Monday, July 16, 2012

Psalm 90.17 (Praying for Blessing)

“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!”

What a great prayer for blessing! All of us work in one thing or another. Some work at home and some at their workplaces, and some are students working on getting the best grades. Whatever life setting we are at, we want for God to bless us in our work. And for that, what a great prayer this is! Prayer for God’s favor, a prayer for God’s prosperity…AMEN to that!

Reading this passage reminded me of another book of the Bible. In the infrequently cited book of Haggai, people must have been praying such a prayer. The setting is the post-exilic community in Jerusalem. The Israelites have recently returned from Babylon with much excitement in the air. They told themselves that the very purpose of their return was to rebuild the Temple as a symbol of Israel’s resurrection (Ezra 1.2-7). They were going to do faith right this time. No more disappointing God, they were going to be the remnant that honors and worships God properly.

But then due to several issues, the work to rebuild the Temple took a short break. That short break lasted 15 long years! During that time, the Israelites were too busy with their own lives. And so, even as the ruined Temple stood before them unfinished, they managed to avoid it, walk around it, pretend it wasn’t there so that they could focus on their own work to get ahead. They probably said things like, “We’ll get to it one of these days, but not today or this week, or this month. It’s not good time for us. We are busy and must attend to our things first.”

“Anyway, things are not working out smoothly for us. Rain is not falling at the right time, the grains and the produce aren’t yielding the right amounts, and our livestock do not multiply well. Too much things to worry about! Instead of bothering us about our spiritual responsibilities, 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 and answered their prayers of Psalm 90.17.

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?”