A Timeline Of Restoration
Chuck Swindoll shared the following story "A few years ago, an angry man rushed through the Rijks Museum in Amsterdam until he reached Rembrandt's famous painting "Nightwatch." Then he took out a knife and slashed it repeatedly before he could be stopped. A short time later, a distraught, hostile man slipped into St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome with a hammer and began to smash Michelangelo's beautiful sculpture The Pieta. Two cherished works of art were severely damaged. But what did officials do? Throw them out and forget about them? Absolutely not! Using the best experts, who worked with the utmost care and precision, they made every effort to restore the treasures. By His sovereign grace, God can bring good out of our failures, and even out of our sins." (source:sermonillustrations.com)
- Whether you are restoring a historic building, a vintage home, an antique car or a priceless piece of art, restoration takes time. The same is true when it comes to spiritual restoration. When God begins to do a work in the lives of His people there are certain phases that take place. There are times when God's children turn from Him. Often this is followed by a time of rebellion when that individual refuses to acknowledge his/her sin. Then comes a time of chastisement or discipline where God gets the attention of that backslider. Then comes a time of realization, when that person acknowledges their sin. This must be coupled with repentance and returning to the Heavenly Father. When this occurs restoration is now possible. And after restoration then progress and fruitfulness is possible. If you are not where you should be in your walk with the Lord, my prayer is that the process of restoration begins in you today.
- For the past few weeks we have been examining the restoration process of the Temple in Jerusalem. In Chapter one we covered the idleness and inactivity of Israel. God confronted and rebuked them because they were building luxurious homes for themselves while the Temple lay in ruins. Through the prophet Haggai the Lord called on His people to consider their ways. They heeded God's warning and began to work to build the Temple.
- As we arrive at the midway point of Chapter 2 it becomes apparent that more than the Temple was being restored. Though it was important to the Lord that the Temple was rebuilt... His main concern was not the brick and mortar that comprised this building First and foremost God wanted to see the relationship between He and His people restored. He wanted to see their worship restored, He wanted to see their service restored and ultimately He wanted to see their obedience restored. As the people began to lay the foundation of the new Temple, each of these things began to take place.
- In verses 10-19 God reveals to Israel where they had been, where they were and where they were going. When you look closely at this timeline it is apparent that the steps that Israel took back then, are the steps that some need to take today. I would like to consider this passage and examine "A Timeline Of Restoration".
Before the people began to make progress they first had to come to the realization that it was time to rebuild the Temple. They had to turn from their inactivity and misplaced priorities. They have done just that ...and now they are at a good place. At this point, Israel was about 3 months into the restoration process. In September they began to gather the materials and make preparations. Now on December 21st the Lord sent the people a message through Haggai. The first thing that was addressed in this discourse was:
I. The Past Sin Of God's People v10-14
- Israel had gone through a period of sinfulness and rebellion. Now God addresses their sin with the intention of preventing them from returning to it. Notice that:
A. God Explains Sin - The Lord prompted Haggai to ask the Priests a question. He asked " If a priest is carrying meat from a holy sacrifice in his robes and that robe touches some bread or stew, wine or oil, or any other food, will it become holy?’” - The priests rightly answered "no"
- Then Haggai gives the priests another scenario. He asked "If someone becomes unclean (ceremonially) by touching a dead body and then they touch bread or stew, wine or olive oil, or any other food will the food become defiled?" - The priests correctly responded "yes".
- This point of the Law is explained in Numbers 19:11 - "He that touches the dead body of any man shall be unclean seven days." - The Mosaic System taught that ceremonial cleanliness was not transferable from one person to another or one thing to another. Likewise the Law made it clear that ceremonial un-cleanliness was indeed transferable. What this means is that anything an unclean person touched was considered unclean.
