Summary: No matter how bad we’d like to, we can’t undo the past. God is all-powerful but there are some things He won’t do. He will not change the past. But he’ll do something even better. Even though He won’t change the past, He will give you a fresh start for th
Do you ever wish you could just start over? Staples has made a fortune with their easy button commercials. It would be nice if there was such a thing as an easy button, but you know what I’d rather have? I’d rather have an undo button. Can you imagine having a button that allowed you to undo anything that you’ve messed up? Messed up that project—undo. Messed up that relationship—undo. Messed up that good intention—undo. That would be nice. But unfortunately, we all know there’s no such thing as an undo button in life. Once we do something, it’s done. No matter how bad we’d like to, we can’t undo the past. God is all-powerful—He can do anything. But there are some things He won’t do—and that’s one of them. He will not change the past. But even though the Lord won’t change the past, do you know what He will do? He’ll do something even better. Even though He won’t change the past, He will give you a fresh start for the future. He did it for the remnant in our passage this morning, and He’ll do it for us as a church and He’ll do it for you. Back up to verse 10 to see where we are.
That’s another one of Haggai’s time stamps that he gives us. What that tells us is that it has been almost exactly three months since they had started working on the temple. You remember that the remnant had returned to Jerusalem after 70 years of exile in Babylon and Medo-Persia. And when God allowed them to return to their land, He commanded that they rebuild the city—starting with the temple. They got started right away, but all they got done was the foundation and the altar. And then they quit for 16 years. After 16 years of doing nothing, God sent Haggai and Zechariah to remind them of what they were supposed to be doing. And to their credit, they listened. They listened and got busy rebuilding the temple. But here it was, three months later, and there was a problem. Things weren’t going as well as they seemed. Oh sure, there was some work being done. There was some building going on. But there was a problem. The people had the wrong attitude. They hadn’t really changed. They were working hard like they always did, but their hearts were in the wrong place. Stones were being laid upon one another, but lives were still in ruins. Remember back in chapter 1 what their problem was. The people were basically self-centered. They were more focused on their personal wants and needs and desires than they were with the Lord’s desires. They were more concerned with what was going on in their day-to-day lives than they were with glorifying God. They were so focused on their relationships with their own families and friends that they had completely neglected their relationship with God. And, three months later… even though they had started rebuilding the temple… they still had those same problems. And in our passage this morning, Haggai shows them that. But more than that, he shows them how God wants to give them a fresh start. Don’t quit what you’re doing. You can’t go back and change the past. What you can do is start fresh from where you are. Verse 18 that we started off reading starts with the words, “Consider now from this day and upward.” In other words the Lord is saying, “I don’t care what brought you to this point today.” “It doesn’t matter what brought you here or what has happened in your life up until this point.” “That is the past, and you can’t change the past.” “There is no undo button.” “But today is a new day.” “Today can be the start of a brand-new beginning for you.” “It can be a fresh start.” Just like the day that Haggai spoke these words to the remnant, this can be a new day for our church. This can be a new day for you personally. Are you ready to make that fresh start this morning? Are you ready for us as a church to make that fresh start this morning? If you are, then it’s going to require us to do three things. First, a fresh start requires a fresh look at where we are. Look at verses 11-14:
Okay, how in the world does that have anything to do with taking a look at where we are? He’s talking about holy flesh and skirts and pottage and dead bodies and things. What in the world is he talking about and how does that apply to us? I’m glad you asked. God, through Haggai, is giving the people an illustration. He’s teaching them something by giving them a picture that they would understand. The problem is, we don’t have the same cultural background that they did, so it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to us. Just like me talking about a Staples easy button wouldn’t have made a whole lot of sense to them. Here’s what was happening. Haggai was referring back to a Levitical code that they were very familiar with. The Levitical code was basically the rule book for priests that is found in the book of Leviticus—you know, those verses we read through real fast when we’re reading through the Bible? That’s the Levitical code. Except the priests didn’t read through it real fast. They knew it backwards and forwards—especially now that they were rebuilding the temple. They were learning it every day as part of their preparations to serve in the new temple. And because of that, they knew what would make a them ceremonially clean and they knew what would contaminate them. If a priest was ceremonially clean, he could do all of the stuff that priests were supposed to do. If he was unclean, he couldn’t. So, through Haggai, God asks them a question. Basically what He asks is, “If you are carrying something holy in your pocket, and you touch something else, does the thing that you touched become holy?” In other words, is holiness something that will rub off onto something else? And of course, the priests answer—no, holiness doesn’t rub off on something else. And then He uses the example of a dead body as something obviously known to be unclean. He asks, “If you touch something unclean like a dead body, that makes you ceremonially unclean. Then what happens if you turn around and touch something else?” So, the priests answered Him, “It will become ceremonially unclean.” That was the illustration, and they got it. Let me put it in an illustration that is easier for us to get. Imagine that your hands are scrubbed perfectly clean. Then imagine that I’ve been loading manure all day with no gloves on. Then we shake hands. Who rubbed off on whom? Did your clean hands make mine clean? Of course not. My filthy hands made yours unclean. That’s the illustration. But why was he using that illustration? To get the people to take a fresh look at where they were. They were working hard doing the Lord’s work. They were building the temple just like they were supposed to. They were doing good “churchy” stuff. They were being good and religious. But the problem was that they were still dirty inside. They were doing “churchy” things in the hopes that those things would clean them up. But religion won’t do a thing to clean you up. Churchy things won’t do a thing to clean you up. But even more than that, when a person with a dirty heart comes to do the Lord’s work, what does it do? It dirties up the work. Why do you think we have so many churches that are in such a mess today? Because we’re trying to do the work as a way to make us clean instead of doing the work out of an already clean heart. A fresh start requires that we take a hard look at where we are. Why are we doing the things that we do? Are we doing them with a clean heart? Or are we doing them as a way to try and clean up our dirty heart? Not only does a fresh start require us to look at where we are, it requires us to look at where we once were. Look at verses 15-17: