Questions with Strange Answers #11
Haggai 1:1-10 …the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel … saying, “Thus speaks the Lord of hosts, saying: ‘This people says, “The time has not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built.’”
Then the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet, saying, “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?” Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: “Consider your ways! You have sown much, and bring in little; you eat, but do not have enough…. You looked for much, but indeed it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why?” says the Lord of hosts. “Because of My house that is in ruins, while every one of you runs to his own house. Therefore the heavens above you withhold the dew, and the earth withholds its fruit.”
“Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?” Now here’s a question phrased to provoke a quick answer! When someone posits a question with such an ironic tension in the question, the almost instant answer is a slightly appalled, “Of course not!” “Of course it’s not good for us to have homes, and for You, Lord, to not have one!” God cuts to the heart of the matter emotionally to set the stage for a teaching rebuke. The question is a heart-opener, not a mind-opener.
Once the tragic irony of the question is received by the listener, the Lord drops in the truth that His people hadn’t noticed or been living in. Shocking the reader into taking a quick position, the Lord quickly fills in the truth around the reader’s newly acquired perspective: they have been out of order in their hearts and behavior, and the bad fruit had been part of their lives for a while—just unrecognized. They have sown, eaten, clothed themselves and worked—all to little avail. And there was a reason for that.
God wasn’t after a quick agreement to a rhetorical trick. He used the question to lay the groundwork for an increased understanding of His ways and to press the reality that His people had not stayed true to His ways. He pointed to His people’s frustrations, their difficulties, their ineffectiveness—and pointed out the reason why. If they agreed with His main point about their houses being built before His, they should more readily agree with Him about the reasons for the reaping that was unequal to the work of sowing.
Has the Lord ever smacked you with a clear word or a new understanding that you simply couldn’t have misunderstood? Thank Him for it, and then ask—now that He has your attention—if there is anything else He would like to share with you. He’s usually not after a fast, superficial answer—or a fast, superficial understanding. He will often grab our attention not for our first reaction, but to reposition us to begin to hear a whole new conversation. If God works so dramatically to get our attention, we should spend some serious time opening our hearts to all that He has to say.
Prayer: Father, grant me the grace to “stay with You” and hear You when You catch my attention. Help me to slow down, listen, and let You speak Your whole heart to me in those moments. Thank You for loving me enough to stop me occasionally for a deeper conversation.