Summary: The time has come to invest in our church facility so that it glorifies God and serves today’s circumstances. God has placed the resources among us and will be shaking us to let go and move toward excellence.
I hope you’ve noticed that I try to come at preaching from a wide variety of different angles. There are many aims I bring to the preaching task.
Most of the time, of course, I am trying to work with you in seeing in the Scriptures something that will help you live out your daily life in the world. Most of the time I am working with you to find spiritual insights that will make a difference for you out there where it’s tough.
Sometimes, on the other hand, I preach for commitment on the part of those who have not yet made up their mind about the Lord Jesus Christ and about His church. Sometimes I am working to get somebody to say "Yes" to the most important decision they will ever make.
But there are other aims in preaching too. Last week, for example, I let the Scripture speak to us about one of the larger issues, one of the political issues. Just because we do believe in the separation of church and state, that does not mean that we should separate faith and politics. And so sometimes I will preach in order to get you to act or think politically.
But today none of these, really, describes what I am after. Today I want to talk to you, to us, as Takoma Park Baptist Church. Today I want to think with you about what we as a people of God planted in this place need to do together. The Bible speaks to each of us personally, but it also speaks to us as us. It speaks to us together.
This is a sermon meant, then, for Takoma Park believers today, and for what Takoma Park believers can be tomorrow.
Let me first give you in brief the background of the scripture text I am going to read, and then, after I have read it for you, we are going to be blessed as Mr. Stewart Battle presents the text to us in the matchless music of Handel’s Messiah. I believe that hearing these prophetic words that way will communicate to you the power of the Spirit and what the Spirit wants to do in our church.
The background: the year is 520 BC; the setting is Jerusalem, a desolate Jerusalem. Some sixty-six years earlier the tramping armies of Babylon had destroyed the city and had taken into captivity the cream of the crop. All the people who knew how to do anything, all of the leadership, all of the craftsmen, all of the businessmen, all of the statesmen, all the people who knew how to do anything were taken into exile into Babylon.
And, more than that, the city itself was devastated. Its walls were breached, its houses and its public buildings were put to the torch, and, worst of all, its very heart was cut out when the Temple was battered down. The Temple, built more than three hundred years earlier by King Solomon, built as the place where God said He would make His name dwell, built of the finest materials and adorned not only with beauty but also with love and emotion, the Temple was virtually gone. Probably some of its walls remained standing, but it was unusable. The altar of God was defiled. The place of sacrifice was no more. The Temple was no longer a place of beauty filled with the sounds of psalms; now it was a garbage heap, where the only sounds were made by rats scampering through the rubble.
Now, however, the long, sad exile was about to end. Babylon had fallen to the Persians. And under the Persian king Cyrus some of the people of Judah were allowed to return to Jerusalem. Under Darius the First even more came back, filled with hope, planning great things, talking of rebuilding their city, expecting to create a vigorous economy, thinking that they could pick up where their fathers and mothers had left off nearly 70 years before.
Someone, evidently, suggested that it would also be a good idea to rebuild the Temple. After all, the Temple was the center and core of the life of the city. Why not rebuild the Temple? It may have seemed like a good idea to some, but most of the people objected. They said, we are too poor to do that. We don’ t have the resources to build the Temple. Let us take care of first things first: our houses, our fields, our clothing, our jobs. Then, if there is time and money left over, we will think· about a Temple of some kind.
On to that pessimistic scene stepped a prophet named Haggai. We don’t know very much about Haggai, only that while other prophets like Ezekiel and Jeremiah and the second Isaiah were preaching about the great spiritual and theological issues of the day, Haggai concerned himself with one issue, one problem, and a very practical one. Haggai argued that the Temple had to be rebuilt. Haggai’s message, contained in just four little speeches, was very practical and very immediate. He said: The Temple must be rebuilt, and the Spirit of the Living God will provide the resources with which to do the job.