Summary: Identifying the consequences of Spiritual apathy among God’s People
Limavady Reformed Presbyterian Church
Studies in the Book of Haggai
The Consequences of Spiritual Apathy
Over the past two weeks we have been considering the teaching of the opening section of the book of Haggai. Although classed as one of the minor prophets Haggai had a major message to proclaim. As we have been seeing he addressed a particular spiritual condition that prevailed among the people of God who had returned to Jerusalem after the 70 years exile in Babylon, that spiritual condition being one of Spiritual apathy. In our first study we considered the evidences of Spiritual Apathy among the people and cited three such evidences – God’s Work was being Neglected; God’s People Were Contented; and Empty Excuses were being offered for not doing God’s work. Last week we looked at the root causes of their spiritual apathy and once again I identified three such causes – Self-centredness: Worldly-mindedness and Ungratefulness.
This morning I want us to look at the consequences of the people’s Spiritual Apathy. The first consequence of the people’s Spiritual Apathy is found in v 2 where we see that
1) Their Relationship With God was Marred:
Look at what it says in that verse “This is what the Lord Almighty says These people say ‘the time has not yet come for the Lord’s house to be built.’” The translation in the KJV reads “This people says…” Notice the way God refers to Haggai’s self-centred, ungrateful, worldly-minded, spiritually apathetic contemporaries THIS people. Not my people. There is more than a hint of contempt in this indignant abrupt, cold form of address. Its as if God does not want to be in any way associated with them. He seems to have had enough of their dilly-dallying and timewasting, their self-centredness and worldly-mindedness and as it were distances Himself from them. He uses what in effect is a term of reproach. The same form of address is found in Jeremiah 7:16 where God, on account of the fact that the people of God at that time were wholly given over to idolatry and immorality, says to the prophet ‘do not pray for THIS people, nor offer any plea of petition for them…’ You get the same thing a couple of chapters later in 14:10,11 ‘This is what the Lord says about THIS people, they greatly love to wander they do not restrain their feet, therefore the Lord does not accept them; He will now remember their wickedness and punish them for their sins’ Then the Lord said to me do not pray for the well-being of THIS people.’ Similarly in exodus 32/9 where the people have just made the golden calf and are worshipping it God says to Moses “I have seen THIS people and behold they are a stiff-necked people.” In each case the sin of the people aroused God’s anger against them and their sin resulted in a marring, in a breakdown in their special relationship with God. And that is exactly what had happened in Haggai’s day. The people’s spiritual apathy, their indifference to the ruined state of the temple, their unwillingness to apply themselves to the important work of rebuilding God’s House, their self-centred, materialistic approach to life had kindled God’s anger with the result that their relationship with God was marred. He no longer addresses them in those gentle, loving affectionate tones that he had used when speaking of them or to them in the past, instead he uses a contemptuous term spoken no doubt in a sharp, abrupt and cold tone of voice. Its almost as if he virtually disowns them. Of curse God did not disown them. He could not abandon his covenant relationship with them. But there is no doubt that whilst they were still his people they were very much out of favour with God on account of their sin, their relationship was marred.
Of course its fairly easy for us to understand what is happening here in this breakdown in the relationship between God and his people. We have all experienced something similar in our relationships within our families. Those of you who are married can cast your minds back to the day when you tied the matrimonial knot. You men can remember your bride walking down the aisle and coming alongside you as you stood at the front of the Church and you thought to yourself how beautiful she looked, and you thought that your heart was almost going to burst with love. You ladies thought to yourselves, how handsome your husband-to-be looked and how happy you were to be marrying him and everything at that moment was wonderful between the two of you. And it probably remained like that for, well I wont say how long. But there came that day when your spouse did something that really hurt you or annoyed you, maybe something they said, maybe something they did or forgot to do, whatever, and the result was that there was friction between you and your relationship was marred. For a while you didn’t want to speak to them. When you absolutely had to it was in cold abrupt tones. Warm loving consideration for your partner gave way to cold indifference. You were still husband and wife of course. The status of your relationship hadn’t changed. Your conflict did not annul your marital status. But the experience and enjoyment of your relationship was marred, and remained so until you eventually addressed the problem and got it sorted out.