The Book of Haggai. And so if you'll open your bibles, Pastor Skip will continue to lead us on through. We're closing down on the Old Testament, so we're in the last three books, and tonight the Book of Haggai.
Good evening. Missed you guys. Good to be back. Sometimes God's workers can feel isolated, alone in doing the work of the Lord.
Someone wrote this. There are 200 million Americans. 86 million are over 65 and 76 million are under 21. That leaves only 38 million to do the work. But six million are in the armed forces. That leaves 32 million to do the work. But six million are on welfare, so that leaves 26 million to do the work.
But 15 million work for the government. That leaves 11 million to do the work. But 10 million are in school, so that leaves one million to do the work. But 750,000 are disabled or sick, and so that leaves 250,000 to do the work.
Last week there were 249,998 people in jail. That leaves two people to do the work. And since you don't do much, no wonder I'm so tired.
The people of Jerusalem who had returned from the captivity were tired of the hardships that they had experienced over the time they had been back. And the leadership was tired of trying to inspire them. Now to understand the last three prophets, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, we have to get a quick thumbnail sketch of a certain portion of Jewish history.
The year that this prophecy opens is the year 520 BC. 16 years prior to this, in 536 BC, the Persian Emperor Cyrus gave a decree allowing the Jews who were in Babylon to return back to Jerusalem and to restore and to build the temple in Jerusalem. It was an exciting time.
The captivity was over. The people could return back to their homeland, back to command central, and restore that temple. But in comparison, only a few did return. Just under 50,000 people under the leadership of Zorobabel, also called in the book of Ezra Sheshbazzar, returned to do the work. They started out with fervor, with excitement, and they made progress. The temple was in rubble. They managed to clear the debris out of the courts of the temple, to reestablish the altar of sacrifice, that brazen altar in the outer court of the temple, and to re-institute the temple sacrifices, the daily sacrifices.
That was in the fall of 536 BC. By the springtime, things began to change. Though the temple foundations were laid by the springtime, enough hardship came their way to slow them down. The enemies that surrounded Judah, especially those up in Sumeria, were opposed to the work. And King Cyrus, who gave the decree, in the meantime kicked the bucket. He died.
He had a successor by the name of Cambyses, also known as Ahasuerus in Ezra Chapter 4. And the people surrounding Judah implored him to put a stop to the building of the temple. And enough of those roadblocks finally caused the people who had been building the temple in Jerusalem to slow down and turn from doing the building of the temple to their own pursuits, their own activities, their own life, and to forget about the work of God.
The people then grew accustomed to worshipping God amongst the rubble. Instead of completely clearing it out and totally finishing the work of God, they just got used to worshipping God in the rubble of the temple. But then 520 came along, and that's the year we come to here. And in 520 the building started again, and five years later the temple was finished because of four godly men that God sent their way.
One was named Zorobabel. We'll read about him right off the bat in the first few verses. He is the governor. He is heir to the throne but he is not the king. There is no king. That lineage has stopped, and they're still awaiting a king to sit upon the throne of David. But Zorobabel was in line for it because he is the grandson of Jehoiachin, the previous, one of the previous kings.
Second was Joshua, the high priest-- he's also mentioned-- and two prophets, one who wrote this book and one who wrote the next book, Haggai and Zechariah. Haggai's ministry was to inspire them, to encourage them, to awaken them, you might say, from their laziness, their indifference, and to get busy once again with doing the work of God and building the temple that they started.
And so this short book, only two chapters, is really a compilation of four sermons meant to inspire them. And these four sermons that are given by the prophet Haggai bring up and show to us four hindrances, four impediments to doing and really finishing the will of God in our own lives.
The first chapter brings up that first impediment, the first roadblock that is so often the case in God's people doing God's work and finishing that work. And that is selfishness, forgetting God's interests and turning toward our own, putting our own interests before the Lord. So Haggai 1, Verse 1.
In the second year of King Darius, in the sixth month on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the prophet to Zorobabel, the son of Shealtiel, the governor of Judah, and to Joshua, the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, saying.
Notice the dating of the book. Rather than using the dating from any one of the previous kings of Judah, as is so often the case in dating the Old Testament, the dating is from the time of King Darius, a Gentile king. That's because Haggai is showing that they are in the times of the Gentiles. The Gentile kings are now in charge. And those times of the Gentiles will continue until those days are fulfilled.
The sixth month is mentioned. That's the month of elul. Darius the King is mentioned. He began to reign in 521 BC, and this is the second year of his reign. And you'll notice that in this book in particular, all of the four sermons that are given are given in exact dating. The historical accuracy of the word of God is implicit in this book.
Zorobabel is the governor. He's mentioned by name in this verse and he's mentioned throughout the book. Zorobabel is a Babylonian name. It means born or begotten in Babylon. He becomes the governor. He's the one commissioned to go back and inspire the people leading the rebuilding of the temple. As I said, he is heir to the throne. He was the grandson of Jehoiachin, one of the previous kings of Judah.
