Handfuls on Purpose

by James Smith, 1943




Thus says the Lord of hosts, "Consider your ways" (v. 5). This call comes to His thoughtless, dilatory, procrastinating people Let us hear it as coming to ourselves. Is there not a tendency with us to be slack, and backward in facing facts. Consider your ways—

I. In Relation to God's Cause.

1. They said, "The time is not come to build the Lord's house" (v. 2). How ready we are at times to postpone the things we should do for the cause of Christ. We feel we should consecrate ourselves to God, but "the time is not come," or that we should make an offering to some missionary enterprise but "the time is not come." The time to help on God's work is an ever present opportunity. "Consider your ways."

2. "They dwelt in their own ceiled houses, while His house lay waste" (v. 4). They were content that their own personal interests were prosperous, while the house of the Lord was in ruins. Just as there are many professing Christians today satisfied with material things, while the cause of Christ languishes for lack of faith and personal effort. "Is it nothing to you, all you that pass by?" "Seek you first the Kingdom of God." "Consider your ways"—

II. In View of the Results of your Labors.

1. "You have sown much, and bring in little" (v. 6). We who are ministers of His Word have much need to lay this reminder to heart. There is something sadly wrong where there is much sowing and little reaping. Is it the sower or the seed that is to be blamed? Or is the cause of failure the blighting breath of God's disapproval? For it is "God who gives the increase." Those who sow much of the seed of the Word of God, and bring in little, have need to "consider their ways," for such results are not in harmony with God's purpose.

2. You "Eat and have not enough" (v. 6). This is the spiritual condition of multitudes. They have a keen appetite for the things of this life—wealth, position, honor, and the praise of men. They are constantly eating, but never satisfied. They cannot say, like Esau, "I have enough." Hungry souls, but will not take the true "Bread of Life" that they may have the life which is forever (John 6:51).

3. You "Clothe you, but there is none warm" (v. 6). They wrap themselves up in the flimsy garments of their own righteousness, and complain of the cold. There is nothing like the "Righteousness of God, which is unto all and upon all them that believe," for keeping the heart warm in the cold season of adverse circumstances. Put you on the Lord Jesus Christ, and His righteousness, and the glow of His Presence will keep you warm.

4. You put your "wages in a bag with holes" (v. 6). The wages you have earned by the efforts of your pride and self-seeking become of no practical value to your soul. "The wages of sin is death." Death is a bag with tremendous holes in it. Every ungodly thing will fall through it. "Consider your ways"—

III. In View of the Work to be Done.

1. The Work. "Build the house, and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, says the Lord" (v. 8). The house of the Lord was the Temple at Jerusalem which stood for worship and testimony. The Church of God, which is the "Body of Christ," stands for worship and witnessing. It is a spiritual temple, built with spiritual stones. That building is now going on, and we are called to be fellow-workmen together with Him (2 Corinthians 6:1, margin). Our work then is to build this holy temple of the Lord in which He will take pleasure and be glorified. If we have been in any way indifferent to this Divine purpose, let us "consider our ways."

2. The Material. "Go up to the mountain and bring wood" (v. 8). The temple at Jerusalem could not be built with high and noble thoughts or eloquent speakers, they must have timber. "Go, bring wood." The great spiritual temple of which Christ is the Foundation, cannot be built with mere formal prayers, or powerless sermons, or social activities. A spiritual building needs spiritual stones, souls quickened by the Holy Spirit of God, "built upon the foundation of the apostles, fitly framed together, growing unto a holy temple of the Lord" (Ephesians 2:19-22). But where are these living stones to come from? "Go up to the mountains" and bring them. They had to go up, probably to Mount Lebanon, for the wood. We must go up to Mount Calvary if we would secure what is needful for the building of this holy temple of the Lord. To win souls for Christ we need personal cleansing, personal consecration, and a personal enduement of the sacrificial spirit of Jesus. "He who wins souls is wise." In considering your ways, take time to consider God's ways.



All agree that the reference here is to the Coming of the Messiah. But the birth of Christ was not heralded by a universal "shaking," but rather, we are told that there was universal peace at the first Christmas. So the reference must be to His Second Appearing. Note, then—

I. The Condition of the Nations at His Second Coming. "I will shake the Heavens, the earth, the sea, and the dry land. And I will shake all nations" (vv. 6, 7). Convulsions in nature, and nations being shaken to pieces by internal strife. Our daily newspapers are giving us abundant evidence of this shaking process in operation. "I will overturn, overturn, overturn, until He come whose right it is" (Ezekiel 21:27). We are not warranted to look for a converted world before He comes, but for these signs (see Luke 21:25-28). And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, for your redemption draws near. "Distress of nations," and "Men's hearts failing them for fear" are the warning signals of His near approach.

II. The Desire of All Nations shall Come. But do all nations, as nations, desire the coming of the Lord? There is no evidence of this. This word "desire" is of peculiar significance. According to Dr. Young, the word in the Hebrew only occurs in one other place in the Bible (1 Samuel 9:20), where the sense seems to be, "They desired the things which a wise and mighty ruler would bring." "The desirable things of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory" (v. 7, R.V.). The nations, as such, do not desire the Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, but mutely long for the things which Christ alone can bring.

1. As a Mediator. One to stand between the wrongs of men and the rights of God. His Presence would do more for peace than a "League of all Nations." He will be the God-appointed and final Arbiter in all the controversies of earth.

2. As a Deliverer. "There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer" (Romans 11:26). All national enemies have their stronghold in the hearts of men. All that is in the world at enmity with God lies in the human heart. A Deliverer is needed. When we think of the age-long blindness of the Jewish nation, of the problem of racial hatred, of a rapidly growing heathendom, of the growing army of "seducing spirits," and the comparative impotence of the Church to win the world for Christ. But when He Comes, "All nations shall bow down before Him."

3. As a Physician. He alone can heal all our diseases: all the running sores in our social, industrial, commercial, and national life. His Presence will be a balm for every wound. No one shall say, "I am sick."

4. As a King. When He came as Redeemer it was in lowliness and weakness; but when He comes as King it will be in kingly fashion—with "great power and glory." Then shall He judge the poor and save the needy. Then shall His Presence be like rain upon the mown grass, and as showers that water the earth. Then in His days shall there be abundance of peace. Then shall the heathen that dwell in the wilderness bow before Him. Then shall His enemies lick the dust. Then shall all kings fall down before Him, and all nations serve Him. Then shall He redeem from deceit and violence. Then shall be given unto Him the gold of Sheba, and daily shall He be praised. Then shall His Name be continued, and all nations shall call Him blessed. Then shall the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen and Amen (Psalm 72). "Even so, come, Lord Jesus."