Last time we had a look at the historical background to the book of Haggai [P] – it is essential to do so because the message relates very much to the situation that was going on. You recall that because of their obdurate idolatry Judah had been exiled to Babylonia. Then יְהוָה, fulfilling His word, caused the Persian Cyrus to conquer Babylon and decree that the Jews were to return to the land and rebuild the temple [P]. It was the godly who returned and they were keen to re-establish the worship of יְהוָה. They wasted no time in rebuilding the altar and offering up the regular sacrifices that the Law decreed. It was not long before they started rebuilding the temple and they soon had the foundations laid. But there was opposition and political pressure and they were forced to halt the work on building the temple. But time had moved on – sixteen years had passed and still they had not got back to rebuilding the temple. They had been distracted from the work they should have been doing. Now a new emperor was on the throne, Darius; and still nothing was being done. They were taken up with building their own homes. They were working hard on their own estates but not getting very far – they were meeting frustration at every turn. There was drought and the harvest had failed. But as we saw last time, יְהוָה is in control of history – it was His doing. He was seeking to get His people’s attention. Haggai came with a prophecy to interpret what was taking place [P] – give the reason for the frustration, tell the people what יְהוָה was saying. He delivered five messages over a period of just under 4 months – a short ministry but an effective and significant one. His first message from יְהוָה was delivered on the first day of the sixth month of the second year of Darius’ reign – it was a message of rebuke [P] – let’s look at that first message: [read Haggai 1:1-11 In the second year of Darius the king, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of יְהוָה came by the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, saying, “Thus says יְהוָה of armies, ‘This people says, “The time has not come, even the time for the house of יְהוָה to be rebuilt.” ’ ” Then the word of יְהוָה came by Haggai the prophet, saying, “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your panelled houses while this house lies desolate?” Now therefore, thus says יְהוָה of armies, “Consider your ways! “You have sown much, but harvest little; you eat, but there is not enough to be satisfied; you drink, but there is not enough to become drunk; you put on clothing, but no one is warm enough; and he who earns, earns wages to put into a purse with holes.” Thus says יְהוָה of armies, “Consider your ways! “Go up to the mountains, bring wood and rebuild the temple, that I may be pleased with it and be glorified,” says יְהוָה. “You look for much, but behold, it comes to little; when you bring it home, I blow it away. Why?” declares יְהוָה of armies, “Because of My house which lies desolate, while each of you runs to his own house. “Therefore, because of you the sky has withheld its dew and the earth has withheld its produce. “I called for a drought on the land, on the mountains, on the grain, on the new wine, on the oil, on what the ground produces, on men, on cattle, and on all the labour of your hands.”]
Here we are; יְהוָה speaks! It doesn’t come out in translation, but this fact is emphasized. Why? – because man had spoken [P], and יְהוָה knew what they were saying. They were saying that it wasn’t time to rebuild the house of יְהוָה, the temple. They had come up with an excuse (and we are very good at it) – they had come up a way of calculating the years of exile so that they 70 years were not yet up – it depended upon which deportation you calculated from. And we can come up with legal niceties to justify our actions or lack of them. Everybody agreed now was not the time to rebuild. We take great note of what the people say – we call it “democracy”. I was never very good at French at school but I remember a phrase from a dialogue we had to learn: "que c’que c’est le plupart dit") – “What does the majority say?” Isn’t that how we are governed? We deem that the majority opinion is right – but we ignore what God says. What man says is predicated on selfishness – his own plans, looking after his own interests – building for himself house. יְהוָה knows what man says – but what man says is WRONG! The "plupart", the people, the majority are wrong! Our problem is that we heed what the people are saying, not what יְהוָה says. Man had spoken – but יְהוָה had spoken otherwise!! [P] Man has his ideas, his plans, his theories – but what God says is different! Man says "look after yourself, build your own house, it isn’t the right time to build the LORD’s house" but יְהוָה says: [Matthew 6:33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.] – build His temple (the church) first. Man puts things back to front – his priorities are wrong! He puts man first whereas יְהוָה says put the LORD first. Whose voice am I heeding? – that of the people (look after self first) or that of יְהוָה?: [cf. Luke 9:23-24 And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.] We know the words of Jesus – but do we live them?! The people had spoken, given their opinion but now יְהוָה speaks! [Hag 1:3, 5] Enough of the ideas and plans of man! Listen