haggai 1:12).
What they had despised and neglected is something they are now choosing to respect and be changed by.
Profession by mouth alone doesn't show change. Obedience only can speak through actions although it begins in the heart. We think that we are doing well when we try to do well. Obedience is not only trying but doing. Only obedience proves that real heart change is there. Jesus again and again spoke against those who profess to obey but in fact do not.
"And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them, will be like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand. (Matthew 7:26).
The greatest difficult in obeying besides outright not want to is the fear of not being able to carry out the certain required task or change in life. Christians tend to use these 'impossibilities' as excuses. They must be very careful not to allow their discouragement carry over to doubt. Instead they should have the biblical attitude that if God calls anyone to do a certain job, then He will provide all that he will need to do it. This is true of evangelism, giving a testimony, teaching a Sunday School class, overcoming a particular sin, etc.
Obedience brings His people into an arena where they can find God's grace to do what He desires. The key to this grace is God's presence as shown by the phrase, "I am with you." Through God's strength and presence God's people find all they need to rightly carry out His will. We see this in creation when God made man. God fully equipped man with what he would need to compete God's job. Noah found God's grace sufficient when he embarked on obeying God in what seemed to be a frivolous and impossible task.
Then Haggai, the messenger of the LORD, spoke by the commission of the LORD to the people saying, ""I am with you," declares the LORD." (Haggai 1:13).
So we see this pattern, a pattern of power. Obedience brings assurance and faith in God's presence from God. As this faith comes, so does God's Spirit working in the lives of those individuals. Without this step of obedience, we will not see the faith and power that we would need to carry out what is needed.
One might rightly ask if faith is not a prerequisite to obedience. A certain faith is necessary to make such a choice, but this seed of faith is not the necessary maturing faith to complete the task. It is only the faith to bring you to God or to obey Him. This is where loyalty and faithfulness to God is more important than the thinking that it can be done. One chooses because God has been faithful to him. One chooses to obey because one is desperate.
Let's note more clearly the point of empowering by the Spirit of God. In verse 13 we find God assuring His presence to be with His people. In verse 14 we see this worked out in a specific program of empowerment.
So the LORD stirred up
the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and
the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and
the spirit of all the remnant of the people ... " (Haggai 1:14).
It is clear that Yahweh was the one who empowered the people. Just like in the building of the first temple, we see the Spirit of Yahweh moving in the lives of individuals and groups of people in such a way that they had a mind to work. One should never give into absolute negativism and say, "It is too late."
Nor should we say, "It is impossible." God can bring an amount of God-sized power into the lives of His faithful people to accomplish tasks that they never could do on their own.
The way David faced Goliath is an excellent example of this. No one but God was betting on David to win. David knew he was unbeatable not because of his military strategy but because of the way He learned to trust in God. The key was whether God was present or not. Notice David's dependence upon the Lord in the following verse which he wrote.
Incline Thine ear to me, rescue me quickly;
Be Thou to me a rock of strength,
A stronghold to save me.
God always helps His people start and finish a job. In just three weeks time, we find that the Israelites were now working on the house of the LORD of hosts. This is simply amazing. We have no explanations for this other than the obedience of God's people.
"And they came and worked on the house of the LORD of hosts, their God." (Haggai 1:14).
Why doesn't God work more often like this?
We perhaps should say that He always works this way. God always establishes the life of the righteous. The problem is that the Lord is looking for the obedient man to empower him. But there are so few faithful people. What about you? Have you sought the Lord with all of your heart? So few can say yes. If more of us said, "Yes," to this, we would get God's work of building His spiritual house (the church and the Great Commission) done in no time at all. The problem is not money or resources but obedience.
But what if I don't feel like I can do it?
Never go by ones feelings. We are exhorted to obey not to see whether we feel like doing it or not. The success or failure of what He has called us to is up to the Lord. Our job is simply to obey. Many early missionaries died in the field in the first five years of their work there. We might think it failure but God chalked it up as success. We might have to run counter to our feelings. This is fine. Some people think this is not right because it is going against ones true self. Any thought, action or feeling that goes counter to God's will must be rejected and finally subjected to His will. This is what being a Christian is all about. God frees us to serve Him rather than our old man and its desires.
Does obedience always have a good result?
Yes, always. The uncertainty does not lie on whether obedience brings a good result but as to when the end result will come. We have a vast number of examples that show that obedience often has many challenges. The Book of Nehemiah traces these foes. Paul says, "The godly man shall be persecuted." The end result of obedience is always wonderful. Even the times of obedience are accompanied by God's amazing peace. Job was rewarded on earth; others will find their reward for obedience in the next life.
All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. (Hebrews 11:13).
The choice of obedience instantly changed a people who were carrying years of guilt. God wanted their participation. God did not reject them, but sent His prophet to call them back into His plans. Sometimes we might be too late to complete what God really wanted to do through our lives, but as we find here, we rather through faith choose obedience to God because He always has some special plan for those who turn from their obstinate sin and choose to follow His ways.
This is true with the old, the utterly wicked, the dead religious and the wild young. Now is the time to change. God is able to foster a spirit of hope, vision and motivation that depression can't hold back. Obedience plays the key to discouragement and failure.
Cycle #1 describes our spiritually dry and barren lives. Circumstances have gown absolutely oppressive. However, in all of this 'low time,' God is trying to speak. He is calling us to again participate in His good and perfect will. To the degree that we and others obey, He brings His Spirit upon His people to accomplish His work.