Haggai reminds us that all success and failure, wealth and poverty, rise and decline is God’s. It is not a universal fact that if we gain wealth it is because we have pleased God, nor if we lose wealth is it a sign that God is angry with us. For far too many millennia people have taken success, theirs or that of others, as a sign of God’s favor, but defined success apart from God’s will. This is an oxymoron that has caused no end of grief. And it seems to be encouraged by passages such as this. But that is not the case.
It is true that God watches over His people, and it is true that He will bless those who follow Him most closely. But that blessing does not mean wealth, or power, or health. These things can just as easily be a curse as a blessing, depending on our perspective. And our perspective is not God’s perspective. Let me give you an example: how many stories are there of people winning a huge lottery jackpot only to proclaim that it ruined their lives? I have heard this scenario far more often than the opposite, that the lottery made their life worthwhile.
God’s blessings are those things that draw us closer in our relationship with Him. Often that means a suffering of some kind rather than what we consider blessings. When we are “blessed” in the human sense, we usually assume that we are better than others, that we are capable of helping ourselves, or that we no longer need others. Never is our prayer life, the core of our relationship with God, stronger than when we are in deep need.
Haggai says that to refuse the calling of God is to curry His disfavor. But I think rather when we obey God’s calling, He will bless us with more and more need to rely on Him, growing our relationship with Him. But do we dare test this? Do we dare follow if it leads not to wealth and happiness but to failure and helplessness, even if that will bring us closer to our goal of a relationship with God?