to what יְהוָה says! His prophet declares His word – a word that nullifies the futile things the people say. cutting across their opinions, priorities, values and activity. Hallelujah! What does He say? “Consider your ways!” [P] He says is twice! [Hag 1:5, 7]. Repeats Himself to make sure they get the message. The people said that it was not time to build the temple, but יְהוָה said was it time to be sitting back in self-indulgent luxury? He tells them "to consider their ways" ["set your hearts on your ways"] – have a close look at what you are doing, examine yourself – what does it reveal about where your heart is? Your priorities determine your actions. "And now, thus says יְהוָה of armies, consider your ways" – take them to heart, lay it to heart. יְהוָה was acting through their circumstances, seeking to get their attention, turn them back to the right path. Their attitude was reaping consequences (they were actually failing to reap – cf. Hag 1:6). Things were not going well, they weren’t prospering; they were working hard only to be frustrated. They were to lay it to heart – what was happening was the result of their ways – they were going the wrong way! The consequence was futility, frustration and lack – the blessing of יְהוָה was absent. Why? Because they had sought their own ends, not the things of יְהוָה. It is good to take stock and consider our ways – am I going my own way, or am I walking in יְהוָה’s way? Are my efforts being frustrated? Is יְהוָה trying to show me that I’m going the wrong way and turn me back to the way that I should be going? Set your heart on your ways in order to ensure that they are in line with God’s will for you. The same message is repeated in [Hag 1:7] – יְהוָה of armies wants the message to hit home! "CONSIDER YOUR WAYS!" – lay them to heart! It is a tragic thing when we don’t lay it to heart – take note of the consequences of what we do, refuse to note what YHWH is saying: [cf. Jeremiah 12:11 It has been made a desolation, desolate, it mourns before Me; the whole land has been made desolate, because no man lays it to heart. Isaiah 57:1 The righteous man perishes, and no man takes it to heart; and devout men are taken away, while no one understands. Malachi 2:2 “If you do not listen, and if you do not take it to heart to give honour to My name,” says יְהוָה of armies, “then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings; and indeed, I have cursed them already, because you are not taking it to heart. Isaiah 42:18-25 Hear, you deaf! And look, you blind, that you may see. Who is blind but My servant, or so deaf as My messenger whom I send? Who is so blind as he that is at peace with Me, or so blind as the servant of יְהוָה? You have seen many things, but you do not observe them; your ears are open, but none hears. יְהוָה was pleased for His righteousness’ sake To make the law great and glorious. But this is a people plundered and despoiled; all of them are trapped in caves, or are hidden away in prisons; they have become a prey with none to deliver them, and a spoil, with none to say, “Give them back!” Who among you will give ear to this? Who will give heed and listen hereafter? Who gave Jacob up for spoil, and Israel to plunderers? Was it not יְהוָה, against whom we have sinned, and in whose ways they were not willing to walk, and whose law they did not obey? So He poured out on him the heat of His anger and the fierceness of battle; and it set him aflame all around, yet he did not recognize it; and it burned him, but he paid no attention – did not lay it to heart.] We need to consider our ways.
You see, if they considered their ways, what was happening; it would be obvious that they had a problem [P]. Look at [Hag 1:6, 9] – The crops had failed, nothing they did ever came to anything – there was frustration at every twist and turn – this is the mark of יְהוָה’s curse, not of His blessing (cf. Deut 28). They sow much and reap little, eat but are not satisfied, drink but don’t get drunk; they clothe themselves but are not warm, work for pay only for their hire to slip through their fingers – a purse with holes in it. All they do fails. All their plans never come to fruition – frustration, failure, dissatisfaction; much planning but little achieving. These are the signs of יְהוָה’s disfavour. "I can’t get no satisfaction" – it is the mark of a curse. יְהוָה tells the people to examine their situation; take stock of what is happening. They were seeking material prosperity but were utterly frustrated in their goal (cf. Hag 1:6) – looking for much but there was only a little. [Hag 1:11] – This drought wasn’t just a "bad season", it was יְהוָה’s doing - "I called for a drought ..." They had rejected God, ceased to put Him in first place, therefore God rejected them. And when God sends His curses, He curses as thoroughly as He blesses! The drought was on the land, on the mountains, on the grain, on the produce of the vine, on the oil, on the produce of the ground, on man, on beast, on all the labour of their hand. There was not one area unaffected. All the staple products that they produced were affected – there was a lack in them all. All that they toiled so hard for yielded nothing! When יְהוָה has set Himself against you, your situation is miserable and frustrating. It was due to their own neglect of יְהוָה and His house that their own house suffered.
