It is not a bad thing to hear God’s word and then be gripped by a sense of fear.
12 Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and the whole remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the Lord their God and the message of the prophet Haggai, because the Lord their God had sent him. And the people feared the Lord.
The Lord has spoken to his people about their failure to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. It was a great failure because it amounted to failing to provide a reminder of the coming saviour, the Lord Jesus. He also pointed out that their life had become difficult because he was wanting them to realise the significance of failing to have this gospel focus for their lives.
The message had great effect. We are told in verse 12 that they all “heard” or “obeyed” (either translation is possible) the Lord. The word heard is better for the context because they didn’t act immediately. Rather, they heard, and were impacted by God’s message for the first time. No longer could they dismiss the message as not relevant for them. They were brought to realise that a familiarity with God’s message was not enough, nor was a superficial acceptance. They knew God was speaking directly to their lives and they could not escape his scrutiny. The same happens when the Lord speaks to us from his word. There are often issues in our lives where we can come up with many excuses and evasions, but the word of God has been inescapably heard and eventually we must submit to him and be transformed.
At the end of this verse we see that the message from the Lord had the result that the people, “feared the Lord.” When the Lord confronts us with our failures, he gives us a sense of fear, but he does so that we might find ultimate peace. Fear gripped and Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and hence they hid from God. People continue to hide from God rather than face him. When this fear grips someone it is a fear of condemnation, of punishment, of death and of eternity. The person, like these of Haggai’s time, is left with a conviction of sin to which they can only ask for mercy. That is a good place to be! It is far better to know sin and seek for mercy than to be oblivious to it. Many in our world refuse to accept their failure so they consequently refuse to accept the mercy the Lord holds out to them in Jesus Christ our Lord. Many Christians refuse to accept they have left Christ as the central controlling focus of their life and live in ever deepening frustration. It is better to be left crying for mercy than to continue in the illusion of having life under control. This is to reject the mercy and grace of God and be left unchanged.
The pattern is simple. Failure, followed by problems, followed by God making it clear that Christ is being neglected, to people having a sense of fear at the thought of their sin. It is for this sin we need forgiveness and find it in Jesus Christ.
Head and Heart: Hearing God’s word to us can be disturbing but we should always recognise it as a good thing leading to greater peace.
Hands: Act on the convictions God brings you in his word.
Prayer: Lord, there are many times your word has a significant impact on us when we hear it. Help us not to dismiss it, but rather to accept it and act on it. In Jesus name. Amen.
A song to listen to: Your Word
Living Church – Creek Road