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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, November 11, 2019  

Today’s Scripture Reading | Haggai 1:16—2:9              

In the second year of King Darius, in the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the prophet Haggai, saying: Speak now to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people, and say, Who is left among you that saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Is it not in your sight as nothing? Yet now take courage, O Zerubbabel, says the Lord; take courage, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; take courage, all you people of the land, says the Lord; work, for I am with you, says the Lord of hosts, according to the promise that I made you when you came out of Egypt. My spirit abides among you; do not fear. For thus says the Lord of hosts: Once again, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land; and I will shake all the nations, so that the treasure of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house with splendor, says the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the Lord of hosts. The latter splendor of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts; and in this place I will give prosperity, says the Lord of hosts. (NRSV)

Written in a hopeful period when Jerusalem’s inhabitants were returning and rebuilding after the Babylonian exile, the prophet Haggai’s book is filled with promises for a new era for the Jewish people. In today’s verses, Haggai makes a call back to promises made in the books of Genesis (Abram) and Exodus (Moses) as he makes the case for why the temple should be rebuilt. This “second temple” would lead to the dawning of renewed national hopes of what Israel could be as, to use the words of Isaiah, “a light unto the nations” and would mark a return to glory and status after an event that many assumed would be its end.

However, while Haggai’s vision of other nations’ wealth flowing to the temple makes sense in the context of the aspirations of a tiny nation trying to rebuild itself, I think it’s an important passage to step back and reflect on in an era when many churches are struggling to stay afloat and are investing increasing percentages of their budget into maintaining their property. We aren’t exactly “filling our houses with splendor,” but the ethics of maintaining property at the expense of an outward facing mission of prosperity for all is a question that all of us churchgoers need to wrestle with. Is our property helping us fulfill our mission to be “a light unto the nations,” or is it hindering it?

God of glory and God of challenge, throughout the ages you have called your people to be your witnesses to the world—“a light unto the nations.” Help us respond to your call again, as together we work for your glory. Amen.

Written by Matt Helms, Associate Pastor for Children and Family Ministry

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