Summary: A life without a mission is a life without meaning. First sermon in a series on the Book of Haggai.

Don't Get Sidetracked -- Haggai 1:1-11

A life without a mission is a life without meaning. Fritz Kreisler was one of the most famous violin masters of his or any other day, and regarded as one of the greatest violinists of all time, he was known for his sweet tone and expressive phrasing. To achieve this success he described his life mission: "Narrow is the road that leads to the life of a violinist. Hour after hour, day after day and week after week, for years, I lived with my violin. There were so many things that I wanted to do that I had to leave undone; there were so many places I wanted to go that I had to miss if I was to master the violin. The road that I traveled was a narrow road and the way was hard."

Kreisler had a mission in life, to be the best concert violinist he could be. That meant he had to eliminate everything from his life that took him away from that goal. As Christians we are called on a mission as well and it's much more important than being a world class musician. We can't be sidetracked by any other endeavour. Because a life without a mission is a life without meaning. This morning we'll be looking at the book of Haggai. It tells the story of a group of people who had a clear mission but who were sidetracked from it. But before we look at the Bible, let's look to the Lord, let's pray.

A life without a mission is a life without meaning. The book of Haggai begins by giving a date. (read verse 1) For this date to mean anything to you, I have to give you a little background for this book. The Israelites had been taken into captivity many years before. The Babylonians had besieged and eventually conquered Jerusalem. The city was burned to the ground and the walls were demolished. Most of the people were taken away into exile to live in Babylon. You can read about it at the end of 2 Chronicles 36:15-19:

The Lord, the God of their ancestors, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. 16 But they mocked God's messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no remedy. 17 He brought up against them the king of the Babylonians, who killed their young men with the sword in the sanctuary, and did not spare young men or young women, the elderly or the infirm. God gave them all into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. 18 He carried to Babylon all the articles from the temple of God, both large and small, and the treasures of the Lord's temple and the treasures of the king and his officials. 19 They set fire to God's temple and broke down the wall of Jerusalem; they burned all the palaces and destroyed everything of value there.

20 He carried into exile to Babylon the remnant, who escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and his successors until the kingdom of Persia came to power. 21 The land enjoyed its Sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah.

After 70 years the Babylonian empire fell to the Persians and they had a different policy with foreigners. King Cyrus made the proclamation that any who wanted to return to Jerusalem could do so. They were given the task of rebuilding the temple so they could pray and intercede for the king. The Book of Ezra records what happened. About 50,000 people responded to the call and returned to Jerusalem. As the returned exiles got settled down in their new homes they began offering sacrifices to God, they started gathering supplies of wood and stone to begin building. Then finally after about two years they started the reconstruction of the temple. They laid the foundation with a great celebration. But soon they ran into difficulty.

When the Israelites moved back to Jerusalem, there were people living in the surrounding area. They were a mixed people that the king of Assyria forcibly brought in as immigrants to the land. When they offered to help the Israelites with the rebuilding, the exiles refused. The Jews wanted to keep the temple pure and untainted by Gentiles. Predictably the surrounding people didn't react well to this rejection. They started a program of sabotaging the construction. They even hired people to frustrate the Israelites. They finally sent a formal protest letter to the king of Persia and got the permission to stop the building.

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