Let’s recap. The Israelites came back from 70-years of captivity in Babylon.
• They started to rebuild the Temple but the Samaritans opposed them (cf. Ezra 3).
• They were so discouraged by the conflict that they stopped work after laying the foundation.
• Nothing was done while the people busy themselves with their own lives.
And so God sent Haggai. He came out delivering four messages from God, in a span of 4 months.
• Through him, God stirred the hearts of the people and got His work done.
• We see this same pattern throughout the Scriptures.
• God fulfills His purposes through people, called at specific moments, to do His work.
• Haggai obeyed and saw the nation turning back to God. You can never underestimate what God can do through one man.
It is the same today. God has a call on your life.
• It is good to always pause and ask ourselves: What is God expecting from me today?
• God does not call all to be pastors. But we are all called to serve Him.
The people tried to make their own lives comfortable while neglecting the temple of God.
• It was not the physical building that God is concerned about, but His place in their lives.
• No temple means no worship. With God out of their mind, He will be out of their lives.
• They were in constant frustration and discontentment. Nothing satisfies.
• It is a reminder to us today. If we devote ourselves to sowing and eating and drinking and clothing ourselves and earning wages, but neglect our ministry in the Kingdom of God, we will live in constant frustration and lack.
• Something will always be wrong about your life – God is absent!
Last week we ended the story at a good note. Last part of chapter 1 tells us…
• God stirred the hearts of the people. 1:14b “They came and began to work on the house of the Lord Almighty, their God…”
• Let’s continue with Haggai 2:1-9
Your past does not really matters to God.
• You may have spent 70 years in captivity; you may have left Him out of your life for the past 16 years… Just get back to doing what God says is right.
• They people heard the Word from God, they were touched, and started the rebuilding, but most of all they needed the courage to get the job done.
The problem will not be a lack of resources or a lack of a Word from the Lord.
• The problem could very well be in your heart – fear, discouragement, doubt…
• Most of the time, it is the emotion that is going on inside of us that hinders us from doing what is right. “You just don’t feel like it!”
God anticipated their disappointment and came with a Word.
• It came 21st day of 7th month, barely a month after they started the building work.
• It’s usually like that – talk is easy, but when we get down to the work, things are not that easy-going and we got discouraged.
• Perseverance does not come naturally. We need faith in God, and we need to sweat and toil… Not many can persevere in a ministry for the long haul.
And so God spoke to them. When God speaks, He is addressing an issue He sees in us!
• Haggai asks, ’Who is left among you that saw this house in its first glory? How do you see it now? Is it not in your sight as nothing?’
• Think about it, many of the older folks had seen the beautiful Temple built by King Solomon.
• And what was it like? Built with white limestone, with gold exterior and the interior of the temple was made with imported cedars of Lebanon, decked out with precious stones, and the whole place was overlaid in gold.
• The altar, the cherubim, the floor, the front porch and the Holy of Holies were all covered in gold. We have the golden lamp stands and golden tables of showbread. Even the nails were gold. (Someone estimated that the Holy of Holies would cost about US$20 million today.)
This was what they could remember!
• So as far as they could see - even though God told them to build this new temple – it was a far cry from the previous one!
• Then, nations all around came to see the Temple. People stand in awe of it.
• Now, their nation was about 50,000 strong, and they had just been through a generation in captivity. And nothing they see now is like before. It’s quite hopeless! “We’re just wasting our time.”
Does that sound familiar? I think anyone of us who have served in a ministry, for one time or another, has felt the same kind of discouragement: the sense that you work and work and the product seems so miserable.
• You pour yourself into a thing week after week and month after month and the fruit is so minimal.
• Then you look back in history or across town and see the grand achievement of others and your church seems so trivial.
• And you get discouraged and are tempted to quit and put away your aspirations and drop your dreams and put your feet up in front of the television and coast.
• Who wants to devote his life to a second-rate temple?
They were discouraged because we give too much thought to the past.
• We look back to the ‘good’ old days. And then we tell ourselves, things are not as good today. The natural outcome of such a thought is discouragement.
• We compare. We are not as good, as huge, or as popular as the church then.
• We started well but somewhere along the way we begin to compare it with some other work.
God is not really concern about that, you realized?
• In fact, God was honest with them. He did not camouflage the past.
• The current temple pales in comparison with the old one, and God told them so.
• He knew what was in their hearts when He spoke. He spoke to address a need He sees in us.
• “Be strong and work!” He gives TWO reasons for this – (1) He is with them, and (2) He will provide for them.
We see again one truth - the past is immaterial to God! He can do a new thing.
• Don’t get locked-in in the past! Learn from the past, but don’t get anchored in it!
• God is with us today and there’s work for us to do. And God will help us.
• Hag 2:4 “Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the LORD, `and work. For I am with you,’ declares the LORD Almighty.”
John Piper puts it very well: “For most of us the value of a job increases with the dignity and prestige of the people who are willing to do it. How could we ever, then, belittle a work when God says He is with us in it? When God is working at your side, nothing is trivial.”
They need to look elsewhere – not at the problems, not at the past.
• Read 2:6-9. Notice the many “I will…”
• That’s where we need to look at today.
Just before David passed away, he encouraged his son with similar words, regarding the building of the Temple.
• 1 Chron 28:20 David also said to Solomon his son, "Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the LORD is finished."
• God spoke these same words to Moses just before they crossed the river Jordan (Deut 31:6); and to Joshua before they entered the Promised Land (Josh 1:6ff.).
• Each time these words were used, there is also the promise of God’s presence.
It is the presence of God that makes God’s people strong.
• It is His presence that enables you to continue on when you’re beaten down and discouraged with what is happening in your life.
• So the more discouraged you are, the more you need to get back to God and experience His presence, in worship and in prayer.
• In order words, the more you feel down, the more you need to get back to church.
All these are just ordinary men, don’t forget that.
• They are men and women like you and me, and the only thing that made them great was that they knew their God, and they knew that God was with them.
• Can you trust God that way?
A MIGHTY FORTRESS IS OUR GOD
In intense turmoil, Luther wrote his greatest hymn. It was the worst of times -1527-one of the most trying years of Luther’s life.
On April 22, a dizzy spell forced Luther to stop preaching in the middle of his sermon. For ten years, since publishing his 95 Theses against the abuse of indulgences, Luther had been buffeted by political and theological storms; at times his life had been in danger. He was suffering severe depression.
Sometime that year, Luther wrote the hymn he is most famous for: "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God." This verse, translated by Frederick Hedge in 1853:
And though this world with devils filled
should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God has willed
his truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him.
His rage we can endure, for lo! His doom is sure.
One little Word shall fell him.
…"Martin Luther--The Later Years and Legacy," Christian History, Issue 39.
There’s work to be done, brothers and sisters.
• Many have done their part in the past, in their generation. We are called to do our part, now in our generation.
• You will have your fare share of work today. This generation needs you and me.
• Don’t have to be too concerned of what others have done. Be strong and work on what God has given us.
Solomon has done his part, for his generation. Today, the Israelites have to do it for their own generation.
• God says the future Temple will be more glorious!
• To God, the best is yet to be.
• Think about it for a moment – what does God expects you to be doing today… in this church?