Friday, July 09, 2010

Satisfaction: Simple and Clear

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want (Psalm 23:1).

There are days when I’ll write something only to read it the next morning when it comes back to my email box and say, “I wish I hadn’t written that.” That’s one of the occupational hazards of sending out daily meditations via email (or posting them on this blog). Luckily, there’s always a tomorrow that allows for clarifications, even retractions.

That’s what I’m doing today: clarifying. And the clarification has to do with this brief sentence from a previous post. “As for this day, don’t hesitate for one moment to pursue satisfaction.”

Now, I know what I meant by that statement. I stand by my original intent in writing the sentence. Satisfaction doesn’t mean a passive complacent way of doing life. It is good to be satisfied with God’s shepherding love, to say “I shall not want.” You get the idea.

My problem today is that I’ve revisited the opening chapter of the little book of Haggai. If you look for this book in your Bible you may need some help from the table of contents. The book is short, only two chapters. And it’s also fairly obscure. The prophet Haggai lacks the name recognition of some other Bible figures, say like Jonah or Paul.

Haggai’s voice has been a corrective to my own, and since his words were inspired in a way mine are not, he needs to be listened to carefully. What we hear from him is that the pursuit of satisfaction doesn’t yield satisfaction. Chasing contentment often stirs deeper discontentment.

Maybe a little background would be helpful at this point.

The city of Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 B.C. When the nation of Judah caved to Babylon two significant things were lost. First, the Davidic line of Kings came to an end. Second, the temple was destroyed.

The Babylonians carried many Jews into exile and this period of being a displaced people lasted for decades. Eventually the Persian Empire came along and defeated Babylon. King Cyrus of Persia had a different foreign policy with regard to the Jews. He allowed them to return home to Judah. He gave them permission to begin rebuilding what the Babylonians had ruined. That included the Temple.

Rebuilding was going to be hard work but the people took up the challenge with initial enthusiasm. But, as we might expect, over time they grew discouraged. Discouraged and distracted. Faced with the challenge of scratching out a living they stopped work on the temple. For about 17 years they didn’t lift a finger to rebuild God’s house. They took care of their own houses, but the temple was left to sit there is shambles. That’s when Haggai came along and basically got in their faces. Part of what he confronted them with was the frustration of their daily living. He told them:

You have planted much but have harvested little. You eat but never have enough. You drink but never have your fill. You put on clothes but are not warm. You earn wages only to put them in a purse with holes in it. (Haggai 1:6)

The people were working themselves into the ground, trying to make a life in difficult times – and it was fruitless. They never had their fill. They never had enough. They were constantly wanting.

And the reason? Confused and disordered living. They had taken care of their own houses while God’s house remained a heap of rubble (1:3-4). Messed up priorities, no satisfaction.

While probably far better off than Haggai’s Jerusalem, our own economy has placed some heavy burdens on people. These are hard days, demanding more of us and seeming to reward us with less. Plenty of people understand this old prophet’s words. They plant much but harvest little. They’re never warm, never quite full, never satisfied. Their bank account has a leak somewhere.
The answer is not an intensified pursuit of satisfaction. The answer is to restore God to the center of life. Give attention to what matters most. Direct your energies to the spiritual core of your existence. That’s what the people of Judah had stopped doing. In the pressure of a weakened economy, we stop doing the same thing. And then we sense the nagging lack. We want.

We don’t find satisfaction by pursuing our own satisfaction. We find satisfaction by honoring God. It’s a matter of what we truly treasure and love. It’s simple. And now I hope it’s also clear.

Gracious God, we invite you back to the center of our lives today. As we go about the tasks of making a living and building a life, be at the center of all we do. And in all these things grant to us the contentment that comes with a life rightly ordered. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.


玉苓玉苓 said...

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許紀廷 said...


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