Brother Beebe: If it will not interfere with other matter, you will oblige me by giving your views on Haggai 1:6: “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 into a bag with holes.”
I. W. Bayly.
Princess Anne, Md.
Feb. 16, 1864.
This message was sent to Zerubbabel, the governor of Jerusalem, and to Joshua, the priest, and through them to the people of Judea, in the second year of the reign of Darius, king of Persia, admonishing them to proceed with the work of building the temple of the Lord at Jerusalem. The work had been commenced under the patronage of Cyrus, by whose hand God had delivered Judah from her seventy years of captivity in Babylon, but hindered by the adversaries of Judah, who had taken offence because their proffered services to help build had been rejected by Zerubbabel and Joshua, and, in revenge, they charged them with disloyalty to the king and succeeded in procuring an edict, or injunction, from the king causing the work to stop, but God sent the prophet Haggai with a command to go on with the work. This prophet is urging his divinely authorized admonition, “Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the Lord’s house shall be built. Then came the word of the Lord by Haggai the prophet, saying, Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your ceiled houses, and this house lie waste? Now, therefore, thus saith the Lord of hosts, Consider your ways.” And of the things which they were to consider, whether it were better for them to obey God or men, mark the dealings of God with them in their disobedience. How had they fared while the work was suspended through fear of the human government claiming the right to dictate in this matter? This suspension lasted from the time of the decree of Artaxerxes until the second year of the reign of Darius, and during that period God had withheld from them the blessings provided in his covenant for their obedience, and had sent upon them the judgments in that covenant provided for disobedience. The scarcity of bread among them was not because they had sown too sparingly, for they had sown much, but brought in little. God in judgment had withheld the rains and dew, and suffered not the earth to yield to them its bounteous harvests. This is one thing they were called upon to consider. Another matter for serious consideration was, that what they did eat was forbidden to satisfy their appetites. “Ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink.” Neither in eating nor drinking could they be satisfied. “Ye clothe you, but there is none warm.” They could prosper in nothing. Even the hireling who earned wages could not permanently invest them; their money was put into bags with holes, so that it was lost. Now God commands them to consider these his dealings with them, and bear in mind that “the way of the transgressor is hard.” God would not allow them, as his peculiar people, to prosper in disobedience. How true the testimony of them as an inconsiderate people is given in the first chapter of Isaiah, more inconsiderate than the very ox, and even the stupid ass reproved them. “The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.” God had promised them corn and wine and oil if they were obedient to him, and assured them that the willing and obedient should eat the good of the land, but the same covenant provided that if they were disobedient he would send the sword, the famine and the pestilence. Under their then present circumstances it became them soberly to consider whether there was not clear and palpable evidence that God disapproved of their disobedience. How astonishing, that having so recently returned from their seventy years of captivity in Babylon, they should so soon require to be reminded of their duty to obey God by his judgments. They were a carnal, but typical people, and their waywardness as a stiff-necked and rebellious people but too plainly points to the inconsistency, disobedience and backslidings of the spiritual Israel of God under the new covenant in this the gospel dispensation, and the frequent chastisements to which we are subjected for our wanderings. These lessons are written and left on record for our instruction and admonition, and although the new covenant under which we live is a better one, containing better promises, and in it God has promised to be merciful to our unrighteousness, and that he will remember our iniquities no more, yet with equal certainty he has provided that he will, in parental love and covenant faithfulness, visit our iniquities with the rod, and our sins with many stripes.
We learn from this record of God’s ancient people, or we should if we but considered our ways as God commanded them to consider theirs, that our comforts, joy and spiritual prosperity, though not for our good works, yet are inseparably connected with our faithful obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ. Can the child of God be happy in disobedience? Can the Christian prosper when indifferent to the honor of his Lord and Master?
Let us look about us and consider, Have we sown much? Alas, perhaps too much have we sown to the flesh, from which we are reaping corruption; food that will not satisfy the cravings of a child of God. Have we drank from broken cisterns, and found that the streams of earth cannot satisfy like the streams of that river which make glad the city of God? Have we wrapped us in a cloak, or garments of Babylonish texture? Can Christians feel warm and comfortable in a Babylonish garment? Have we upon the legal principle been working for wages? How have we husbanded our gains? What have we laid up in store against the time of need? Let us consider that it does not become us to live in ceiled houses, while the church of God is neglected and the ways of Zion mourn; that we are not to court the smiles of princes, potentates or monarchs at the expense of our sacred allegiance to the King eternal, the only wise God our Savior, nor to barter away or yield one particle of what he has revealed in his holy word, to save from the rack, the torture, the scaffold or the stake these poor, frail, dying bodies. “He that findeth his life, shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake, shall find it (Matt. 10: 30).” “Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver. Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I shew the salvation of God (Psalms 100: 22,23).”
Middletown, N.Y., April 1, 1864.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials – Volume 6
Pages 14 – 16