Summary: Sermon 1 of 4: A call to return to God and His work
I Can’t Get No Satisfaction
Woodlawn Baptist Church
October 2, 2005
About the year 600 BC, the Bible tells us and history confirms that the Jewish people were conquered by the Babylonian empire under the leadership of Nebuchadnezzar. You have read the stories of Daniel and the three Hebrew boys: those are young men who were taken into Babylonian captivity. In the early years of Israel’s subjection to Babylonian rule, Nebuchadnezzar led his armies to destroy Solomon’s glorious temple in Jerusalem and carried all the spoils back to Babylon.
For 70 years the Jews endured that captivity, hundreds of miles from home, after which time the Medo-Persian empire rose to power. The king of Persia, King Cyrus, decided to allow the Jews to return to Israel and rebuild their communities and the temple. Many of them chose not to and stayed in Babylon and Persia, but many others went back to Jerusalem and took on the work of rebuilding, beginning with Jerusalem and the temple of God. King Cyrus had put in writing the decree to rebuild, so with great hope and bright dreams, the people went to work, putting the pieces of the temple back where they belonged, looking forward to the glorious day when God’s presence would once again be manifested among them.
It wasn’t long before the mixed multitude of people known as the Samaritans showed up and began opposing the work of God’s people. They wanted to help rebuild, but the Jews wouldn’t allow them because they were not full blooded Jews. They were the children of mixed racial marriages and were not allowed to help. Upset by the action of the Jews, the Samaritans sent word back to Persia and got the work on the temple halted, and since Cyrus really had little or no interest in this project, he never reinstated it.
Put on hold by opposition and halted by an unwillingness to fight for this project, the Jews packed up their tools and went home where they got busy with their personal lives. Keep in mind that they’ve been gone for seventy years, so homes are ruined, farms are overrun, hostile neighbors had moved in on them and much rebuilding had to be done, so rather than dwelling on the temple they simply began to work on rebuilding their lives.
For fourteen years the people of Israel stayed at home, during which time the ruined temple sat in their midst. Fourteen years go by and nothing is done. Israel’s civil leaders couldn’t motivate them and their spiritual leaders couldn’t get them back to work. That’s when God broke into their lives with this message from Haggai.
Now, Haggai was probably an old man when he delivered these messages from God. He appears to be old enough to have seen the old temple when he was a boy, before the Babylonian captivity. Outside of that we don’t know much about the man, but his message speaks volumes about his heart and his passion for Israel to come alive once again for the Lord. It speaks even greater volumes about the way God had been dealing with the people (which they had been unable to see) and His open rebuke of them for their neglect of Him and His house. Read with me Haggai 1:1-2.
“In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, in the first day of the month, came the word of the Lord by Haggai the prophet unto Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, saying, Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built.”
The time had not come? For fourteen years they had let God’s house lie in ruins and it still wasn’t the right time to build. Was time a problem? Was money a problem? Was opposition a problem? Look at verses 3-4.
“Then came the word of the Lord by Haggai the prophet, saying, Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your ceiled houses, and this house lie waste?”
Now we get to the problem. It may not look like much on the surface, but to God it was huge. His people had given in to a little opposition, had gone home and for all those years spent their time neglecting His house while they indulged in the building of theirs. Some of your Bibles may say that they were living in paneled houses. Others say ceiled houses. What that means is that these people had been building or repairing homes and had been finishing them out with expensive, imported wood, probably from Lebanon.
They didn’t have time for God’s house, but they had plenty of time for their own. They didn’t have money for God’s house, but they were living in luxury at home. They couldn’t withstand the opposition at God’s house, so they gave up and chose the easy way.