I spoke on the small record of the prophet Haggai on Sunday.
As I had allowed the text to invite and to challenge me to share God’s heart, one phrase really got under my skin. At one point, God says that he shakes the earth in order that “the desired of all nations will come” and his house be filled with glory.
The desired of all nations.
In the context of the original hearers, the nations were those who lived around God’s people, who were in many ways indistinguishable from them, but who had a different set of values, of cultural practices, and a significantly different religious worldview.
Our context is being shaken, and, I suspect, will experience far greater socio-economic shaking before we see anything like a return to some sense of stability. And in this shaking context, we are seeing people come into God’s house here in Clubmoor. In particular, we are seeing those who are in various stages of recovery from various addictions, including some with significant mental health issues. Also a smaller group of young adults with no church background to inform their values and behaviour.
They are the desired of God. And we are invited by God to see them as desirable too. To want to welcome them into our corporate life, to include them, to see them grow and serve and to learn from them – we have so much to learn about accountability and about invitation and challenge, about love and discipline as the keys to freedom, from the recovery community. But as well as being invited to share God’s desire, we are challenged where we see those God has called ‘desired’ as ‘undesirable’ elements within our midst because they are ‘not like us.’ And we are challenged to include them in practice when that is hard, not just in principle.
This phrase got under my skin. Not only that I should see those God calls ‘desired’ as desired, not undesirable; but also that I should expect the desired to come.
You see, if God says that the desired of all nations will come, then that means that there are people as yet at a distance who are open to God.
And yet, I think that we – I know that I – have accepted as true the secular mantra that people do not want to know about God, let alone know God. Why should I speak of God – people aren’t interested; they don’t want to know?
I think that friends of mine in Sheffield are right to identify this as a stronghold – an ungodly belief that needs to be aggressively dismantled through prayer (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).
In any given time of shaking, we should expect to see the desired come in: that is a primary purpose of the shaking (another – Hebrews 12:25-29 – is that whatever is not of God within us should not stand, leaving what is of God and therefore unshakeable). ‘Now’ might not be everyone’s time, but if we go out into the harvest fields under the assumption that no one is open...we don’t share God’s perspective.
How do you respond to the invitation to see those different to you as desired by God?
Do you need to repent of the belief that the desired are undesirable, and believe with God that they are desirable?
How do you respond to the challenge of loving the unlovely?
How do you respond to the invitation to see those at a distance from God’s house as including many who are open to him?
Do you need to repent of the belief that people are not open to God, and believe with God that we live in a time of openness towards him?
How do you respond to the challenge of telling those around us that God desires them?
Do you recognise yourself as desired by God?
Do you need to accept the invitation to be drawn into God’s desire?
Do you need to face the challenge of acting on that invitation today?