The above are two key phrases in today’s chapters of the prophecy of Haggai. He is a prophet who was given the task of stirring up the people who had returned to Jerusalem to get on with the work of rebuilding of the temple. He is referred to in the book of Ezra (6:14).

At first the people are not motivated to get on with the rebuilding; the Babylonians had utterly ruined the Temple and rebuilding was a big task. Yet the prophet’s challenge to the people was also directed at their way of life; a factor in their lack of motivation. “Is it time”, he asks, “for you yourselves to dwell in your panelled houses, while this house lies in ruins?” (1:4). Do the comforts of life today hinder us in taking the opportunities to go forth and serve?

Haggai observes that there is a lack of blessing from the Lord; they had “sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes” (verse 6). Through Haggai God’s message is for them to “Consider your ways” (verse 7), and complains, “my house … lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house” (verse 9); adding, “Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. And I have called for a drought …”.

In centuries past many in our world believed in one God, the Creator, but few do today. They no longer consider their ways! Is this attitude affecting you and me? There are two words, repeated three times in chapter 2 which should challenge us, “be strong, O Zerubbabel … Be strong … Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the LORD. Work, for I am with you” (verse 4). We need to “Consider our ways” and to “Be strong” before it is too late – and the return of Christ occurs and we are “called” to give an account of ourselves. We can be good with words and talking, but they must be followed up with actions. In Revelation we read that “the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done” (20:2).