From Psalm 34
I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.
3 Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt his name together!
4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
6 This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
and saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the Lord encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
8 Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Almighty and everlasting God, This is the day you have made, let us rejoice and be glad in it. We praise you Lord for your Church and for the opportunity to once again be together to worship you. We do continue to pray for your protection for our health. We pray for those who are not present with us this morning.
We continue to pray for our community, state, nation, and world. We do continue to play for further treatments for this virus. We pray for Governor Pritzker Lord and for President Trump. Lord, in times where there might be disagreement with our leaders in how to handle this terrible virus, may there be grace.
Lord, we continue to ask that you would use this entire experience, a time where so many thousand of churches were shut down, where there’s so much fear, where millions have lost jobs, thousands have lost loved ones, Lord we pray that this would bring people to you.
Lord, you are perfectly righteous and just.
It has been a dark week for our nation.
Lord, for this man, George Floyd, who lost his life in Minneapolis on Monday, we do pray for justice. Lord, people throughout our nation are hurting as a result of this man’s inhumane and evil treatment. Lord, may we all grieve this man’s death.
Lord, may you be near to his family in this time of mourning and also as they’ve been pushed into the public eye. Lord, we also pray for the great cities throughout this nation which have seen chaos, destruction, riots, and looting this week. Lord, we pray for peace in these communities and not conflict. Lord, when we see the brokenness in our world, may it remind us that this is not the world we were created for. That you are making all things new. That your Son came into our world to preach the Good News of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Lord, when we see brokenness, let us be reminded of your righteousness. When we see darkness, let us shine as light. When we see hatred, let us respond in love. Lord, may you bless us as we study your Word. May this message from your Word be used to sanctify us, to edify us, and to equip us to serve as your people.
In Jesus’ name, amen.
1 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: 2 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord.” 3 Then the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? 5 Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways.
6 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.
7 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. 8 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. 9 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.
10 Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. 11 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 passage should sound familiar. It’s the same passage I preached from the final Sunday of last year. I thought it was appropriate to revisit for a time such as this. To give a little bit of background for the Book of Haggai.
About 70 years before the time of Haggai, the Southern Kingdom of Israel had been conquered by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. and expelled from their land.
In the process, the temple had been destroyed.
Keep in mind that the temple was the place that represented the presence of God with his people. It was also the center of religious activities as it was at the temple where the priests offered sacrifices on behalf of the people.
48 years later, the Babylonians were conquered by the Persians. And it was the Persians who eventually actually freed the Israelites and allowed them to return to the land for the purpose of rebuilding the temple.
And we come to the Book of Haggai. From the time of their return, 20 years have gone by. Verse 1: 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 is tying the section to history and to the rulers of the day. Verse 2: “Thus says the Lord of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord.”
The people have not yet rebuild the house of the Lord. That’s referring to the temple.
20 years had gone by since Israel had been freed and they have still not yet begun the temple, even though that was the reason why they had been freed in the first place. And that is why I selected this passage this morning, because I think it serves as a warning.
It should have been a simple decision that the Israelites would have hurried in getting to work. But instead they said “the time has not yet come.”
What else were they waiting for?
Verse 3-4: Then the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?
They put it off. They took care of themselves and their needs first. They built their houses while they neglected God’s house.
For 20 years! And we see the consequences of their inaction.
Verses 5-6: 5 Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. 6 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.
The Lord has not blessed the works of his people. God’s judgment is not always brimstone and fire, or death and disease. The people are fruitless, never quite having enough.
That’s not to say that this is always a judgment from the Lord, but in this specific situation, God reveals that it is. The Israelites have made God take a backseat and they are reaping the consequences of that. There’s a simple solution to that.
Verses 7-8: 7 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. 8 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.
Consider your ways. Think about your priorities and what you’re doing. Put God first and build his temple.
In verse 8 where God tells the Israelites to go up to the hills and bring wood, he’s referring to the raw materials needed in building the temple. And the purpose of the temple, really, the purpose of everything that we are called to do as the people of God is to glorify God with our lives.
All along, Israel should have been building the temple, the House of the Lord.
But since they didn’t, verse 8 gives them a reminder.
God specifically tells them “build my house.”
Verse 9: 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.
We won’t prosper when we want to build our own kingdom first and then work on God’s.
Also, when we put our kingdom first, when we put our comfort first, when we put our goals first, when we put our projects first, there always seems to be one more thing that comes up, distracts us, takes up our time.
