Haggai 2:1-9, "Don't Worry, Just Work"
A few weeks ago, I preached from the first chapter of the book of Haggai. We’re going to continue working our way through that book today. So for those of you who still may not know where to find it in your Bibles, you can begin looking through your table of contents now. It’s the third from the last book of the Old Testament.
Let’s review just a bit before jump into our text today. The people of Judah were warned repeatedly to repent, and they did not. Consequently, they suffered, were defeated by an invading army, and taken as exiles to they land of Babylon for 70 years. After that time, the first of three waves returned home under the leadership their governor Zerubbabel. They rebuilt the altar and the foundation of the temple. After that they faced opposition and fell into apathy and complacency. And after 15 years of no progress whatsoever on the temple, God speaks to the people through the prophet, Haggai. Times are tough for the people of Judah, but God tells them it’s because they’re trying to please themselves. They’re working hard, but it’s not for Him. It’s for selfish gain. So he tells them to get their priorities straight and to work hard for Him. To work to please Him. And we saw that the real message of what He was saying to the people of Judah, and to us, is to worship God. Worship Him first and foremost, above all else. The people repented and began work on the temple again.
God spoke three more times through the prophet Haggai. We’re going to be looking at Haggai’s second message today in Chapter 2, verses 1-9. So if you haven’t already turned there in your Bibles, please do so now and we’ll get started. [READ HAGGAI 2:1-9]
Are there any detail oriented people in here? I’m talking OCD, perfectionist, type of detail oriented? Does anybody remember how Josh used to be with the chairs at the 9th Avenue building? Well, if you’re that type of person at all, then you’ll probably really appreciate the book of Haggai. We have to estimate the time at which most of the books of the Bible were written. Some of them we have a really good idea, like within a few years. And there’s a much larger period of time for others. However, with Haggai. We know to the exact day when the events came about, because he goes to that level of detail. We know what day Haggai’s first message came on, August 29, 520 B.C.. Then we see at the end of chapter 1 that reconstruction began 24 days later, September 2.
Verse 1. In the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month. This is October 17th. And that date is important to note, but we’ll get back to that. Reconstruction has been underway for just over a month, so still in the early stages. God asks 3 rhetorical questions to again show where their hearts at. In verse 3 He asks [READ VERSE 3]
Keep your place here in Haggai, but go ahead and turn with me to book of Ezra. We’re going to read chapter 3:10-13. In this passage, Ezra gives an account of when the foundation of the temple was first laid. So this is somewhere between 15 and 20 years before God spoke through Haggai. And this is what we read, starting in verse 10 [READ EZRA 3:10-13]. This exactly what we just read about in Haggai. This is a beautiful moment of hope, joy, and restoration. The temple foundation has been relaid! God has brought them back. He is restoring them! How much more wonderful can you get?! But the joy is squelched out because of the people who remembered what the temple looked like before it was destroyed. You couldn’t distinguish between the joy and the weeping. And this wasn’t a righteous sorrow. They weren’t sorry for their sin. We know this because if we look back at Haggai, we see God’s question at the end of verse 3? How do you see this house compared to the 1st temple? “Isn’t it as nothing in your eyes?” What are we doing? We’re working our butt’s off to build this great thing, the house of God. But it’s not great. It’s a heap! This was part of the attitude of the people. They were so apathetic and complacent that when they began to face hardships and pushback, the simply walked away from pursuit of God. They weren’t satisfied to simply serve God, because we see here yet more evidence that their hearts weren’t to serve him, but to acquire gain for themselves, therefore their love of God was not enough to reason to persevere. That’s why they weren’t satisfied with their efforts.
And 15 years later, we see here that even though they have started the reconstruction again and taken the first steps of repentance, they still have a long way to go. They’re hearts are still plagued to some extent by worldly pride. But this isn’t a harsh rebuke from God. He’s very gentle and nurturing here. I mentioned early that it was important to not that this message came on October 17th. The reason is because this was during the Feast of Booths, or Feast of Tabernacles. This was a week in which the people would construct little huts to eat their meals in. It also correlated with the last harvest of the year, the fruit harvest. The huts were a way to commemorate God’s provision for the people during their time in the wilderness. That was a time in which the nation of Israel was not mighty at all. They were nomads, with no home. They couldn’t provide safety, security, or even food for their families. God provided it all. And here again, in the middle of a focused time of remembrance of God’s provisions, He speaks to them again and shows how He is still their strength and provision.
