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Title: Rebuilding
Had a different message in mind last week, but after praying, felt led to let that sit and stew on a back burner for a while, let it marinate a while longer… and today we’re diving into the minor prophet, Haggai.
Text: Haggai 1:1-11
Haggai 1:1 ESV
In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest:
Haggai 1:2–3 ESV
“Thus says the Lord of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord.” Then the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet,
Haggai 1:4–5 ESV
“Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways.
Haggai 1:6 ESV
You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.
Haggai 1:7–8 ESV
“Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the Lord.
Haggai 1:9 ESV
You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house.
Haggai 1:10 ESV
Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce.
Haggai 1:11 ESV
And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast, and on all their labors.”
Now, before we go any further, I want to point out something. Jesus says, in John 5:39, You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that bear witness about Me;
Well, we’re looking at such a Scripture today and we have to first and foremost ask, what does this text testify about Jesus?
I want to answer that before we go any further: The text is clearly showing a zeal for the Temple that God has, and that people have abandoned. However, as we’ll see, God does not need a building.
So what does this tell us about Jesus? Well, what is the New Testament Temple? 1 Corinthians 6:19
1 Corinthians 6:19 ESV
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,
We are the temple of the Spirit today - our bodies as individuals, and the church, too - and I don’t mean this building, I mean us. We are the temple today.
If God says the temple in the Old Testament needed to be rebuilt, then there may come a time when the temple in the New Testament era - our era, must be rebuilt.
Maybe the church has gotten off track, maybe there’s some maintenance needed, or whatever. But the sad truth is some times a church needs a rebuild.
And we look at this text today and get a guide for what that looks like and why it must be done.
Rebuilding the temple is very similar to rebuilding a church.
Thesis: If we want to rebuild the church, we have to start with rebuilding ourselves.
Intro: There is so much to get in to in this beautiful text this morning I want to jump right into it but before we really start digging into the meat of the sermon this morning, I want to talk about that Title.
“Rebuilding”. Rebuilding is more than just rebranding - it’s breaking things down to the fundamentals, starting from scratch, starting over from the very basics and building something new.
We’re called to do that with ourselves, you realize that?
When we’re made a new Creation, even those of us who have been saved most of our lives, still we get into a rut. We get into bad habits, we get into a place we often call a comfort zone, but even that idea - we can be incredibly uncomfortable in a comfort zone, but stay there because it’s all we know.
Even Christians. We can fall into sin habits, we can fall into “stinking thinking”, we can fall into spiritually unhealthy practices.
I love watching baseball teams and football teams go from losers one season to champions the next. Like the 1999 St. Louis Rams, with Kurt Warner, or the Chicago Cubs in 2016.
As much as I like seeing teams rebuild, I love it when a person rebuilds, though.
There’s this baseball player I like, even though he isn’t a New York Yankee. Took less money so his team could sign more good players, will talk with the fans, be personable - I love guys like that. But this guy is different.
His name’s Joey Votto. Plays for the Cincinnati Reds. Votto is rare - he has spent his whole career with the same team. Since 2007, and he’s had great years every year since - consistently would bat around or well over 300 until 2016, when he started slipping.
Batted .320 in 2017, then .284 in 2018, .261 in 2019, .226 in 2020 - he was on the back end of his career.
He was getting older. He wasn’t 23 and this wasn’t 2007 anymore. Votto was 36 years old, kind of getting long in the tooth for a pro-athlete.
So the next season he changed his batting stance. Changed how high up on his bat he would grip. Placing of his feet.
And something happened. Votto had always been a good, consistent hitter, but he barely ever hit over 30 homeruns in a season - but at age 36, when most guys start losing their power, Votto hit 36 - matching his career high. His batting average began to climb.
He had some of his best career stats - and it began with him looking at himself and saying, “What do I need to change, where do I need to rebuild?”
Sure that’s baseball, not Christianity, but sometimes, there comes a time for a rebuild.
And if we want to rebuild a church, we have to start with rebuilding ourselves.
We have to recognize it’s time to rebuild.
Thom Rainer in his book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church tells the story of a man who visits a friend during a rain storm, and the friend lives in a house with a leaky roof. The guy says, “Don’t worry about it, we can fix it in the morning.”
