- The Rebuke For Procrastination (verses 2-4)
- The Reaping Of Poverty (verses 5-6)
- The Reason For Poverty (verses 9-11)
- The Remedy For Poverty (verses 5,7,8)
- The Renewal Of Purpose (verses 12-15)
Turn with me to the book of Haggai, the book of Haggai and chapter 1. Haggai chapter 1 and let's read together the whole of this chapter, and if you have a pen and a bit of paper (you've been given a bit of paper, so you've no excuse -- you just need a pen now) take as many notes as you can. Because this little book, just like the book of Habakkuk, is packed full of information and it has amazed me as I have studied these books, and I hope it has amazed you, the relevancy of the minor prophets to our world today -- not just prophetically, but in everyday life, how relevant they really are. Haggai chapter 1, verse 1:
"In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, in the first day of the month, came the word of the Lord by Haggai the prophet unto Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, saying, Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the Lord's house should be built. Then came the word of the Lord by Haggai the prophet, saying, Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste? Now therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways. Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes. Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways. Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the Lord. Ye looked for much, and, lo it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the Lord of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house. Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit. And I called for a drought upon the land, and upon the mountains, and upon the corn, and upon the new wine, and upon the oil, and upon that which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men, and upon cattle, and upon all the labour of the hands. Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Josedech, 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 did fear before the Lord. Then spake Haggai the Lord's messenger in the Lord's message unto the people, saying, I am with you, saith the Lord. And the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and did work in the house of the Lord of hosts, their God, in the four and twentieth day of the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king."
Now bear with me at the beginning of our message this evening, because there's a lot of things that we need to fill in to understand the little book of Haggai. Some historical facts, some biographical facts about this man Haggai, some things to do with the date of when he prophesied. So listen to me, just for a moment, and it will pay off, I hope, that when we look at what the prophet is saying, we will understand it because of the background of what he is prophesying to.
Haggai is the tenth of the twelve minor prophets. He is a post-exilic prophet. If you look on the back of your hand-out, you see outlined there the pre-exilic, the exilic and the post-exilic prophets. Exilic was when the people, the children of Judah, were in exile in Babylon. Pre-exilic was before they were in exile, before they were taken away, remember Habakkuk -- he was a pre-exilic prophet. But this little prophet of Haggai is post-exilic, in other words, it's when these children of Judah have come out of the land of Babylon, out of their captivity, they're now free, they're now back in the city of Jerusalem in their own land -- and now Haggai is coming to them and prophesying, giving them a message. Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi all prophesy within the same period -- the last three books of the Old Testament come together, as it were, in time. They prophesied roughly 500 to 400 years before the Lord Jesus Christ came. They were the last men to speak before God spoke through his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Haggai prophesied in three months. Zechariah prophesied in three years. Do you know what that tells me? That God uses different men, with different gifts, in different places, over different periods of time, for different purposes. Praise God, that we're not all the same, God uses all of us, we are each unique, He doesn't want us to copy someone else -- He wants us to be ourselves, indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God and He will use us as sanctified personalities.
Haggai's name means 'festive' or 'festival'. Don't know why that is, in fact not only do we not know why that is, we don't know much about Haggai. Like Habakkuk, and like many of the minor prophets, we don't know much about his background. We don't know where he came from, we don't know his lineage, his family -- all we know is that he has come out with Zerubbabel, out of Babylon, out of the exile -- he has been delivered with those people and now as he stands before us in this little prophesy, he is now an old man. I nearly said he's now a grey-headed man, but there's some that are old and they're not grey-headed, and there's some that are grey-headed and they're not old. But he's here, and it is amazing to see that we have never heard about this man Haggai, never heard about him before, we don't hear about him after. He has been in exile for the 70 years, perhaps, that the children of Judah have been in exile in Babylon, and God has been preparing this man for now, in his old-age, he's grey-headed, he has all the best years, perhaps, as far as he can see it behind him, yet God is now ready to use His man, Haggai. So much of the older generation believe that it's now up to the younger generation to do the work of God. Not so with Haggai. God was preparing this man, it's like Moses was being prepared for all those years, God had a purpose, God had only three months for this man to minister, his whole life was being prepared for it -- but he was willing to fit into God's purpose, God's plan, if it only meant three months.
