Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?

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Sermon Outline 5/29/05

I.            Please turn with me to our Old Testament passage Haggai 1:1-11 (page 703), this is my sermon outline for this morning.

II.        (vs. 2-4) “This is what the LORD Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come for the LORD’s house to be built.’  Then the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”  Have you ever been sure God was talking to you?   

A.   In Haggai 1:2 God addresses the people through Haggai: “Thus says the Lord.”  And He tells the Israelites who He is: “The Lord of Hosts”

B.    And He knows who He is talking to: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come for the Lord’s house to be built.’”  The book of Haggai took place after the monarchy period of Israel had ended and the people had been in exile in Babylon for the seventy years.  The monarchies had been ended by God’s judgment on Israel and Judah for their unfaithfulness.  First, the northern Kingdom of Israel was invaded by Assyria and the northern portion of Israel was carried into exile in 733 B.C.   Over 100 years later, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon conquered Judah, and deported about 10,000 Israelites to Babylon in 597 B.C. (see 2 Kings 24:11-16).  After an Israelite rebellion and another massive deportation, Jeremiah sent a letter to Nebuchadnezzar, in Babylon to be read to the exiles from Judah.  Jeremiah encouraged them to stop fighting God and to accept where God had chosen to send them, to prosper there, to seek and pray for the peace and prosperity of the cities in Babylon to which they had been taken.  Jeremiah also told them about God’s promise to them to bring them back after seventy years had passed.  His promise in Jeremiah 29:4-14 was to bless them when they would seek Him.  The Lord Himself took credit for the deportation of the people, “I have sent you into exile.” (verse 7)  Near the end of this seventy years, God inspired Daniel to pray for God’s deliverance of His people as promised through the prophet Jeremiah (see Daniel 9:2; Jeremiah 25:12, 29:10).  After Babylon fell to the Persians in 539 B.C., the new king Cyrus commissioned the Jews who wanted to return to go to Jerusalem and reconstruct the temple (see Ezra 1).  The Jews returned, settled in their family lands, and then gathered in Jerusalem to rebuild the alter of the Lord and begin to offer sacrifices again (see Ezra 3).  The foundation of the temple was laid and the people rejoiced before the Lord, and many who had seen the original temple wept. (Ezra 3:10-13)  The people dwelling in area around Jerusalem pretended to want to help the Jews in the reconstruction, but then openly opposed them, discouraging them to the point that all work on the temple stopped.  External opposition and the pressing task of providing for their own needs distracted them completely from the purposes of God.  About seventeen years later, when Darius took over the throne of the Persian empire in 520 B.C., the prophets Haggai and Zechariah wrote to challenge and encourage the Jewish people to finish the task of rebuilding of the temple of God which they had abandoned.  This is the context of our passage in Haggai.

C.   Ever say “not yet Lord” to God?  In verse 2 of our passage, the Jews that God brought back after 70 years of discipline did say exactly that.  These Jews had been brought back to the land for the sake of glorifying the name of God (before all nations), and they were specifically given the mission of rebuilding the temple of God for that purpose.  And they got off to a great start, but then faltered when their own means did not seem sufficient and their own needs became great.  They rationalized away the command of God, and put personal survival apart from God, in its place.  They would get around to doing God’s work of building His temple when their situation was better.  God’s design and purpose for His people, as seen in the Bible as a whole, has always been to deliver them, be part of His covenant people, to have them experience intimacy with Himself (worship) and to bless them.  These people had been delivered from Babylon, as prophesied by Jeremiah (see Jeremiah 29:4-14), but had neglected to obey Him and therefore failed to experience intimacy with God and God’s generous blessing for them.   God was (and is) able to provide all that they needed to do the work.

D.   What was it a time for?  To build their own houses (verse 4)?  To provide for their own needs first? 

1.     But the Jews were not sent back for themselves or to rebuild their own houses, it was God’s house and His glory which was the whole purpose for them to return.  God would provide all that they needed if they would ‘trust and obey’ Him.

2.     This is also a message for us in the Christian church, serving Him and advancing His glory is still our purpose.  This is the ultimate purpose of God’s people as seen throughout scripture and God promises to provide all that we need to accomplish His will.  Do we really believe that God will provide when we do His will?

III.  (vs. 5-6) “Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 6 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.”  God, through Haggai’s words in verses 5 & 6, goes on to call the Jews to literally, “set your hearts on your ways.”  God then walks them through their logic of providing for themselves first, and it’s outcome in their lives: 

A.   He called them to a purpose and gave them what they needed to accomplish it, but now that they were concentrating on their own projects, they found they never had enough to get the job done.

B.     “You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” – Do we ever feel that way?

C.   God’s provision was not primarily for themselves (or us), rather it was to further His purposes and His glory through them.

IV.   (vs. 7-8) “This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 8 Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the LORD.  In verses 7-8, God reminds them again of who He is and again calls the Jews to “set your hearts on your ways,” and then God tells them again what their mission is:

A.   “Go! . . and bring down wood, and build the house!” 

B.    Why you ask? -- So that I will be pleased and I will be glorified.”  This is not just a specific command to build, but commissioning to a great and purposeful endeavor – to glorify the King of Kings in the sight of others! 

C.   This is also a reminder to all of us that, like the Jews in the book of Haggai, ‘we are not our own,’ we are servants of the king, for His purposes, not ours.  We can repeat this to ourselves, but how hard this is to live out, both then and now.  God loves us, and we can accept that, but grasping that He has purposes for us that go way beyond us – this is hard to remember every day.