The next day, the visitor says, “Okay, let’s get after the roof,” to which his friend says, “Why? It’s not raining today!”
That’s kind of the approach we take with rebuilds - we want to fix the problems when they’re emergencies, but not fix things we know could be an emergency further down the line.
The people of Israel could have began rebuilding the temple, but it took Haggai motivating them to do it.
Haggai 1:1 ESV
In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest:
Okay, so the first thing we are going to look at is the historical context for a minute, and we’ll spiral out from there.
Notice that Haggai gives us dates, as if we should know when this happens? That’s to verify when this occurred.
After the exile, it wasn’t uncommon for the prophets to use a date in their writings, the reason being, is that in Isaiah 45, that prophet had written about an important king named Cyrus and his Persian kingdom, and they write down the recordings of their prophecies in the shadow (so to speak) of Isaiah.
If we were going by the exact calendar on your wall, or smartphone - who uses a wall calendar anymore? It would be August 29th, 520 BC. But as it is, it’s the Hebrew Calendar, and it is the first day of their month.
It’s a day of celebration, a holy day for the Hebrews - we see this clearly in Numbers 10:10
Numbers 10:10 ESV
On the day of your gladness also, and at your appointed feasts and at the beginnings of your months, you shall blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings. They shall be a reminder of you before your God: I am the Lord your God.”
Eventually, because of the people’s hypocrisy, God refuses to accept their feasts and festivals at that time of the year - again, pointing to Isaiah, we see this made clear:
Isaiah 1:13-14Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations— I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them.
Even in the post-exile era we see this to remain true as both Hosea and Amos rebuke Israel for these feasts (Hosea 2:11 and Amos 8:5).
So this SHOULD HAVE BEEN a time of rejoicing, a time of festivity, but it isn’t.
But that does not mean the people haven’t continued to gather to worship, this doesn’t mean the people have stopped reading and studying the law, I just say all that to make the point that the Festivities aren’t what they used to be.
Okay, lot of people say that about Civic and Commerce events, but now’s not the time to get into that.
The Darius mentioned here is Darius the 1st, not to be confused with the Darius of Nehemiah 12:22, who had seized the throne of Persia in 522 BC, and what followed was 7 months of turmoil, revolts, usurpers, long story short - the empire was in chaos.
The Darius of Nehemiah 12 would come a little later than this guy. He also should not be confused with Darius the Mede from the book of Daniel. These are 3 different guys, okay?
Darius 1, Darius the Persian, and Darius the Mede. All 3 different guys. Darius here in Haggai is Darius Hystaspes, and he ruled from 522 BC to 486 BC.
Why does this matter? Because if his kingdom is in turmoil, it makes sense that this king lets the Jewish people go home and begin to rebuild - he does not want or need another revolt right now. Last thing his kingdom needs is the Jewish people to revolt in the streets.
And that is when God chooses to speak to His people.
In fact, this is the first time, chronologically speaking, that the Lord has spoken to His people since the exile. That’s not to say God hasn’t been distant, but He has been quiet.
In Ezra, the Bible says God “stirred up the spirit of Cyrus, king of Persia, to rebuild the temple”… but God Himself did not speak. (Ezra 1:1-2)
And by the time we get to Ezra 5, the people stopped bulding. So God speaks through Haggai, and He speaks for the first time in the post-exile era.
You remember, last Sunday I said when we looked into the Psalms, we should be more concerned with God’s distance from us, rather than the close proximity of our enemies, our trials, our pain.
Israel has not had God speak through a prophet for at least 70 years, and now Haggai shows up at the end of August, around the time of the harvest - what else happens at the harvest? What Jewish holiday is it? Pentecost!
Okay, so God’s about to do something, that resonates with us a little bit here, right? We’re Pentecostal. We’re all about the Harvest. Everything is lining up, hey maybe this is a text for Faith Assembly of God in 2022 AD as much as it was for the nation of Israel in 520 BC.
It’s almost as if there’s a Divine Author behind these words that knows what He’s doing… and what month starts tomorrow? August… Just saying, maybe God knows what He’s doing!
It says the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, which means Haggai was God’s instrument through which His word came.
