Intro - History
Haggai means festival, feast, festive, I get the impression from reading this book that Haggai was the least scary of the OT prophets, a man with a heart of love, not condemning but trying to help the people truly find God and all his blessings for them. The prophet was most likely born in exile, in Babylon, were the Jewish people were held for a 70 year period before a group about 50,000 strong returned to Jerusalem led by Zerubbabel. Some commentaries say the 70 years reflects the fact that the Jewish people were in Israel 490 years after being brought there from Egypt and they nether observed a Sabbath year every seventh year as commanded by God, to let the land rest, as they lived under the law, then they owed 70 years exactly! God gave the land rest. The prophet dated his work precisely, a joy to historians and the like, so we know this was written 520 years BC. That’s it on the dates and figures, lets look at the message.
Haggai brought four messages to the returning Jewish exiles and to us, the are:
Message of Conviction and proprieties
Message of Courage and faith
Message of Cleanliness and holiness
Message of Covenant and promise
These messages were about faithfulness to God, how God wants his people to bless him and glorify him, not themselves and how God will lead us to holiness if we let him. This is not prosperity teachings its more if you please God he will bless you if you don’t he won’t, its also not about earning God’s favour more butting him first in our lives and letting God lead us rather than us trying to lead God
Message of Conviction and proprieties
Hands up those who think they are God! Not many takers there, but Haggai underlines this message with "Give careful thought to your ways” cause clearly the danger is that many do either consciously or sub-consciously thing that they are. Why well the people were in danger of forgetting God, turning to their ways and doings, missing God and his wants “These people say” does not necessarily translate to “So says the Lord”. They said the time has not come for us to rebuild the Lords temple, so we will get on with building our own dwellings, we will use all our good things to make our homes like palaces after all, we owe it to ourselves after all that exile and trauma time for a bit of ME worship. That’s not how it is today, eh, we don’t worship material things, covert the high def TV, the car, the house big enough to be a church, the clothes with the right labels and shall I go on. But that was then and God can provide for himself can’t he, we of course he can that’s not the point, it’s a time to open eyes, minds and hearts and know that God gave us all that we have and expects us to surrender it back freely with a glad heart. Then why give it, well it’s a heart thing, God wants us to be dependent on him and not things, to love him and not ourselves. That’s what Haggai was telling the Israelites
”Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: "Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it."
Why, well Gods house was still in ruins while their houses were plaices and they justified themselves by claiming to know what God wanted. This is about priorities, what is important in our lives, is it truly full on God, honestly always putting God and his kingdom first, well we don’t do we, when we don’t guess what we hurt Gods feelings, he wants to see our love and gets our backs, wants our company and gets our shopping lists, wants our trust and gets our dissatisfaction, sometime we try and find happiness in everything but God and we don’t.
Heart of Worship
I’m coming back to the heart of worship, its not about me Lord but you – that’s what Haggai is saying here. This is about getting our priorities right and having the discipline to keep them that way. No I not asking us to commit to a three hour a day prayer time, a weekly two day fast or anything like that, don’t panic don’t e-mail the elders, no this is about putting God and Jesus first, what’s worship got to do with it, well everything actually. This is about being overtaken in love and awe with God, Jesus remembering what has done not what would he could do, but what he has done and showing the love he is due, simple love for love – that’s worship. So we love him in the desert place of a Monday morning on a crowded train of sneezing sad looking people, we love him in the land of plenty as we gather in fellowship with our brothers and sisters, we love him in the doctors surgery when we are told the lump is bad, when the bills come, when the children drive us mad, when, when, when – always that’s when the discipline is to turn to God and give praise always – its not easy but it means so much to him when we do gold and precious silver to God. Look at the affect this message had on the people in Jerusalem, God told his people “I am with you” he says the same to us, and their spirits were stirred, so today when God says I am with you don’t turn away, let the Holy Spirit lead you, stir you up and fill you. Then when stirred (not shaken) the people built the temple of God, this is true prophecy, words of encouragement and love that serve God but leave the people filled with a sense of the Holy the divine really a breath from eternity, cause that’s what God is about getting us ready to live with him and worshipping him forever, and ever! They came and began to work on the house of the LORD Almighty, their God, really when we turn to Jesus and give our lives and hearts to him, The Holy Sprit comes into us and starts building the temple of God in us in our hearts, that’s why we can become like Jesus
Message of Courage and faith
So the people had their priorities reset and motivation sorted, the temple foundation were laid all was proceeding, the prophet Haggai comes again with his second message. Solomon’s temple would have been awesome by any standard, more gold certainly bigger and in some eyes maybe better than the temple they were building, but how does God judge, going to impress the creator of all things with anything man made, I think not, so when Haggai cried out “’Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing?” he was not belittling their efforts or trying to de motivate then. No, this is about the heart, like the widow giving from her poverty these exiles gave from their little in the face of many trials and a lack due to drought, poor harvest and so on, they gave of their heart, that’s what impresses God, when it is given out of the heart, out of lack not plenty, when it hurts and take courage to trust, that impresses God. As Haggai told them “Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the LORD, ’and work. For I am with you,’ declares the LORD Almighty. ’This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.” This is the heart of their motivation and courage, God is with them, it gets no better, gets no truer God is with them. May I say to you God is with us, do not fear, be strong, take courage stand firm, link arms, link shields together and stand for God, for Jesus and for the kingdom – this is the heart of faith. (1:7-9) "This is what the LORD Almighty says: ’In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the LORD Almighty. ’The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the LORD Almighty. ’The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the LORD Almighty. ’And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the LORD Almighty." We who give our lives to Jesus we are Gods silver, Gods gold, this church is his house, do not these words stir you heart, they stir mine, this is a prayer for US here and now, shake the nations Lord, bring all peoples to you house, your church may we all become your silver, your gold, like you son Jesus and may your Glory fill this house and may you church to come be even more glorious than this one, bring your peace, bring your presence, that’s a prayer for now if you ask me!