God must be number one.
Verses 10-11: 10 Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. 11 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.”
Again, God is bringing a judgment on Israel. The passage concludes that since they have neglected their Spiritual needs, their physical needs are not being met.
Drought and famine.
Israel had been separated from their land for about 70 years. We haven’t met as a church in 70 days. Israel returned to the land for the purpose of building the temple for the glory of God. As the temple was the center of their worship, we too return to the church, our place of worship. We see from this passage the inaction on the part of Israel.
Again, this is a prophecy given to Israel not to us today. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not still edifying and instructive. As the Israelites returned to Jerusalem to build the temple and then put that off, let us not put off God’s work in our lives and in this church.
Israel was called upon to build the temple.
And so are we.
After the ministry of Christ, in the New Testament, the church is the temple. Not the church building. The temple isn’t about a building. In the Old Testament, it was the presence of God with his people. In the New Testament, it’s the people of God who have been given the Spirit of God who represent the hands and feet of God in the world.
1 Corinthians 3:16: Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
God works through his people, fallen as we are, imperfect as we are, to achieve his purposes, to share his gospel, to make disciples, to serve. While the temple of Jerusalem was in one place, God has used his new temple, the church, to cover the world and preach the gospel to every tribe, and tongue, and nation.
1 Peter 2:5: you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Build God’s temple.
Today is a joyous occasion. Lord willing, today is a once in our lifetimes occasion. We should pray that there is never a time again in this church’s history when this time of disruption in fellowship befalls us.
Today is a joyous occasion. Coming back to church, worshipping together, seeing familiar faces. It’s a joyous occasion, but it’s not a culmination. Today is not “we’re back at church and now it’s happily ever after.” It’s not the end of the fairytale.
It’s a beginning.
In six months, a year, 5 years, 10 years, 20 years, where will this church be? It’s the last day of May, 2020. Where will our future be?
I know that the policies from our governor were unpopular with many. For the most part, churches across this state complied. While we can disagree with the decisions which were made, none of that was a surprise to God.
And this is the day that the Lord has given us to return to worship him. And all throughout this great state, today for the first time in 10 weeks, 11 weeks, churches are coming together to worship. But where will our future be?
Today is an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to serve the Lord. It’s an opportunity to reach people in our community. I’ve been praying every week that God would use all of this for revival and to bring people to himself. I hope that you’ll join me in praying for that.
Praying that this would be a time when people have had things shaken up and are looking for ultimate answers to the questions that matter most. Let us pray that this be a time that God would use to reach people in our community.
But we have a role in that. We have to go to people. We have to be willing to have conversations about our faith and share the truth.
We have to be willing to be loving even when people are unlovable. We have to be willing to turn a conversation to Jesus. We have to be opportunistic about sharing our faith. We have to let our line shine in the community, in our household, in our workplace.
It’s an opportunity to look for new ways to serve in the church, to help build God’s house. It’s an opportunity to continue growing in the knowledge of God and his word.
It’s an opportunity to approach worship in a more reverential and appreciative heart after it had been taken away from us these many weeks. We should be happy today. Happy to fellowship, happy to worship. But if we make today just about that, then we will not make the most of this opportunity.
Jesus says in Matthew 9:37-38: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
It’s an opportunity. It’s not a new opportunity, mind you. It’s the same one that the church has had since the time of Christ. To be missional in being the hands and feet of Christ in our church and in the world.
It’s not new. But it’s a chance to be reinvigorated for the work that we have to do. There are times when someone overcomes something. Maybe it’s a personal struggle, maybe it’s a serious health crisis, maybe it’s a near death experience.
You had your life before that, but sometimes those major moments in our lives can give us a new lease on life, on purpose, on gratitude.
It doesn’t always. But it’s an opportunity. Just as it’s an opportunity for us who have always been a church to more and more be the church that God wants us to be.
That’s not to discount the great work that this church has done in the community and through supporting missions throughout the world over the last 50 years. That’s not to discount the fellowship and community that have been built here over 50 years.
My point isn’t to tear down what we’ve done.
My point is that after we’ve lost a part of what matters to us most and then get it back, after we’ve had to taste the bitter flavor of separation, after we’ve had to spend too many Sundays at home by ourselves, that it is my prayer that we take this opportunity to more and more be the church and the people that God wants us to be.
Let us be a church that builds up the church. Let us be a church that shines light in a dark world. Let us be a church that shares the good news.
To the glory of God.
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