The only other time in the prophetic books that specific wording is used in the Hebrew is in Malachi 1:1, and the some translations don’t even include it. That it came through, but the usual expression - when God speaks through the prophets - is that it came to.
The ESV translation doesn’t use the name of God, “Yahweh”, I kind of mentioned that last week - like the LSB does. But either way, whether it says Lord in your translation or God’s name, the emphasis is meant to convey His unchangeable nature, His faithfulness.
After decades of silence, God is speaking again to His people.
and Scripture says, Haggai went to Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah and a descendent of the king’s line. That said, he is no king. He is the governor. He answers to the Empire.
Now, some prophetic books like Daniel (Daniel 1:1) and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:2) both refer to Judah’s king, Jehoiakim.
Hosea, Amos, Micah, Zephania, also refer to a king of Judah.
But, neither Haggai nor Zechariah do this, and the explanation is simple: The Babylonian captivity had brought an end to the reign of the kings of Judah - in fact, while the line of kings would go on, their monarchy had ended.
As for Israel, by the time Haggai rolls around, they had been without a king of their own for at least 60 years.
So Haggai goes to the governor of the region, Zerubbabel - his name means, in Hebrew “sown in Babylon”, and while he may be have been a descendent of David, he truly, and literally is a child of the exile.
And he goes to this priest, named Joshua, the son of Jehozadak. Joshua, of course, being the Hebrew word “yeshua” means “Yahweh is Salvation”.
So he goes to the head of state and the head of the church, right? Well, the head of the temple… except there is no temple. He goes to the head priest.
And Haggai says...
Haggai 1:2 ESV
“Thus says the Lord of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord.”
So these aren’t Haggai’s words, they’re the Lord’s. And the Lord says the people don’t want to rebuild the temple.
He calls God, “Yahweh of hosts”, or “The Lord of Armies”. This is a common name for God that Haggai uses - in fact he will use it 14 times in this little book.
This is to remind those who hear him that God is the Divine Warrior. He is in charge of the armies of Heaven, He runs those fiery forces in 2 Kings 6, when the prophet Elisha is surrounded, and his servant starts to panic, Elisha says, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” (2 Kings 6:16)
It’s a reminder, the enemy may think he’s got you locked up, but truthfully, he’s locked up with you and your God.
He is the Lord of Armies. He is the Real Commander in Chief, and what He says, goes. But the people says the time isn’t right. It just doesn’t work for them.
Times are tough. There’s opposition. “It’s too hot outside.” Kids wanted to sleep in. We’ll try next week…
But God says it’s time to get to work.
Haggai 1:3–4 ESV
Then the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?
Oh, okay. Now you may see the problem. It’s not that the people couldn’t build the temple, it’s that they didn’t want to.
They’d made time to build up their house, their wants, their needs, but the temple was in ruin. His house lies in waste, while we make sure we take care of everything else.
Now, if you jump over to Ezra, you may see why they’d stopped working. Ezra 4:1Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the returned exiles were building a temple to the Lord, the God of Israel,”
Those pesky “adversaries”. They’re gonna tattle on you, Judah, better be careful. Play it cool.
They go to Zerubbabel and they say they want to build with them - they claim they worship Yahweh, too.
But Zerubbabel knows better, and he gets with Jeshua and the rest of the leaders, and they say to those outsiders,
Ezra 4:3 ESV
But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the heads of fathers’ houses in Israel said to them, “You have nothing to do with us in building a house to our God; but we alone will build to the Lord, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us.”
Now, they don’t like that. So you know what they did? They invented Cancel Culture. Ever hear that term?
Hey president Darius, they won’t let us infiltrate their religion so we can make it more like us, so we need you to shut them down. That’s basically what Israel’s trying to avoid.
Now, of course, today we’d have people sitting in board meetings, calling up the pastor saying, “We need to be more friendly with them, we shouldn’t be so harsh. Let some of them just come in and help make the bricks, let some of them sweep the floors.”
No. Israel’s learned a hard lesson, they just got done with being captives, they don’t want to go back. “You have nothing in common with us in building a house to our God.”
You know when I was planning to become your pastor I got told to read every leadership book you can think of. I had someone in my ear - a different person every week, it seemed, saying, “Read this book, read that book,” all to teach me how to lead like the world.