Rather than preaching, like the other minor prophets about compromise within society, within religion, within government or corruption within the whole of the globe of society -- this man Haggai is not talking about anything like that, but what he does prophesy about is complacency. I've called him 'The Prophet of Priorities'. There are four messages that Haggai has within his two chapters of a book. The first one begins in verse one of chapter one. And each message, each of the four messages, begin with the date of when they were given. Look at chapter one verse one, it says: "In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, in the first day of the month, came the word of the Lord by Haggai the prophet". Now in our day and age this date that's being given here is the equivalent of the 29th of August 520 BC, 29 August. Then if you turn to chapter two and verse one you see a second message to the people: "In the seventh month, in the one and twentieth day of the month, came the word of the Lord by the prophet Haggai, saying". That is the 17th of October 520 BC. Then the third message is found beginning at verse ten of chapter two: "In the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius came the word of the Lord by Haggai". December 18th 520 BC. And the fourth message begins in verse twenty of chapter two and it was given on the same day, the 18th of December 520 BC. So Haggai's whole message, his four sermons if you like, that were given to these people, were over a space of three months: August 29th, October 17th, December 18th 520 BC. Incidentally, when you go home, or maybe before you come back here next week, it would be great if you could read the book of Ezra. Because the book of Ezra is the whole historic background and context of what we are reading about in Haggai -- Ezra tells us of how the children of Judah came out of Babylon, how they got back to the land of Jerusalem.
Now let me give you a little bit of historical background about what has been happening here since we left Habakkuk. Of course we know that all the prophecies, all the prophecies that came through Habakkuk, they were going to come to pass. The Lord said 'I will work a work in your day', and God did work it. God told him, 'I'm going to raise up the Chaldeans, they're going to come in like a flood, they're going to take you all and take you captives, exile you to the land of Babylon'. Now we're here in Haggai, a post-exilic prophet, and Judah, the nation of Judah, has now returned from Babylon it's the year 536 BC, they have spent 70 years in captivity in Babylon. You remember that we learnt that the Babylonian Empire had been defeated by the Medo-Persian Empire, we found that in the book of Daniel. Remember Belshazzar in his drunken orgy, and all of a sudden God told him that his days were numbered, he was found wanting and then it says that this man Cyrus came in and he conquered the whole of that Empire. He took over, he became God's man. And when Cyrus came in, and when the Medo-Persian Empire was reigning, the Judean exiles were under the control of King Cyrus and King Cyrus allowed them to return from Babylon to Jerusalem, all 50,000 of the remnant. Are you with me so far? They come from Babylon back to Jerusalem. Cyrus was gracious enough towards them to let them begin to rebuild their temple. They began to rebuild the altar of offering, they put the foundations of the temple down, but the Jews didn't want those volunteers of the Samaritans that we read about in Ezra chapter three and four -- they didn't want the Samaritan's help. 'We're going to build our temple, we're going to build it ourselves and you mongrel Samaritans are not going to have anything to do with it.' Now because of that the Samaritans smarted. They wanted to be part of this temple, so they ran to King Cyrus, they told all sorts of lies about what was going on, they concocted plots. And what happened was, the building of this temple was delayed because of that action sixteen years. And for sixteen years the foundations of the temple became silted and overgrown with weeds, simply because the Judean children were discouraged because of the opposition of the Samaritans -- read about it in Ezra chapter 4. For sixteen years no work was done to the temple, all there were, were the foundations lying there.
Time passed, and eventually Cyrus died, his son committed suicide and then, after all that, Darius the first came into power. And when he came into rule, he found the decree of King Cyrus. What was his decree? His decree was that the children of Judah were allowed to come back from Babylon to Jerusalem, but also they were allowed to rebuild their temple. Darius the first found it again and because of that he paved the way so that the children of Judah could now begin again, after sixteen years, begin rebuilding their temple. But there was a problem -- because after these sixteen years the Jews had become apathetic. Sixteen years had gone by, they were discouraged and disappointed because they couldn't build it in the beginning because of the Samaritans, and now they had got themselves into this remorseful situation; where they were weighed down by all the negatives of the situation that they couldn't, even when they were permitted, bring themselves to rebuilding God's temple. So, in the second year of Darius, 520 BC, where we are now, Haggai began to prophesy. Within four weeks of this man opening his mouth, the work of God had begun in the temple. That's effective, now. Haggai opened his mouth, he told the message as we've seen in chapter one and verse thirteen -- God's message for God's man at God's time. He told it as God had told it to him, and eventually work had started, in four weeks, and eventually the temple had been erected.
If you want to know what type of temple it was, it was Zerubbabel's temple -- that's what it's known as -- it began the age, the temple age, of the second temple period. Now the temple doesn't seem to have been as extravagant and beautiful as Solomon's temple, it doesn't even seem to have had at this point the glory of God, or the Ark of the Covenant. But nevertheless, God's word, when it came at God's time, and more importantly when it was obeyed by God's people, had God's purpose in result.
The two key verses of this book, as you'll notice as we go through them, is verse 14 of chapter one: "And the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and did work in the house of the Lord of hosts, their God". The second key verse, chapter 2 and verse 9: "The glory of this latter house", the latter temple, "shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts". Now I want you to notice, before we get into studying verse by verse this first chapter, the timing of this prophet of Haggai. God's message, as I have said, comes in God's time and we have seen from verse thirteen that this was God's message, by God's messenger. Why had it come in God's time? Well as we look at this month, and this day in the month that we're reading, that this message was given: it was the sixth month, the month of Elul. Now that indicates to me, that the month before Elul was the month when the whole of Judah would have remembered the destruction of the temple before they went into Babylon. So temples were in their head, they were already thinking about temples, and in fact they possibly were mourning and smarting at the fact that 70 years previous, they had lost their prize possession, the place where they saw God dwelt, their temple. Secondly, the timing when this prophecy was given was significant because it was the first day of that month. And upon the first day of the month, it was almost like a Sabbath, it was a day of rest, it was a holy day, it was a day when they would worship God, but more than all that for our context, it was a day were the people came to listen to what the message of God was, through the prophet of God. So if you like, Haggai had a captive audience.
This is what we need today, friends. God had prepared the people for God's word. You need to be prepared for God's word, but the people that come into this place that don't even know God in Christ, they need to be prepared to hear it by the Spirit of God. That when the seed of the word is given, and thrown out, that it falls onto good ground -- only God can do that, and He only does it in answer to our prayers. What timing it was. And in verse one, let's look at it first of all, we see that this prophesy was directed to two people specifically, Zerubbabel and Joshua. Zerubbabel was the civil leader of Judah, he was the political head-man, Zerubbabel. Joshua was the high priest, he was the religious leader at the time. Why was this message given specifically to them? Well, if you look at the lineage of Zerubbabel you find that he was an heir to the King David, to the Davidic throne. And that means that Zerubbabel was in the Messianic line, he was related in lineage to the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Joshua, of course, was the high priest. He was important because he was the man that would lead God's people, hopefully, back to God. But why does He give them this message? Why does He not just ignore them, come straight to the people, say it as it is and deliver the message for the people, to the people directly? Do you know why? Because God knows, as He knows in any age, and in any church, that if He can ignite the vision of the leadership, it will inspire the people. What was it Wesley said? "If your pulpit is on fire, they'll come to watch you burn".
Let's look at the first point on your sheet, from verses two to four, 'The Rebuke for Procrastination'. Verses two to four: "Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the Lord's house should be built. Then came the word of the Lord by Haggai the prophet, saying, Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house", My house, "lies waste?" God, through Haggai, was bringing a message and God's message was a message of rebuke -- rebuke for procrastination. They were putting something off. How do we know that? What do they keep repeating? 'The time is not come, the time is not come, it's not right, the atmosphere, the environment just isn't right for this now, Lord. The time hasn't come.' And theoretically what they were saying to God is: 'Your time has not come'. And what a strong rebuke God gave the people. Why? Because of two reasons. The first reason for the procrastination was this: a prophetic misunderstanding. And secondly: a pre-occupying materialism.