Thus speaks the Lord of Hosts. Now there's a great title for God, the Lord of Hosts, Yahweh of the armies, the one in absolute sovereign control, dwelling in heaven, overseeing all the affairs of the earth, nothing escapes his hand, all powerful, commanding all the hosts of the armies of heaven. Thus speaks Yahweh of Hosts, the Lord of Hosts, saying, this people says the time has not come, the time that the Lord's house should be built.
Notice how the Lord addresses them or speaks about them. He doesn't say my people but this people, though they are God's people. And God is not distancing himself from them, but rather, by this, showing his displeasure. This people says the time has not come, the time that the Lord's house should be built.
Now Haggai gets right to the point. Basically he is saying, you're building your own houses. You're concerned about your own affairs. But that's the problem, is that you have put your own affairs, your own stuff in front of, ahead of the work of God.
They were indifferent to finishing the work of God. They had become lazy about it because after all, they had so many hardships. They were there alone doing the work. But the enemies, the letter that was written to Ahasuerus, to Cambyses, to stop the work. And it was just enough to cause the people to turn inward and to offer an excuse. Well, it's just not the right time for us right now. We'd love to do it. We agree It's important. But I am so busy with my own affairs getting settled in this new land.
They offer excuses. God knows they're excuses. And the prophet points the finger and says, this is a sham. This is just a flaky excuse. Billy Sunday, the evangelist, once said, an excuse is the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie. The truth was it was the time for them to do and finish the temple of God. This was just an excuse.
It's so easy to make excuses for the Lord's work. It's easy to make excuses so that we get out of fulfilling the will of God in our own lives, even for coming to church. All sorts of excuses people have for not going to church. You've probably heard them all. Well, the weather is bad. I don't like to go out when the weather is bad. Understandable, and I thank God for radio and internet that can help solve that. However, some of the people who say the weather is bad think nothing about going shopping when the weather is bad.
Well, I don't like crowds, and it's hard to find parking sometimes. And yet the same people may stand in line for hours at Disneyland, not minding the crowds. Or somebody might say, well, that preacher on Sunday night, that guy just goes over time, five minutes at least every week. And yet they may think nothing when the game they watch goes into overtime or extra innings. Oh, it's exciting game. This is really a game.
And so Verse 3, the word of the Lord came by Haggai the Prophet saying, is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses and this temple to lie in ruins? God questions them. God interrogates them. And with these interrogative questions, He is laying bare, exposing their misplaced priorities. OK, you say it's not the right time to finish the temple. But you say it's the right time for you to attend your own affairs. Is now the time for you to dwell in your paneled houses?
That's a reference to the luxurious cedar wainscoting that kings had in their palaces and people thought is the best stuff to have at home. Imagine a room lined with cedar, the smell of that. And extra effort was given to adorn the home's luxuriously paneled walls and paneled ceilings.
God's questions reveal a serious problem with their priorities. Jesus put it simply for us. He said, if you seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, all these things will be added unto you. That's so often our problem. So often the Lord will check me and say, why are you seeking first everything else and expecting me to add my kingdom to that?
God says, I'll tell you what. I'll make you a deal. You just focus on my kingdom, my interests, and expanding my name, and I'll take care of everything you need. You seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added.
It is good to periodically take inventory of our lives, to sift through our activities and ask ourselves, is this really what God wants for me? Is this the priority that I am supposed to keep? So often the Bible speaks of one thing, this one thing I do, forgetting the things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are before.
Jesus said to the rich young ruler, there is one thing you lack, getting him to hone in on what is the most important. It is so easy to be distracted by life. Life pulls at us from so many directions. So we all keep a list of priorities.
Over the years, Billy Graham has decided, I'm an evangelist. That's what God called me to do. That's what God called me to be. Through his preaching career, 22 different cities in America offered free land and the cash to back it up if Dr. Graham would start his own university. It's a good idea. But he discovered that's not God's priorities for my life. And he said, I won't do it. It would be a great distraction from my evangelism and preaching ministry.
Wilbur Chapman years ago said, my life is governed by this rule. Anything that dims my vision of Christ or takes away my taste for Bible study or cramps my prayer life or makes Christian work difficult is wrong for me, and I must, as a Christian, turn away from it. A simple matter of keeping priorities.
So Verse 5. Now therefore, thus says the Lord of Hosts, consider your ways. That phrase is mentioned four times in this book. Consider your ways. Literally set your heart on your ways. They needed to reappraise their priorities. Consider your ways. Take inventory.
What happened is they lost interest in the temple of the Lord, building the temple, finishing the work. But it happened gradually, you see, not at once, gradually. There was an incident of resistance and then another one and then another one, till finally they just said, enough is enough. I've got my own life to live. This is too hard.
I've discovered that most of our problems, in terms of a crisis in the Christian life, is the result not of a blowout, but of a slow leak. We gradually lose interest. We begin so fervently, so in love with Jesus, so in love with the Bible, love fellowship. But gradually we can begin to leave our first love. The heart isn't the same. And it's important to consider our ways.