V.      (vs. 9) “‘You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?’ declares the LORD Almighty. ‘Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house.’”  Before the Jews can argue, God through Haggai (in verse 9) reminds them again that their own means have been offensive to God, because they have been relying on their means to provide independent of God: “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little” – (literally: “You turn toward your great harvest, but it became little”). 

A.   God’s curse was on their agricultural work (harvest) “I blew it away.”   

1.     In short, their independence was for their own purposes.  God, through Haggai’s words, directly challenges the logic of ‘me first, God second,’ and proclaims that it is because of their wrong priorities that their own needs have become so overwhelming.  The people of God had lost God’s purpose for them and as a result had lost out on His Blessing for them.  The people repented and obeyed God and took up the work again.

2.     What was required for the Jews was a step of faith and total dependence on God to provide, then not only would God not ‘blow it away,’ but He would multiply His provision, because the work would be His. 

3.     This is still applicable today, because the condition of man is still sinfully independent from God.  None of us want to serve God with His means, we all want to contribute from what we see as our own strength(s) and on our own terms.  We want to serve Him according to our plans.  As we see here in Haggai, this is not God’s way.

4.     But just like the Jews in Haggai, we hardly ever get to the point where we step out totally in faith and depend on God.  But this is not the way of life that we are called to.  We are called to live in complete dependence on Him in all areas of our lives – all for His glory. 

5.     This does not mean that we all sign up to be full-time pastors or missionaries, but it does mean that we complete our work & responsibilities through Him and for Him.  That is, we work with His provision and with His priorities – which just might change the way we do things! 

VI.   This passage in Haggai serves to tell us again who we are and what our purpose is in relationship with Him. 

A.   In Jeremiah 29:11-14 God promised to bless the Jews after the exile, when they prayed to him: “‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. ‘Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. ‘You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. ‘I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.’”  Although this passage was written specifically to the Jews returning from exile, it does tell us of God’s generous mercy and His steadfast love for His people, as seen throughout scripture.  We can be sure that if we also return to Him, and His purposes for us, We will also find Him and receive His blessing. 

B.    God calls for obedience, but God also responds to the people in His mercy and love.  He takes out their heart of stone and gives them a heart of flesh, He puts His spirit in them, and He multiplies the products of their labor (Ezekiel 36:22-34).

VII.  But what does this mean for the New Testament church?  Is there a Temple we are to be building? 

A.   Please turn with me to Ephesians 2:19-22 (page 870): “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you (plural) also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”  This says that we are all being formed into a place for God to inhabit! – a place where His presence is both felt, and is visible to others.  And we are held together in Him (Jesus).  Are we up to this task?  Do we even remember that it is our task?  Speaking for myself, I don’t think about this very often.  And I act on it even less often.  Ephesians 3:21 says: “to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”  Again, we are here as a church to bring glory to HIM.  In the New Covenant the temple of God is the church (us), and we being built together for God, by the strength of His Spirit! 

B.   Are we allowing God to build us together into God’s church here in Danvers?  Please turn with me to our New Testament reading (Ephesians 4:1-6; page 870) and read with me: “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. (some translations say: accepting, or showing tolerance for one another)  3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit— just as you were called to one hope when you were called— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”  And also in verse 29-32: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, (not according to my needs – according to their needs) that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”  Are we here in Danvers making ‘every effort to strive for the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace?’  Are we looking to the needs of OTHERS, or just to our own needs?  This does not mean we should look to other’s needs only as we choose to see it (or justify it) this is to be in the context of ‘bearing with one another’ and ‘building others up’ (meeting them where they are at) not just giving them what we think they need or deserve.  Do we really forgive as God forgave us? – I know that I don’t.

C.   This church at Ephesus is also mentioned by John in the ‘letters to the churches’ found in Revelation 2:4-5, where God confronts them with the command to change: “‘But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. ‘Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand (church) out of its place—unless you repent.”  Have we lost or first love in our struggle to survive as a church?

D.     To be painfully specific (at least for me), we need to make the way we relate to each other here in this church in Danvers one of our biggest priorities – way above the priority of most of the decisions that we sometimes argue about.  This is risky business, and we may get hurt if some of us don’t choose to put others first.  But I sincerely believe that we will not grow the way God wants us to until we obey His word in this.  And this is REALLY HARD!  Some of you may be thinking that I should preach this to myself – and you are right!  I need to confess to all of you that I am not very good at this.  But our New Testament text does not say to love each other after we do the business of running this church – it says: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”  This is what the work of building God’s church really looks like and this is God’s real purpose – to do His work in souls (your soul, and mine).  The success of this church is not about numbers, it is about following God and allowing Him to change us.  A friend of mine wrote a song, the chorus of which is: “are you building the Body up, or are you tearing His kingdom down?”  We are either doing one or the other in our relationships in this church.  We need to consider this question as we work together in this church (and in all our relationships).  The praise chorus goes: “they will know we are Christians by our love.”  Do they?  Does the town of Danvers know that we are Christians by our love?  There are other, more liberal, churches here in this area that do love well – only they ignore the righteousness of God as seen in scripture.  Can we both, love God’s truth, AND love each other?  If we don’t learn to love each other, we are not being what God’s church is supposed to be, and we will not grow.  We often miss His purpose for us (and in us) as we go about doing what we think is serving Him.  J. Hudson Taylor, the great missionary to China in the 19th century, said: "I used to ask God to help me. Then I asked if I might help Him. I ended up asking Him to do His work through me." 

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