And truthfully, I read some of them, and by about page 80 of a 150 page book, they all start repeating themselves. Take this principle from the business world and apply it to your church. “Nope.” We tried that in the late 90’s and early oughts. Wasn’t sustainable.
People caught on, “Oh, I see, this is your church’s gimmick, okay” and once the gimmick got old, people left and went looking for the next big thing, the next circus act to follow. You can’t mesh the business of the world with the business of Christ. It doesn’t work.
One of the stupidest things I’ve done, I’ll confess this, one of the stupidest things I’ve done is change our mission statement. I’ll admit that.
But my mistake wasn’t that I changed it, my mistake was that I didn’t just get rid of it all together. Church, we have a mission statement, it was given to us by Christ.
Matthew 28:19-20Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.””
That’s every church’s mission statement. Period.
We try to be too much like the world because some guy who had a little success making his church look like the world wrote a book and said, “Here’s your purpose driven church, do what I did and you’ll get what I got”. No thanks, I don’t want to sell out to the Pope and muslims.
We don’t have anything in common with them. Paul says “Romans 16:17-18I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.
One lesson I’ve learned, and it’s been a hard one to get through my head, is I don’t have to be like every other pastor, I shouldn’t be.
I’ve got to be the pastor of this church. I’m trying to focus a lot less on what other people are doing and pay attention to what’s going on here.
Hear me on this, the reason the temple wasn’t getting rebuilt is because the world tried to creep in and Israel wouldn’t compromise, so they got shut down. It was down for least a couple of years, but then God said get up, get back to work, and rebuild.
They hit a bump in the road, and they stopped.
They got lazy, they’d gotten comfortable - panelled houses were common in wealthy residences in this era, and God says you’ve got those, but my house lies in shambles? Where are your priorities?
There needs to be a rebuild, but it must begin in our hearts if we want it to impact our church, so the church can impact the world around us.
So, we have to be honest (as individuals) and ask if we’re the problem
Haggai 1:5 ESV
Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways.
Again, Haggai appeals to God as the “Yahweh of hosts”. God of Armies. Why? Because the people need to trust Him. He is their protector.
He is their refuge, which we saw last week in Psalm 11. “In Yahweh - in the Lord - I take refuge;” and Psalm 46God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.
Haggai is reminding them, “Babylon may have kept you in captivity, but God is the one who put us there, and He will keep us from it if we are obedient.”
So, God says, “Consider your ways!” In other translations, they make it a point to add “Set your heart, and consider your ways.
The actual Hebrew literally reads, “So then, thus says Yahweh of hosts, place your heart on your ways.”
Place or Set your heart and consider, He says it 4 more times! Again in verse 7 which we will get to, and then in chapter 2 He will say it twice.
Haggai 2:15Now then, consider from this day onward. Before stone was placed upon stone in the temple of the Lord,
and Haggai 2:18Consider from this day onward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month. Since the day that the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid, consider:
In this small little book, Haggai will come to Israel 3 times, and the first time it’s to say “It’s time to get to work!” The second time it’s “Look at your work”, and the third time, he comes to say, “Now watch what God will do.”
We must set our heart to consider our ways. It means to give very careful thought to what we’re doing. The people of Israel needed to re-appraise their twisted priorities. Their deplorable, fruitless worship.
Their self-centered behaviors, their self-serving ideals. Their seed planting - which we’ll see later - had only meager results. Why? Because their actions had brought upon themselves a curse from God.
In the Law, He had promised this to them if they were to be disobedient. He said (Deuteronomy 28:15-18) if they were disobedient, if they didn’t keep His commands, they’d be cursed in the city, in the field, in their food, in their harvest, in their children, in their livestock...
This is what they’d brought on themselves. It wasn’t that they didn’t have things though...
Haggai 1:6 ESV
You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.
Their efforts to improve their own lives were futile as long as the Temple was in disrepair. Their houses would be in want as long as Yahweh’s house was not being built.
I like how one commentator said it: What they were bringing in was less than expected, and what they do bring in does not live up to expectations.
Why? Because that hit a nerve. THAT IS ALMOST EVERY OUTREACH WE’VE EVER TRIED. It does less than we expect, and the results don’t go that far. Still we keep trying.