We have to watch that because it is possible to keep all of the same activities going, very active, very involved. But we lose that flame that's on the altar, or that once was burning brightly on the altar, the hearth of our Christian experience. You may remember the old play turned movie Fiddler on the Roof, when Tavia, the patriarch of the family, is looking at his daughters who are growing up and falling in love. And he has the difficulty with that. And then he thinks about his own marriage. And at one point in the movie he says to his wife-- and of course it's a musical, so he sings to his wife-- he turns to his wife and says, do you love me?
And she says, do I love you? I clean your house. I wash your clothes. I know, but do you love me? And she is, again, incensed by it. What do you mean, do I love you? Look at all of the work that I do for you. He says, but that's not what I am asking. Do you love me? Gets her to see the difference between just going through the activities as a married couple and having that heart of passion.
Consider your ways, the Lord says. You have sown much, Verse 6. You bring in little. You eat but you don't have enough. You drink but you're not filled with drink. You clothe yourselves but no one is warm. And he who earns wages earns wages to put into a bag with holes. How picturesque is that? And what a picture that is of so many today, the result of inverted priorities. All of their self-centeredness, all of their feverish activity to become economically stable made them anything but stable.
This is sort of like saying you're always working, you take the extra job, you work extra hours through the night, you work during lunchtime, and you're broke. I remember as a kid playing on the escalators. And I think escalators had just been invented at that time. I'm not sure. But I remember trying to go up the down escalator.
And so as a kid, you'd run up a couple of steps, but it's moving too fast to really make progress. So you're putting all this energy into getting up, but you just can't. Every step up is a couple steps back, and pretty soon, when you're young enough, you lose out. They were working so hard. They had nothing to show for it.
It's like that Pennsylvania Dutch expression that said, the hurrier I go the behinder I get. I'm working so hard to get ahead but I'm behind. God says that's the result. You're unsatisfied. All of the work you put into stability, your own thing.
Interesting expression in Verse 6. You earn wages to put in a bag with holes. You may remember in Proverbs 23, Solomon says, do not overwork to be rich. Because of your own understanding, cease. Will you set your eyes on that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings. They fly away like an eagle toward heaven.
You know, they say money talks. And you might say, it sure does. Every time I get it, it says, bye. Isn't it interesting that the back of the dollar bill has an eagle on it?
Thus says the Lord of Hosts, consider your ways. There it is again. Set your heart on your ways. Sift through that grid of priorities. Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified, says the Lord.
OK. God has articulated the problem, their indifference. What's the solution? The temple isn't built. Things have come to a standstill. What's the solution? Write letters to the government? No. Picket and demonstrate? No. Pass new laws? No. You know what the solution is? Obedience. Go cut wood. Go get timber. Go bring that wood down here and let's build this temple.
God was looking for obedience. And notice when we obey, God is glorified. Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified.
To glorify God simply means to make him famous, to make him renowned, to spread his fame, his name, among the nations. How about that for your life's goal? I can think of no greater goal than to live for the glory of God. What a legacy. Of all the things that could be said about you as you live this life, and once you pass away, for somebody to say, ah, but they lived to please and glorify God. Great legacy. Unfortunately, so many Christians overlook the fact that that is our primary calling in life.
What is your goal in life? If you say, well, I think God wants to make me happy. No. God wants to make you holy. God wants you to glorify Him. And when you glorify Him, and that's your goal, to seek first the kingdom, you'll be happy. Happiness will be the byproduct of that holiness and seeking after Him with all your heart. It'll come. It's the fruit of it. It's the byproduct of it. But your goal, my goal, is to bring God pleasure. That will be the anthem of heaven. We know that in Revelation Chapter 4, that famous, wonderful scripture. For you, Lord created everything. And for your pleasure they exist and were created.
It's true that the more you do as you please, the less you are pleased with what you do. If you live to please yourself you will be unsatisfied. If you live to glorify and please God, there will be joy pouring out of you. That will be the result. You looked for much-- Verse 9-- but indeed it came to little, and when you brought it home I blew it away. Probably a reference to those strong desert, dry, blighting winds that destroyed the crops.
Why is the question, says the Lord of Hosts. Because of my house that is in ruins while every one of you runs to his own house. Now understand, in all of this talk about the temple, that the physical temple really wasn't the issue. It never was the issue. God doesn't dwell in temples made with hands. It's not that God demands some kind of structure. But the temple was a symbol. It represented their priorities and it represented their worship of God. But it was never the temple that was the primary objective in and of itself.
Jesus said to the woman at Sumeria, when she said, you Jews say Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship. Our fathers say it's this mountain, Mount Gerizim. And Jesus said, woman, the hour is coming and now is when neither in Jerusalem nor in this mountain will one worship the Father, for the Father is looking for people to worship him in spirit and in truth.
But that temple represented-- it was a symbol-- of the worship of God and the priority of God. Therefore, Verse 10, the heavens above you withhold the dew and the Earth withholds its fruit. For I called for a drought on the land and the mountains.