- The point being made in this passage was that whatever uncleanness the nation had, would affect all the people. In this case, not rebuilding the Temple had affected the entire nation. During this time in Israel's people suffered from self righteousness. They thought that they were pure but God considered them unclean. Their rituals and ceremonies could not sanctify their impure hearts
- We are told of their religious ceremonies in Ezra 3:3 And they set the altar upon his bases; for fear was upon them because of the people of those countries: and they offered burnt offerings thereon unto the LORD, even burnt offerings morning and evening. 4 They kept also the feast of tabernacles, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings by number, according to the custom, as the duty of every day required; 5 And afterward offered the continual burnt offering, both of the new moons, and of all the set feasts of the LORD that were consecrated, and of every one that willingly offered a freewill offering unto the LORD. 6 From the first day of the seventh month began they to offer burnt offerings unto the LORD. But the foundation of the temple of the LORD was not yet laid.
- God tells His people that even after their customs and observances they were as unclean as before. Not only does God Explain Sin...
B. God Despises Sin - v14 Then answered Haggai, and said, So is this people, and so is this nation before me, saith the LORD; and so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean
- The problem was that even though they observed the feasts and offered continual sacrifices they were still rebellious and disobedient. The blatantly neglected to rebuild the Temple. But they attempted to ease their conscience by observing the religious ceremonies. It is abundantly clear that the actions of the people were not pleasing to God. The Lord did not accept their offerings. He declared that their disobedience made them unclean in His eyes.
- Along with the fact that God explains sin and despises sin is the fact that:
C. God Judges Sin - v16 Since those days were, when one came to an heap of twenty measures, there were but ten: when one came to the pressfat for to draw out fifty vessels out of the press, there were but twenty. 17 I smote you with blasting and with mildew and with hail in all the labours of your hands; yet ye turned not to me, saith the LORD.
- As a result of their disobedience, the crops they planted, would not produce. They harvested half of what they would have brought in if they had been obedient. I am sure that there were some who assessed the situation and said "I just don't get it... we are following the religious rules... we observe the feasts and offer sacrifices... Why is God allowing us to suffer so much?" - The people would not admit that their difficulties came as a direct result of their sin. They were being judged for their disobedience.
- In the church today there are many who think that God is pleased simply because they attend worship a few times a month or even every time the doors are open. They think that God should bless them because they put some money in the offering plate from time to time or even give a full tithe. They think that they are in good standing with the Lord if they spend time in prayer. They think that because they are devoted to Bible study that they are in good shape. Then there are some who think that God owes them something because they serve in some position in the church. Too many people have the mindset that if they check all the boxes then God should bless them and protect them. The fact of the matter is, you can be a model church member but if there is disobedience in your life you are wasting your time!
- God makes it clear in I Samuel 15:22 that "Obedience is better than sacrifice". - Yes God wants your praise, your offering, your sacrifice, and your service.... but first and foremost HE wants you to be obedient!!
If you find yourself at a place of disobedience... God will reveal your sin. He will do this through His Word and the conviction of the Holy Spirit. God will let you know that He despises your sin, and He will judge your sin. There are consequences for those who are blatantly rebellious against the Lord. Without hesitation... God will chastise His children. He did not let Israel sin and get by and you will not either! The good news is that when you begin to obey the Lord and when you repent and return to Him, great blessings are available. That was the case for Israel and that is the opportunity for us today.
- This brings us to the next phase in this "Timeline Of Restoration", consider also:
II. The Current Obedience Of God's People v15-17
Though Israel had gone through a period of disobedience and idleness, there was a transition: They went from inactivity to activity. They went from neglect to faithfulness. They went from disobedience to obedience. They went from being chastised to being blessed. How did this transition take place? Notice if you will:
A. The Discipline Involved - v15 And now, I pray you, consider from this day and upward, from before a stone was laid upon a stone in the temple of the LORD: 16 Since those days were, when one came to an heap of twenty measures, there were but ten: when one came to the pressfat for to draw out fifty vessels out of the press, there were but twenty. 17 I smote you with blasting and with mildew and with hail in all the labours of your hands; yet ye turned not to me, saith the LORD.
