Consider Your Ways
When saints are not walking in the Spirit, they readily interpret circumstances to suit themselves. At such times it is sobering to see the amount of energy that is expended on what ministers to personal comfort, whereas relative indifference characterizes that which is connected with the Lord’s glory. Brethren have time and means for much that does not profit, but they find it difficult to allow time for a meeting of the saints or to spare a little of their means for the furtherance of the Gospel. How utterly foreign this is to the Christianity espoused by the apostle Paul: "Now I shall most gladly spend and be utterly spent for your souls, if even in abundantly loving you I should be less loved" (2 Cor. 12: 15, my emphasis)! Here was one who had truly imbibed the spirit of the Master!
Does this challenge the heart and conscience of the reader? It most certainly puts the writer to shame. What we read in the prophet Haggai has great relevance for the present moment: "Is it time for you that ye should dwell in your wainscoted houses, while this house lieth waste?" (Hag. 1: 4). No Persian decree hindered the Jews from providing warm and expensive houses for themselves, but it was readily made the excuse for indifference to the temple of their God. This indifference had consequences: "And now thus saith Jehovah of hosts: Consider your ways. Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but are not satisfied; ye drink, but are not filled with drink; ye clothe yourselves, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages for a bag with holes. Thus saith Jehovah of hosts: Consider your ways" (vs. 5–7). May reader and writer weigh this well. Undoubtedly it gives the secret of many failures and disappointments among not only the Jews of old but also among Christians today. God cannot bless self–seeking. Notice the twice-repeated instruction to "Consider your ways". The Hebrew reads set your heart on your ways. It is a summons to self–judgment, for the ways manifest the state of soul. Does this have no voice for you and I? Surely it does, unless we are guilty of reading Scripture in a totally abstract way.
This call to consider our ways enters into every aspect of life. Consider your ways in the work place. The covetous spirit of the age is eating the very life out of many of the Lord’s people. How much is sacrificed for getting on in the world! Christians with families will leave town or city where the spiritual support and fellowship of their brethren are found simply because they see an opportunity to better their earthly circumstances. How many have prospered in business, and impoverished their souls! Consider your ways in the home life. What place do you give the things of God there? Is the Bible habitually neglected and the knees seldom bowed in prayer before the children? What wonder if they grow up to think lightly of that upon which you seem to place so slight a valuation? Consider your ways in connection with the Lord’s interests. Are you generally missing from the prayer meeting and seldom found in the Bible reading? Has it been months or years since you handed out a tract or spoke to others of Christ? How then can you expect God’s blessing to be on you and your plans when you are so indifferent to Him and His purpose? "Ye ask and receive not, because ye ask evilly, that ye may consume [it] in your pleasures" (James 4: 3).We see meetings dying out, and churches being boarded up, and we wring our hands in despair, but stubbornly refuse to face up to the fact that we are the problem, and that it is impossible to continue as we are, and at the same time expect God’s blessing. We blame our circumstances as particularly difficult, but things have been far worse in the past, and are far worse elsewhere in the world. No, we must consider our ways! Josiah was able to accomplish wonderful things for God in a particularly difficult time because he sought the Lord with all his heart, because he was determined to be obedient in every detail to the written Word of God, and because he set himself diligently to cast away from himself and the sphere of his influence everything that was inconsistent with divine law (see 2 Kings 23: 25). Until we do the same, there will be no revival, and the lights of testimony will continue to go out one by one. Has the current world crisis nothing to say to the Lord’s people? Many are straining to hear what rulers and men of science have to utter but seem to have given no thought to the possibility that God Himself might be speaking. As in Haggai’s day, the natural order of things is in disarray, but many Christians (with some bright exceptions) see only the effects of the crisis on their lives here. They seem not to hear that God has said of the craved–for ‘normality’ that "I blew upon it" (Hag. 1: 9). Now the effect of Haggai’s words on the Jews was immediate, and it would be good if this rehearsal of his prophecy might also arouse those of us who are sleeping among the dead. Both leaders and people forthwith "hearkened to the voice of Jehovah their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, according as Jehovah their God had sent him, and the people feared before Jehovah" (v12). It is then (and, mark, not before) that the prophet is able to bring them a word of cheer: "Then spoke Haggai, Jehovah’s messenger, in Jehovah’s message unto the people, saying, I am with you, saith Jehovah" (v13). What more encouragement could they seek? Aroused by the stirring call of the prophet to consider their ways, and comforted by the knowledge of the Lord’s presence with them, the remnant "came and worked at the house of Jehovah of hosts, their God" (v14). May you and I be similarly aroused to consider our ways, and to rekindle that love we once had for the things of God!