“In Time of Suffering” a prayer by Robert Hawker1
Nothing can reconcile us to you better than to humbly and patiently learn obedience in the school of suffering.
We learn by knowing that Jesus, though you are the Son of God, in the eternity of your nature you were pleased in your human nature to learn obedience by the things which you suffered.
Come then, blessed Lord, in all your fullness. I desire only you. Surely you will come in deed and in truth and be the tree of life to my weary soul. Lord, show me your person, glory, grace, and love, and fill every portion of my heart.
As I wait for your coming, I pray that my view of your grace and sense of my unworthiness may melt my whole soul before you and your presence.
So, when my poor heart is afflicted, when Satan storms, or the world frowns, when I suffer sickness, or when all your waves and storms seem to go over me, what relief it is to know that you, Jesus, see me. And that you care!
So, help me, Lord, to look to you, and remember you. And oh! That blessed Scripture: “In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity, he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.” (Is. 63:9) Amen.
Haggai chapter 1—Immanuel, God with Us
The Command to Rebuild the Temple
1 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: 2 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord.” 3 Then the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? 5 Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. 6 You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.
7 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. 8 Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the Lord. 9 You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house. 10 Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. 11 And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast, and on all their labors.”
The People Obey the Lord
12 Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the Lord their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the Lord their God had sent him. And the people feared the Lord. 13 Then Haggai, the messenger of the Lord, spoke to the people with the Lord’s message, “I am with you, declares the Lord.” 14 And the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people. And they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God, 15 on the twenty-fourth day of the month, in the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king.
Yesterday, I said the people had forgotten God. It’s clear from verse 3 that’s what they did. After the jubilation of returning to the Promised Land, God’s people suffered great disappointment. The land of Israel wasn’t nearly as great as it used to be, and the temple itself, their pride and joy, the emblem pointing to their unique status as Yahweh’s chosen people was a disappointment too. So, for sixteen years they left it unfinished.
But then something truly remarkable happens when Haggai comes. They hear God’s word and obey! Just think about what you know about the Bible. God’s people aren’t the most responsive people to His word. We aren’t the most humble before Him. We aren’t the most ardent followers of our God. (Not that the World is, but they aren’t supposed to be.)
Haggai experiences great success because God is gracious to a people who continually turn away from their father in heaven. Even though they had been brought back from exile, they expected more when they returned. When God didn’t come through in the way they wanted, they basically found a way more suitable to them (Hagar method, anyone?). Their way involved shoring up their houses while leaving God’s house in ruins. Yet, God said, “I am with you”. Then the work He commanded them to do, the LORD equipped them to do, “And the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people. And they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God.”
As we enjoy the confines of our paneled houses for the next foreseeable future, let us pray with Robert Hawker that we should see the light of God’s grace clearly against the blackness of our sinfulness. May we understand more and more the person of our Lord Jesus who is Immanuel, and who we’ll see soon in Haggai that it is Jesus their temple was pointing to.
May the good shepherd of the sheep equip you today by his blood of the eternal covenant. In Jesus’ love and protection,
1Piercing Heaven, a collection of Puritan Prayers. Robert Elmer, ed. Bellingham, WA: Lexham press, 2019. P. 70-71. Robert Hawker (1753-1827) was originally a surgeon, but in later life trained to be and served as an Anglican priest. He is known for producing Poor Man’s Commentaries on the Whole Bible and Poor Man’s Morning and Evening Portions (Devotionals). Charles Spurgeon would tell his students, “if you want something full of marrow and fatness…buy Dr. Hawker’s Poor Man’s Commentary”.