Sermons

Summary: Haggai's messages led to the restoration of the Temple. He challenged the people by using three themes : Encouragement, Warning, and Hope. This message raises critical questions for Christians and churches as we seek God's will, especially while witnessing a changing landscape.

God often uses a single voice to stir the hearts of his people. These prophetic voices often come at crucial points in history. Here are some examples.

• The Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s inspiring oratory is believed to have helped save Britain in WWII.

• On November 2, 1863, several months after the battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3), David Wills invited President Lincoln to make a "few appropriate remarks" at the consecration of a cemetery for the Union war dead. In early July, Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin had charged Wills, a successful local citizen and judge, with cleaning up the horrible aftermath of the battle. President Lincoln was not the key speaker. Yet, his speech turned the tide and allowed the battle for freedom and equality to prevail.

President Lincoln began his speech by saying, “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

A speech writer for George Bush, Sr., says Lincoln wrote the speech himself. Today, presidents and politicians will have as many as 150 people shaping their speech in their appeal to a cause or desire in opinion polls.

God used Haggai at a very crucial time. His prophetic messages were preached during a four-month period in 520 B.C.

• 538 B.C. Cyrus, king of Persia allowed Jews to return to Jerusalem.

• Zerubbabel led 50,000 Jews to Jerusalem, and they began work on the Temple.

• Work was halted because of opposition from the Samaritans and neighboring countries who feared the political and religious implications of the rebuilt temple.

• Zechariah and Haggai began preaching in the Second year of Darius, who was in the religions of his empire.

Other than Obadiah, Haggai is the shortest book of the OT. Yet, the sermons of Haggai led to the restoration of the Temple. There are three themes in his messages:

1. Encouragement,

2. Warning and

3. Hope.

May I suggest the secret to understanding the response of the people and their willingness to resume work on the Temple is not so much in the messenger as it is in the understanding that God spoke, and the people responded to Him? Haggai encouraged the people to “give careful thought” to their situation. He did not descend from a holy mountain with his face aglow and a written tablet in his hand. He did not rage like Jeremiah. He did not build eloquent poems like Isaiah. Haggai’s messages were simple and logical.

1. WHAT WOULD KEEP US FROM HEARING THE “WORD OF THE LORD” AND FAIL TO FINISH THE TASK GOD HAS ASSIGNED TO US?

We too often fail to hear the voice of God because we are overly charmed by the flood of consonants and vowels that we string together in our attempt to amaze people with our verbosity. In our text the words of the people and the “word of the Lord” are brought into tension. We are great at rhetoric. Yet, our greatest weakness may be that we have lost the ability to discern the “word of the Lord.”

Haggai 1:2This is what the LORD Almighty says: "These people say, `The time has not yet come for the LORD's house to be built.' "

It is a sad day when the collective voice of the people exceeds the authority of God to direct his affairs.

Most of us are familiar with “Quality Control.” I did construction work on two major government housing projects at Fort Polk. I worked with several people who had no formal training and little experience in construction who were assigned to quality control. They loved to flaunt their authority, while wearing their crowns that were nothing more than glorified white safety hats. Sadly, they failed to ensure the quality that the military expected. Buildings that were totally out of square; buildings that would roll and waffle at the mere shaking of posts on the porch.

God wants his church to learn something from the messages of Haggai. He would have us understand that there are too many “Quality Control Christians” and not enough Christians who will faithfully hear and respond to the Word of the Lord. Consequently, we have many churches in America, and in the world, who started strong but are now struggling.

What happened? Why did the revival atmosphere dissipate? The people began work on the foundation of the Temple. Ezra 3 records the joy and expression of thanksgiving that characterized the Temple reconstruction.

The Book of Ezra begins with a decree from King Cyrus of Persia, allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple that had been destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BC (Ezra 1:2-4). The introduction to this decree specifies when it was proclaimed: “In the first year of King Cyrus” (539-538 BC, shortly after the Persian defeat of Babylon). It also introduces us to one of the principal themes of Ezra-Nehemiah: the relationship between God’s work and human work. Cyrus made his proclamation “that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished,” and because “the Lord stirred up the spirit of King Cyrus” (Ezra 1:1). Cyrus was doing his work as king, seeking his personal and institutional ends. Yet this was a result of God’s work within him, advancing God’s own purposes. We sense in the first verse of Ezra that God is in control, yet choosing to work through human beings, even Gentile kings, to accomplish his will.

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