Keeping God's Work Alive Haggai 2a
Stephen Caswell © 2005
Two weeks ago we looked at Haggai chapter one. We saw how God challenged the people to consider their ways. They had neglected God’s house and God’s work. They were so busy building expensive homes and making money that God’s house lay in ruins. They had forgotten the Lord their God. So God commanded them to consider their ways. Praise God they heeded His Word and considered their ways. They got back to work on the temple. In chapter 2, Haggai the prophet encourages them to keep the work going. This morning we will see 3 things; Consolation, Confession & Coronation.
2:1-3: In the seventh month, on the twenty-first of the month, the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet, saying: Speak now to Zerubbabel 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 this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? In comparison with it, is this not in your eyes as nothing?
The Good Old Days
O how we love to remember the good old days; The Glory Days. The time when we were younger and life was slower. When QLD always won the state of origin matches. Remember the time when we laughed more and cried less. Remember the time when our relationship with God was closer. The time when we loved Christ above all else. Remember when we spent more time with our friends and less time working. O that those days were here again. To think of those days discourages us because we’ve lost them.
The people of Israel were discouraged too. They had started building the temple again. Although work was well under way, discouragement had crept in. Why? Because some of the older folk remembered the glory of the first temple. Solomon’s Temple was magnificent. In comparison their building seemed so poor and worthless. The questions Haggai asks are essentially rhetorical, causing the people to face openly the fact that their temple was not going to be as splendid as Solomon’s. Haggai made the people admit their disappointments. The good old days were gone. Yet this was still God’s house, built according to God’s plan and for His glory. Ezra describes this time as well.
Ezra 3:11-13: And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord: For He is good, For His mercy endures forever toward Israel. Then all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. But many of the priests and Levites and heads of the fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this temple was laid before their eyes. Yet many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people, for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the sound was heard afar off.
What about us? Are we discouraged? Our Church isn’t as big as it once was. Many of our ministries have ceased. Many of our close friends have moved on in the last 10 or 15 years. Many of the blessings we enjoyed a decade ago have gone. It’s hard to accept these losses. In fact it’s very easy to become discouraged when we see that the glory days of yesteryear are gone. To deny these facts doesn’t help us. We must face the truth squarely if we want to learn from it; if we want to move forward again. God knew what the people were thinking and brought it all out into the open.
Haggai 2:4a: Yet now be strong, Zerubbabel, says the Lord; and be strong, Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; and be strong, all you people of the land, says the Lord, and work;
God commanded the people to keep working. People who are discouraged need a word from the Lord. So God encouraged His people with some wonderful promises. He commanded them to be strong and do His work. The leaders must be strong and so too the people. God’s work needs devotion and loyalty if it is to succeed. When God commanded Joshua to lead Israel into Canaan, He told Joshua to be strong 3 times. David gave Solomon a similar command before he built the first temple. God’s work is not for the weak or the fearful. It requires strength and faith to overcome our adversary. Eph 6:10: Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.
1. God’s Presence
Haggai 2:4b-5: 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!
Why should they be strong? They could be strong because God was with them. Because God’s people had obeyed the Lord, He was with them. The Lord of Hosts was in their midst. The God who commands the armies of heaven was watching over them. If God is for us, who can be against us? This temple was nothing in comparison to what Solomon had built but that didn’t matter. The important thing is that this was God’s work and they could depend on Him to help finish it. At the same time, Zechariah encouraged the people to rebuild. 4:6: So he answered and said to me: This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, Says the Lord of hosts.
God remembered the covenant that He had made with Israel when He brought them out of Egypt. The Lord would be faithful. Whilst Israel obeyed the Lord, He would bless them. Since God was with Israel they should be strong and do His work. They must not fear because Almighty God was watching over them. Hebrews 13:5b-6: For He Himself has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you. So we may boldly say: The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me? Fear paralyzes people and keeps us from doing what we should. God doesn’t want us to be weak or afraid. He wants us to be people of faith and power through His Spirit. If we serve the Lord He will be with us!
2. God’s Promise
Haggai 2:6-7: For thus says the Lord of hosts: Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; and I will shake all 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 elders of Israel remembered how glorious Solomon’s temple was. Yet if the people finished this second temple God would be glorified in it. Haggai 1:8 tells us this. Now God had a promise for Israel. He would fill this new house with glory. How? The Messiah would come to this temple and many would seek Him there. The Desire of all Nations is a Messianic title. The Lord Jesus Christ did minister in this temple. He taught the people who flocked to hear Him. Simeon called Jesus the Glory of Israel. What greater glory could the temple enjoy than having the Son of God come to minister in it? If we faithfully serve the Lord He will be with us. He will also bring His glory into our Church.
3. God’s Provision
Haggai 2:8-9: The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine, says the Lord of hosts. The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, says the Lord of hosts.
The building that the remnant was constructing might seem insignificant, but it wasn’t to God. The people might have been poor and unable to beautify it. Yet the Lord owns the cattle on a thousand hills and the wealth in every mine. The Lord would provide the wealth required to make His house glorious. He owned the silver and the gold. The grant from the Persian King to rebuild the temple was limited; but God’s reserves aren’t.
The Lord promised to make this house more glorious than Solomon’s. King Herod undertook a renovation program that took 46 years to complete. He beautified this temple with silver, gold and precious stones. The Lord’s promise was faithfully fulfilled.
This Is My Church
This is my Church. It is composed of people just like me. It will be friendly if I am. It will do a great work if I work. It will make generous gifts to meet needs if I am generous. It will bring others into its fellowship if I bring them. Its seats will be filled if I fill them. It will be a church of loyalty and love, of faith and service. If I who make it what it is, am filled with these, Therefore, with God’s help, I dedicate myself to the task of being all these things I want my Church to be. Expecting Church to be what we’re not is hypocrisy.
When we remember the glory days of the past, it’s easy to become discouraged. Let’s be honest; past blessings are gone. Yet God says to us; be strong and work for I am with you. Don’t be afraid My Spirit is with you. If God’s with us, can we fail? If we faithfully do the Lord’s work, He will bless us again. Maybe there will be more glory than before.
Haggai 2:11-14: 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? Then the priests answered and said, No. And Haggai said, If one who is unclean because of a dead body touches any of these, will it be unclean? So the priests answered and said, it shall be unclean. 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.
In these verses God says a couple of important things to the remnant. Haggai spoke to the people in the presence of the priests because they knew the Law. Firstly, righteousness is not transferable. The meat offered to God was consecrated or holy. However this holiness couldn’t be transferred to something else that it touched. The priests confirmed this to Haggai. Secondly, uncleanness or sin is transferable. If a Jew touched a dead body he became unclean. Furthermore anything he touched also became unclean. The priests again confirmed this. Haggai then applied these laws to the people.
Israel had continued to offer their sacrifices to God even though they had left His house in ruins. The offerings that the people brought could not make the givers holy. On the other hand the offerings and sacrifices that the people brought to the Lord were in fact defiled. How? Because the hands presenting them were not clean. The Lord said that the remnant’s behavior had defiled what they offered to Him. The people’s sin could not be atoned for by an offering! Samuel told Saul that to obey is better than to sacrifice and to heed is better than the fat of rams. Put plainly, disobedience makes our worship unacceptable to God. Nothing but repentance can atone for our disobedience.
The remnant had neglected God’s work and God’s house. At the same time they were running to their own homes and seeking their own prosperity. God saw this and rejected their worship because it wasn’t sincere. 2 Weeks ago we looked at chapter one. We saw that the temple today is God’s people. We are living stones joined together to form a dwelling place for God. Yet on any given Sunday about half the temple is missing. Where are these missing stones? Running to their own homes. Some are working, others are socializing and some are playing sport. What does God think about this? Does He care about our lack of devotion and love? Absolutely! God sees all. He knows the circumstances behind our absence from Church.
Haggai 2:15-17: 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 twenty ephahs, there were but ten; when one came to the wine vat to draw out fifty baths from the press, there were but twenty. I struck you with blight and mildew and hail in all the labors of your hands; yet you did not turn to Me, says the Lord.
God won’t allow His people to sin successfully. If we disobey Him, He chastens us. Romans 2:4: Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? Hebrews 12:5b-6: My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.
Punishment Is Necessary
Parents who love their children know that there are times when we have to punish them. We do this so that they will obey us. We do it for their own good. Punishment is an important part of child training. Love motivates us to discipline our children. We want them to grow up to be obedient and responsible adults.
In Haggai’s day the Lord removed His blessing from their crops. He brought a drought upon the people. He withheld the rain and the dew from heaven. God sent blight, mildew and hail to devastate their crops. The Lord took His blessing off the works of their hands. As a result they were 50% to 60% down on their produce of grain and wine. As we saw in chapter 1 they worked hard for nothing. God warned Israel that this would happen in Deuteronomy 28 where He spoke of blessings and curses. Obedience brings God’s blessings and disobedience brings God’s curse. Israel had disobeyed the Lord and were suffering His chastening. God did this to bring them to repentance. So that they would love and obey Him again. They wouldn’t repent when things were going well for them.
