Summary: Evidences of Spiritual Apathy among God’s people
Studies In The Book of Haggai
The Evidences & Causes of Spiritual Apathy
Recently in my own personal devotions I was reading through the book of Haggai the prophet and as I did so I was reminded of how relevant his message is for the Church today. Although directed to God’s people some 2,5000 years ago and intended to address a specific situation at that time, Haggai’s message is nevertheless timeless in its relevance because the spiritual issues and problems that he had to deal with in his day tend to recur in every generation of the Church. And so I decided to endeavour to preach a short series of sermons on this book.
Haggai is one of the shortest books of the Bible and is included in that body of Biblical literature that is known as the Minor Prophets. He is one of the prophets of the Restoration, the other two being Zechariah and Malachi and what we mean by that is he ministered to the people of God after their return from exile in Babylon. As such he was one of the last prophetic voices to be heard before the coming of Christ. Unlike most of the prophets Haggai had the joy of seeing his ministry produce positive results among the people of God. There was a great spiritual awakening, a spiritual revival under his ministry and that being the case it is an encouraging book to study. It shows us what can happen when God’s Word is faithfully preached and when God’s Spirit begins to work in the hearts of God’s people.
It is my prayer that as we study this book together God the Holy Spirit will work in each of our hearts as he worked in the hearts of the people in Haggai’s day and that He will both challenge us and more importantly change us in those areas of our lives where change is needed.
The two themes that predominate the message of this book are Spiritual Apathy and Spiritual Awakening and that being the case I propose to look first of all at the subject of Spiritual Apathy. We will consider The Evidences, The Causes, the Consequences and The Cure to Spiritual Apathy. Having done that we will then consider the subject of Spiritual Awakening and as we do so we will look at its causes, its evidences and its results.
Lets begin our study then by considering
The Evidences of Spiritual Apathy
Haggai was sent by God to minister to a people who had fallen into a state of Spiritual apathy. What were some of the signs, what were the evidences that such was the spiritual state of the people at that time?
Well the first evidence was that
1) God’s Work Was Being Neglected:
Now in order to see this we need to understand something of the historical context of Haggai’s message. In 586 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar invaded and overthrew Jerusalem. The city was raised to the ground and the temple was completely destroyed. God’s people were taken into Babylon as captives and there they remained for seventy years. The exile was God’s judgement upon the people for their sins. It was a time of great sorrow for God’s people. A time when they felt cut off from God and could no longer worship him as they had formerly done. Their mood is summed up in Psalm 137 “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept, when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs…they said “sing us one of the songs of Zion” How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?” However although God punished them by means of the exile, he did not abandon them. He had promised that their captivity would not be permanent but would last for seventy years after which time they would be able to return to their homeland and rebuild the temple, offer sacrifices once again and restore Jerusalem. In 536 BC the Babylonian empire fell to the Persians and their King, Cyrus, issued an edict giving permission to the Jews to return to Jerusalem with the express purpose of rebuilding the temple of the Lord – Ezra 1:1ff READ: About 50,000 Jews took up the offer and under the leadership of Zerubabel, the political leader and Joshua, the religious leader, they returned to Jerusalem amid scenes of great joy. It was a dream come true – “When Zions bondage God turned back as men that dreamed were we, then filled with laughter was our mouth our tongues with melody. They ‘mong the heathen said the Lord great things for them hath wrought; The Lord hath done great things for us whence joy to us is brought.” Soon after their arrival they began work on the rebuilding of the temple. They cleared away the rubble from the temple court, rebuilt the altar of burnt offerings and recommenced the offering of daily sacrifice once again. By the following spring they had laid the foundation of the temple and there was great celebrations in Jerusalem at that time. That, however is when they began to run into problems. The Samaritans, those who had been left behind at the time the greater part of the nation were taken into Babylon and who since then had intermarried with the heathen and adopted their forms of worship, they came offering to help in the rebuilding project. Their offer was refused and they out of spite proceeded to do all that they could to frustrate the building work. They terrorised the people. They wrote letters to the authorities and eventually succeeded in getting the work stopped. The people of God became discouraged, their initial zeal waned, they no longer had any heart for the work and the temple lay unfinished. In the years that followed the people became increasingly concerned about their own personal affairs and for the next 14 years the work on the temple was neglected. The Work of rebuilding the temple should have been their top priority, that after all was the reason why they had been sent back to Jerusalem, but the work had been abandoned and with the passage of time the people became more and more apathetic towards the work.