Discipline is an Act of Love

(Today’s post by Wayne Bunting)

Haggai 1-2

discipline is loveHaggai continues the story of the time in which the Jews had returned from exile in Babylon and are rebuilding their homeland, taking place 18 years after their homecoming. Haggai is a prophetic (and a bit historic) letter directed at Zerubbabel, the new governor of the new Israel that is being re-established. He is of royal blood, being a descendant of David, and therefore the continuation of the promise and covenant God has with Israel. This prophetic book is one of the most important books of prophecy in the Old Testament because the people actually listened. It was a direct confrontation of the wrong that the people were doing followed by a path laid out for them to follow.

The situation at hand is that a few years earlier, in Ezra 4:24, the people of Israel had stopped their building of the temple because of external pressures. There it is mentioned that it was halted until the second year of king Darius (The King of Persia who is also the king who freed them from Babylon and presided over them). 16 years later the book of Haggai begins in the second year of king Darius. Suddenly the call to build the temple resumes, just as stated in Ezra.

So, why did the building of the temple stop after two years of trying to build it? Despite the people’s enthusiasm of being freed from exile in Babylon, and their subsequent enthusiasm for the rebuilding of the temple, the people were still harboring stubbornness in their hearts. Haggai 1:9-11 says that “You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house. Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast, and on all their labors.”

God’s people, despite all that God has taken them through previously, have still forgotten God and have instead focused on themselves. So their desire to focus on themselves and their own house instead of God’s house has seen impotent results. All of their labor, having been done for the sake of themselves, has resulted in nothing. Subsequently, this is about to change. Haggai is sent by God to speak to Zerubbabel, the governor of Israel, to correct this problem. God stirs up the hearts of many to accomplish this task, and history shows the result. The temple is built, and the end of this book uses Zerubbabel as a metaphor to point to a more eternal king who will establish a more eternal temple representing a more eternal kingdom. Sound familiar? It should. If you have been following this blog you might notice that many of the prophetic books of the Old Testament hint at something that is coming that is in the form of what is current at the time (kings, temple, kingdom etc.). We know now this is Jesus, who is the fulfillment of the Law and the prophets, who brings the Kingdom of God.

The fact that the temple was rebuilt shows that the Jews moved from a devotion to themselves to a devotion to God. It was a long and difficult road to go down for God’s people, but God is not one to abandon His people to their own stupidity. The same is true with us today. We know that God disciplines those He loves (Hebrews 12:6, Revelation 3:19). And as such God cannot be seen as just a wrathful God who is only out to smite all those who do wrong. The point of God’s wrath and correction is discipline, just as a father disciplines his kids. Because God loves us He disciplines us. If this same God loves us so much that He would die for us, then why would He not go to great efforts to correct us when we subsequently stray from Him after knowing Him? He certainly does do this. I’ve seen this in my own life and also in the life of others’. God will allow things to happen to those He loves for the sake of their correction, for the sake of keeping them on the path to Himself. He will also give us over to our own desires for the sake of our correction, to put us back on the right path.

He is patient and loving, but He is not a God whose character is such that His patience and love allows us to stay in our sin and our own way. If we as the church seek after our own way, and focus on “our own house” then God will intervene. His love for us requires it. Would a good father not fight for His son, despite the objection of that rebellious son? And what loving husband would not fight for His wife? The same is true with God. He loves us, and His love does not mean allowing us to stray off a cliff because He “loves” us. It means disciplining us and correcting those He loves.

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
Subscribe to RSS Feed Follow me on Twitter!
%d bloggers like this:

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner