Haggai 2:20-23 – God’s elected builders

GOD’S ELECTED BUILDERS

 

TEXT: Haggai 2v20-23.

 

  1. INTRODUCTION.

 

Do you ever, in moments of quiet contemplation, become overwhelmed with a sense of helplessness and fear because of what is going on around you. We can look at the international scene and see what is happening in Bosnia, Sudan, South Africa – the madness of an Israeli gunman killing and wounding numerous people in Hebron as happened this week – and so many other places.

When we look locally and see what is happening in our own country – the lowering of the age of consent for homosexuals [never mind if it is an abomonation to God], the rise in homelessness and single-parenthood – the death of three little children in a house fire.   When we look at all these things in our world it is understandable that people feel very insecure and vulnerable. Is anything certain? Is anywhere safe?

 

The people in Jerusalem in the days of Haggai were feeling very insecure and uncertain – what’s changed?? They were an insignificant group, small in number, living in a city with out walls situated on the fringe of the Babylonia Empire. The international political scene was unsettled, there were tremendous political upheavels in Babylon.

When Super Powers are in conflict with each other the welfare of small nations is not high on their agenda and they can be crushed between them. Added to that the Jews didn’t have very friendly relations with their immediate neighbours either.

 

It is not surprising therefore that the people of Jerusalem were a little concerned and that they had questioned the wisdom of rebuilding the Temple. “What’s the point in building a temple which the next king of Babylon will probably come and destroy it anyway?!”

The last thing officials in Babylon would be concerned about would be the temple in Jerusalem – they would be far more concerned about their own prestige.

 

  1. GOD’S PROMISES SO FAR.

 

Not only has God, through Haggai, given the returned exiles some stern warnings and rebukes but he has also made some promises.

– he has promised to be with them “I am with you”, declares the Lord [1v13; 2v4]

– promise of his Spirit’s presence “My Spirit remains among you” [2v5]

– promised greater glory for this New temple “The glory of this prsent house will be greater than the glory of the former house” [2v9]

– promise of peace “And in this place I will grant peace” [2v9]

– promised blessing “From this day on I will bless you”

 

It is Zeruababbel whom God has appointed as the leader of the returned Exiles. Imagine the awsome responsiblity he must feel. What a job he had! Leading a group of whingeing builders on the one hand and being under the authority of Babylon on the other.

  1. GOD’S PERSONAL PROMISE TO ZERUBABBEL.

 

This 4th message that Haggai gives is different from the previous three in that this one is directed to only one person, Zerubabbel. The previous three were to all the people.

 

Zerubabbel with his responsiblity for the people and yet feeling insignificant on the political stage of the world receives God’s promise to him through Haggai.

God’s encouragement to Zerubabbel is “Despite what you see on the international and domestic fronts there is no need to panic, I, the Almighty God, am in control”

 

“… I will shake the heavens and the earth.

I will oveturn royal thrones and

shatter the power of the foreign kingdoms.

I will overthrow chariots and their drivers;

horses and their riders will fall,

each by the sword of his brother.” [2v21b-22]

 

Political upheavels, wars and rumours of wars are nothing new. Ecomonic hardship, immorality in society, corruption in high places. None of these things are new and they do not take God by surprise. God is not impressed with military might or economic muscle.

 

Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket,

they are regarded as dust on the scales,

he weighs the islands as though

they were fine dust. [Isa.40v15]

 

So when we watch our TV screen and are confronted with one disaster after another and one war after another we should not be surprised, nor should we be fearful. Jesus warned us of military conflicts and political upheavels and natural disasters.

 

You will hear of wars and rumours of wars

but see to it that you are not alarmed.

Such things must happen

but the end is still to come.

Nation will rise against nation,

and kingdom against kingdom.

There will be famines and earthquakes

in various places. [Matt.24v6-7]

 

The chariots and drivers and horses of verse 22 represented the military might of the nations of Haggai’s day. But God encourages Zerubabbel and the people in 2v4 to “TAKE COURAGE” WHY? Because God is with them and he has the power to shake the nations like a dog shakes and old rag!

Michael Bentley – “If the Lord is the strength of our lives, our security surpasses that of the most powerful nations with all their weapons”

 

The nations of the world think that they are strong and powerful and that things will simply continue as they always have done BUT their downfall is inevitable. The powerful nations strut about the world stage thinking they are so important and in control of events. But the Psalmist had the right perspective of the nations.

 

Why do the nations conspire and the people plot in vain?

The kings of the earth take their stand

and the rulers gather together against the Lord

and against his anointed One.

“Lets us break their chains,” they say,

“and throw off their fetters.”

The One enthroned in heaven laughs

the Lord scoffs at them.

Then he rebukes them in his anger and

terrifies them in his wrath. [Ps.2v1-5]

 

The political, economic and military power of the nations is minute in comparison to the Power of the Lord Almighty. Having declared his intention for the nations God now tells Zerubabbel what he will do through him.

 

  1. GOD’S RENEWED PROMISE OF SALVATION.

 

“On that day declares,” the Lord Almighty,

“I will take you, Zerubabbel son of Shealtiel,”

declares the Lord, “and I will make you

like my signet ring, for I have chosen you,”

declares the Lord Almighty. [v23]

 

In this verse God says 3 things about Zerubabbel. “MY SERVANT” – “LIKE MY SIGNET RING” – “I HAVE CHOSEN YOU”

 

Servant

All the way through the prophecy Zerubabbel has been referred to as the governor. But in 2v23 he is given another title SERVANT.

It would be natural to assume that servant was a comedown from being addressed as Governor. But God says to him “MY SERVANT” There is no higher honour or designation than GOD’S SERVANT           Great men of faith before Zerubabbel’s time were called SERVANTS OF GOD – eg. Moses, David and Daniel.

In Isaiah 52 & 53 God refers to the coming messiah as MY SERVANT and Jesus when he came said to his disciples in Luke22v27

 

“I am among you as one who serves”

He [Christ] took the the form of a servant [ Phil.2]

 

In the secular world a servant is considered a lowly, menial position BUT in God’s economy to be declared HIS SERVANT is the highest honour.

 

“If you want to be great in God’s kingdom learn to be a servant..”

 

Signet ring.

“like a signet ring” is a figurative expression that has powerful meaning.

The signet ring was the symbol or representation of it owner. It was used for sealing documents or the larger one would be used to make an impression in a bag of grain.

 

ILLUST: The owner would go to market and purchase grain and then impress his seal into the side of the sack. Later the servants would come to collect the sacks and if the impression was disturbed they would known the sack had been tampered with.

 

The seal / signet ring was so important to its owner that he would wear it on his person at all times. Either as a signet ring on his finger or if it was too large on a chain around his neck.

In the Song of Songs the Beloved says to her Lover:

Lay me as a seal [signet ring] upon your breast,

as a seal [signet ring] in your arms.

She uses this as a symbol of how close she wants to be to him because she knows that it is the most precious and valued things to him. the King and his seal were never separated.

 

So the sense of the passage before us is that on the day when God overthrows the Kingdoms of the nations, he would make Zerubabbel like his signet ring, which is inseperable from its possessor. The promise Zeruababbel received was that he would remain inseperably connected to Jehovah, he would not be cast off but God would take care of him as his valuable possession.

 

We, also, are of great value to God. God has set his seal upon his people.

He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us,

and put his Spirit in our hearts guranteeing

what is to come. [2 Co.1v22]

 

And you also were included in Christ

when you heard the word of truth,

the gospel of your salvation.

Having believed you were marked in him with a seal

the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit

guaranteeing our inheritence until

the redemption of those you are

God’s possession [Eph.1v13-14]

 

As we look through the pages of scripture do we see Zerubabbel as a great King of Judah? NO!

He was probably at the dedication of the Temple 4 years later but then he fades into history. Did God not keep his promises to him??

Zerubabbel was one of those who we read about in the book of Hebrews:

“… They were still living by faith when they died:

they did not receive the things promised:

they only saw them and

welcomed them from a distance.” [Heb.11v13]

 

Zerubabbel was a {Persian} governor of Judah and had no doubt been selected for this post because he was a prince of Judah, the son of Shealtiel a descendent of the family of David. God had made a promise to David and Zerubabbel as a descendent of David received a renewal of that promise.

I have found David my servant;

with sacred oil I have anointed him. …

… I will also appoint him my firstborn,

the most exalted of the kings of the earth.

I will maintain my love to him forever,

and my covenant with him will never fail.

I will establish his line forever,

his throne as long as the heavens endure.

[Ps.89v20 & 27-29]

 

God chose Zerubabbel as his servant and with this words transfers the promise. The promise culminate in Jesus the Son of David and descendent of Zerubabbel [Matt.1; Lk.3]

 

The promise the angel gave to Mary concerning Jesus was:

The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David

and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever;

his kingdom will never end. [Lk.1v32-33]

 

All through history God has been shaking the nations and he has elevated one person – Jesus Christ. And one day he will give the nations one final shake and they will come to an end.

God give John a preview of this in the Book of Revelation: [11v15]

The seventh angel sounded his trumpet

and tere were loud voives in heaven, which said,

“The kingdom of the world

has become the kingdom of

our Lord and of his Christ,

And he will reign for ever and ever”

 

 

Chosen by God.

Why was God doing this for Zerubabbel? Not because he deserved it – not because he was worthy “For I have choosen you,” declares the Lord Almighty.

 

  1. GOD’S PROMISE AND PURPOSE FOR HIS PEOPLE TODAY!

 

What about us?? Well, we too, are chosen!!

He chose us in him [Christ]

before the foundation of the World

to be holy and blameless in his sight

[Eph.1v4]

 

We became Christians not because one day we simply decide that it would be a good idea. NO!

You did not choose me but I chose you

and appointed you to bear fruit –

fruit that will last [John 15v16]

 

Christ chose us with a purpose in mind. To bear fruit. To serve Him. To work for him. While salvation is by grace and NOT works that does not mean that we do not work. We are to be workmen – approved and not ashamed.

 

Just as Zerubabbel was choosen for the purpose of building the temple, one of our purposes is to build up God’s people. The Church is not the building. The Church is people – living stones. The Church is not yet complete and Jesus is in the business of building his Church {Matt.16v18}. The picture of the Church in the NT is one of a growing structure.

A building up:

Christ gave .. apostles, ..prophets, ..

evangelists, ..pastors and teachers,

to perpare God’s people for works of service,

so that the Body of Christ MAY BE BUILT UP

 

… the whole body, joined and held together by

every supporting ligament, grows and BUILDS ITSELF UP

in love, as each part does its work.

 

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out

of your mouths, but only what is helpful

for BUILDING OTHERS UP according to

their needs. [Eph.4v12,16,29]

 

Just as the temple in the days of Haggai was in ruin so the church of today shows signs of decay. When leading churchmen deny the fundemental truths of the gospel and others use the Church to preach their own ideas – then we need to heed Haggai’s warning and get on with the building up of God’s house.

 

God doesn’t want us to be a HOLY HUDDLE or A PIOUS CLUB. In Afrikaans we have two lovely words “OPBOU” and “UITBOU” upbuild and outbuild.

 

  1. HOW DO WE BUILD?

 

By prayer. If we fail to prayer we fail.

John Blanchard “To attempt to work for God without prayer is as futile as trying to launch a spaceprobe with a peashooter.”

 

Study. We are being bombarded by different voices [The media as we hears this morning from AD] If we do not study the word of God how will we ever be discerning. Consistent daily study. What you get on a Sunday is not enough!!

 

Working together. Team work is essential. If we are going to grow we need to love Christ and love each other and esteem others better than ourselves. Therefore we can’t always do what we prefer but must do what is best for the body.

 

Who is responsible for building? WE ARE!!!

 

Notice the last three words of Haggai’s prophecy “the Lord Almighty” Ultimately God is sovereign and he is in control. Whatever problems and pains we may face in our work for Christ, remember it is always for HIS GLORY; we are building day by day for his glory alone AND THE LORD ALMIGHTY IS WITH US!

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Haggai 2:10-23 – Obedience before blessing

OBEDIENCE BEFORE BLESSING.

 

Haggai 2v10-23.

 

INTRODUCTION.

 

The exiles had been back in Jerusalem for some 15 years now. They had given up their initial attempt at building but then Haggai came along and God stirred them into action through Haggais message. [Chapter 1]. Three months have now passed since they recommenced building. They had got to the point of laying the foundations.

 

The initial 15 years of inactivity was because they were preocuupied with their own homes –

Is it time for you yourselves to be living in panelled houses

while this house remains a ruin.[1v4]

 

Haggai rebukes the people for not putting God and his work before their own comforts and their own possessions.

 

Once they had started the rebuilding they had some among them who could remember the previous Temple in all its splendour. They spoke of the new Temple as insignificant. They became discouraged at the smallness of the Temple. They only saw the physical and God had to remind them that it was his glory that made the temple significant and not the wood and stones or the gold and silver.

 

Two months has gone by since God spoke to the people through Haggai. The work on the Temple has been going ahead. The building is beginning to take shape.

 

Between 2v9 and 10 – a period of two months – another voice has been heard.

 

READ Zecariah 1v1-6!!

 

Zechariah is sent by God to call the people to repentence. He reminds them of the stubbornness of their forefathers and God’s dealings with them.

 

A month after Zech. Haggai speaks to the people again in 2v10 – 19.

 

Why do these two prophets have words of rebuke for a people who are busy building the Temple of God. When they were building their own houses we could understand the rebuke but now they are building the Temple.

 

  1. LETHARGIC LABOURERS.

 

Haggai was not divorced from the people, nor was Zech., and as they mixed with the people they heard the under current of discontent. The people had been working – they had stuck to the task.

Outwardly everything was just fine but their attitude was not what it should have been. They had become weary in well doing. Their attitude was, “Well, let’s just get this work over with so we can get on with our lives”

They were doing the work but outwardly their hearts were not in the work.

Having a form of godliness,

but denying its power .. [2 Tim.3v5]

 

They had become half-hearted and lethargic in their work. The were like the church of Laodicea, they were neither hot nor cold.

 

This is a danger the every child of God and every Church of God faces. It is easy to go through religious motion, to do all the right things, to say all the right words, to be involved in this and that Church activity, to have sound doctrine but to be sound asleep.

We can be just like the returned exiles. Outwardly doing all the right things but inwardly cold and indifferent. It is a struggle that every pastor faces. To do it simply because it is my job.

 

HOLINESS AND CONTAMINATION.

In order to get his message across Haggai. asks the Priest two questions. The priests were the authority on the Jewish law.

 

READ VV11-13

 

The meat from a sacrifice was holy, sanctified. But it had to carried from one place to another and this was done by the priests. Whatever garment or cloth the meat was wrapped in also became holy. Lev.6v27

Whatever touches any of the flesh will become holy …

 

Haggai’s question to the priests is, “If the meat makes the cloth holy does the cloth make whatever it touches ‘holy'” The answer is NO! The cloth has no power to transfer its holiness.

 

The 2nd question: “Does a person defiled by a dead body comtaminated everything he touches” The answer is YES!

 

In both cases the intermediary that does or doesn’t pass on its holiness or defilement.

Holiness can’t be pased on. BUT defilement can!!

“Pollution is more readily given and taken than purity” -T V Moore

 

ILLUST: A jar of water into which a drop of poison is put is completely contaminated.

A jar of poison into which a drop a water is put is NOT purified.

 

If one is well you can catch measles, chicken pox….

If one is ill you can’t catch good health.

 

So it is with sin. It is exremely contagious.

 

God takes the illustration of ritual defilement and he applies it to the people of Haggai’s time

“So it is with this people and this nation in my sight”,

declares the Lord.

“Whatever they do and whatever they offer there is defiled” [v14]

 

Note that this is not Haggai’s assessment of them but it is God’s. Man sees “works”. God sees attitude.

 

ILLUST: Samuel choosing David to be next King of Israel – “Man looks on the outward appearance, God looks on the heart.”

 

The people were unclean. They had lost their zeal for God’s house. Their enthusiasm had waned. But they assumed that because they were offering sacrifices and doing God’s work everthing was alright.

 

Doing holy things didn’t make the people holy. Doing Christian things does not make one a Christian. Observing religious ritual doesn’t make us acceptable to God.

 

We are often tempted to think of ritual in relational to traditional or liturgical churches. But we face the same dangers. It is all to easy to go through the motions of being a Christian.

God is far more concerned with what we are than with what we do!!

 

The Jews thought that by doing God’s work they would be acceptable to God. In fact the reverse was true. Because they were defiled their work was defiled. They were defiling the Temple itself.

 

Sin is a very serious thing and a wrong attitude is just as bad as a wrong action. Our good woks can never, never atone for even one sin. God requires clean hands and pure hearts

He does not want sacrifices and offerings.

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;

you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;

a broken and contite heart, O God,

you will not despise. [Ps.51v16-17]

 

If we try to work for God in our own strength or if we do things to receive the prasie of men then the Lord is not pleased.

 

The only sacrifice the is acceptable to God is the sacrifice offered by Jesus on the cross. And only when we are in Christ are we acceptable. Only when we come to God through Christ is our work and worship acceptable and pleasing.

 

PONDER YOUR PROBLEM.

 

READ VV15-17

 

When things are going wrong it is always good to stop and evaluate. Not much had gone right for the returned exiles, esp. since they stopped rebuilding 15 years before.

“You have planted much but 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 ” [1v6′

 

They had worked hard and followed all the right farming procedures but there was little to show for it. And even now once the harvest was in they looked at it and thought,”We will get 20 measures out of that!” In fact they only got 10!!

They looked at the grapes thinking they would get 50 mearsures of wine and the only got 20!!

 

Why was this so? Well farmers can planted and work hard but unless God cause the seed to grow it will not. God had warned Israel that this would happen.

 

“However, if you do not obey the Lord and

do not carefully follow his commands and decrees

I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you

and overtake you …..

….. The Lord will strike you … with scorching heat and

drought, with blight and mildew … [Dt.28v15&22]

 

God requires more than just hard work. He wants obedient followers.

 

ILLUST: God may bless a particular Church and it really grows. Another church sees and then tries the same method but doesn’t grow. WHY??

 

READ vv18-19

 

It would seem that at last they are beginning to hear what God is saying to them. God would not be dealing with them in this way if they were continuing in their attitude of disobedience.

Again God tells them to consider their position. NO food in storage and the harvest od wine and oil and fruit was very poor! Where does this leave them. It is the beginning of winter.

They are at the point were they have absolutely no resources of their own.

 

ILLUST: 1982 – Student – Janet not working. Saturday lunchtime a sandwich. no food or money for the weekend. Left flat to go back to work on the car. A cheque in the post box from a church where I had preached 3 months before but it had got lost under a pile of papers on the Treasurer’s desk.

 

A limited illustration of what God often does. We have to be brought to the point where we realise that we have no power of our own.

Unless the Lord builds the house,

its builders labour in vain [Ps.127v1]

 

The Jews were very busy building but in God’s ecomony they were getting no where. Church activities and church programmes and even lots of people is no guarantee of God’s blessing.

Man looks at the outward appearence while God looks at the heart.

 

Gos doesn’t want busy people. He wants obedient people. It will certainly involve work but work with a right attitude.

 

Once the people had changed their attitude God gives them a promise.

From this day on I will bless you [v19]

 

They could not see God’s blessing. They had to trust him.

They didn’t deserve God’s blessing. But if God’s blessing depended on us deserveing it then no-one would receive it. It was winter but harvest was coming and they had to take God at his word.

 

They had been selfish and stubborn and slow and half-hearted Their harvest had been poor for so long they probably thought it would continue that way BUT God had other plans. Because he is infinitely gracious and merciful.

 

We have two pictures in this passage – the Temple and the field. Both are used to speak about the work of the Chruch.

 

Planting and the sowing of seed is often used as an illustration of Evangelism. Like the Jews who had planted and as yet saw no sign of a crop we too sometimes have to work faithfully; planting the seeds of the gospel. Sometimes the work seems tedious and ineffective. We too like the Jews are are tempted to become weary and discouraged. We can simply go through the motions but be encouraged.

God says to us “From this day forward I will bless you!”

 

We can’t judge the effectiveness of our witness by outward visible signs. We don’t know what God is doing in the hearts of those we share the message of the gospel with.

 

ILLUST: Haven’t you ever had the experience or as least heard about a person who has be hardened against the gospel, or even openly antagonistic. And you may have even thought, “HE/SHE WILL NEVER BECOME A CHRISTIAN” Yet suddenly they respond to God.

 

We can’t see what God is doing beneath the surface. We are to be faithful in sowing the seed. It is God who gives the increase.

 

When the Jews obeyed God and laid the foundations of the Temple. When they repented and their relationship with God was what it should have been. THEN the signs of God’s blessing began to appear.

 

Today we, the people of God , are God’s Temple.

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens,

but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household,

built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets,

with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.

In Him the whole building is joined together

and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.

And in Him you too are being built together

to become a dwelling in which God lives by his spirit.

Ephesians 2v19-22.

 

Not only are we to be sowing seeds out there in the world but we are to be building each other up in the Faith. God is concerned they we obey Him and so build up the body.

And when we do His blessing will come! When God’s blessing does come it will be great.

God to the people in Malachi’s day:…

“Test me in this” says the Lord Almighty,

“and see if I will not throw open the floodgates

of heaven and pour out so much blessing

that you will not have room enough for it.”

 

Maybe today you feel worn out. Maybe you wonder if it is all really worth it. Like the Jews you have worked hard and the barns are empty. Your resources are gone.

Yes, we are unworthy builders of God’s House, Our efforts are puny and our resources inadequate.

But God is saying to those who are obedient.”From this day on I will bless you”.

 

“Let us not become weary in doing good,

for at the proper time we will reap a harvest

if we do not give up.

Therefore, as we have opportunity,

let us do good to all people,

especially to those who belong to the

family of believers” [Gal.6v9-10]

Haggai 2:1-9 – Builder’s Blues

BUILDERS ‘BLUES’.

 

Haggai 2V1-9

 

INTRODUCTION.

 

Recall that the Jews who had returned from exile had begun rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem some 15 years before but in the face of opposition they had given up. It was now 15 tears later tat Haagai came on the scene and we saw last week how God used Haggai to speak to the people. He challenged them to resume the building programme. The repented and obeyed God and began to build and God had promised to be with them.

 

But you know, old habit and attitudes die hard. Less than a month had gone by since the started rebuilding and already they were getting “Builders’ Blues”.

Just because we have overcome some weakness or sin in our lives doesn’t mean that we can relax and drop our guard. Satan is very cunning and will trip us up over the same issue again and again if he can.

 

This rebuilding was not an easy task. The original temple had been burnt to the ground and the rubble had been lying on the site for nearly 70 years. No doubt it was overgrown and resembled a builders tip. Whenever we do any building or decorating it is always the preparatory work that is the pain in the neck, isn’t it? No doubt the Jews found clearing the site a pain in the neck [and back] as well.

 

It is very easy to loose heart when you work hard but don’t see much progress.

 

  1. THE REASONS FOR THEIR DISCOURAGEMENT.

 

1.1) Nostalgic comparison to the original temple.

“Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory?

How does it look to you now?

Does it not seem to you like nothing? [v.3]

There were among the returned exiles those who had seen Solomon’s magnificent temple before it was detroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. Now seeing the pile of rubble and probably realising that the new temple was never going to be like the old one they became dispondent.

 

It is not like it was in the good old days!! What is the point of building something that is second rate?? I can remember how it used to be….

 

Their first excuse in ch.1 was “It is not the right time.” Now it was “It is not going to be good enough; it will never be what it used to be.”

 

It is easy to be a wet blanket! To whinge and to criticise! It has never been done this way before. It is more difficult but far more profitable to encourage. We all need encouragement. We need to help not hinder!

1.2) Past disappointment was making them gloomy about the future.

Some of them were probably saying, “Well, we didn’t get very far 15 years ago and nothing much has changed so I don’t know why we are working so hard for somthing the probably won’t succeed.”

            Past failures don’t necessarily mean present and future failures as well.

“I’ve spoken to my friend or neighbour about God and they were very negative so there is no point ever trying again.”

Just because their forst attempt at rebuilding failed it didn’t mean there was no point trying again.

 

1.3) Religion gets in the way.

They had started enthusiastically but they had to stopped frequently because of Holy days and rest days. There had been three Sabbaths since they started. They 1st day of the month [7th] had been the feast of Trumpets. The 10th day was the Day of Atonement. On the 15th day the week-lomg festival of Tabernacles had begun. [ A time that reminded the Israelites of the Wilderness wanderings].

It can be very irrataing when you have work to do and you keep getting interupted. These religious observance seemed like an unnecessary disruption. “We haven’t got time for all these spiritual stuff. We want to get on with the work”

            We can fall into the same trap. We can be so busy doing church work and serving the Lord that we neglect to spend time in private and public worship and prayer.

 

What made matters even worse for the builders was that the Featival of Booths was linked to a time of thanksgiving for God’s provision of the harvest. But as they sat around they would have had time to reflect that the harvest they had recently brought in was so poor that it was hardly worth celebrating.

“You have planted much but harvested little”. [1v6]

 

1.4) The shortages of resources.

The last cause for dispondency was the shortage of materials and manpower. King Solomon had spent vasts amounts of money on the original Temple. Also the population was larger and he had used some conscripted labour. These were not available to Zerubabbel.

Limited manpower – many of the skilled craftsmen would have been taken into exile and not may would have returned – limited materials

We as a church face the same problems. “If we have more money we could …..!!”

It isn’t the money , is it? See v.8

‘The silver is mine and the Gold is mine”

 

God made the earth and all that is in it. He will provide all that is necessary for his work.

ILLUST: OM – Logos I – prayed 5 weeks to get the money to buy te ship and 5 years for the crew to man the ship.

 

So here they are suffering an attack of Builders Blues when God speaks to them again through Haggai.

 

 

  1. GOD’S PROMISED PRESENCE.

 

“Be strong … and work for I am with you declares”

the Lord Almighty.

This is what I covenanted with you

when you came out of Egypt.

God encourages them – this is not a harsh message like in ch.1 – he reminds them of the covenant. That blessing and obedience go hand in hand.

 

You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt,

and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.

Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant,

then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession.

Although the whole earth is mine,

you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”

[Exodus 19v4-6]

 

So often we want God’s blessing without the obedience but that is backwards. God promises blessing but he also requires obedience.

 

In response to their dispondency God encourages the Jews to be strong and to work, but he doesn’t just leave it there but he goes on to promise his presence and to remind then that his Spirit remains with them .

 

It is not without significance that Haggai’s message is delivered on the 21st day of the 7th month. It was the last day of the Fesival of Booths. It was a solemn Holy day when they would be listening for the Voice of God. And the message to these disspirited, discouraged builders is “Be strong … work. I am with you. My Spirit remains with you”

 

Years later Jesus Christ gave a message on the same day at the same feast.

“On the last and greatest day of the feast,

Jesus stood and said in a loud voice,

‘If anyone is thirsty let him come to me and drink.

Whoever believes in me, as the scripture says,

streams of living water shall flow from within him.'”

[John 7v37-38]

 

Jesus spoke those words in the same temple that Zerubabbel was building. Jesus spoke of living water – the Spirit of God that quenches the needy soul. NOT just a stream, Not a trickle NOT even a river BUT RIVERS. Unresticted spiritual supply. That is what we have in Christ.

God says “I am with you. My Spirit is in you. What greater encouragement do you need”

 

They were to work despite their discouragements. They were to leave God to deal with the dangers and difficulties. Their task was to get on and rebuild the temple.

 

God encouraged Joshua in the same way.

“Be strong and courageous.

Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged,

for the Lord your God will be with you

wherever you go” [Joshua 1v9]

When God requires us to do something, he never expects us to do it alone. He is always with his people. Jesus promised “I WILL BE WITH YOU ALWAYS”

The God who helped Solomon build the first temple would help this generation of Jews rebuild it. The task may be harder but the same God will supply.

The task that God calls us to in the building up of his temple – the church- is also in the strength and power that he provides.

 

The enormity of the task that God has set us sometimes seems overwhelming. The enemy seems so powerful, and the advancement of the gospel slow. BUT listen to Pauls encouragement.

 

Let us not become weary in doing good,

for at the proper time we will reap a harvest

if we do not give up. [Gal.6v9]

 

What this little group of Jews were trying to do in a backwater of the Persian Empire must have seemed so insignificant. In V6 God reminds them that he is in contol of the nations and he can shake them like a dog shakes an old shoe. The nations think they are so powerful but they are insignificant in comparison to God’s power.

 

In the next 5 centuries the Persian Empire, the Syrian Empire, Babylon and Egypt fell before the might of the Greeks under Alexander the Great. The Greeks inturm fell to the Romans.

Greek became the universal language by which the Gospel spread. The Roman built roads that went all over the Empire making travel easy and the spread of the gospel was advanced.

 

Govt. and the UN think that they are in power and run the world. How deluded can you be!! God is in control and can shake the nations and he does to advance his kingdom. But God is moving history to a climax. To a time went Jesus Christ will return.

 

ILLUST: Soviet Christian Soldiers in Afganistan. Allied Christian soldiers in Saudi. Strange to us but the God’s wats are not our ways.

 

 

Why is God doing all this. For his greater Glory!!

 

  1. GOD’S GREATER GLORY.

 

The Jews were concerned that this temple would be insignificant

‘I will fill this house with glory ….

The glory of this present house will be greater

than the glory of of the former house”. vv7&9

 

The glory of the temple was not the gold and silver.The glory of the temple was the presence of the Lord almighty. What could be more glorious than the King of Glory in his temple.

However ‘The Desired of all nations will come’ does not refer priamrily to Jesus but rather to Christ’s kingdom. “desired” is in the plural refering to God’s chosen people from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. These will come to make up the kingdom of priests to serve the Lord.

In the final analysis this temple would not be the symbol of God’s glory. Rather it pointed to a temple not made with perishable things like silver and gold and wood and stone BUT to a temple make up of living stone from every nation bought with the precious blood of Christ.

 

Once the Lord of the Temple had come this physical temple became redundant. The Lord himself is the temple – Jesus referred to his body as the temple- When we come into Christ we become part of te Temple of God and share his glory.

 

Look at the end of verse 9 “And in this place [ the new temple] I will grant peace”, declares the Lord Almighty.

The OT looked forward to the Prince of Peace coming. We look back to Christ’s reconciling work on the cross that makes peace possible.

 

Haggai’s message to us then is DON’T become weary in well doing. Building can be hard work. But God is with us power is unlimited and his resources know no bounds.

 

“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s spirit lives in you? [1Co.3v16]

For we are the temple of the living God. As God had said,”I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God and they will be my people [2Co.6v19]

 

The house of the Lord – the church, the people of God – is the place where God is pleased to dwell and he will give peace to his people.

 

JESUS SAID “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be trouble and do not be afraid” [John 14v27]

 

Be strong and work … I am with you !!!

Haggai 1:1-15 – Building God’s Temple: Getting our priorities right

Building God’s Temple.

Getting our priorities right!

 

Haggai 1v1-15.

Introduction.

 

Background to Haggai is essential if we are ever going to understand his message. Why did God call Haggai to prophesy at this particular point in History? We never live in a vacuum but we are always affected by the political, economic and social influences of our time. We are also influenced by our history – What happened then has an effect on the NOW. So it was with the people of Haggai’s day.

Almost 70 years prior to Haggai’s time, the people living in Jerusalem and the Southern Kingdom of Israel were invaded by the armies of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. [586 BC] All except the poorest were taken into exile and the city, including the Temple, was destroyed. It is during this time that we have the stories of Daniel and Esther, among others.

