SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON/Is the Seed Still in the Barn?
Wednesday, October 30, 2013 1:00 AM
"But now, do consider from this day onward: before one stone was placed on another in the temple of the Lord, from that time when one came to a grain heap of twenty measures, there would be only ten; and when one came to the wine vat to draw fifty measures, there would be only twenty. 'I smote you and every work of your hands with blasting wind, mildew and hail; yet you did not come back to Me,' declares the Lord. 'Do consider from this day onward . . . when the temple of the Lord was founded, consider: Is the seed still in the barn? Even including the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate and the olive tree, it has not borne fruit. Yet from this day on I will bless you.'" (Haggai 2:15-19)
From Stan Toler's book, The Buzzards Are Circling, comes the following piece of wisdom: "We will never see a sunrise on the mountaintop if we choose to set up a mental campsite in the valley." I think of that when I come to this passage where God's prophet addresses a people who have set up camp down in the valley. They are a dejected people. They lack courage and many seem unwilling to take any additional risks for the Lord. Miserable as their lives have been in recent years, they just can't muster the wherewithal to step out, relying upon God to bless them in faithfulness. Does any of that sound familiar to you? What do you do then?
I've always found it helpful to reflect upon those events which led us to the place where we currently find ourselves. This is what God encouraged the people to do. In verse 16 He reminds them of the years during which they suffered God's displeasure and were frustrated in their efforts to provide for themselves. Even the best of their labors resulted in unfruitfulness as God sent scorching winds to dry out their crops, or hail or mildew to destroy them. And even what they were able to collect and gather in fell prey to devouring rodents or thieves. And so the farmer would go to the storehouse only to discover that a great portion of his garnered produce was gone, while another would go to draw wine from the vat only to find much of it missing. God plainly tells them here that this did not happen by chance, but it was His doing - His judgment upon them for their disobedience. Has God ever worked similarly in your life in order to show you just how far you've wandered from Him?
But then, graciously we see a turning in the text as God reminds the people of His own love for them, declaring the eagerness with which He longs to bless them. And so, even now, "from this day onward" they were called to rest in His promise of goodness. The foundation of the temple had only just been relayed but God promised to bless and to bestow a glory upon that House which would exceed the glory of the former (2:9). Whereas before He had frustrated the work of their hands (v.17) He now promised to bless if only they would step out in faith, do what He has commanded, and trust Him with the results. And so it is that we come to the question: "Is the seed still in the barn?"
The more I consider that question I can't help but think that it may have been used to target the hearts of those who were holding back, fearful -- unwilling to commit additional seed to the ground because they lacked confidence that any good would come of their efforts. Doubting God's promise, they were unwilling to respond in trusting faith, and so, they held back good seed and planted it not. Have you ever been guilty of such untrusting behavior? Perhaps you gave but not cheerfully, or you gave but not sacrificially? A smallness of faith will lead us to sow sparingly or surrender only a portion of our lives, our time, or abilities - all of which is dishonoring and untrusting.
I understand that taking risks is not an activity with which all are equally comfortable. Most of us find it a bit scary to step out and risk all in faith. We often would prefer that our giving only be out of comfortable excess and abundance. We would rather that service rendered not involve sacrifice. But that's not God's way. He has much more to teach us about His own sufficiency and goodness which we cannot learn as long as we horde up the seed (whatever it is that He has given us) in the barn! Trusting Him, we must invest it and commit it to the ground (put it to work) before a harvest can be produced. Whatever it is that God has given you - Is it still in the barn?
But then, consider that the question may be addressing a different group of people who, in fact, did plant their seed but are now struggling to believe that a harvest will come of their efforts. They already stepped out in faith, took the seed out of the barn and planted it, but they are still months away from a harvest and are beginning to doubt they did the right thing. Perhaps they should have just kept the little they had and used it for food. Now they have nothing and if another hail storm strikes or if the rain doesn't fall when it's needed, then the little they had will be lost and they will go hungry.
So, bolstering their flagging faith, God assures them of the harvest to come. "Yet from this day onward I will bless you." How wonderful that God should offer such reassuring comfort! From the moment we commit a thing to Him, we are enabled to rest in His promise even as we are able to render Him thanks before the fruit appears. So, where is the seed? -- Horded or planted?