Consider Your Ways

This morning I was reading Haggai. I was struck by the repetition of the command to “consider your ways” (1:5, 7), and “consider” (2:15, 18). Haggai was one of the returnees after the exile. He and Zechariah were the prophets, Zerubbabel was the governor, and Joshua was the high priest. I have taught through Ezra and Nehemiah, and surveyed the post-exilic prophets and so there is no need to rehearse all the details here, except to mention that the people returned to the land with great joy and expectation only to lose focus of why they were there. They had built houses for themselves and were trying to resume their lives, but they had neglected the Lord and His house (1:4). God then tells them to “consider their ways.” The call is literally to “set your heart on your ways,” which conveys the idea of “think carefully,” it is “an injunction calling for the utmost degree of reflection and attention.”[1]

The reason God calls them to reflect on their ways, to think about their choices and their actions, is because they had pursued the things of life and it all seemed to be frustrated with failure. This failure is classically stated, “He who earns, earns wages to put into a purse with holes” (1:6). The Lord then tells the people what the problem is,

7        Thus says the Lord of hosts, “Consider your ways!

8        “Go up to the mountains, bring wood and rebuild the temple, that I may be pleased with it and be glorified,” says the Lord.

9        “You look for much, but behold, it comes to little; when you bring it home, I blow it away. Why?” declares the Lord of hosts, “Because of My house which lies desolate, while each of you runs to his own house.

Haggai 1:7-9

They had not given priority to what should have been a clear priority, the Lord and His house. They lost focus of their primary calling. They got caught up in work, food and drink, clothing and making money. God would not bless their daily endeavors for the simple reason that He was not their focus.

The wonderful news is that the leaders and the people heard God’s voice and they repented and obeyed (1:12). God then gives them the blessed promise that He is with them (1:13), and then, most wonderfully, stirs their spirits so that they did what they were supposed to do (1:14).

The lessons here are manifold. Their lack of success in everyday life was a signal from the Lord that they needed to stop and consider their lives, their priorities, their decisions, and their choices. God often gets our attention through providentially hindering the basics of life. The reality is most of God’s people don’t think of God’s hand as present in all their affairs of life, so they look to other solutions to their frustrations. Stop! Consider your ways! Push the pause button long enough to think about something more than daily life. Where is your heart? Where are your priorities? Answer those questions with facts, not platitudes. Answer those questions by looking at the real direction of your life, the real passions you pursue, look at the actual decisions you make, the relationships you cherish, the real actions you have done. Frankly this stung me this morning, but how I needed it.

The great hope is that when we heed God’s Word, and seek to obey, He will “renew a steadfast spirit within us… and sustain us with a willing spirit” (Psa. 51:10b, 12b). This is not some key to success in life, but it is key to a happy walk with God.

Consider your ways today. The Lord may be trying to get your attention.

[1] Eugene H. Merrill, An Exegetical Commentary – Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, Minor Prophets Exegetical Commentary Series (Biblical Studies Press, 2003), 26.