He points out the issue and says “Be strong” Be strong Zerubbabel. Be strong Joshua. Be strong all you people. “Work, for I am with you”. The word used here for “work” means “do”. I love how that word is linked with the phrase that follows, “because I am with you.” The fact that God is with them is the motivation and the empowerment for the people to obey the command to work. They can do, and they must do, because God is with them. He’s saying, I know that you’re still judging this by a certain earthly standard, but remember again, this is what you need to focus on. I am with you, focus on that and do. Work. Be busy with what I have given you.
And He follows that up with a promise.[ READ VERSES 6-9] He says you can’t see the whole scheme of things, but I can, and here’s what’s going on.
Verse 6. You may think that you’re just laboring over a worthless rock heap, but I’m about to do something amazing. You’re obedience is building something greater than what you see.
Verse 7. -8. Judah was poor. We’ve read here in this book of how they worked and worked, but it never amounted to anything. And obviously, building a temple is an expensive endeavor. So how could a poor remnant of people even begin to build a temple that could compare to to the temple that the wealthiest King of their country could build. It couldn’t. But God says that the treasures of all nations will come in. He follows that statement up in verse 8 by stating that all the gold and silver is His. However, the treasure and glory He’s talking about is not referring to monetary wealth. We know that a wealth greater than Solomon’s never came in to Jerusalem and the temple. We also have no account of God’s glory ever filling this temple in the way that it did with Solomon’s temple and even with the tabernacle. The treasure and glory that came later was Jesus Christ. God is not concerned with His people having money. He’s concerned with making His people His. Redeemed. Forgiven. Free from death and sin. That is the greatest wealth and glory we could ever imagine. In
Most of you all know that Kyla and I met in high school. We had been going to the same church for over a year, but I had only become a Christian about a month before. It wasn’t until then that I began to get involved in Church and going to youth group and things like that. My parents were Christians, but this was the first time that I was surrounded by a group of people who were actively pursuing Christ as Lord of their lives in every way. They were all friends, and just like that, I became part of that group of friends. That was also the first time that I had more than one or two friends. It was great. I couldn’t believe how wonderful it was. There didn’t seem to be any drama, just a bunch of people who loved Jesus. But I was very wrong. Over the next few years, it became very clear that the group, as young as they were, had already a glory days period. They would talk about how great it was and try to pinpoint when it ended. There was always a clear consensus about when the end of that period was. It was right during the time that I started getting involved. I was naive and excited, but they were all getting fed up with each other and slowly walking away. It was just the same old drama, and people would rather pursue their own lives than pour into a group that they don’t really care about. It was so disheartening for me, because I was wanting more and more what they were leaving behind, a group of people to walk with as we all grew in the Lord. This is what our churches and worship of God can be like at times.
God speaks through Haggai to address the hearts of His people because their not worshipping him. God’s desire is for US is to worship Him. It is so easy us to lose our priorities just as the people of Judah did. We get discouraged because can pour ourselves into working with our church, but sometimes when we try to step back and look at our progress, we can’t see anything. For those of us who have persevered through the process of confronting someone in their sin: you know how long, and grueling and stressful that can be. And sometimes, no sooner does an issue get resolved, than you see an even bigger one take it’s place. And we can ask ourselves, what’s the point? What purpose did my labor and suffering serve. We may think that it would be easier and less messy to not be as involved and invested with the church. Sure, we’ll still go to church, but we won’t get involved. We won’t get our hands dirty. We won’t truly and fully invest ourselves to live in a way as we’re actually connected to others, like members of a body.
