Haggai 1, "Consider Your Ways"
When I was a kid, my family lived in Washington state. Just about an 8 hour drive from here, so not that far from here. And the culture and climate were also pretty similar in a lot of ways. When I was 12 we moved to Lovington, NM. That was a big move for my family. We definitely had some culture shock and had some difficulties adjusting to life in our new home. I had gone to a christian school in Washington that was somewhat similar to KCS. When we moved, the plan was to go to the public school, but we had heard a lot of negative things. Especially concerning drug use. I was a pretty sheltered kid, so the thought of going to a public school for the first time with a lot of issues that I’d never been exposed to really freaked me out. So plan B. We heard about a small Christian school there in Lovington, so that seemed like a better option. “Seemed”. What we didn’t know about this “Christian” school was that very few people sent their children to this school because they actually desired a Christian education for their children. In reality, it was filled with all of the kids who had been kicked out of the public schools because of drugs, weapons, etc. So I kept to myself. After a few years I finally switched to the public school, but I definitely had some gaps in my education, and probably the biggest thing was my social skills. I was a very awkward teenager to put it lightly. So I definitely had some insecurities.
In my first semester, I took a computer class. I was always a bit slower in this class because I didn’t really understand how to actually work a computer for one. And two, I still typed like this (motions). We took a test one day, and I finished with a fair amount of time still left in the period. Everyone was finishing up and starting to play around on the computer, and I did the same. The problem was that I missed some a few days so I was behind in my work. Well, my teacher saw what I was doing and called me out in front of the entire class. It probably wasn’t as big of deal as it seemed to me, but as unsure as I was about myself, it was so embarrassing to be called out like that. I had my priorities wrong, so it was a kick in the pants for me.
We’re going to be looking at some of Judah’s wrong priorities this morning. We’re going to be looking at the book of Haggai, but before we do, there’s quite a bit of background and history that we need to go through. We’ve been reading through the book of Jeremiah as a church. We are all painfully, painfully aware of the bleak and frightening punishments that God warns His people about if they will not repent. They did not. God is truthful and just, so the punishments were carried out just as He promised. The Babylonians laid siege to the city of Jerusalem and conquered it. The They broke the walls. They ransacked and burned the temple, and they took they many of the people to the city of Babylon leaving only a few of the poorest and most unskilled people behind. They are captive for 70 years, and then Babylon is conquered by Persia. So Cyrus, the King of Persia takes over as the new ruler of Babylon and says “You know what... you can go. Go home and rebuild your city.
This is the first of 3 waves to return to Jerusalem. The first wave is led by Zerubbabel. He marches them home nearly 1,400 kilometers. That’s about the same distance as if we walked from Kamloops to the border of Alberta and Saskatchewan. They return home and they rebuild the altar and offer sacrifices, and laid the foundation for the new temple. But that’s as far as they got. Their adversaries write a letter to the king and say hey, these people have always been rebellious and they haven’t changed. When they finish their temple and the walls, they’re gonna rebel again and they won’t pay any tribute. You need to pull the plug on this. And so he does. And no more work is done on the temple for another 15 to 18 years. And that’s where we’re gonna pick it up in this story. Turn with me to Haggai chapter one. (Read verses 1-11)
Verse 2: “These people say”. THESE people. God doesn’t say MY people. He says THESE people. A couple of weeks ago, the Gowans came over to our house for lunch after church. And you all know that by the time you get home, you’re all hungry and the kids are cranky. So I let Abigail sit in her room while I was scrambling to get everything ready so that we could eat as soon as possible. And Kyla comes into the kitchen and says “Did you see what YOUR daughter did” See, there it is again, not MY daughter, not OUR daughter, but YOUR daughter. I had given her a sippy cup of milk. And she always just drinks it right down, especially after church. But on this particular day, she decided to slowly pour it all out on herself and the rocking chair that she was sitting in. Talk about a mess. And her mother said “YOUR daughter, because I am proud of MY children, and I am not proud of this, so this is YOUR child. Hence the temporary disowning and displeasure of the phrase YOUR daughter. Se we know right away here in verse two that God is not happy with THESE people.
