Today: [Haggai 1] Connecting with the Purposes of God. Can your life be described at times as taking one step forward and two steps back? Do you feel that you just never quite come to the place of getting ahead financially or otherwise? The book of Haggai is a book that addresses a people who were struggling, as it were putting money in a bag with holes in it, not ever seeing enough of anything. Haggai by the word of the Lord brings a solution, if we have the heart to hear it.
[Hag 1:1-15 KJV] 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, 2 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. 3 Then came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying, 4 [Is it] time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house [lie] waste? 5 Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. 6 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. 7 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. 8 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. 9 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. 10 Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed [from] her fruit. 11 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. 12 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. 13 Then spake Haggai the LORD’S messenger in the LORD’S message unto the people, saying, I [am] with you, saith the LORD. 14 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, 15 In the four and twentieth day of the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king.
The book of Haggai is one of the five books of the Old Testament that were written after the defeat of the southern kingdom and the exile of her peoples to Babylon. The book of Haggai addresses a group of exiles who returned and were living in Jerusalem about 520 BC. The city was experiencing recovery to a degree, however the temple still lay in ruins. Haggai’s message is an exhortation that the people arise from complacency and resume the building of the temple as a service to God and fulfillment of their reason for being.
Verse 1 address Zerubbabel who was the appointed governor of Judah and grandson of king Jehoiachin. He was the leader of the first group of returning exiles. He received appointment over the province of what the Persians named “Yehud” from Cyrus in the first year of his reign. The prophet Daniel would have witnessed this return during his lifetime. Zerubbabel’s name means “a seed sown in Babylon” and being in the line of David, was an ancestor to Jesus after his natural lineage. Zerubabbel had a close relationship to Joshua the high priest at this time and the two of them served the returned exiled community and during their tenure the city of was much restored and eventually the foundation of the second temple, replacing Solomon’s ruined temple was laid through their efforts.
Haggai speaks to Zerubabbel according to verse 2 because the sentiment of the people was that it was not time to do any work on the Lord’s house, but rather emphasis of their efforts and expenditures were focused on rebuilding their homes and establishing their livelihoods. Here the question arises, as to what degree the larger purposes of God can lay claim on our lives. Haggai speaks against the fact that the people were living in completed homes but the house of the Lord was lying in waste and ruin. Because of this (v. 5) the people were experiencing what we would call runaway inflation because the blessing of God was not with them because of their skewed priorities. Haggai calls upon them (and upon us) to consider their ways:
- They sowed much but brought in little.
- They had food but not enough.
- They had clothing but were not warm.
- They earned wages, but not sufficient for their needs.
Haggai’s contention is that these problems of personal economy were not random in nature, but rather directly connected to an absence of facility in the lives of the people to commit their resources to the restoration of the destroyed temple. God wants us to be connected to His broader purposes. Man’s nature evidenced a need to be a part of something larger than himself. In Christianity we speak of the corporate purposes of God, which refers to those aspects of our faith that can only be walked out in relationship to a community of fellow believers, led by appointed representatives identified in Eph. 4 as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.
In our day, there has been a great de-emphasizing of the corporate church. 1000’s of Christians today have exited the organized, brick and mortar church and feel no need to connect locally or otherwise with the community of the redeemed in any substantive way. Churches in general have downsized their programs, mostly meeting only on Sunday morning, with only smaller specialized groups being facilitated throughout the week. The reasons for this are multitudinous, and in the eyes of many, quite justifiable, as in our day compared to 20 years ago statisticians tell us we are working on average many more hours than our parents were for significantly few adjusted dollars. In that situation, it would make sense if we saw that our limited time and dollars in the current day would lead to a diminishing of time and energy invested in the corporate body of Christ. However, Haggai addresses this saying that the reason why resources are limited among God’s people is because the purposes of God are marginalized in our culture. God always demands to come first no matter what, on His terms and not ours, and if we choose to yield to the pressures of life in contravention of God’s expectations upon us, then the downgrade of our resources and blessings becomes self-engendering, as declares the prophet to this ancient community and to us today.
While Haggai is clearly frustrated with the state of affairs among the people and their blasé attitude toward the larger purposes of God, he doesn’t belabor his denunciations. In verse 7 he simply calls upon the people to make the adjustments and begin to do what was necessary to commence the rebuilding for the temple. He reiterates in verse 9, that the neglect of the work of God not just on the part of the priesthood, but upon the rank and file among them, because they were willingly living lives disconnected from the broader purposes of God they “looked for much and it came to little…” In other words, these were the first-generation returnees from captivity. They had seen God move heaven and earth to bend the heart of the king of Persia to affect the rebuilding of their nation and the city of Jerusalem. They had big faith and had seen God do big things. There was no shortage of miracles, there was however a need for the priorities of the people to be drawn out of self-centeredness and one again invested in the corporate purposes of God.
Ask yourself the question, does the house the Lord lie waste in your life? If the broader purposes of God depended on your participation and investment of time, money, energy and resources, would the plan of God as respects the need for these things be moving forward?
It is common for us to encounter people who express deep scorn for the suggestion of any connection between the ongoing work of the ministry and the necessity of natural resources for getting it done. The most obscene false doctrine that has polluted the church for centuries is the curse of the vow of poverty, that suggests if the work of God is to go forward in purity that it cannot require anything other than the most meager of natural resources. The despicable character of this thinking comes wrapped in the grave clothes of deep false piety when in fact it has its origins in the very attitude that opened the door to Judas himself to be possessed of the devil and thereby betray the Lord. Make no mistake about it, the revulsion that many demonstrate toward funding the work of God originates in the very demonic presence that deluded Judas into betraying Jesus to the Sanhedrin and to crucifixion. For this reason, the prophet declares that drought conditions exists, crops are not yielding and new wine, oil and corn are not forthcoming.
In verse 12 Zerubbabel receives the word, along with Joshua the high priest and the whole of the remnant people who had returned to Jerusalem. They purposed to obey and followed through and the reason given is very telling – they feared the Lord. When messages like there are heard today, the reception of the word discerns two different groups, those who fear the Lord and those who do not. It was no doubt that all the people had a heart for God in some measure because they had all made the laborious effort to pull up roots in Babylon and make the arduous effort to relocate to a ruin city, with a destroyed temple in a land that had lay in waste for 70 years. They could have surmised that they had done their part and paid their dues but they didn’t. In v. 14 we read that the Lord stirred up the spirit of the leadership and the people to do what was necessary to do their part to see that the purposes of God in restoring the temple were established.
If you were to take this message to heart today, what would you do differently? Are you so leveraged in terms of time and financial resources in your personal life that you just don’t have anything to further contribute to the broader purposes of God? When the house of God, the corporate Christ is not resourced from your life, the downturn that comes is a self-engendering spiral of difficulty and lack. In the days of Elijah, the prophet required the widow to make him a little cake first – then the bounty came that enabled the widow and her son to survive a bitter famine in her land. The call is no different today. God give us the grace to examine ourselves and to distinguish ourselves by our actions and our sacrifices between those who fear God and those who do not.
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