Having the Temple destroyed was a tremendous blow to the Jews. They had thought the God would never allow the Temple to be destroyed. Being exiled was bad enough but the destruction of the Temple was salt in the wound.

They were disillusioned and yearned for Jerusalem.

By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept, when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps,

for there our captors asked for songs. our tormentors demanded songs of joy. How can we sing songs of joy while in a foreign land. [Psalm 137v1-4]

King Nebuchadnezzar eventually died and Cyrus, King of Persia, conquered Babylon including the Jewish exiles. He decreed, as Jeremiah had prophesied, that the Temple in Jerusalem should be rebuilt. [Ezra 1v1-2].

Under the leadership of Zerubabbel and Jeshua [Joshua in Haggai – the same person] the returned exiles, 42,360 of them, begin building the Temple. First they built the altar and then begin rebuilding the Temple itself.

 

THE TEMPLE – THEN AND NOW.

Why is it so important that the Temple be rebuilt at this point in Jewish History.

When the Israelites initially entered the Promised Land they didn’t have a temple but the centre of worship was the tabernacle [a tent]. It was here that the glory of God descended like a cloud and filled the inner most part – the Most Holy Place. Years later God allowed Solomon to build a Temple. After Solomon’s Temple was destroyed, God had promised the exiled Jews that it would be rebuilt. [Ezek.37v26-27].

Zerubabbel’s Temple, which it what Haggai’s prophecy is all about, stood for 500 years. It was enlarged by Herod the Great just before the birth of Christ. But in 70 AD it was raized to the ground by the Romans and has never been rebuilt.

Why has the Temple never been rebuilt?

The Dome of the Rock, a Muslim Shrine, has stood there since the end of the 7th century. But there is a far more important reason why the Temple has not been rebuilt.

For centuries the Holy of Holies, which represented the Glory and Presence of God, was hidden by a curtain and only the High priest was allowed to enter there, once a year, on the Day of Atonement. When Jesus died on the cross the curtain was ripped from top to bottom. A sign from heaven that ordinary people may have direct access to God through Christ without going through an earthly priest. There is a new and living way to God. Jesus said “I am the way”

 

WHERE IS THE TEMPLE NOW?

Jesus spoke to the Jews in John 2v19-21

“Destroy this temple and I will raise it again in three days” The Jews replied,”It has taken 46 years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?’

But the Temple he had spoken of was his body.

 

Jesus spoke of his body as the temple but also the called people of God [the church] is the body of Christ, the temple of the Holy Spirit.

Listen to Peter in 1 Peter 2v4-6;

“As you come to him the living stone – … – you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”

 

In 1 Co.6v9 Paul tells us the our bodies are temple of the Holy Spirit – why? – because Christ lives in us as individuals. But we can not live in isolation – we are to be bonded together as a spiritual temple. [Eph.2v21-22]

“In Him [Christ] the whole building is joined together

and rises to become a Holy Temple in the Lord.

And in Him you to are being built together

to become a dwelling by which God lives by His Spirit.”

Now there is no need for a physical building as a temple. We, the body of Christ, are the temple in which God dwells. But this is only possible since the death of Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

In the days of the OT the temple signified the presence of God. As Joyce Baldwin points out the rebuilding to the temple was in some way a condition upon which the coming of the Messiah depended. Malachi proclaimed that the Lord would suddenly come to his temple [Mal.3v1].

God’s plan was that the temple in Jerusalem would be rebuilt and it was to that task that the returned exiles were called.

 

READ Ezra [summarise ch.3 ] Ezra 4:1-5 & 24

1 When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building a temple for the LORD, the God of Israel, 2 they came to Zerubbabel and to the heads of the families and said, “Let us help you build because, like you, we seek your God and have been sacrificing to him since the time of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here.”

3 But Zerubbabel, Jeshua and the rest of the heads of the families of Israel answered, “You have no part with us in building a temple to our God. We alone will build it for the LORD, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the king of Persia, commanded us.”

4 Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building. 5 They hired counsellors to work against them and frustrate their plans during the entire reign of Cyrus king of Persia and down to the reign of Darius king of Persia. ………….

24 Thus the work on the house of God in Jerusalem came to a standstill until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia. (NIV)

 

Haggai 1v1-15

  1. Off to a good start.

 

The returned Exiles had started well. They had built an altar, given money and materials, and the work of rebuilding the temple had begun. But then opposition came from those who had remained in the land during the exile. They had intermarried and their religion had become corrupted consequently Zerubabbel and Jeshua had refused their help. The angry locals then began to actively oppose the rebuilding.

There will always be opposition to the work of God. Satan is never happy when God’s people are doing God’s work and he will use every devious means to disillusion, discourage and hinder. We shouldn’t be surprised when we run into opposition.

The Jews had become discouraged and disillusioned and the work stopped. For about 15 years.

 

ENTER HAGGAI.

We know little about Haggai. But God’s Word came through him.

The First day of the month [new moon] was a Holy Day and the people would be enjoying a festive occasion.

This is what the Lord Almighty says, “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come for the Lord’s house to be built'” [v2]

 

Notice “These People” and not My People.

They do not deserve to be called God’s people because they are living in disobedience to God’s word. They knew the reason why God had brought them to Jerusalem – it was to rebuild the temple – but they choose their own way.