Notice that. God held back the rain. God takes the brunt of it, so to speak. He is saying, I'm the one who caused it. So I called for a drought on the land and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, and whatever the ground brings forth. So God caused those crops to fail on men and livestock and on all the labor of your hands.
Listen, those economic difficulties were warnings from God saying misplaced priorities, inverted priorities, wrong list of priorities. All of those were to be messages to wake them up.
Now if you remember back in Deuteronomy Chapter 28, 29, that section there, God promises a great blessing will fall upon the people of the land when they obey God. God said you'll be blessed in the feeding trough with the crops, the animals, the kneading trough, at home when you bake bread. You'll be blessed outside. You'll be blessed inside. I will bless you. You obey me, blessing will come.
If you disobey me, he promises this. You're going to work hard and have little to show for it. No production. So God wanted them to be blessed. That was his heart. But they lost out on the blessing of God. Then Zorobabel, the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua, the son of Jehozadak, the high priest with, all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the Lord their God and the words of Haggai the Prophet, as the Lord their God had sent him and the people feared the presence of the Lord.
That's what a preacher lives for right there. When the Holy Spirit moves on the heart of a person and they're prompted to action to obey God and to lay it all down to serve the Lord, ah, sheer joy. That's what John said, 3 John Verse 4. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in the truth.
What a great response. What a difference, is it not from, the prophets who preached before the captivity and this prophet who preaches after the Captivity Jeremiah and others were warning them and they didn't want to listen. But now, after the captivity, after the discipline, after the spanking from the Lord, they're sensitized a bit more. Soon as the prophet speaks it, they get it. They do it. They obeyed the voice of the Lord their God and the words of Haggai the Prophet. So the message fell on good soil and it was bearing forth fruit.
The people that heard the message recognized the message for what it was. This is a message from God. This isn't just the opinion of this preacher guy. He is speaking God's word to us, and we best take heed to it. There is that great scripture when Paul writes to the Thessalonians and said, in first Thessalonians Chapter 2, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which all so effectively works in you who believe.
So these people said, that's God's message to us, they took it to heart, and they're ready to obey. Then Haggai, the Lord's messenger, spoke the Lord's message to the people saying, I am with you, says the Lord. A very short but very powerful postscript to his message. Here's God's final word to you after you are willing to obey him. God wants you to know he's with you. You know what? What else do you need? God is with you. You can do this because the Lord is with you.
So the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zorobabel, the son of Shealtiel, the governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people. And they came and worked on the House of the Lord of Hosts, their God, on the 24th day of the sixth month in the second year of King Darius.
God stirred them up. You might say God energized them to do the work. They are willing to do it. Yeah, man, we're with you. We're going to do this thing. We're going to follow through and obey the will and finish the work of God. But it expressly says it's the spirit of God that stirred them up, that energized them.
Remember what Paul wrote to the Philippians when he said, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. In other words, you Philippians, cooperate. Work hard. Apply yourself. Take this spiritual thing seriously. But understand something. The work that you do will be, can be, must be energized by the Holy Spirit of the living God. That's how you finish it. That's how you can keep going without getting burned out. It's God who works in you both to will and do of his good pleasure.
A couple of years ago, I was in Phoenix, Arizona, and I was late for an airplane. The connection was just not enough time, and the first plane got there late, and I had to catch a connecting flight. And I looked at that time and I'm thinking, I don't know if I can make that connection.
But Phoenix is a spread out airport with several terminals. But they have this really cool invention, those fast-moving sidewalks, those powered sidewalks. Now I could have just walked with my own might, my own energy. I'm not going to take one of those things. I don't need them. And I could have hustled and worked hard and sweated and I would have missed my flight.
Instead, I worked hard and kept up my pace, but on that device. And I found that that device enabled me to do more than I could do by my own strength. I was working, but I was really cooperating with a power greater than myself to get there, and I made the flight.
Work out your own salvation, but it's God who works in you both to will and to do to finish his good pleasure, cooperating with that power. So God will give you the power of whatever God calls you to do. If it's to build the temple in Jerusalem, he'll stir you up to do it. If it's to be a missionary, don't worry about how you're going to be supported on the field or how the Lord's going to manage. You obey and you watch as God stirs up you and others.
Understand that whenever God calls you to do something, God equips you to do it. If you join the Air Force, would the Air Force say, well, we're glad you've joined. There's only one glitch. Jets are expensive, and you need to fork out about $22 million. If you can do that, you can fly this jet. No. They provide you with the tools and the fuel to get the job done.
So it is with the work of God. God will give you the energy. He'll provide all that you need.
1:15. I just want to look at that before we jump into Chapter 2 and finish out the book. It says on the 24th day of the sixth month in the second year of King Darius. There's that dating again. Now if you compare Verse 15 to Verse 1, you notice that Haggai began preaching on the first day of the month so that the change occurred 23 days later. He began preaching to the people 23 days later. They're at it. And it was an important date and it's marked.
