“Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and prosper for us the work of our hands—O prosper the work of our hands!” (Psalm 90:17)
What a great prayer for blessing! All of us work. Some work at home and some at the workplaces, and some are students striving to get the best grades. Whatever the present life setting, we all want God’s blessing on our efforts. And for that, this is a perfect prayer.
Reading this passage reminded me of another book of the Bible. In the infrequently cited book of Haggai, the people must have been praying something similar.
The setting is the post-exilic community in Jerusalem. The Israelites returned from captivity with much excitement. They were tasked and funded to rebuild the demolished Temple in Jerusalem as a first order of business. The rebuilding was to become for them a symbol of Israel’s resurrection (Ezra 1.2-7). Having experienced God’s displeasure, and given a second chance, they were going to be changed. They were the remnant that will no longer disappoint God; they will fulfill their part of the renewed covenant.
But then the work to rebuild the Temple was stopped. And what was meant to be a short stoppage of work lasted 15 long years! And while the Temple remained broken, the Israelites got busy with their own lives. And so when there was a call to resume the work to restore the Temple, one after another offered up excuses, “We’ll get to it one of these days, but not now. It’s not good time for us. We are busy and must attend to our things first.”
“Don’t stress us out with our so-called spiritual responsibilities because our lives are a mess! Rain is not falling on time, the grains and the produce aren’t yielding, and our livestock are not increasing in number. Too much things to worry about! If you want to do anything, then pray for our success! Pray that Psalm 90.17 to God for us. We certainly need God’s blessing!”
To them, God sends his prophet Haggai. If I paraphrase God’s argument in Haggai 1.5-11, it goes like this: “Have you ever wondered why you are not as successful as you ought to be – do you ever feel like I am not on your side, that things are not going right? Well, that’s because it’s true. I have been on the other side working against you! Rather than blessing and prosperity, I have been opposing you! Why, you ask? Get your priorities straight and finish my house!”
The Israelites got the message. They dropped whatever they were doing and completed the Temple, to God’s pleasure. And then God blessed them with rain and good harvest and increase in livestock.
There is a lesson for us here. Before we ask of God for his favor, we ought to begin with a question before God, “Lord, what can I do for you? What have you asked of me that I have thus far neglected?”