Summary: Encouragement enables. Fourth sermon in series on the Book of Haggai
Haggai 2:1-9 - God's Encouragement
Encouragement enables. Once upon a time it was announced that the devil was going out of business and would sell all his equipment to those who were willing to pay the price. On the big day of the sale, all his tools were attractively displayed. There was Envy, Jealousy, Hatred, Malice, Deceit, Sensuality, Pride, Idolatry, and other implements of evil on display. Each of the tools was marked with its own price tag. Over in the corner by itself was a harmless-looking, wedge-shaped tool very much worn down, but still it bore a higher price than any of the others. Someone asked the devil what it was, and he answered, "That is Discouragement." The next question came quickly: "And why is it priced so high even though it is plain to see that it is more worn than these others?" "Because," replied the devil, "it is more useful to me than all these others. I can pry open and get into a man's heart with that when I cannot get near him with any other tool. Once I get inside, I can use in him whatever way suits me best."
The devil discourages but the Lord encourages us. This morning I want to look at the encouragements of God. But before we look into the Word of God, let's look to God. Let's pray (pray).
Let me give you a little bit of background in case you have forgotten or you are just joining us for this series. The city of Jerusalem was destroyed by God because of the people's sin and idolatry. The Lord sent the Babylonians against them. They captured the city, killed most of the people and burned the city to the ground. The survivors were taken into captivity where they remained for 70 years. At the end of this time, the Babylonian empire fell and the Persians came to power. The new king, Cyrus issued a decree that foreigner who wanted to return to their homelands could do so, as long as they re-established worship to their gods and prayed for the well being of the Persian empire. About 50,000 Jews responded to this offer and made the long journey to their homeland. When they arrived they only found ruins. It took them two years just to get settled down and gather supplies before they could start rebuilding the temple.
They laid the foundation amidst a great celebration but soon the surrounding peoples became alarmed at the new influx of people and began opposing them. They hired men to frustrate the Israelites and sent a letter of protest to the new Persian king. Xerxes wasn't aware of the his predecessor's decree and he order the construction to stop so the surrounding people forced the Jews to stop building.
Sixteen years pass and finally God has waited long enough. He sent two prophets Haggai and Zechariah to spur the people on to get back to their original purpose. This book is the message that Haggai prophesied to the people. In chapter one God tells the people to stop looking after their own interests and instead, build His house. He urges them to get back to their original purpose of coming to Jerusalem in the first place. At the end of chapter one we see the response of the people. They decide to obey, and in response God stirs their hearts up and the people restart the building project.
Last week we began looking at chapter two. A little less than a month has passed by since the work began and the people were becoming discouraged. A major source of this discouragement was comparison. There were some people among the Israelites who saw the former temple and the one they were building seemed like nothing in comparison. In response, the Lord gives the Israelites three commands, to be strong, to work and to not fear. But the Lord doesn't just give commands and leave them to obey. God also gives encouragements to strengthen the hearts of Zerubabbel, Joshua and the people so that they can obey. I want to look at them this morning. If you have a bulletin you can find the sermon notes inside and you can jot down ideas as you listen. Or better yet, you can write notes in your notebook.
Encouragement enables. There are three encouragements that God gives in this passage. The first is God's presence. Take a look at verse 4 (read verse). This isn't the first time God reminded the Israelites of His presence with them. Take a look at Haggai 1:13 (read verse). When I spoke on that passage a few weeks ago I said that the Israelites needed to know that God hadn't deserted them. They all knew that God had sent them into exile, they may have wondered if God had left them for good. I also said that God's presence means that we are coworkers with Christ. Matt. 11:28-30 gives the picture of a yoke. Remember that? We don't do the work ourselves, but Christ works right alongside of us.