We keep trucking. But why are the results like this? We’re in need of a rebuild.
Are we seeking first the kingdom of God, as Jesus instructed (Matthew 6:33) or are we seeking to please ourselves?
Church just checks the weekly box so I can pat myself on the back, or are we coming with an attitude of worship? An attitude of receiving the word? Do we listen to the sermon, or do we live it once we leave?
And please don’t misunderstand me, don’t think I’m on the attack, it very well could be we’re in the right direction and it just feels like we’re spinning our tires, but we’re about to take off like lightning.
But we have to dare to set our hearts to consider our ways.
Are we bold in prayer? What are our motivations when we pray? James cautions us, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to you may spend it on your passions.” (James 4:3)
I’ve had this hit me hard lately. What are our motivations for what we do and why we do them? I’ve seen so many churches compromise, rather than stand for truth these past few years, it’s scary.
Celebrity pastors, rocked by scandals. Good churches teaching false doctrine, all so they can get butts back in the seats that have gone empty.
I’m telling you right now, When I’m dead and gone, I hope people remember the Christ I preached more than they remember who preached Him.
But I have to stop and ask myself, check myself, consider my ways. WE ALL DO!
Or what are we doing here?
Once in a while slipping, stumbling, making a mistake that’s human. We’re sinful creatures, we’re going to slip and make mistakes but notice this: the form of Hebrew used here is the infinitive absolute - which means it was a continuous action.
In other words, “You keep sowing, but don’t have much; you keep eating, but you’re never satisfied; you keep drinking, you keep putting on clothing, but it’s never enough.”
They had a continued heart of rebellion, a continued desire to take care of themselves over the house of God, so they continued to be in need.
And God had warned them about it - if they’d been in His word they’d know: Leviticus 26:18-20And if in spite of this you will not listen to me, then I will discipline you again sevenfold for your sins, and I will break the pride of your power, and I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze. And your strength shall be spent in vain, for your land shall not yield its increase, and the trees of the land shall not yield their fruit.
Please hear me on this, rebuilding that temple did not matter to God nearly as much as the rebuilding of hearts of the people who weren’t building it.
Paul makes this very clear in the book of Acts when he speak in Athens he tells the Greeks, Acts 17:24The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man,
Please understand: God does not care about a building, He cares about what that build represents.
This building is not the church. It is where the church meets. Covid should have taught us that. This is just where the church meets to build up one another, to grow together, to learn, to be discipled.
Without the Holy Spirit active in this church, unifying this church: it’s a barn.
It can burn down, but will the church survive?
The temple was no different. Yes, it represented so many things, but in 70 AD the last temple was destroyed and last I checked God hasn’t stopped being God.
Jesus is still Jesus. The Holy Spirit is still active in the church.
But it was the condition of the heart that brought about God’s reprimand.
Haggai 1:7–8 ESV
“Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the Lord.
Check your heart, consider your ways, AND THEN MOVE.
There is a sense of urgency in these words. A need for the people to turn from their selfishness and start to rebuild the Temple.
Only then, only then, will God be pleased and be glorified by them.
And it won’t be easy - it’s not meant to be. They’ve got to go up into the mountains (plural). That means they’re not only going to have to go up some mountains, there’ll be some travel required.
It’s likely referring to the high hills that surround Jerusalem, and after 70 years of captivity, they’re likely covered with trees. We know from Nehemiah 8, there were a few varieties of trees growing on these hills: Nehemiah 8:15Go out to the hills and bring branches of olive, wild olive, myrtle, palm, and other leafy trees to make booths, as it is written.
That was specifically to build booths or tents for themselves, but there should have been plenty of lumber. It may also have been cedars from Lebanon, they’d used those to build before in 1 Kings 5 and even in the foundation they’d laid for the Temple they hadn’t finished - we see that in Ezra 3:7.
See, they’d started out well, but when things got hard, they’d given up. They started looking out for themselves. Started being more “me” focused than “thee” focused.
It’s only when we’re Thee focused God will be pleased and be glorified. Because we pray, “It’s not about me, it’s about you, Jesus.”