I do think that spiritual dates are significant. I love it when somebody comes up to me-- they might be 35 years old-- and they say, hey, congratulate me. I'm two years old today. I know what they mean. Two years ago they gave their lives to Christ. That's the date of their conversion. It's something locked in their memory. I remember the day, the time.
Or it could be the time when you felt God speak to your own heart about a calling to fulfill his will, to finish his work. Maybe it could be that today, January 8-- it is January 8, is that right? It could be that today, January 8, 2006, this is one of those dates that God tonight, here and now, will inspire you, saying finish, do, perform this work, this act, this portion of my will. And this will be a memorial date for you as you decide to keep your priorities, to put God in first place.
Or-- not. Or to say, well, you know, I'd like to. But I've got to take care of my own comfort first. OK. Fair enough. Choice is yours. But understand if you make that choice, you'll ever be dissatisfied. You'll ever be longing for more. You'll always be working and stressing and you'll never have enough.
But if you decide no, tonight, enough's enough. Seek God first, put his kingdom first, and I'm going to trust him to add everything else to me that I need. Tell you what. There's no greater adventure in life than that.
Now in Haggai Chapter 2, there's three further encouraging messages to these returned exiles in the months that they are taking up the work of finishing that new temple. If the first impediment to finishing the work of God is selfishness, self-centeredness, the beginning of Chapter 2 brings up a second one, nostalgia.
Nostalgia. Oh, I remember what it used to be like. Ever heard those words? In the seventh month on the 21st of the month, the word of the Lord came by Haggai the Prophet. It's the seventh month. It is the seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles. It is a day, it is a season when the people of Israel ought to be excited and full of joy and jubilation. The Feast of Tabernacles was one of those such feast time of great joy.
However, the book of Ezra fills in the blanks and tells us what was going on. There were the ts. They were dressed in their vestments. They were singing and making melody, and there was a great joy and shout of excitement, especially by the younger generation. Hey, this is a new work.
But Ezra tells us there were some of the older men who remembered what it was like when Solomon's temple was standing. They remembered Solomon's temple with all of its grandeur. That was some temple. This, in comparison, is nothing. And Ezra says those old guys were weeping out loud so that you couldn't distinguish between the sound of joy and the sound of weeping. It was just a lot of confusion.
Speak now to Zorobabel, the son of Shealtiel, Governor of Judah, and to Joshua, the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people saying, who is left among you who saw the temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? In comparison with it, is this not, in your eyes, as nothing?
If you want to be miserable try going forward while looking backward. Now picture how frustrating it would be to run a race looking backward to see where everybody else is. You'd be going like that. You'd be weaving all over the track. You wouldn't make much progress. You have to focus and look ahead. That's why Paul, when he wrote to the Philippians, said forgetting those things which are behind and pressing forward to those things which are before. They were looking back to a time of greater glory and comparing these small, paltry beginnings of this temple with its meager foundations to all of the glory of Solomon's temple.
In God's work, we must always look ahead. But there is always a temptation and a tendency for us to compare where we're at with where maybe we used to be at, or with what it used to be like at one time. Oh, do you remember those days when God moved so powerfully? Well, I hope God is still moving powerfully in your life and you don't have to say that.
But we might look back to a period of church history. Oh, the days of Pentecost. Oh, the great revivals under Whitfield and Wesley, et cetera. Where are the Wesleys of today, we might say. Where are the Whitfields of today? What happens when Billy Graham passes? Who will be the next Billy Graham? Or when Chuck Smith goes to heaven-- I hope we all go in the rapture before that time-- but who would ever take-- where are the Chuck Smiths?
Well, maybe you're the next one. Maybe you're the next Billy Graham. Instead of always looking back, look ahead to the glorious future. Now the rabbis in the Babylonian Talmud tell us that there were five things missing in the temple of Zorobabel that were present in the temple of Solomon. One was the Ark of the Covenant. Second was the Shekinah glory of God. Third was the spirit of prophecy, that is, they call the Holy Spirit. A fourth was the holy fire. And fifth was the Urim and the Thummin, those two stones that the high priests used.
But whatever was lacking, what God says is, I'll be with you. You got me. I'll be present with you. My spirit will be with you. God promises that his blessing would be present. So Verse 4, yet now be strong, Zorobabel, says the Lord. And be strong, Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. And be strong, all of you people of the land, says the Lord, and work, for I am with you, says the Lord of Hosts, according to the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. So my spirit remains among you. Do not fear.
Ever notice how often in the Bible either God or God's messengers tell God's people not to fear? God told Moses, don't fear. I'll be with you. Just be my spokesman. Moses told the people of Israel, don't fear. God will be with you. We'll make it. God told Joshua Chapter 1, Joshua, don't fear. As I was with Moses I will be with you. Joshua Chapter 10, Joshua says to the people, don't fear. God will give you the land. It'll be distributed.
David said to his son Solomon, do not fear. Build this temple. God will be with you. And Paul the Apostle says, finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might.
