God made a promise to Jeremiah at the beginning of the Israelite’s exile which told them that He would bring them back to their home after 70 years. Lo and Behold, a new pagan king named Cyrus makes a decree allowing the Israelites to return home. They were initially excited about rebuilding God's temple, His place of presence here on earth. After they began, enemies around them started to pester and knock them off track from what God had called them to do.
The Israelites finally gave in and said, “Enough is enough.” They weren’t really getting far on the Temple and it seemed futile to continue. So for ten years they tried to build their own houses and plant crops and prosper, but God did not honor them, so they never thrived. When the prophet Haggai was sent to them, He told them that they had to put God first and build His house and only then they would be blessed by God. When they heard these words of encouragement, they lost the fear of their enemies and worries. God said “I am with you” and they believed it.
Sometimes we forget two things: what our main priorities are and that God is with us. Last week, I tried to show visually what it looks like when we make decisions without thinking about our priorities as compared to making decisions after keeping our priorities first and foremost. There is a big difference. And the Israelites had forgotten God as their main priority and started to focus on their immediate feelings, needs and wants. But also through their actions, they forgot that God was with them. The bullying and pestering had frustrated them so much that they stopped. And for 10 years, they didn’t prosper. It wasn’t until they returned to God once again and heard His word that they realized that He was indeed with them. That gave them the confidence to finish the Temple no matter what.
It’s awfully hard to keep our priorities straight, isn’t it. But it’s even more hard to live like God is with us. You know, back in the Bible people were told by God that He was with them, and they did mighty things. Joshua fought and destroyed Jericho. Moses made the Red Sea stand on end. Worried Gideon embraced God’s word and defeated a giant army. When God tells us, “I will be with you” you know what we do? We say, “Meh…” It’s great and all to have God with us, but if God is the same today as He was in the past, why aren’t we doing such great things for God? It’s really because we live like He isn’t with us at all. God wants to use us to change the world in mighty ways for Him, just like He did with the heroes in the Bible. So when challenges come, you can say with boldness, “I am a child of God and because of Him I am already victorious over sin and the devil!” He is with you, you’d better believe it!
(Be encouraged by John 16:33, 1 Corinthians 10:13, Hebrews 13:5-6, and 1 John 4:4)