That’s the heart of the church. We’re not promoting a brand, we’re not building a franchise, we’re not a business advertising a gadget. Technically, sure, we’re a 501(c)3 business. So we’re a non-profit giving away the best product in the universe.
And it is this simple, yet profound truth.
Jesus Christ died on a cross for your sin, as a substitute he took the penalty of death and torment you and I deserve upon Himself, and He rose from the grave because He is God, and because He rose, someday those of us who pass on will also rise.
John 3:16 ESV
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
But we have to check our heart, consider our ways.
Be willing to ask ourselves the hard questions and if we don’t like the answers, begin working to change those answers to past-tense. That may have been true, but the Holy Spirit convicted me, and I repent and move forward…
Devil may try and bring it up, people around me may use my past against me, but that’s like burning down the house I lived in years ago - nice try but that ain’t me anymore.
Be honest with yourself today, and start to rebuild what we need to.
But the good news is...
If we are the problem, He will steer us back to Himself
Haggai 1:9 ESV
You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house.
This passage begins similarly to verse 6. And both underline the outcome of the harvest. “You have sown much, but bring in little”, and here it’s “You look for much, and behold, it comes to little;
See, they had sown much, so they expected much. Which, as I understand, is how farming works. You sow a lot of seed, you hope to reap a larger harvest.
But that’s not what they see happening. It was a lot less than they expected, and again, if they’d known their Scripture, if they’d read their prophets, they’d have been a little more aware of why this was happening. Isaiah speaks of this very thing: Isaiah 5:10For ten acres of vineyard shall yield but one bath, and a homer of seed shall yield but an ephah.””
The crops the people harvested and stored, even, were becoming useless. God says, “you bring it home, and I blow it away”. Well, that doesn’t seem very nice, God, please don’t do that!
Well, if we’re blunt about it, it’s really His harvest anyway, to do with as He pleases. You know, the whole, “The Grass withers, the flower fades, When the breath of Yahweh blows on it; Surely the people are grass”, Isaiah said - as He points to God’s absolute sovereignty (Isaiah 40:7)
I mean, if you’re the creator of life and death, you have a stake in how it gets dispersed, right? Well, God does. Even in the life and death of the Harvest. So He blows it away once they’ve brought it home.
The “blowing away” by the way it likely a metaphor for the scorching wind that blows on the crops and causes them to wither. In fact, in the Hebrew, it seems to have a sense of fanning up a fire in order to melt metals.
In fact, the Hebrew word for blow “nah-phack-ti” (נָפַח) can also be translated “set aflame” or even “boiled”. The idea we should be taking away from this is that it is a pruning wind, a purifying wind. In a sense, the dross is melting away from the pure gold, and silver.
A few pages later in your Bible, in Malachi 3, that minor prophet will mention this is part of who God is, this is what He does. (v. 3) “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord.
God wanted them to figure this out, to cry out to Him, to seek Him because of the adversity they were facing. Instead, they likely were doing the proverbial, “stick their hands in their pockets and look dumbfounded” like some lost sort of cartoon character that doesn’t know which way the rabbit went.
So God asks the question for them: “Why?” Why have the crops failed, why is the harvest weak, why is everything falling apart for them? Because they need to rebuild.
God answers His own question: “Because My house lies waste while you run to yours”. The literal meaning there means they were working, they were busying themselves with their own houses, their own desires, really, rather than improving the Temple.
They were adamant about their work, they were slothful when it was God’s work. They were zealous for their own families, they didn’t care about God’s family. They were happy to decorate their own homes, but God’s temple continued to fall apart.
It wasn’t about buildings, it was about a rebuilding of their heart, a rebuilding of their desire for Him, for their reliance on Him.
So God, through Haggai, continues...
Haggai 1:10 ESV
Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce.
Again the actual Hebrew reads “And thus, because of you, heaven withholds.” There’s a relationship between their attitude and God’s reward. That’s not prosperity Gospel, that’s just fact. There’s a relationship between our obedience and God’s blessing.
Doesn’t mean God is always going to bless you with worldly things, doesn’t mean God’s got to do it at all, but we can’t expect good when we sow wickedness.
When we suffer loss, when we are hit with the kind of continual defeat the city of Jerusalem was facing, the first notion may be to blame others. To even lash out at God. But He says, “Because of you”.
