Summary: The Israelites had returned from captivity to find their city and their temple in ruins. They rebuilt what they could, but they became despondant because they weren’t wealthy enough to restore the temple to its former glory. However, God gave them insight
OPEN: An old farmer was about to die and he called his 2 sons to his bedside. He said, "Boys, my farm and the fields are yours. You each have equal shares. I leave you a little ready money, but the bulk of my wealth is hidden somewhere in the ground of the farm. I’m not sure anymore quite where it is, but it’s not more than 18 inches from the surface.
In time, of course, the old man died, the sons inherited the farm. Not long afterwards they set to work digging up every inch of ground. But they failed to find any treasure. But since they’d gone to all the trouble of turning the soil, they thought they might as well sow a crop - which they did, reaping a good harvest.
The following autumn as soon as they had an opportunity, they dug for the treasure again, but with no better results. As their fields were turned over more thoroughly than any others in the neighborhood, they reaped better harvests than anyone else.
Year after year, their search continued… and year after year they gained a good crop.
It was only when they had grown older that they realized what their father had done.
APPLY: You reap what you sow - says God.
The Bible talks a lot about that kind of concept because that’s what a farmer does
· The farmer sows seed in a way exercises faith – a faith that that which he has sown will yield a crop.
· But the farmer will only get a crop if he works the ground and plants the seed.
· It’s the farmer’s faithfulness to this concept that gains him success as a farmer.
You Reap What You Sow. That’s what faith is all about.
Now, that’s all well and good in theory. But as I often say “I never studied theory.”
Life is often about cold hard facts… and faith can be a hard thing to hang onto when life gets tough.
Our text this morning comes from the book written by a prophet named Haggai.
And Haggai is talking to a very discouraged nation.
Seventy years before, the Jewish nation had been dragged into exile because of their sin and disobedience. God had caused a mighty nation to come down and carry Judah into captivity, destroying Jerusalem and their beloved Temple.
Now, 70 years later (in accordance with the prophecy of Daniel) they’ve returned home. But their homecoming is a bittersweet experience. They return to a city that still lies in ruins and temple that’s barely stone upon stone. Now it’s their job is to rebuild and restore what has been destroyed.
So they set to work. And they rebuilt the city walls. And they began to rebuild the temple.
But there was a small problem. They weren’t wealthy enough to build a temple equaled old one, and they know it.
The original temple was built at the height of Solomon’s glory. It had taken 183,000 laborers 7 years to build this temple. It was built using the resources King David had set aside for its construction… but it was also financed by taxes imposed by King Solomon during his reign. Solomon also taxed the people of Israel so heavily that this burden served as one of the causes of the split of Israel into two nations after he died.
If I’ve done my math right, it seems that Solomon’s temple was constructed using over 663 thousand lbs of silver and somewhere around 567 thousand lbs of gold. That’s not to mention all the other precious stones, and expensive wood, and other materials used in its construction.
Now I don’t care who you are… that’s a lot of money to be wrapped up in a single building.
The Jews who returned from exile weren’t nearly wealthy enough to invest that kind of money and resources into the rebuilding effort. And so the Temple they have managed to build is fairly inferior compared the one of Solomon’s day. It was functional… but it was no where near as extravagant as the 1st temple
Ezra tells us that when some of the Jews stood before what they’d built, they were discouraged:
“…many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid…” Ezra 3:12a
They were frustrated and they were despondent…
But what I find interesting - is how God responded to their despair
Addressing Zerubbabel (one of the royal descendents of King David - now governor of Judea)
“’But now be strong, O Zerubbabel,’ declares the LORD.
‘Be strong, O Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest.
Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the LORD, ‘and work.