Let's deal with the first one first of all: the prophetic misunderstanding. You see these repatriated Jews, the remnant of 50,000 that had come out of Babylon, as they came out, I believe that they accepted a situation with a fatalistic resignation. They believed, as they were in a prophetic sense, that they could do nothing about their situation and their predicament before God. They had a wrong reaction to prophecy. You see, if you were to go back into your Old Testament you would see that Jeremiah prophesied a 70 year period when there would be desolations in the city of Jerusalem, Jeremiah 25. Also Daniel, in Daniel 9:1&2, prophesied that there would be a period of 70 years desolations within Jerusalem -- Zechariah also, in chapter 1 and verse 12. And this remnant of 50,000 Jews that came out of Babylon they believed, mistakenly, that they were in that period. And therefore, if they were in that period, they could not rebuild the temple because the 70 year period had not elapsed, it hadn't run out. So they saw it, that if they began to put a brick upon a brick, to build this temple, they would be outside God's calendar and it paralysed them into a wrong attitude to prophecy. How do I know that? Chapter 1 and verse 2 spells it out, if you know the rest of the Scriptures as a background to it, they say 'Lord, the time is not come, the time that the Lord's house should be built' -- how would they know? Why would they say that to God? Simply because they believed that they had God's word on the thing, that the 70 years had not passed -- 'Lord, the time for it to happen hasn't come'.
It's interesting that God told them what they were thinking. You know the best message, and the best preaching that this world knows is when you're able to tell people what they're thinking. Remember the Lord Jesus Christ with the woman at the well in John chapter 4? And she said that she hadn't a husband, and He said, 'You've said well because you've had some already and the one that you're with, he isn't your husband'. And she looked into His eyes and she said, 'I perceive that Thou art a prophet!' Remember the cry? 'Come see a man that told me all that ever I did!' God was telling them what they were thinking, they were paralysed, they stood, they had given in to a feeling of hopelessness, they were in a hopeless inability -- all the effort they could see was for no use, they would have to wait until God's prophetic calendar had reached its destiny. And the result was within God's people a total indifference, and God's work was what suffered.
Was this not the attitude of the gruff old Dr. Ryland (sp?) of Northampton? When he reprimanded that young pioneer missionary William Carey, and he said to him: 'Young man, sit down, and when God pleases to convert the heathen He'll do it without your aid or mine'. This is the attitude of those who believe that it's pointless to hope for God in these last days to move, because no such thing is prophesied within the word of God. The word of God does not foresee a revival before the return of the Lord Jesus Christ -- so why should we pray for it now, why should we hope for it now? Let me ask you a question: was the Reformation prophesied? Was the 1859 revival prophesied within the word of God? The Welsh revival, the Scottish revival, European revivals, the revivals that are happening now in our world, are they prophesied? No! Of course they're not! So why should God prophesy one that will happen before Christ comes? This is the predicament that they got themselves in, and I wonder at times can we, as we know so much about prophecy, can we get into that situation -- where we're sitting waiting for the Lord to come, as we ought, but it has brought us into a paralysed inability to work for God, because we believe it's pointless. I can think of nothing worse to chill praying, to discourage preaching than to say that God can no longer move.