During this period of time God's people faced great difficulty. They planted many crops but harvested very little. They ate but were not satisfied. They drank but their thirst was not quenched. They earned wages but their money disappeared as if they had holes in their pockets. They also endured a severe drought that affected their livestock, food supply and their income. When God confronted them He made it clear that He caused all of these issues to come upon His people. Why? Because while they lived for themselves, built their own houses and offered Him "token sacrifices", His house remained in ruins.
- After facing discipline from God, the people returned to Him. Notice:
B. The Repentance Involved - Chapter 1 verse 12 tells us that the people "feared the Lord" . And chapter 1 verse 14 says that "they came and did work in the house of the LORD of hosts, their God". Then, after the discipline and the repentance the people began to move forward for the Lord. Notice if you will:
C. The Progress Involved - Chapter 2 reveals the fact that progress indeed was being made on the Temple. God was pleased with their progress. So much so, that He brings them a message of encouragement. God told them... DON'T STOP NOW!! For those of you who are faithfully serving Him that message rings true today! God is telling you.... DON'T STOP NOW!!
Perhaps your progress for the Lord has been halted. If so it is a direct result of your disobedience. If this is the case you WILL FACE DISCIPLINE FROM YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER! Maybe you are already at that point. If so, then you must REPENT, RETURN and REBUILD! When you take these steps, then you can once again make PROGRESS for the Lord!
- We have seen The Past Sin Of God's People, we have seen The Present Obedience Of God's People now we will examine the final phase in the timeline of restoration and that is:
III. The Future Of Blessings God's People - v18 Consider now from this day and upward, from the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, even from the day that the foundation of the LORD'S temple was laid, consider it. 19 Is the seed yet in the barn? yea, as yet the vine, and the fig tree, and the pomegranate, and the olive tree, hath not brought forth: from this day will I bless you.
- Throughout the history of Israel there is a common theme. When they served God and obeyed Him, He richly blessed them. When they turned from Him and worshipped idols or lived for themselves He judged and punished them. Haggai records one of those occasions where they have returned to the Lord and will once again experience His presence and blessing.
- God informs Israel that His because their actions have changed, His actions toward them will change as well. Because they were willing to rebuild the Temple and restore His worship... they would be blessed. God proclaims in verse 19 that "even though their seed was still in the barn, they would reap a great harvest." - Whatever they planted He would bless and multiply.
- There was no way that Israel could earn the Lord's favor. Even though they were being obedient, they were still unworthy. But God in His abundant Grace blessed them for their willingness to obey Him. No matter how obedient we may be, we could never deserve God's favor. But He constantly lavishes us with His love, grace and mercy. If you will return to the Father... great blessings await you! But before these blessings are possible you must take the proper steps to move forward for God.
- Maybe you are like Israel, you follow the rituals and observe the ceremonies. You check all of the boxes and feel pretty good about yourself. You come to church, pray, study, give, witness and serve. And because of these things you feel that you are right where you need to be. But you overlook the fact that God has called you to accomplish certain things for Him. There are tasks that have been assigned that you have let remain idle. If this describes you then God is calling you to "Consider your ways!!"
- After God called me to preach I spent 3 years running from that call. The last year I returned to the church and became very active. I helped with the building and grounds, I worked with the youth and children, I was involved in the outreach program, and I rarely missed a service. But I knew that there was something missing. You see, I was simply trying to fill that void in my life with something else. I was attempting to justify my disobedience. Eventually God got my attention and I completely surrendered to the ministry. And if I had all day I could not describe the blessings that have came as a result.
My friend, you may not be living a vile wretched life. You may be the most faithful church member that we have. You may serve in multiple areas and never miss a service. You can do all of these things and still be away from God. You need to be restored today. In order to do so you must realize, repent, return and rebuild. If God has called you to serve Him in a specific ministry... get to work. Forsake your idleness and inactivity and begin to labor for the Lord. When you do... He will bless your effort!
Then you can look at where you were, where you are and where you are going. You can see your past sin, your current obedience and your future blessings. It is exciting to see how God works in The Timeline Of Restoration.