 

  1. When God’s work is inconvenient.

 

The time has not yet come for the Lord’s house to be built [v2]

 

ILLUST: Consider Harry. A gifted young man who many in the Church recognise as one who has great potential in God’s work. He is intelligent, pleasant and very capable. He knows God wants him to get involved in ministry / service etc…. First he goes to university/college –goes to church but doesn’t get too involved – “It’s a time to enjoy life for myself for a while before I settle down!”. After that he feels that he needs to work long hard hours to secure a good career. In the meanwhile he get married. His wife is also a Christian. The children come along and the years fly by. The house needs working on, the children need educating, holidays are important. Tomorrow we will really be committed to the work of God’s kingdom!!!

 

Tomorrow never comes. God wants us to serve Him today NOT tomorrow.         The Jews were too busy with their own houses and their own lives to worry about the temple. It became convenient to put it off until tomorrow.

 

ILLUST: Portugal – residence paper – come back tomorrow “Amanyana!!”[sp?] after 11 month still no paper at we left the country.

 

— Indifference sets in!!

 

The people had become lethargic. They faced opposition and their enthusiasm waned and they gave up. They had lost their vision and become weary in well doing.

Unlike Nehemiah who served the Lord with a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other when he faced opposition. They became discouraged, disillusioned and stopped work.

Let’s take a break!! 15 years!! [need times of rest / sabbatical etc..]

 

Are we like this when it comes to the work of God? Prayer, for example / hospitality / practical helps –out-there! Not buried in a Church building!!? Do we give up praying when answers seem to be slow in coming??

Or are we just too busy to do God’s work?

 

  1. Too busy for God’s work.

 

They were busy decorating their own homes. They had time for that.

“Is it time for you yourselves to be living in panelled houses, while this house remains a ruin” [v3]

 

Times were hard. There was an economic recession. Inflation was going through the roof. The harvest was small. And the wages didn’t seem to go very far. [vv5-6]

God was not opposed to them having their own homes but they had moved from the essential to the extravagant. And it was God’s work that suffered as a result.

 

But not only was God’s work suffering; they were suffering too. It is not that they were lazy. They had worked hard on their farms and they had expectations of a good harvest. But it hadn’t happened. They were a discontented people and the reason was because of their own selfish desires.

 

In our materialistic society we are in danger of falling into the same trap. There is so much that we have to have. We spend our time and money getting it and then we have to spend our time and money maintaining it.

 

ILLUST: Family member. Large House and garden. swimming pool and tennis court. Every weekend for 25 years maintaining it.

 

Consider Jesus’ words in Matt. 6v31-33

Do no worry saying, “What shall we eat?”

or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?”

For the pagans run after all these things,

and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.

But seek first the kingdom of God and

all these things will be given to you as well.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow,

for tomorrow will worry about itself.

Each day has enough trouble of its own”

Jesus is not saying that the things of this life are unimportant BUT he is saying that they must be viewed from the correct perspective!

 

  1. No obedience to God; no blessing from God.

 

The reason God withheld his blessing from the Jews is given in v.9.   “Because of my house which remains a ruin while each of you is busy with his own house.’

 

God withheld the dew and rain and drought destroyed the crops. The dew obeyed but his people did not.

 

God has called us to be active in Kingdom business.

 

In vv5&7 God urges the Jews to “Give careful thought to your ways…” Not all trouble and hardship is as a result of disobedience. But when things are going badly we need to consider our ways before God. “Why is this happening to me Lord?” “What are you trying to teach me?” “Help me to listen to what you are saying and to put it into practice.”

We are all very good at blaming – each other – the govt., the Borough Council, the Church and even God. Let each of us evaluate our own lives.

The temptation we face as individuals and as a Church is that we can say. “When I have enough time” or “When I have enough money” then I will give to God. NO! NO!

 

God holds us accountable as to what we do with our money, our possessions and our time whether we have much or little – AND God never asks for what we don’t have. Illus. Farmer .. £100 / 1000? Yes! 10 pigs? But I’ve got 10 pigs!!!

 

 

 

  1. Obedience to God brings blessing from God. [V12-15]

 

“…the people obeyed the voice of the Lord…” [v12]

Repentance is only true repentance when it leads to obedience. God stirred the people into action through the message of Haggai. At the point where their intention is clear that they are going to obey and resume the building, God gives them a promise.

“I am with you”, declares the Lord. [v13]

This same God who had been with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Moses and Joshua and King David – now pledges himself to this motley band of returned exiles. “I AM WITH YOU”.

Didn’t Jesus give us the same promise in Matt.28v19-20.

Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, And teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I will be with you to the very end of the age.

 

God was angry with his people because instead of being the worshipping, witnessing community they were meant to be – they were more concerned about their own luxuries and selfish interests / ambitions.

 

His promise is that when they get their priorities right the rest of life falls into place — and God’s blessings follow! NOT necessarily material prosperity BUT spiritual life / fulfilment.

 

Building God’s Temple.

Getting our priorities right!

 

Haggai 1v1-15.

 

Background:

  • Jews exiled in Babylon

·    Return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple

     (The Temple – then and now)

 

  1. Off to a good start …

… but it doesn’t last.

 

  • enter Haggai.

 

  1. When God’s work is inconvenient [v.2]

…indifference/ apathy sets in.

 

  1. Too busy for God’s work [v.3]

 

  1. No obedience to God

– No blessing from God. [v.4-11]

 

  1. Obedience to God

– brings blessing from God. [v.12-15]

…people obey – God says “I am with you.”