Read Haggai 1:12-15
“TIdak apalah.” “Biasalah.” These are phrases we sometimes hear, and which sometimes even pop up in our minds. Whenever a task or a project looks difficult, especially if the circumstances or environment is not conducive to it, we tend to put it off. We might feel it is not worth the effort. “Why bother?” It won’t make much difference, we think. Aiyah, tidak apalah.
Of course, these could have adverse effects. A consumer association in Malaysia once pointed out how this lackadaisical attitude could lead to professional negligence, citing some examples from different industries. These included unnecessary surgery and delayed treatment in the healthcare sector, and misplaced advice being given to clients in the legal sector. As the victims often also took the same attitude and did not seek redress, the cycle continued on.
The people in Haggai’s day have a tidak apa attitude. They had returned to their homeland, but for many decades, having been discouraged by an unfriendly environment, they had left the temple in ruins. Worship of God and seeking his pleasure were not prioritized. Accordingly, they unsurprisingly enjoyed little of the Lord’s blessings. In some ways, the solution was obvious, yet the people didn’t feel bothered, so the cycle of discouragement continued.
It’s quite possible to have a similar issue in our spiritual lives. Our job descriptions as Christians are easy to understand. But building up the church and looking out for our brothers and sisters in Christ is no easy task. Seeking to glorify God in all that we do, so that our whole lives are lived in worship to him, takes intentionality, and in our opinion, sometimes there seems to be little tangible reward. Why bother? Tidak apalah.
Our little paragraph from Haggai today helps us in this regard. In verse 12, we now listen in to the response of the community. Last week, we remembered that Haggai was bringing the word of the Lord (v.1). Now, in verse 12, they obey “the voice of the LORD their God.” Why? Because they “feared the LORD.” This does not mean they were terrified into submission, but that they gave due reverence and honour by acknowledging who God is. They had opened their hearts to his Word, and as a result, they were changed.
The leaders, in particular, are instrumental in leading this response. The “whole remnant of the people” are led by Zerubbabel and Joshua, the Davidic governor and high priest, to respond wholeheartedly. As their hearts are softened and they turn back to the LORD, he immediately comes alongside them with these encouraging words “I am with you.” He wants them to know, even before the work of restarting the building project is done, that they can count on him. God loves to see genuine repentance, however feeble it is, and is ready to take that to begin awakening us to keep living for him.
That’s what happens in verses 14-15. As the hearts of the people are stirred to repentance, and a word of encouragement and hope given, the Lord now stirs them to action. They began to make God’s priorities their priorities. Indeed, God was no longer just some random God, or just a God out there somewhere, but “their God”. By the end of the chapter, there is a reversal. The hearts of the people were hardened, now they have been turned. The temple laid in ruins, now it is being rebuilt.
This can encourage us as Christians today. As Christians, we are led not just by any descendant of David or priest, but we are led by the greatest Son of David, Jesus, who is also our high priest. We are led by the One who models for us a heart given wholly to his heavenly Father. His blood shed for us and his Spirit given to us means we now can have soft hearts, not hardened hearts.
And in an environment that is not always friendly to the priorities and purposes of God, he assures us that if we walk with him, He is walking with us too. What he wants is a willingness to stay poor in spirit, to bring to him our sin, and a heartfelt desire to turn to him regularly in repentance and faith. He has spoken his Word to us to make building for his Kingdom the priority. The question for us, then, is how will we respond. Will we say: Now is not the time? Tidak apalah? Or will we say: “Today is the day!” Open our hearts, and God might just begin a great work of reversal in your life. After all, blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Is there a greater reversal than that?
- Pray that God would soften our hearts today, and stir us on to living for him and seeking to build for his kingdom. If our hearts are feeling hardened today, pray especially that his Spirit would soften your heart to his Word. If we are unsure what it means to build for his Kingdom in our lives, pray that God will show you clearly how you can do that specifically in your own situation.
- Pray on for healthcare workers, to be able to find some time to rest and refresh themselves, especially if they have to face a second wave. Pray for all of us as we have to adjust to new norms in how we interact in public places.