They’ve said that it’s not time. It’s not time to rebuild the temple. But here’s what we need to realize about the temple. In Exodus we find an account of God giving Moses instructions for building the Tabernacle and everything in it. He gives instructions for the Ark of the covenant and the mercy seat that was on top of it. The ark was stored in the Holy of Holies. The high priest would enter that room only once a year. He would sprinkle blood of a lamb on the mercy seat. This was the sacrifice for the atonement of their sins. In Exodus 25:22, God says this about the mercy seat. “ There I will meet with you, and from the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel. So, in the Holy of Holies, within the TEMPLE (or tabernacle at this point in history), God spoke and met with the High priest through the blood of sacrifice. The last chapter of Exodus as well as 1 Kings 8 give accounts of how when the tabernacle and temple were both finished, God’s glory filled them so that no one could even be inside them. The temple represented God’s dwelling place and presence among His people.
And granted, they faced real opposition to this rebuilding, but it shouldn’t have stopped them because we see that the true attitude of their heart is revealed here in the next verse. God uses sarcasm to draw it out. It’s NOT time to rebuild God’s house, His dwelling place among you, but “IS it time for you yourselves to dwell in paneled houses while this house lies in ruin?”
Wow, God’s pretty cruel. He doesn’t even want them to have shelter??? That’s not what this verse is about. Buildings in Jerusalem are build out of sand stone because it’s everywhere and there simply aren’t trees around. Paneled houses refers to cedar paneling to put on the walls of your house. This was a completely cosmetic thing that took a tremendous amount of effort to do. Here at the Bridge, if you want wood, then you just talk to Steve hardy and he’ll chop it up for you with his hand dandy power tools and we can haul everything where we need it with our super cool automobiles. But in Jerusalem, there weren’t trees around, that meant that they had to go up to Lebanon, a different country to chop it down and cut it all up by hand and haul it back. This took a tremendous amount of effort and time. And this has been going on for 15 years. You can nearly raise a child in 15 years. So they’ve been raising their families and making their lives what THEY want it to be with God on the back burner for all this time.
So this is the point that God is making... you’re saying that because of your circumstances, that building God’s house is not the biggest need or priority for you. Somebody lays an obstacle between you and your God. You don’t fight for me or make any effort. You simply say that God must not want you to worship Him right now because this is too difficult. But all the while, you go through tremendous difficulties and expenses just to live in comfort. Let’s simplify, worshipping God is not worth the same effort that your comfort is.Which therefore means that your actions are declaring that luxury and comfort are more important than the worship of your God. This is the God who not too long ago brought you home from the captivity that he sentenced you to as punishment for not worshipping Him properly. Are you serious???!!!
I love what God says next in verse 5. Consider your ways. Isn’t that just the most politically correct phrase you’ve ever heard? Consider your ways. That’s polite for “wake up dummy”. Don’t you see what’s happening? You are unfulfilled, never content. And it’s not that they’re gluttonous, but no matter how much they work and toil or sow, they’re still coming up short. Verse 6, they earn wages to put them into a bag with holes. Their work isn’t bearing fruit.
I want to be careful to clarify something here. God caused these circumstances to get their attention and make a point,. That is how God worked in THIS situation. This does not mean that if money is tight for you that you’re not following God. It also doesn’t mean that if you have wealth that your relationship with God is doing well. God uses different circumstances to draw us to Himself, but wealth is not a measure of the health of your spiritual life and relationship with God. This passage is a rebuke for putting more importance on anything in your life than the worship of your Father.
And God’s charge is this, Verse 7, “build the house that I may take pleasure in it”. It’s not a mere command to build something but it’s a command to work, labor, and sacrifice themselves for the purpose of God’s pleasure. Please God. Serve Him. That is the command.
But what about us? What is the relevance of this passage for the New Testament believer. It’s quite obvious. God wants us to build a church building. We didn’t have to spend two years to make a VPT like we did. We just should’ve read Haggai. There you go. Done and done. Sell all your luxury items to build a church. And while you’re at it, you might as well build some really nice offices. I mean it’s for God right. You have no idea how big of a ministry tool leather recliners and big screen tv’s would be.
Ok, so maybe that’s not what the passage is saying. So let’s turn to Hebrew 10:11-14. We see here that Christ’s perfect sacrifice was sufficient for all time. We don’t need to bring the blood of a lamb into the Holy of Holies once a year. Our atonement has been achieved forever. And Galatians 2:20 says “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.” When we put our faith in Jesus, we are united with Him. Are you catching the difference between us and the people of Judah? God dwells in us through Jesus, which means that we don’t need to have a temple to insure that God is near or that He is with us. We don’t need to have the high priest go in once a year to hear from God.We are united with Him and He dwells not just among us, but IN us.
