The Promise of God’s Presence

We had a day of travel to Lakewood. We spent most of the time with Christian and Bridget and kids, waiting on word for Riley’s baseball games. The word finally came that they were cancelled for today. What started out as a nice sunny day, was interrupted by another rain storm. If I get another notice from the City of Fort Collins that my water useage is higher than my neighbors, I will be disappointed!

We did get by to see my mother and help her with the TV I brought to her on Tuesday. My sister and I will go with her to a doctor’s appointment on Tuesday.

We did return home in time for the Saturday evening service at Timberline. It was good to hear another challenging and practical message from my friend Jeff Lucas. When we returned home I felt fairly fatigued, but then again, I might have just been hungry!

BIBLE VERSE FOR TODAY… “Then Haggai gave the Lord‘s message to the people: “I will be with you—that is my promise.”  Haggai 1:13 When you came out of Egypt, I promised that I would always be with you. I am still with you, so do not be afraid.”  Haggai 2:5

The Lord calls the prophet Haggai to confront God’s people about their failure to rebuild the Temple. They were satisfied with having their homes and living in the land of Judah once again. They were also satisfied with the Temple being in ruins. The prophet let the people know that their misplaced priorities was having an impact on their prosperity.

You will find an important principle at work. If you place yourself and your needs first you will never have enough. If you place the Lord first, your needs will be met. That is why Jesus said the remedy for worry over food, clothes and life itself was to, “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” (Matt. 6:33)

As the people committed themselves to rebuilding the Temple, the Lord gave them this promise,  “I will overthrow all the nations, and their treasures will be brought here, and the Temple will be filled with wealth.  All the silver and gold of the world is mine. The new Temple will be more splendid than the old one, and there I will give my people prosperity and peace.” The Lord Almighty has spoken.” (Haggai 2:7-9) Even though the rebuilt temple would lack the splendor of Solomon’s temple, the Lord would make it would be magnificent, a place of splendor because of the His blessing and provision.

As God’s people repent, His simple response and affirmation of their repentance was, “I will be with you….” No great details, no road map for the future. God’s presence is the most valuable and at times the most overlooked promise of the Lord.

When Moses was preparing to lead the Children of Israel from Mount Sinai, the reassurance the Lord gave him in the midst of his anxiety and feelings of inadequacy was, “My presence will go with you and I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33:14) When David was dealing with the consequences of his sin, his cry was, “…take not your Holy Spirit from me…” (Psa. 51:11)

When we understand that the Lord is with us, it gives us strength for the journey. It provides the encouragement we need to face the challenges of life. It shouts to us the new beginnings and new life is possible.

As I read the short book of Haggai this morning, I was also reading the commencement address of Michael Ward from Oxford University at Hillsdale College. This statement in his introduction caught me attention:

“I come from the Old World in particular from Oxford, the home of lost causes, where we don’t have “Commencement”: we just graduate and diminish and go into the west and remain embittered. So America’s status as the home of fresh starts, of the pioneer spirit, of beginnings leading to commencements, sounds to me alarmingly positive and energetic.”

The connection is this, Haggai was addressing a people who were living in the midst of what seemed to be “a lost cause.” Every day, was a day of struggle. Their expectations were not being met. But as they aligned their priorities through obedience to the Lord they found a “new beginning.” They committed themselves to a fresh start and adopted a “pioneer spirit” that would carve out a new future in the Lord’s land of promise. And as they did, the Lord promised them that, “He would be with them…” As a matter of fact. He had always been with them.

When the Lord is present, there are no “lost causes.” There is hope, there is a fresh start and a new beginning.