Same idea. Be strong, don't be afraid, is a common refrain through the Scriptures. Now God can say this because notice what we just read. He says, for I am with you. Now understand that. It's not like God is saying, atta boy. You can do it. Run hard. I believe in you and I believe in human potential. The only reason God can say don't fear, be strong, is because God says, for I am with you. That makes all the difference. That's failure or success, the presence of God going with you.
Now the next four verses are distinctly messianic. Even the rabbis of old believed that. And it's a blending, I believe, of both the first and the second comings of Christ. For thus says the Lord of Hosts, once more it is a little while. I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and the dry land. Don't be afraid. Be strong. One day I'm going to shake this place, and I'm going to bring my kingdom as I shake loose all of the kingdoms of men and establish my kingdom. He's going to overturn the kingdoms of men and prepare the world to receive the Messiah.
Now this is the only verse in Haggai that is quoted as such in the New Testament, and it's found in the Book of Hebrews Chapter 12, Verse 26, as a reference relating to the end of the world, where God would shake this world in preparation for the ultimate rule of the Messiah. And I will shake the nations and they shall come to the desire of all nations. And I will fill this temple with glory, says the Lord of Hosts. The silver is mine, the gold is mine, says the Lord.
They were looking backwards. God is saying, stop looking backwards, look forward. You're complaining and moaning that this temple isn't what Solomon's temple was. Well, what it's going to be is going to be so awesome. That's where you ought to be thinking and looking. I'm going to shake this place.
They estimate that to replicate the temple of Solomon with the Holy of Holies, the holy place, all of the gold, all of the silver, all of the instrumentation for the Levitical choirs, all of the vestments for the priests, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, would be $174 billion to replicate all of the labor and materials over the time it was built. To replicate that would be huge.
Now the Lord says, the silver is mine, the gold is mine, says the Lord of Hosts. The glory of the latter temple will be greater than the former, says the Lord of Hosts. And in this place I will give peace, says the Lord of Hosts.
As I mentioned, almost every Jewish tradition, besides that of the Christian interpreters, refer this to the reign of the Messiah, that longing for the hero, the deliverer, one who will make everything right, everything just. Bring in the kingdom. So the best is yet to come, the Lord says of the temple.
Now the first temple, Solomon's temple, we are told, had visible presence of the Lord, the shekinah glory of God. Years later, Herod took the temple of Zorobabel and he enlarged it. He made it bigger, better, grander, more awesome than ever before. It was several years in building, over 30 years, almost 40, and it was never really completed before it was destroyed in 70 AD.
But that really wasn't the glory of it, what Herod did. Jesus Christ came to that temple, and the living God incarnate in human flesh walked through that temple, gracing it with his own presence. That in and of itself made the temple greater and more glorious as the king was there. But then we're told in Ezekiel Chapters 40 through 48, in great detail, of the millennial temple where the Messiah, Jesus Christ, will come back, rule and reign from Jerusalem, and preside over the temple. Then it will be really glorious. Then it will be awesome. And we'll see it.
And even if you've never been able to go to Israel in the past on a tour, you'll go. And it will be better than imaginable. And during that time, during the millennial temple, during the millennial reign of Christ, that's where this promise will be fulfilled. And in that place, Verse 9. I will give peace, and Jerusalem, [HEBREW], the City of Peace, the Place of Peace, will truly be peaceful.
It's not peaceful today. You go there, there's guns everywhere. There's attempts and suicide, homicide bombings relentlessly. But when the Prince of Peace comes, then the city, then the land will enjoy its peace, universal peace.
Now in Verse 10 is another message preached two months later. Verses 10 through 19. Here's another impediment to finishing the work of the Lord as outlined and seen by this little message. And that is, we could call it half-heartedness.
On the 24th day of the ninth month in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet saying, thus says the Lord of Hosts, now ask the priests concerning the law, saying, if one carries holy meat in the fold of his garment, and with the edge he touches bread or stew, wine or oil, or any food, will it become holy? The priest answered and said, no. You can't transmit ceremonial sanctity. You can't just touch something and have it holy because it has been already sanctified or set apart.
And Haggai said, if one who is unclean because of a dead body touches any of these, will it be unclean? So the priest answered and said, it shall be unclean. You get the idea. Impurity is more easily passed on than purity. Defilement comes easily. You can touch something and by Jewish law be defiled. But you can't take something holy and touch something else and make that holy. You can only make that which is holy defiled, though it's much easier to become impure than pure.
It's sort of like a healthy person. A healthy man can't make a sick child healthy by being close to it. But that sick child can transmit and communicate his disease to the healthy parent and get him sick. So moral cleanness can't be transmitted. But a moral uncleanness can.
Then Haggai answered and said, so is this people, and so is this nation before me, says the Lord, and so is every work of their hands and what they offer there is unclean.
You see, these people, though they were doing the actions and doing the work and decided, yeah, we're going to take up and finish this temple, they were still unclean in that their attitude wasn't changed. Their attitude toward the whole thing, that attitude of indifference, was still defiled. Thus everything they touched, everything they set their hands to, was also defiled.