These two passages make it perfectly clear that we do not need a physical building to have relationship with God. So again, how does Haggai apply to us? Let’s look at a couple more passages. 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 21-26. As a Christian, you are not born again into a life in which you emerge as a fully mature Christian that doesn’t need anything from anyone. You do not continue about your life the same us you did. You are born into the body of Christ. If I chop my hand off, it’s not going to continue about with it’s own life. It will wither, decay, and die, and my body will suffer it’s loss. I’ll miss it. It needs to be connected to the rest of my body to have life. That’s same truth applies to how we live our life in Christ. You don’t need Solomon’s temple, but you do need the church. You need the body of Christ. That is your life source.
You also need the church as you work to serve and glorify Christ. Ephesians 3 says that the mystery of God and His manifest wisdom is made known through the church. We need the church to live a healthy life that moves closer and closer to Christ and to make the gospel known. We help and encourage one another, but we also put the Gospel on display for the world to see. You cannot separate the Christian life from the church without the consequence of living a very unchristian life and surrendering intimacy with Christ.
Back tho Haggai, Verse 7 and 8. Consider your ways. Look at your life. Keep working like you were, but do it for me. Don’t work and toil only for your comfort, but do it for my glory. Seek my will and my pleasure. God tells us the exact same thing. The only difference is that in Haggai, they needed to rebuild the temple to prioritize their worship. We don’t need to build a temple, but we need the church in order to prioritize God and worship of Him.
So now let’s look back at the passage through this lens. You say it isn’t time to make church a priority, but yet you pour your life into gathering things. Maybe it’s money, maybe it’s luxury items. Maybe it’s status and recognition, knowledge, education, entertainment, pleasure, or maybe your just gathering a bunch of junk that you make your husband haul in and out of your storage shed for no real purpose at all. None of these things are bad. What’s bad is when our pursuit of them hinders our pursuit of God and His pleasure.
And maybe we also are saying, this just isn’t the time. We have a lot of young families in the room. Believe me, I know the effort they take. I know the responsibility we have to raise them, but I also know that what’s most important in my children’s lives is for them to know God. I want them to have every opportunity to play sports, and learn to play instruments, and be on the chess club, or debate team, or cubs, or whatever it is that they are interested in. But if I have to keep them out of the church to do so, then I’m just paneling my house instead of building the temple. And I fully understand that there are seasons in our lives. I’m also not saying that if you miss our worship service or a lifegroup that you don’t love God. That’s not what Haggai is talking about. The people of Jerusalem had put God on the back burner for 15 years! This wasn’t a season that they couldn’t be as involved as they liked, but this was a heart condition.
Putting God first does not mean being involved in every activity of the church and having a perfect attendance. But ask yourself some of these questions. Do you come to church just every now and then when you feel like it, when all of your other plans have fallen through? When you think of church, do you think of an hour and a half service that you have trouble staying awake for, or do think of the people in that church? Do you know what’s going on in peoples lives? Do you serve others in the church? Do you participate with the church to tell people about Jesus? And maybe that’s through some of the churches outreaches and ministries, but maybe it’s working together with members of the church to minister to people in their lives, and yours too. How are you relying on these people around you to resist temptations and live a more disciplined and Godly life? If you can’t answer that question, then ask yourself, to what extent am I actually taking part in the body of Christ and making daily worship a priority? Are you GOD’S people, or are you THOSE people over there who don’t love and worship God.
If you’re not prioritizing your worship of God, if you’re not prioritizing His pleasure over yours, then God’s got some words for you. Consider your ways. He says wake up and look around. Don’t you see the emptiness in your life? Don’t you feel the futility of all that you’ve done? Don’t feel the weariness? You’ll never be content. You’ll never be satisfied. You’ll never have done enough. And if that’s you, God says this, “build my house”, build my church, serve me first, that I may take pleasure in you when you live as part of the body of Christ.
Verse 12. Here’s the real question to answer. This is my last point, and then we’re done. The people obeyed and feared the Lord. Don’t ask you self how you want to spend your time or not spend it, but ask this. Do you fear the Lord? The people of Jerusalem lost everything! They felt God’s punishment. They remembered His might, and that He alone deserves all of us, our worship. They remembered, and repented. If you’re always saying, maybe someday further down the road I’ll be more involved, then heed Haggai’s words today... consider your ways. Evidence is everywhere that God is almighty, all powerful, and just. Fear Him. Humble yourself in reverent fear and serve Him.