But secondly, not only was there a prophetic misunderstanding, but there was a pre-occupying materialism that we find in verse four. God replied to them, and answered, 'Is it time for you, if it's not time to build My temple, well then is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses and My house -- this house -- lie waste?' And God was pointing out three things to these people, first of all: your selfishness. He says, 'Think for a moment of the time, and the money, and the energy and enthusiasm that you spend on your own houses, cieled houses -- that means they were luxurious on their day, they may well even have had gardens on the roof -- look at the time that you spend on them, the time that you spend in them and here is My house, God's house -- the chiefest house of all -- and it lies waste!' I don't even need to apply that, do I? Secondly, God reprimanded them for their indifference. 'It's lying waste!' Now don't forget that they had been 70 years in captivity, and they didn't need a temple because they couldn't have a temple -- and when they come out of captivity they're indifferent to the need of it because they've been without it for so long. My friend, I wonder sometimes, when we, and when I in my personal life am without blessing for so long, I get used to it, I become indifferent to it -- so much so that I become unconscious to it!
Thirdly, there were their hostile neighbours, remember the Samaritans? And they gave opposition, and it wasn't particularly strong opposition -- the Jews had put up with bigger opposition in the past, but because they were downtrodden, because they were hopeless, because they had this misunderstanding of prophecy, they gave in at the first fight. Oh, let us not today do that. My friend, our God is as great as He ever has been. Our God can do as much as He ever had, let us not fall into a prophetic misunderstanding or be preoccupied with materialism. And the tragedy is this: that the people got into such a state, that you notice in that verse -- verse 2 -- that God does not call them 'My people', He says, 'this people...this people'. God gave them a rebuke for their procrastination.
But secondly, look at this: verse 5 and 6, there was 'The Reaping of Poverty'. And God said to them, "Now therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways. Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes." They were reaping nothing but absolute poverty. And what Haggai is saying here, and the Spirit of God is saying through him, that we are the ones who lose out, not God! We cannot rob God, and in the long run we are the ones who will suffer. So what God did was, He began to remove from them all their material possessions. First, verse six shows He hit agriculture. He says, 'You plant much, but you harvest little'. Secondly, He hit the economy. The economy in their day, from this verse we see, could not meet individual people's needs. And as the saying goes: 'My take-home pay will not take me home'. And that's what happened in that day: God robbed them of all that they had, and finally inflation was so much that the money that they put into their pockets -- it was as if they had holes in it, because it fell out through inflation.
This all, and I want you to note this, was direct from God. It was direct from the hand of God, God did it, and indeed God does it when men and women turn away from Him -- and certain things that come into their lives can be, not always are, but can be because they have turned their back upon God and His Christ. How do I know that? Well if we had time, we could look at Leviticus chapter 26 where Moses, way before Haggai, predicted in Leviticus 26 that this would happen -- I'll read it to you, verse 18: "And if ye will not yet for all this hearken unto me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins. And I will break the pride of your power; and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass: And your strength shall be spent in vain: for your land shall not yield her increase, neither shall the trees of the land yield their fruits". God prophesied it would happen if they disobeyed Him. Then again in Deuteronomy 28 and verse 38, God says, "Thou shalt carry much seed out into the field, and shalt gather but little in; for the locust shall consume it. Thou shalt plant vineyards, and dress them, but shalt neither drink of the wine, nor gather the grapes; for the worms shall eat them. Thou shalt have olive trees throughout all thy coasts, but thou shalt not anoint thyself with the oil; for thine olive shall cast his fruit". There is the law of the harvest within scripture and I've mentioned it so many times, and what you sow, you reap. But you see in the Old Testament, there is another law of the harvest and it's this: that if you sow something unworthily, you will never reap. That's part of the deal! And what was happening is, and I liken it spiritually [to] today, so much of the Gospel is preached, so much is going on, there is perhaps an explosion of the Gospel in our world, our Western world today that there has never been before -- but we sow so much, but we reap so little. That means that there's something wrong.
Thirdly, there was a 'Reason for their Poverty' and we see that in verses 9 to 11: "Ye looked for much, and, lo it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the Lord of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house. Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit. And I called for a drought upon the land, and upon the mountains, and upon the corn, and upon the new wine, and upon the oil, and upon that which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men, and upon cattle, and upon all the labour of the hands". There was a reason for the poverty -- God, by His own hand, verse 10, was holding back the rain. And in Palestine, as you would know, you need a lot of rain if you're going to have crops. And because, in verse 10, God was holding back the rain, verse 11 the result was that the crops failed. God was saying in verse 9, [that] 'If you don't take as much care over My house, God's house, as your own house I will blow all your prosperity, all your luxury, all your pleasure away'. God intervened in the life of Judah and there was an economic disaster. The people couldn't till the fields any longer, they toiled in the fields night after night, day after day but they got nothing for it, naught came. And God, today, to our world, to our generation and in a spiritual sense to the church of Jesus Christ still works like this -- 'You'll toil, you'll reap, you'll work, you'll sweat but you'll get little in return if you're not obedient'.
