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We begin a new series this morning in a book that probably few people have spent much time reading or studying. I think it’s very timely considering the life of C4 and where I believe the Lord is leading us. I pray our eyes would be opened and we would understand how this applies to us today.
There was an incredible sense of discouragement among the people of Judah. A remnant had returned to Jerusalem after the 70 years of exile, and it was a really small bunch of people considering how many had been taken captive. The Jews were in Babylon and a lot of them were reluctant to leave. Babylon had become their homeland. The Babylonians had allowed the Jews to establish businesses and homes and they had raised their children there, life was good. Who would want to leave? A small group – a remnant – had returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. What had started out enthusiastically soon became discouraging. Excitement over the temple rebuilding was lost and God’s house remained incomplete. For 16 years, this is how the temple was until 520 B.C. when the word of the Lord came to the prophet Haggai.
I hope you’ll take time to get your Bible and turn to Haggai 1:1-15.
The chronological time of this message dates to the end of August or beginning of September 520 B.C. Even though Haggai’s message is nearly 2500 years old, it is as if he is writing today. The message is given to the two leaders of Judah. Zerubbabel was the governor – the civil leader. Joshua was the high priest – the religious leader.
Haggai doesn’t beat around the bush with any kind of preliminary pleasantries. Is it time? He tells the leaders that, “This people says, ‘The time has not come, even for the house of the Lord to be rebuilt.’” Remember the temple of the Lord has sat neglected for 16 years. No one disputed the fact that the temple needed to be rebuilt, it’s just the timing is not quite right and the people were confident of that: “This people say, The time has not yet come.”Hebrew scholars tell us that the verb “say” indicates this was something the people said often as an excuse for their inactivity. We’ll do it later, we’ll do it tomorrow.
But it’s not just that the temple is in ruins, look at v. 4. The word house in v. 2 and v. 4 is the same Hebrew word meaning dwelling. In other words, the house where you live is looking sweet, but and the house where God lives is desolate. That word means bleak and empty. So what to do?
Think about this. There is economic hardship in the land. Look at the five things Haggai says is going on. Look at vs. 5-6. Even though they’ve planted a bunch of crops, they’re not getting much in the way of harvest. Since the harvest isn’t so good, there’s not much food to satisfy their hunger. There’s not enough to drink to quench their thirst. The word drunk here means satisfy fully. They just can’t keep warm with the clothes they have. For the people that do work, it seems like they just put their money into a pocket full of holes where it disappears. The people have got to be thinking, “How in the world can we afford to rebuild the temple when we can’t even afford to take care of our families?” Many today would ask the same question, “How can I afford to sow into the work of the Lord, when I’m having trouble making ends meet?” I cannot afford to tithe or give.
In v. 7, the Lord says, “Consider your ways.” Haggai doesn’t stop there. Look at vs. 8-11. The real call is to evaluate your priorities. Have you ever thought that perhaps your current economic situation is a result of misplaced priorities? The people of Haggai’s time sure didn’t. They were content to hang out in their paneled houses all the while neglecting God’s house. In other words, they were more concerned about how their own houses looked. Their priorities were messed up.
The parallel to today is striking. We say the same thing the remnant said, “It’s not time yet.” I’ll give when I can afford it. I’ll serve the Lord when I have more time. We focus more on what we don’t have than on what God can do. It all boils down to two things: time and money. Those two things are a result of the priorities of the heart.
It is the hope that at some point in our walk with the Lord, that we will get it; when we really understand. For some people, that moment comes later, for some people, it may not come at all. Look at v. 12-13. The people got it. They had that “aha” moment. They obeyed the voice of the Lord, and the words of the prophet. The result? Haggai sums it up with this statement, “I am with you declares the Lord.” Do not underestimate the power of obedience. All of our Christian disciplines fall under the umbrella of obedience: fellowship, baptism, giving, prayer, evangelism, etc. 1 Sam. 15:22 says, “It is better to obey than sacrifice.” The Lord was with them because they obeyed. Of course, we can take that to a legalistic end. I don’t want to do that and neither does God. We obey because we know that His plans are always best for us. We must learn to obey as Jesus did and trust in the Lord. Nobody said it would be easy.
Look at what happens in vs. 14-15. Being in God’s will leads to an excitement; a desire to fulfill His desires and not your own. You may not know where you’re going, but it’s exciting to be on that journey.
So what’s that mean to us today? Don’t expect the Lord to be with you and bless you in your disobedience. If you don’t think things are going well for you, consider your ways. He has given us a mission and we must be obedient.