Be Strong … I Am With You

“‘Yet now be strong, Zerubbabel,’ says the Lord; ‘and be strong, Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; and be strong, all you people of the land,’ says the Lord, ‘and work; for I am with you,’ says the Lord of hosts.”  Haggai 2:4

My mother-in-law is a very talented artist, capable of working in a wide variety of mediums. She can draw, paint, sculpt, carve, tool leather, and upholster furniture, though she would probably claim the last as a skill more than an art. 

I believe that her favorite art forms are drawing and painting. 

More than twenty years ago, when Cheryl and I had been married less than five years, Mom was visiting our home and we were playing with rubber stamps, creating greeting cards using a variety of stamps and then coloring the pictures with markers.

I was pretty pleased with the way the card I was working on was turning out and I started to show it to Mom when I got a look at what she was working on. Wow! Compared to her work mine looked like a kindergartener’s coloring book. Any pride I had in my work was humbled in that moment. I still thought I’d done well but I now knew better what really good looked like. 

Under Zerubbabel’s and Joshua’s leadership the people are rebuilding the Temple. The work is going well but there are those in the community that remember the beauty of the Temple Solomon built and this does not compare favorably. And no doubt added to this diminishment in beauty is the knowledge that the Ark of the Covenant is absent as well, having been hidden and then lost at the time when Nebuchadnezzar had the Temple destroyed. 

As Haggai chapter two begins God speaks to the inferiority of the temple’s beauty and seeks to reassure the people as they go about their work. His assurance to them is that notwithstanding the poor comparison of the beauty of this temple with the former he accepts their work and he is with them. 

He knows they haven’t had years to collect materials like David and Solomon did. He knows they couldn’t recruit and train the best craftsman to do the work. He knows that they’re doing the best they can with the talent and material available.  God doesn’t look at the surface and compare our gifts with the gifts of others. He looks at our hearts and receives the gifts and service we give according to the spirit in which we given them, and when it is in our hearts to give to him our best he honors that gift with the acceptance of his presence. 

Before the work is complete, they’ve actually been working less than a full month, God sends the message, “Be strong … I am with you.”

The same assurance comes to us when we, like Zerubbabel and Joshua, give God the best we have to offer. God doesn’t compare our best to our neighbor’s. We are precious to him, and he values the efforts we make to love and serve him. Never hesitate to give you best to God. 

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