We mentioned last evening the BSE crisis, oh I wonder is the BSE crisis for the farmers in our land (and I do not despise them, because my father-in-law is one) -- but the farmers in our land, they've done so well for so long and many of them have taken their eyes off God and Christ. Is there a purpose to everything or are there just coincidences? Could it be? It is a law, isn't it? That it's when people are in their direst need that they're more likely to look up to Christ. They're more likely to come to God when they need something and when their physical need shouts out, like a loudhailer, to their spiritual need. What was it C. S. Lewis said? 'Pain is the megaphone of God'. Oh, there's been financial crises, the stock exchange has fallen, there may be the 'Millennium Bug' coming soon. But God is saying, 'I am God, and you are still my puny creature -- you are not infinite, you are not eternal, you will pass away, but My word and My being will never pass away, and don't forget it!' It says in verse 9, that they looked for much, and I wonder was that a type of description of faith. They looked for much and after they sowed they were expecting something to come back. They were looking for things to happen, but they were not willing to give the obedient cost to God that would necessitate the covenant, that when you give, God will give back to you. They weren't willing for the cost. We sow a lot, we expect a lot -- and that's good -- but friends if you're not willing to give everything, we will reap nothing.
Let's look fourthly at 'The Remedy for the Poverty'. There was a remedy for this poverty, it's found in verse 5, then it's found in verse 7 and then it's found again in verse 8. And what does God say, over again and again and again: 'Consider your ways! Consider your ways! Consider your ways!' This is all down to one thing, there is one reason it's quite easy to understand -- but it may be extremely difficult for you or I, or the Judeans to implement -- that all this was because of their lack of obedience. A brother was even saying to me today that the Christian life can be summed up in that line of a hymn, it's as simple as this but it's as difficult: 'Trust and obey, for there's no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey'. And in verse 7 God, we see, was speaking a second time: "Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways.", and I believe that God, through His word, in these days is speaking to certain people and He is working in some of our lives and He is telling us to consider our ways, to reflect upon our priorities, to readjust our lives and face to God's will. And if we don't listen, if we don't listen -- there will be dire consequences. God is not obliged to speak once, let alone speak twice.
My friend, if God is speaking to you about your heart, about personal revival in your life and giving everything to your God, and serving Him, and seeing His Spirit being manifest in your daily walk and with those around you -- listen to Him, listen: consider your ways! Do something about it! Repent Christian or non-Christian alike of your sins, have done with it, forsake them, lay down those things that so easily beset you -- that you can run the race, so that you can win the prize, don't forfeit it for this life! What was it our blessed Lord Jesus Christ said? Matthew chapter 6 and verse 33, 'Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you'. But if you don't follow, child of God if you don't follow after that, Haggai teaches that even those things, if we try and add them to ourselves, by ourselves, they could all be taken away in a flash.