What about us? Have we neglected the Lord’s house and His work? Are we running to our own homes? Why is our giving is down? Are we working on Sundays? Is God’s house lying in ruins because so many are away? Is His work here floundering because we are too busy building our own homes? Does God want us to work ourselves to death? Absolutely not! I believe the drought that we are experiencing is God’s chastening. He’s calling us to repent. I believe that the drought will continue till we repent. I don’t believe the creek is going to flow until we repent and love the Lord again. We must stop working on His day. You might say this applies to Israel; We live under grace not law.
Matthew 6:31-33 addresses this: Therefore do not worry, saying, what shall we eat? or what shall we drink? or what shall we wear? For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
c. Confession, Cleansing & Comfort
Haggai 2:18-19: Consider now from this day forward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, from the day that the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid — consider it: Is the seed still in the barn? As yet the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have not yielded fruit. But from this day I will bless you.
Praise God, the people considered their ways and repented. They got right with God and got back to work on His house. Confession and cleansing will always bring comfort from the Lord. Repentance is the pathway to blessing for those who backslide. God reminded them of their grim situation. They had no food in store. The fruit trees weren’t yielding fruit and they suffered from hunger. We read this in Haggai 1:6 and 9. Now the Lord promised to bless them. From this day on He would meet their needs. He would prosper their work. Their lives would be a delight once more.
Deuteronomy 28:1-6: Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the Lord your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the Lord your God: Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country. Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, the produce of your ground and the increase of your herds, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out. God’s blessings go on for another 8 verses.
If we want to enjoy God’s blessings we must obey Him. The Lord will not reward disobedience. It is better to obey than to sacrifice. If we love the Lord we will keep His commandments. This will require faith. There will be times when it will seem wise to work on Sunday. Yet we must not do it. Sunday belongs to God. We must trust God to provide for us. Let us honor the Lord and remember His day. Let us make a commitment or covenant to the Lord now, that we will not work on Sunday. Let us offer up our service for the kingdom. Let us bring our tithes and offerings into God’s storehouse. We can’t expect God to bless us if we rob Him of all these things. And most importantly of all let us love the Lord with all of our being. This will enable us to keep working for our Lord.
Haggai 2:20-22: And again the word of the Lord came to Haggai on the twenty-fourth day of the month, saying, Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying: I will shake heaven and earth. I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms; I will destroy the strength of the Gentile kingdoms. I will overthrow the chariots and those who ride in them; The horses and their riders shall come down, Every one by the sword of his brother.
After the remnant of Israel returned to Judah they were subject to the Persians. Judah was part of the Persian Empire. They no longer enjoyed the freedom of self government. A Gentile king ruled over God’s people. He exacted taxes from them. The Lord encouraged Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah who was a descendant of King David. The Lord said that the day was coming when He would shake the world.
At that time, God overthrow the Gentile Kingdoms and establish a righteous kingdom. The Lord will execute judgment upon the nations who oppressed His people. God would be King and Israel would be subject to him.
Haggai 2:23: In that day, says the Lord of hosts, I will take you, Zerubbabel My servant, the son of Shealtiel, says the Lord, and will make you like a signet ring; for I have chosen you, says the Lord of hosts.
Because Zerubbabel had faithfully served the Lord, God would reward Him. The signet ring was used by kings to seal official documents. It was worn on the Kings right hand. The day is coming when God will reward this faithful servant and exalt Him to a prominent position in His kingdom. Being a servant of the Persian King, Zerubbabel didn’t receive the honor He was worthy of. Nevertheless he honored the Lord by serving God’s people with devotion. One day God will set the record straight. Zerubbabel will be glorified before all. He will be honored because He faithfully served God.
Today, the Church is often persecuted by the world. Christians are martyred and maligned constantly. Nevertheless God’s Judgment Day is approaching quickly. Then the Lord will punish His enemies and reward His servants. Faithful service will not be forgotten. God will reward every deed done for the kingdom. Faithful servants will reign with Christ. Crowns will be given to those who are worthy. Therefore, let us persevere to the end. Christ is coming soon. Let us keep God’s work alive and growing. God is with us!
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24: Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.