It's not enough to just do the work of the Lord. You have to do it with clean hands and a pure heart. Your heart has to really be in it. God does look at the heart. God does sift through the motives. And so the Lord wants us to do His work and finish His will but He wants our heart to be in it, touched, changed. We're all about it, we're all there, not defiled at all. Yes, Lord, I'm yours. My heart is yours. Your work becomes my passion, my goal. He wants to change our hearts.
And to do it out of joy, not because, well, the prophet keeps haranguing that we got to finish this temple. Let's do it just so he'll stop. But rather a heart of joy. Don't you love to be around Christian workers who love to work? They're a joy to be around. None of this, I'm the only one left to do the work. Nobody else is like me. You know, being around some Christians is like witnessing an autopsy. Just oh, you know, please, if that's your attitude, don't even do it. It ought to be done with joy. This is the Lord's work. It's a privilege to do it. It's an honor to do it. The heart's in it.
Charles Spurgeon said, our happy God should be worshiped by a happy people. A cheerful people is in keeping with His nature. We should never look at volunteering or getting involved in service or being a part of fellowship as an obligation or a duty, but a privilege. It's a privilege to be here tonight. It's a privilege to study God's word. It's a privilege to worship with God's people. Happy God worshiped by happy people. It's interesting that the bars have happy hour. I think church ought to be happy hour, happy people worshipping their happy God.
And now, carefully consider from this day forward from before stone was laid upon stone in the temple of the Lord, since those days when one came to a heap of 20 [INAUDIBLE], there were but 10. When one came to the wine vat to draw out 50 baths from the press, there were but 20. Back to what we talked about in Chapter 1, less than enough.
I struck you with blight and mildew and hail and all the labors of your hands, yet you did not turn to me, says the Lord. Consider now, from this day forward, from the 24th day of the ninth month, from the day the foundations of the Lord's temple was laid, and consider it. Is the seed still in the barn? As yet the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, the olive tree have not yielded fruit. But from this day I will bless you.
It's as if while they're listening to Haggai bring this message, especially this final portion of being half-hearted, that their hearts get it and they start to change. Yes, I am going to make it a priority from my heart. And God says I'm going to bless you. I've been waiting for this. My hands have been loaded with blessings. I've just been waiting for your heart to be able and ready to receive them. Here goes.
Now Verses 22 through 23, these last few verses, is a message directed primarily, really singularly, to the governor himself, Zorobabel personally. It seems that Zorobabel needed some special encouragement to finish the work. He was the guy that was there trying to prompt the people to do it. He was God's messenger, his civil leader, while Joshua was the high priest, the spiritual leader. And it could be that he himself just got weary of this whole process and was caught up in unbelief. Is it really going to happen? Is it really possible? Is it really going to be the temple that God wants it to be? Am I going to be all that God wants me to be?
It could be that Zorobabel, in looking at the nations around him, these great and formidable and powerful entities, was wondering, is this small remnant of only 50,000 people going to be able to sustain ourselves in this land? Are we going to make it? So God has a special message for him.
By the way, Satan always wants to discourage God's people and often reserves his worst pointed attacks at God's leaders to get them to slow down, to get them to be discouraged. But God's going to say to Zorobabel, don't quit, man. I've chosen you. Don't give up.
And again, the word of the Lord came to Haggai on the 24th day of the month, saying-- so it's the same day as the previous message of 24th day of the ninth month-- speak to Zorobabel, Governor of Judah, saying, I will shake heaven and earth. I will overthrow the throne of the kingdoms. I will destroy the strength of the Gentile kingdoms. I will overthrow the chariots and those who ride in them. And the horses and their riders shall come down, every one, by the sword of his brother.
In that day, says the Lord of Hosts, I will take you, Zorobabel, my servant, the son of Shielteal, says the Lord, and I will make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you, says the Lord.
Now the signet ring was a ring that had a stone that was carved with an image of the one who bore it, the image of, in this case, the governor, the person in power. It became the signet or the signature of the person. The ring in a wax seal was his signature. Thus it was called the signet ring. It is always a symbol of authority for the one who bore it.
Now remembered Zorobabel was the grandson of Jehoiachin, a previous King of Judah. He was therefore in the Messianic line. And he'll read about him. His name appears in both of the genealogies in the New Testament both in Matthew and in the Gospel of Luke. Here the promise to Zorobabel, I believe, extends far beyond Zorobabel. And Zorobabel, as the prince, then stands for the Messiah, who will be the ruler of his people eternally. It stands for the Messianic line and the Messiah who is to come from the line of David.
One day the Messiah will come, like the signet ring of Zorobabel, with the authority of his Father, and shake all of the Gentile nations, all those that come against Israel, all those that foster an attack against Jerusalem, wipe them out, shake the earth, and establish His kingdom.
You remember the vision that Nebuchadnezzar had that Daniel interpreted, that polymetallic image of gold and silver and bronze and iron and iron and clay. And a stone that was not made with hands came out of heaven, careening to the earth, breaking the statue, disintegrating it in powder. And it grew to a mountain that covered the entire earth.