But fifthly there was 'The Renewal of Purpose'. The renewal of purpose found in verses 12 to 15, "Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people" -- Look! Underline this! -- "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 did fear before the Lord. Then spake Haggai the Lord's messenger in the Lord's message", and that's what we need today, "unto the people, saying, I am with you, saith the Lord. And the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant", all 50,000 of these children of Judah, "and they came and did work in the house of the Lord of hosts, their God". There was a renewal of the purpose. And the people responded to God's word, we need to respond to God's word -- not just listen to it, not just hide it in our heads, but like Mary, hide it in our hearts and work upon it, act upon it. It says in verse 13 that they obeyed the voice of the Lord, and let me say this: don't think that was easy for them. Because they had just come out of 70 years into captivity, they had spent the last 16 years despondent -- and maybe you're here and in your Christian life, you've spent a sum of that despondent yourself. But can I say this: they spent 16 years in spiritual lukewarmness, but it took them only four weeks to get up and to get started. Don't you believe the lie of the devil that you'll need to be more spiritual, and it's going to take weeks, it's going to take months. Don't get me wrong, spiritual growth does take time, maturity does take time: but the devil would love you to know that you can't do it -- but the Spirit of God can do anything! And in four weeks they had began work on this temple, because the cry of Satan to their hearts and minds was this: 'The time hasn't come'. Don't believe a word of it. My friend, if God has been speaking to you about prayer, the time has come to start praying -- I mean start praying now. If God has spoken to you about spreading the Gospel, don't wait till you feel you're able to do it, don't wait till you do a course on it -- the time is now. If God is speaking to us about our need in this fellowship for prayer and for seeking the face of God for blessing -- the time is now! For let's face it, how long have we got? And if we tell those that are unsaved, 'Now's the day of salvation, now is the accepted time', are we not hypocrites when it comes to the sanctified life before God when we say, 'Tomorrow will do'.
Oh, they had the renewed purpose, but I don't want you to miss this fact: that God told them of His assurance first of all. Because in verse 12, I beg your pardon, verse 13 God says this to them: 'I am with you'. He was with them, even at that moment in time, He was saying, 'I am with you, but you've got to act upon My presence in your life, or nothing will happen'. So it's not enough simply to be saved, it's enough to get you to heaven, but it's not enough to please God. You've got to be saved and act, and the word of God says, 'Work out your salvation day by day'.
Oh, these words are beautiful. We find them throughout the whole of the scripture. God said them to Isaac and to Jacob in Genesis 26 and 28. God said it to Moses just before he was going to deliver Israel in Exodus 4, 'I am with you'. God said it to Joshua as he was about to go into the land, the promised land of Canaan, 'I am with you, Joshua'. He told Jeremiah as a child, when He called him to be a prophet to the nations, 'Jeremiah, I am with you'. He told it to Israel through their times of trouble in Isaiah chapter 43 He said, 'I will be with you'. He said to the disciples in the Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate God, when He told them, 'Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel and I will be with you'. To Paul He said, as he went to Corinth not knowing what he was going to face, He said, 'Paul, I am with you'. And God says to His church, and to His child that is hurting today, and to the child that wants to do something for God -- 'Go and do it and I am with you!'
It says that the Lord stirred Zerubbabel, Joshua and all the people and you know what that tells me, quickly: first of all this, that the leadership was stirred from indifference to obey God's voice -- and someone said this: 'A people can only rise as high as the leadership is willing to take them'. Secondly, they weren't just stirred for a minute, not just an emotional experience in a meeting but something that changed their lives and made them able to persevere in the work of God till the temple was built. They came, thirdly, and did the work, they acted upon what God had told them, they obeyed -- and that means for all of us here this evening, there is something for us to do! And on the 21st of December 520 BC the work began on the temple. And Judah responded and in a very short time, even though they had been asleep for 16 years they considered their ways, they obeyed God. And do you know what it says? To all the children of God, to forget about the wasted years and get up and break-up the fallow ground and seek the face of God -- 'I will restore the years that the locusts have eaten'. Judah had to rethink its priorities. The temple of God today is the church of the living God -- let me ask you as we close: how much building is going on?
Our Father, help us in these days not to be weary in well-doing. Help us not to faint, for we will reap in due season if we faint not. But Lord, help us as we sow and as we labour and as we work to always know, and be assured that within our lives that we are in full obedience to Christ. Otherwise, Lord, the tragedy will be that we will sow and we will bring in little. But Lord, may [it be as] it was in Haggai's day, that the glory of the latter house may be greater than that of the former. Lord give us a hope, that the best down here is yet to come. Bless us now as we part, for Christ's sake, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the first tape in his Haggai series, titled "Build God's House" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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