Cause – There was a cause: [P]This was יְהוָה’s doing – [Hag 1:9] it was He who was blowing away even that little they produced and brought home for themselves. “I called for a drought ….” [Hag 1:11] יְהוָה did it! יְהוָה speaks, directs, warns through our circumstances – are our ears attuned to what He is saying? And He did it for a reason! Consider your ways! The cause was two fold:
Building own houses [P] – selfishness [Hag 1:4] – יְהוָה had done it, but it was “because of you” [Hag 1:11] – it was their own fault, they were to blame. The people are dwelling in their own houses – luxurious houses at that! Note they are dwelling – sitting back at rest (same root as shevet = rest, cessation, inactivity, shabbat, sitting) – they were not building their houses in preference to the temple – they had finished building them and decorating them with fine panelling and were sitting back at rest, dwelling in them! Here was the temple lying in ruins and they had built their own houses and were sitting back at ease with nothing to do, enjoying their luxury, and still the temple lay untouched – "still" it was not the season to build it – what was it season for? As far as they were concerned it was a season for idleness, laziness, doing nothing! יְהוָה spoke it like it was – revealing their sin – their utter selfishness – their utter disregard for the things of God. Is it not the same with Christians today? Let me be frank: we live in luxury! That is not a sin, but preoccupation with it is! We are sitting back enjoying our luxury, entertaining ourselves – the season for leisure and recreation, sport, TV, holidays etc. – the things of God and their state do not even enter our thinking! Leisure is a major industry! The other day someone asked me what my hobbies were – why do we need hobbies? Are there not more important things with which we should be occupied? The church (the temple of the Holy Spirit Himself!) can be in ruins, desolate, deserted, waning and all we are concerned about is our own lifestyle! "It is not season to build the LORD’s house" – what is it the season for?!! Sitting back and doing nothing, enjoying our comfortable homes that have taken such effort to build that we deserve to take it easy a while?! Is this what it is season for? Advertising tells us: “You deserve ….” Whose words are we listening to? The people’s or יְהוָה’s, who tells the situation as it really is? [cf. Luke 9:23-24 And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.] All this great effort leading to no productivity was due to them placing their own interests before the LORD’s. They built their fine houses whilst the temple lay in ruins. If we seek our own life, goals, satisfaction; then we will lose it, meet frustration – it will be forever slipping through our fingers. But if we disregard our own interest and seek God’s ways, His Kingdom, place Him first; then we will find full satisfaction. They placed themselves, "SELF", before God, יְהוָה of armies, יְהוָה of armies, Himself! Their houses were completed and they were what preoccupied the people – their home, their dwelling, their comfort. But even though their houses were completed still they did nothing about the house of God – it was utterly neglected because of people’s preoccupation with their own lives – SELF. And it is exactly the same today! Like today’s society, they were taken up with material things, not spiritual things. To do so brings consequences – poverty, leanness in contrast, the way to prosperity is to seek spiritual things cf. Joshua 1:8 “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Psalm 1:1-3 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of יְהוָה, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.). This is the cause of the leanness we find in our lives. We have placed self before God! (cf. Exodus 20:1-3 Then God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before Me. Psalm 106:13-15 They quickly forgot His works; they did not wait for His counsel, but craved intensely in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert. So He gave them their request, but sent a wasting disease among them. (margin: a leanness of soul). Pursuing self and our own desires brings leanness of soul.
Stopped building temple [P] – distraction. The second reason was that they had stopped building the temple, they forgot יְהוָה’s purpose for them. The Church of God is lying desolate because Christians are consumed with themselves, their own lives. Here they were lying back in luxury in their grand houses but “My house lies desolate!” [Hag 1:4, 9] They had got distracted – not by sin, it was legitimate things but they had taken over. As the saying goes, we need to: “Keep the main thing the main thing”. [Hag 1:9-11] We are totally taken up with ourselves and are completely unconcerned about the temple where God dwells by His Spirit. If this is how יְהוָה reacted to a building of stones, how much more is He concerned about the true temple where He actually dwells! (cf. Ephesians 2:19-22 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.; 1 Peter 2:5 you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.).