That’s exactly the heart that God is addressing here. How do you see His church? Is it not as nothing in your eyes? And that’s when we may become critical. We start comparing our church to every other one and saying we should do this or that, or change this. We start dissecting and criticizing every area, the worship, the atmosphere, the ministries, the lack of certain ministries, the people in the church, etc. We start assigning blame, and slowly, these small things make us more and more upset. And change is not bad. In fact, it’s a wonderful thing when it’s linked to us growing in our faith and growing in our understanding of God. It becomes a bad thing when instead having a scriptural conviction with book, chapter, verse, and the authorship of the Holy Spirit as our evidence, we resort to pragmatics and good sounding logic and comparisons and using others as our model,but never Christ. And the danger there is that we become critics who sit around for years and breed division and drive people away from worshipping with the body of Christ. The danger is that we become like Judah; people who care more about their comfort and reputation than we do about actually serving our king.
We need to continually grow in relationship with Christ. We grow in our wisdom and understanding of Him and the scriptures. We grow in our obedience. We invest in God’s body. But investment is much more than giving our opinions on everything. If in our “growth” we feel the need to speak to everything, but our actual obedience and commitment and service hasn’t changed at all, then we need to step back and ask whose purposes we’re truly pursuing.
Some of you may be familiar with Thom Rainer. He is a pastor and researcher and has done extensive studies regarding churches. He gives some insight to factors that kill churches. This is very pertinent to believers because the church is the body of Christ and is our means to grow deeper with Christ as well as to serve and glorify Him. Here are some of Rainer’s conclusions of factors that kill and divide churches.
1.They refuse to reach out to the people of the community, only the people who are like them.
- No effort to reach the lost.
3: Budgets were spent on needs of members, not reaching the lost.
4: Frequent arguments about WANTS of the church.
5: Church rarely prays together.
6: No clear vision or understanding of the purpose of the church.
7: Members idolized another era “the good ol’ days”.
These actions all relate back to a focus on ourselves and our comfort and desire rather than a desire please God and do what He wants.
And here is God’s encouragement to us. Fear not. Be strong and work because I am with you. There is no promise that if you do what God wants that you’ll have 1,000 members at your church, and they’ll all be super rich and big tithers, and you’ll be respected and revered throughout the world. The promise is that the latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former. We read of that promise in Revelations 21:22-27. [READ] We see a promise of His victory, and His glory. God’s glory is our good.
God will do what He promised. God will achieve His purpose. No matter how little we may see or think of our own efforts, we need to remember that our hope and surety is in Him. And because it is in Him and we are ensured of His presence in us as born again believers, then we need to remain faithful. Be strong. Work. Do. And what exactly do we do? How do we remain faithful? Turn to Acts 2:42-47. [READ]
Vs 42. Devote ourselves to teaching. Vs. 42. Devote ourselves to fellowship. Worship: breaking of bread and prayers... attending the temple together... praising God. Service: selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. Evangelism: Lord added to their number daily. Matthew 28:19
Churches are messy because they involve sinful people. You can’t be obedient to God and worship Him without getting involved with other sinful people. It is hard. For me, when I step back and look at my own ministry and what God’s doing there, and the church here, there’s been days where I felt like we were just a couple big blowouts, or one really big bad business meeting from tanking. It’s easy to get discouraged. But the thing that constantly brings me hope is when I remember that it’s not about us. It’s about God. I remember that we are God’s people, that He is in us and He is the one that works through us. And then, instead of measuring our church to certain standards, and articles, and other well known churches, I simply begin to look for God. And I see Him working. I see proof that we’re surrounded by people who are actively growing in their faith. And then it’s easy for me to be calm, trust God and get excited for how He is building His church and wait to see how He will use us to bring in His glory. God is encouraging us now and always. Fear not. Be strong. Work. I am with you. And yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth, and the sea and the dry land. I will fill this house with glory says the Lord of Hosts.
I ask that you close you eyes at this time. Take a few moments and reflect on your heart. Reflect on your dissatisfactions with church and ask God to show you if those things are based on your love for Him, or our own earthly standards and purposes. And as you reflect, remember His promises and ask Him to provide; to sustain you; to make us faithful in our service of Him.