It was their fault. They had wrong priorities, they were neglecting God’s house, their duties to Him, towards His mission.
And because of their actions the sky restrained its dew - which was really important to a country like Israel. Especially in those hot months of late July, August and early September. It’s not like North Dakota.
Through the long, dry summers of the Middle East, the only moisture apart from artificial irrigation is dew. The moisture in the air from the Mediterranean sea condenses through the cooler nights, and the plants soak it up.
Dew needed to fall from Heaven - without it Israel’s summer drought was almost unbearable. So it was always a part of their mind, because having it was a sign of blessing. To not have it was a sign of judgment.
When Isaac blessed Jacob, He said, “Now may God give you the dew of heaven” (Genesis 27:28a).
When Moses blessed Israel, He said, “So Israel lived in security, Jacob lived alone, In a land of grain and wine; whose heavens drop down dew.” (Deuteronomy 33:28)
It’s a big deal, and it shows God’s favor upon them. Again, the opposite is true. We see this clearly in the case of Ahab and Elijah. Ahab married a nasty woman, and he was a weak man, so together they led Israel into sin.
Along comes Elijah the prophet, though, and he “said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”(1 Kings 17:1)
Just as in the days of Elijah, the blessing was being withdrawn - the people needed to rebuild but it began with their own hearts.
The last verse in our text reads:
Haggai 1:11 ESV
And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast, and on all their labors.”
This is describing in even more detail the judgment brought upon by their sloth and indifference to the temple.
A drought on the land, on the mountains even. On the grain, the new wine, the oil… everything is suffering because of their disobedience. Because of their selfishness.
Ultimately on all the labor of their hands. Their farmers wasted their work hours, toiling for crops that would never come - and what did come wouldn’t last.
The crops would wilt, their livestock would starve.
One commentator said it would have been incredibly ironic if they used the drought as an excuse for not building God’s house, without realizing that the drought had been brought about by their own negligence. (Haggai: Tim Shenton)
But this is why God speaks to them.
I don’t know if you know this or not but God is a pushover when it comes to love - Love is His greatest attribute. It is what drives Him. In fact, the apostle John tells us “God is Love” (1 John 4:8)
I’ve pointed this out before, the most quoted passage in all the Old Testament is this: The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, (Exodus 34:6-7)
If He was a cruel God He would have kept punishing them and kept them guessing, but He sent Haggai. He sent His word.
And if you’re looking in your Bible, it’s likely you’ll see the next section is usually titled, “The people obey the Lord”. Or some variation of it.
They listened to the word of God and they obeyed and they began to rebuld.
In a month Haggai will come again, he will observe their progress and prophesy, Haggai 2:9
Haggai 2:9 ESV
The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.’ ”
Two months after that Haggai comes back and he tells the people now purify yourselves, be obedient. Haggai 2:19
Haggai 2:19 ESV
Is the seed yet in the barn? Indeed, the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have yielded nothing. But from this day on I will bless you.”
The rebuild is hard, the redirecting of our own hearts is painful, repentance isn’t easy, holiness has a price, it means the old self must die and far too often, we get comfortable in the houses we have built for ourselves and God is saying don’t you understand I have called you to something even greater?!
I’ll move to close in a second but before I do I’ll end with this.
Since becoming your pastor we’ve used words like “Revitalization” and “Recalibration” and that’s all well and good. We’ve done remodels, we’ve rewritten constitutions and policies, but church, please hear me, it’s all for nothing if it isn’t a rebuild of our own hearts as well.
We talked at one point about changing the church’s name, even, a RE-BRAND, they call it in the business world. Maybe we will someday. But if the city of Lisbon sees a new sign, who cares, if they know the same people go to the same building every week and are never changed.
IF there’s to be a rebuild of a church, if the latter glory of this house will be greater than the former, it starts with one word. “Me.”
My heart. We need to turn from the Me and Look to Thee. The Lord of Armies, Yahweh of hosts and say, “We’ll rebuild us, Holy Spirit, show us the leaky pipe, show us the falling gutter, reveal the cracks in my foundation, Will you pray that with me this morning?
Will you pray that with me this morning?
Stand with me today, let’s pray.
Pray a prayer of dismissal.
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