It was a prediction of the reign of the Messiah through the line of David, who will come with his father's authority and rule and reign over the earth forever and ever, principally the millennial earth for 1,000 years, and then the eternal kingdom.
So when Jesus comes again-- here's the bottom line-- all of the kingdoms of men will come to a screeching halt. That's good news. It's the day we're all praying for, thy kingdom come. When that beautiful announcement in Revelation, the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign forever.
So the book of Haggai. Here's the question. Here's the thing to ponder as you and I walk away from this. What thing, what work, what aspect of God's kingdom is God stirring up in you by his spirit to perform, to do, to finish?
Maybe you've gotten discouraged in it. I'll never amount to anything. I'll never be this or that, or-- God is able. And God says to you, be strong. Don't fear because I am with you.
You could say, well, Skip, I thought God was putting something on my heart, but I'm not sure. You know, I love that scripture in Psalm 37, delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. And some take that to mean if you delight in the Lord, he'll give you whatever your little heart desires.
I don't think it means that. I think it means as you delight in the Lord, He will give you the desires themselves, whatever the desire that God would give you to fulfill or finish an aspect of his work. God puts a desire in you to see something done. God has given you that desire. He has placed that desire in your heart. And if he places that desire in your heart, he aims to fulfill it.
Years ago I never had a desire to read the Bible. Then I got saved. God not only gave me a desire to read the Bible, but to read it a lot. And it never got old. I love to this day, it's my heart's joy, as it is yours, to understand His will from His word. There was a time when I never had any desire to be a pastor. If you would have told me early on as a boy, you're going to grow up and be a pastor, I would have said, blecchh.
I can't think of anything I'd rather do. It's a sheer joy because the Lord has given me those desires. And so the desires God has given you, let Him fuel that again. Watch what God can do.
Water, when taken to 211 degrees, is warm enough, hot enough to make coffee. But just one more degree can create steam to power a locomotive, a steam engine on a cruise ship across the seas. Just one more degree takes it from it's OK to something great. God wants to add that one degree. Bring you to 212, man, boiling, powerful, by his spirit stirring it in you.
Heavenly Father, the word of the Lord through Haggai the Prophet is the word of the Lord through Haggai to us. We are recipients of your truth tonight. We've heard it. We've been encouraged by it. Some who have been discouraged by your spirit are going to go from here to fulfill, to do, to finish, and to do it with joy. We pray for that, Lord. Rather than saying, poor me, I am the only one doing it, to do it out of sheer joy because you are the one inspiring, fueling, empowering. In Jesus' name, amen,
Let's stand. As they were building the temple, there were definitely mixed emotions. The older people that could remember Solomon's temple more or less weeping, while those that were just there to do the work and had not really known the glory of Solomon's temple, they were excited and happy.
But you've got to remember that there are just 50,000 people who returned, and that again, as Skip was saying, some were on welfare. Some were little children. The number that could actually do the work was not that large. Solomon had employed 150,000 people to build the temple. They would work in shifts. But you can imagine, here are the remnant that are returning, trying to build again the temple. But to duplicate or replicate the temple that Solomon had built would be a sheer impossibility.
But when we do for the Lord whatever we do, we need to do it our best. If we do our best, that's all that God requires of you. And oftentimes I think we get discouraged because as we look at our best, it's not that good. But God doesn't require any more than just my doing my best for Him. But that's when I want to be sure of that it is my best.
So as I've said, do your best and just commit the rest. Lord, that's best I can do, and the Lord accepts and will accept as you have done and as you do your best for him. Maybe some of these issues that Haggai dealt with as far as attitudes and as far as the procrastination and so forth, maybe there are issues that have kept you back from the work of the Lord, discouragements of one kind or another. And God is looking for you to just commit yourself in serving Him.
And as Skip pointed out so well, the answer is God's strength. I might feel inadequate, and I am inadequate. But the Lord has promised His strength, and that I must rely on.
The pastors are down here to minister to you tonight and to pray for you. And maybe it is that God is calling you to do some work, and you're sort of overwhelmed by what you feel God is challenging you to do. But with the commandment of the Lord there comes also the enabling of the Lord, and He will enable you to do whatever He is calling you to do. It is not, as you often have heard, the ability that God is seeking, but the availability.
And maybe you'd like to just make yourself available for the Lord. And who knows what God might have in mind for you? And there's only one way you'll ever find out, and that's just to make yourself available. And you'll discover what God has in mind for your life and for your future.
So maybe this is the night, January the 8th, 2006, that you'll look back on and say, that's the night that I went forward and I committed my life to whatever the Lord desired. And that was the beginning of the work of God in my life and through my life. And it will be an exciting thing to discover.
So we would encourage you, when we are dismissed, come on down and just make that availability of your life to do the work of God.
I will serve you because I love you. You have given life to me. I was nothing until you found me. You have given life to me. Heartaches, broken people, ruined lives are why you died on Calvary. Your touch is what I long for. You have given life to me.
God bless you.