Remedy [Hag 1:8] [P] build the temple – יְהוָה had given His rebuke, He told them what they had done wrong, the cause of the calamity they encountered; and He also gave the remedy. יְהוָה tells them how this situation may be turned around – by them turning around their ways – repentance. They weren’t building the temple, they had to turn around, stop what they were doing and build the temple. Get back to what they were meant to be doing. [Hag 1:8] Instead of living for themselves, they are to be placing God’s plan as their priority. There are three things that they must do: 1/ they are to go up the mountain [P] – i.e. the mountain of the LORD, the temple mount – In other words, to draw near to God, come back to Him. Cease from their material preoccupation and turn to spiritual things. 2/ bring wood [P], not stone from which the temple was largely constructed = wood or tree is the word for the cross – in repenting, God’s people must come to the cross. Wood was used to burn sacrifices, they must come to the place of sacrifice. The cross is the only way back to God – through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, on our behalf as our sin offering. 3/ rebuild the temple [P] – the house where יְהוָה dwells i.e. the Church, the body of believers. We must be built into the fellowship and be involved in building it up, advancing its growth (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.] – “you” (plural) are that temple. [1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Or do you not know that your (plural) body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.] The church is the "house" where God dwells. These things we are to do in order that יְהוָה may be pleased with His house [P], take delight in it, it be a place where He is happy to dwell. We should be pleasing God, not ourselves. Not only to please Him but also that He may be glorified in it [P]. God’s great purpose is that He be glorified, and His church exists for this purpose: we were created and exist for the twofold purpose of pleasing God (bring Him pleasure) and glorifying God (bringing Him glory). May He be glorified and brought pleasure by our drawing near to Him through the cross in repentance and building the Church, the "house" in which He dwells.
So our purpose is: building God’s temple [P] – we are that temple. In the olden days we used to have different words for you, one if it was only one person (thou) and another if it was more than one (ye). But now one word you fits all and when the Bible says “you are a temple” we can’t tell if it’s my body or the body of all of us. But those two passages I read in Corinthians both say that it is us plural. Together we are that temple where God Himself dwells. Now there is danger in extending a metaphor too far – but indulge me a little. How do you build a temple – [1 Peter 2:5] tells us that it is built of “living stones”
o Hew stones – evangelism [P] Well first those stones must be hewn out of the hillside. It is just plain rock. There is no shape or form, it is totally natural. Only by quarrying it out do we get that stone. And that is what we do in evangelism. There are men, they are completely natural, no spiritual part to them at all. Just plain rock. Through evangelism and the election of God they are picked out of the natural mass and come to be used in His temple. We need to be telling those who haven’t heard the message of Jesus, His Kingdom, His death and resurrection, His gift of righteousness and life through grace.
o Shape stones – discipleship [P] After rock has been quarried it must be shaped into building blocks. This is like discipleship where those that respond to the message of salvation are trained and taught. From natural men they are changed into spiritual men who are in the image of Christ. Often we stop at evangelism but it is vital to train, the young Christian so that he fits into the temple.
o Fit stones – fellowship [P] And that is the third thing that needs to be done. We evangelize, we disciple; we hew the stones and shape them – but then they must be fitted into the temple structure, become part of the building itself alongside the other living stones. This is fellowship – living alongside your fellow brother. It is perhaps the hardest part of all. Fellowship is “κοινονια” – having all things in common. We go out to the prison, John and Robin talk motorbikes – I haven’t a clue! We are not a motorbike club; that is not what we have in common. What is it that we have in common? The trouble is that we concentrate on the things that we don’t have in common, the things that divide. The plague of our Western society is individualism. We are all living our separate Christian lives instead of living in cooperation and coordination as a single body. For example there is the prison ministry – John is the evangelist, I am not an evangelist, but I go to support; others pray – we are in it together. We are not all the same – we do different things but work together for a common goal – to please God and glorify Him. We tend to look at our own life: am I praising God, reading the Bible? Am I close to God, walking in His ways etc.? But we should be looking at are we praising etc. We glorify God in this body TOGETHER.
So that is to be our business – building the temple of God, where He dwells by His Spirit; through evangelism, discipleship and fellowship – that is what we see the Church doing in its infancy: [Acts 2:40-44 And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” (that is evangelism) So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching (that is discipleship) and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common. (fellowship)] Building the temple where God dwells, working together for the glory of God.