“From One Degree of Faith to the Next” a Prayer by Philip Doddridge1
“Blessed God, I acknowledge before you my own weakness and insufficiency for anything that is spiritually good.
I have experienced it a thousand times, and yet my foolish heart would again trust itself and resolve to move ahead in its own weakness.
But let this be the firstfruits of your gracious influence: to bring it to a humble distrust of itself, and to rest in you.
I rejoice, O Lord, in your assurance that you are ready to shower me with rich benefits. So, because of your kind initiation, I boldly approach your throne, to find grace for help in every time of need.
I do not mean to turn your grace into a license for immorality or to make my weaknesses an excuse for negligence and laziness. You have already given me more strength than I have used.
I want to be found diligent in the use of everything you supply. If not, any petition like this one would probably provoke you to take away what I have, not impart more.
But as I firmly resolve to exert myself, I ask for your grace to fulfill that resolution.
Fill me with the right attitude toward you and my fellow creatures. Remind me always of your presence, and that every secret of my soul is open to you.
May I guard against the first sign of sin, and may Satan find no room for his evil suggestions. Fill my heart with your Holy Spirit, and take up your residence there.
Dwell in me, walk with me, and let my body be the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Take me from one degree of faith, love, zeal, and holiness, to the next, until I appear perfect before you through Jesus Christ my Lord. In him I have righteousness and strength. Amen.”
It’s Easy to Forget God—Haggai 1:1-2
I’m not a big devotional guy by nature. Or at least I used not to be, I would just read the Bible, verse by verse, book by book. We can never neglect the reading of God’s true, inspired Word—even for devotional literature—and expect to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus (2 Pt. 3:18). But over time I’ve found devotional reading to be some of the sweetest literature out there. I love to read prayers and devotional writings of the puritans; they combine theological precision and a yearning for to capture God’s heart in words. So, as I attempt to give us at Kiski a devotional that is my goal: to give accuracy mingled with heartfelt desire to know God intimately. We’re going to look at the book of Haggai in the next several days.
Haggai 1:1-2 In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest: “Thus says the LORD of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord.”
Haggai is one of the post exilic prophets (the other two are Malachi and Zechariah; Ezra and Nehemiah describe the history associated with this period). He prophesied in 520 BC—and yes it was that precise because the Persians, whose king was Darius, were very good at record keeping!
In Ezra 3 it tells us that the temple’s foundation was laid, but here it is sixteen years later and nothing had been done. The foundation was still there, but the temple hadn’t been started. Yahweh (LORD in all caps in most English Bibles) spoke to the leaders of Israel, Zerubbabel and Joshua the High Priest, “these people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the LORD”. Further down in this chapter we’ll see that the people are living well for themselves, but they’ve left God’s house to lie in basic ruin.
They’ve forgotten God. When they built the foundation in Ezra 3, it says in v. 12, “But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid”. It lacked the grandeur of Solomon’s temple. The temple’s foundation wasn’t what they expected, they were disappointed, what they wanted the temple to look like had let them down. They were finally back to the Promised Land of Canaan, and this was just not how the temple should look. So, they forgot God and what God had done for them.
On a human level, it’s understandable, Jeremiah had come decades before this telling them the hard news that exile was coming. But in the midst of the curse of the exile, God promised deliverance greater than even the Exodus (kind of like the protoevanglium2 in Gen. 3:15), Jeremiah 16:14-15 14 “Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when it shall no longer be said, ‘As the Lord lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ 15 but ‘As the Lord lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he had driven them.’ For I will bring them back to their own land that I gave to their fathers.” (ESV)
Haggai’s mission was to remind the people about God and who God is. How true this is for me today and every day—God’s deliverance is something I love so deeply in my own life, but often I live as if God’s kindness is something owed to me. I take it for granted instead of seeking “to be found diligent in the use of everything God supplies”. We have a duty to honor God with all of our being and that’s part of what Haggai told Israel. But he also did it in a way that reminded them of God’s love and kindness.
In chapter 2:4 we read, “Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts, according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not.”
Trials are given to us so that we might remember where our strength is to be found—in him. Our situation now, with a pandemic that will cause economic distress for months at least, not to mention the physical and emotional turmoil, can’t be understood to the smallest detail, but we know this, it is meant to turn God’s people to the one who sustains his people.
Psalm 103:13-14, “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.”
May the Lord bless you and keep you today.
In Jesus’ lovingkindness,
1Piercing Heaven, a collection of Puritan Prayers. Robert Elmer, ed. Bellingham, WA: Lexham press, 2019. P. 64-65. Doddridge was an 18th century English Puritan serving in independent churches. His The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul was Patrick Henry’s favorite book.
2 Greek protos, “first,” euangelion, “gospel”; used as a title for the first Messianic promise in Gen. 3:15. This promise contains a prophecy of the coming of a great deliverer of fallen man, who would be born of a virgin (see Virgin Birth) and would utterly defeat the old serpent, Satan,* who had just procured the fall* of the human race. Dictionary of Theological Terms.