One of the hardest balances to keep in the Christian walk centers around God’s blessings. We seem to teeter-totter back and forth between two extremes: my obedience and God’s blessing aren’t connected at all, or my obedience is the only cord God’s blessings are tied to. Both are faulty.
Though I can’t unpack all of the reasons these two extremes don’t pass the test, let me try and use this initial observation as a way to answer a question from Sunday: “Why did God bless them in 2:19?”
The questioner is referring to Haggai 2:19 and my comments that, in spite of themselves, Israel was under God’s blessing and favor, not because of what they did, but because of who he was. Yet, as I taught the previous week, there are a good bit of consequences taking their toll on the Hebrew nation precisely because they didn’t obey the Mosaic law (see chapter 1). So wouldn’t it stand to reason that since they were now, for the most part, back in the land and doing God’s work of rebuilding the Temple ad relating to him properly, he was blessing them because of the obedience?
To some degree, yes. It would be textually dishonest to say their obedience wasn’t part of the equation. In fact, much of Haggai’s prophecy is a call to obedience so that the land would be fruitful, their harvests plentiful, and their worship meaningful.
Yet, recall what I said in the message — this activity of obedience didn’t increase their standing before God or suddenly obligate him. Done from a pure heart, did it “open the windows of heaven” so they could receive abundance from their Heavenly Father? Sure. But did it put God on notice that he was now in a corner trying to stare down an upgraded version of the Israelites who were suddenly “better” than before simply because they were doing work on the Temple? No way!
Furthermore, from a strictly textual point of view, the word “but” in verse 19 speaks more to the idea that, in spite of who they were, God was keeping his promise to them and blessing them. It’s a word of contrast, and shows that his blessing was rooted in his character, not their conduct. Was their conduct more in line with God’s law at his point? No doubt. But how did they even get to this “second chance” point? It was because of God, not them.
This is echoed in Romans 9-11 when Paul bellows out much the same idea — even though the Jews rejected Jesus, he would, even through their disobedience, bring them and many more into his family, not because they (or we) are worthy, but simply because he is faithful.
So let me answer the question point blank. God blessings on the Hebrew nation as referenced in Haggai 2 are a direct result of his actions on their behalf in spite of them. It was God’s faithfulness to his promise to Abraham expressed centuries later. Yet, that blessing had an indirect affect — as they obeyed, they experienced the reality of his blessings, not because they leveraged God, but simply because he loved them and they, in turn, loved him.
Perhaps that’s the balance we’re looking for — loving him because he has first loved us (his promise), not loving him so that he will love us (our performance). Let us live because we are blessed, not just so that he will bless.