Summary: When we hear God's voice we have to respond. This is the second sermon in a series on the Book of Haggai
Responding to God's Voice - Haggai 1:12-15
When we hear God's voice we have to respond. In ancient times, two of the most famous speakers were the Roman Cicero and the Greek Demosthenes. They were both eloquent, but someone noted the difference in the results of their addresses: "When Cicero spoke people said: 'How well Cicero speaks!' but when Demosthenes spoke they said, 'Let us march against the enemy.'" The listeners loved listening to Cicero, but when they heard Demosthenes, they were moved to action.
You know my great fear as a preacher is that the results of my speaking would be like Cicero and not like Demosthenes. Every week I open up the Word of God to you and after the service I shake hands with people and people say, "Thanks for the message. I really appreciated it." "Great sermon pastor." But to tell you the truth, those compliments don't mean a whole lot to me. What matters to me is seeing lives changed by the Word of God.
You know for the last few weeks we've been talking about a lot of different applications from the Bible. Last week we talked about returning to our life mission, to get back to glorifying God and enjoying Him forever. The week before we talked about money, contentment and giving. The week before that we talked about controlling our thoughts. We talked about what it means to think about what is true, noble, right pure, lovely and admirable. And the two weeks before that we looked a series of very practical commands that Paul gave the Philippians. My great fear is that you would just listen to these messages, nod your head and agree and then not do anything about it. That kind of attitude will lead us to spiritual disaster. But it doesn't have to be that way. If we hear God's Word as the voice of God to us and if out of fear of the Lord we obey, then we will experience the presence and power of God in our lives.
This morning we're going to be looking at the next section in the book of Haggai. After Haggai delivered the message from the Lord to Israelites, we will see how the they responded. But before we look into God's Word, let's look to the Lord together. Let's pray (pray).
When we hear God's voice we have to respond. Last week we looked at the beginning of the Book of Haggai. Let me review for you. Because of their constant sin, God sent the Babylonians against Jerusalem. The city was destroyed, the buildings were burnt down and the wall was destroyed. Most of the people were killed. Those who survived were taken into exile, to Babylon. There the Israelites remained in captivity for 70 years. Then the Babylonian Empire was overthrown by the Persians. This new ruling power had a different policy toward foreigners. King Cyrus gave the order that any Jew who wanted to go back to their homeland, to Jerusalem, could do so. They were given a mission, to rebuild the temple of God, so that they could pray for the Persian king.
The Book of Ezra records what happens. About 50,000 Israelites decide to return. They find the city a ruin and they eventually set up an altar and establish sacrifices. Then after about two years, they begin the rebuilding of the temple. They lay the foundation amidst great celebration. But the surrounding people oppose the rebuilding and eventually get the Israelites to stop. There is no more work on the temple for 16 long years. Then God sends two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah to spur the people on and encourage them to get back to their mission, to rebuild God's temple.
That's the message we heard last week: Return to your mission in life. In the passage this morning we see the response of the people. Take a look at Haggai 1:12 (read verse). What happened when Haggai prophesied to the exiles? They obeyed. Isn't that a great story? But why did these people obey? So many times in the past God sent prophets to the Israelites, they heard the message, and then they decided to not obey. That's why Jerusalem was destroyed in the first place. The Israelites were given warning after warning from God's prophets, but they ignored their teaching. They had hardened their hearts. What made these people at this time different?
This verse gives two reasons why they people chose to obey. First they recognized that Haggai's message wasn't just his message, it was from God. It was the voice of the Lord. Unless God speaks to us personally, then we will never obey. We each have a natural tendency to deflect what we hear to others. We hear a message on money and we think, "Yeah, Tom over there has loads of money. Look at the car he drives and the house he lives in. I bet he's not tithing. He really needs to deal with his greed." Or we hear a message on missions and we think, "That's a great message for the young people. They need to sacrifice and go overseas to the poor lost people. Me, I'm way too old for that."