This is a prayer of courage and faith!
Message of Cleanliness and holiness
So Haggai sorted the motivation, gave courage and faith and then turned to the matter of holiness, be holy because I am Holy, we are told by God. This is difficult, but its not up to us its not up to our strength its due to the Holy Sprit – consider the values of Gods kingdom:
The strong must be weak
The rich should give all to the poor
The leaders should wash the feet of those who follow
Victory is found in surrender
The wise should be child like
A king who would be a servant
Upside down by the worlds standard, yet revealing the true character of Jesus of God. We are not made holy by our rituals or having a holy person touch us, Haggai is speaking to the priests, the people telling them to give careful thought to the foundation of their lives. Same for us we need to take care that we do not pollute our lives with sin, acts of un holiness, examples of which are given graphically in Galatians 5 19 – 21 :The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God”. Why is this important, well we cannot live like Jesus bringing his kingdom to others if we share more with the devil, so we turn and ask to be washed clean, we come back to his cross and ask Jesus to have his way with us, we can’t do this in our own strength the only example of holiness being transferred from one to another is when Jesus touches you, its not by ritual, its not by religion, its not by our ways but his, he will restore us. God was reaching out to the people (2:14) Then Haggai said, " ’So it is with this people and this nation in my sight,’ declares the LORD. ’Whatever they do and whatever they offer there is defiled. Then they are told that whatever they had done up to that point had been struck by blight, mildew and hail, still they did not turn back to God. Then Haggai says (2: 18 – 19) ’From this day on, from this twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, give careful thought to the day when the foundation of the LORD’s temple was laid. Give careful thought: Is there yet any seed left in the barn? Until now, the vine and the fig tree, the pomegranate and the olive tree have not borne fruit. " ’From this day on I will bless you.’ "
When they turned back to God, when they turn from their ways and turn to rebuild the temple, then God restored then, blessed them!
Message of Covenant and promise
In the last part of the book of Haggai God underlines that:
He is all powerful
He is always present
He is the I AM the all in all
Haggai is bringing the people hope that God almighty was going to destroy their enemies and establish his kingdom with them, His chosen people. Encouragement indeed for the returned exiles. Encouragement indeed for us this speaks of covenant or God’s promise. Here is a message that David’s line from which Zerubbabel and Jesus was descended would overcome all of the royal thrones and shattered the foreign kingdoms, smashing their armies and powerbases. This is speaking of the return of Jesus the day of days, when every knee shall bow and every mouth confess “Jesus is Lord”. Gods signet ring, seals the deal, when God makes the promise it is guaranteed to be fulfilled. Gods greatest promise is that of Jesus, that whoever believes in him and believes he is the son of God will be saved, reborn, transformed and sealed in the Holy Sprit for all of eternity, never to die, that’s a promise, if you have still to find Jesus don’t hesitate because its to later if he comes again. Trust God, trust his promise and believe in his love.
The principles from Haggai
We need to always examine our priorities and motives, why are we doing what we do – who are we doing it for? Us or God?Its never to late to change our ways if we need to. Take courage and have faith, God is with us, is in control, he might shake the nations and bring disasters, but God is God, the silver is his, the gold is his and all the glory is his, rejoice and trust.
Remember God loves us and whatever we do that will not change, he is there arms wide open seeking the prodigals, seeking those who come with hearts filled with love for him and his son Jesus, wanting to restore. We do not seek God to be blessed, we seek God because we want to worship him, to love him and that is the right motive, we trust in him for his blessings, for the material things and we do this with a pure and joy filled heart. We always need to trust God, trust his promises and seek him. Is the book of Haggai God breathed, you better believe that it is, read it again this week ask the Holy Sprit to help open the eyes of your heart as you do and you will see the heart of God, loving, seeking his children, wanting to be with them and bless them, how good is that, just ask for it in prayer and recive in faith, there is nothing better.