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A couple hours before Church started today, I received a call from the Sunday School President. He asked me which lesson was taught in Gospel Doctrine last week, in an attempt to figure out which lesson was to be taught this week. Why he called me to ask, I’m not sure. I told him which lesson it was, and then he informed me that there wasn’t a teacher for today’s lesson. He stalled, he made a few sounds (as an audible “hmm.. what to do, what to do…”) and I could tell he was hoping I would be willing to substitute teach (I did this about a month ago as well). So, to make it easier on him I asked if he’d like me to help out, and he immediately agreed, thanked me, and that was that.
So, I had an hour to prepare a lesson from the Old Testament. This week’s lesson was “Rise Up and Build”, Lesson #47, which covers the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. A good summary of the lesson can be found here.
As always happens when I teach, I prepare some material wondering if I’ll have enough for the entire class time, and then find myself running out of time in class without even getting halfway into everything I wanted. I speed teach as it is, so I can’t really talk any faster without losing coherence.
One of the things I liked from the lesson was the story of Haggai, a prophet who rallied Israel to return to Jerusalem and work on building the temple. The beginning of Haggai’s book sets the stage for what is taking place:
In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, in the first day of the month, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet unto Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, saying,
Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the LORD’s house should be built.
Under orders of Cyrus (Darius’ predecessor) many of the Israelites returned to Jerusalem to build the temple. However, they were met with opposition and persecution at every step, mainly from the Samaritans who wanted to help build the temple but were refused. Fast forward through years of stagnated temple building and we have a people who is largely discouraged and faithless. Here in verse two we see that one of their excuses for not building the temple is that, in their mind, “the time is not come … that the LORD‘s house should be built.”
Procrastination is the name of their game. Obviously the temple work was not a high priority in their lives, and they were worried more with other things. The ensuing verses describe what some of those things were:
Then came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying,
Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste?
Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.
Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes.
The Israelites were focused solely on temporal affairs, void of any sense of spirituality. Their focus was on the arm of flesh rather than God’s ever-extended arm. They concerned themselves more with temporal convenience and salvation than its spiritual counterpart. The people to whom Haggai spoke were obviously not seeking first the Kingdom of God.
Through Haggai the Lord repeats a statement made a few verses previous:
Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.
Consider your ways. In other words, ponder your priorities. You are of the chosen lineage, promised countless blessings if only you will obey. Why will you concern yourself with such trivialities and minutia when you were meant for a higher calling and purpose? Why will you show no trust and faith in that God who has delivered you countless times before, and will continue to do so as long as you obey Him?
Consider your ways.
I think we should each consider our ways. Are we doing what we’ve been asked to attend the temple, support temple construction, do family history work, and move forward the cause of the kingdom? Are our priorities where they need to be, or are we more concerned on a daily basis with studies, work, errands, and other temporal trivialities that shift our focus away from God and His work?
A great way to initiate the self-introspection is by reading Alma 5. Alma asks 47 questions which we’d all do well to ponder as we “consider [our] ways”. I have a long ways to go… but the joy, as they say, is in the journey.