Is It Time To Rebuild? Haggai 1a
Stephen Caswell © 2005
In sport timing is everything. Golfers, cricketers and footballers all know the importance of timing. Timing is also important to businessmen who trade on the Stock Market. To maximize profits they must buy and sell at the right time. The same is true in the Real Estate market. Investors want to buy when the market is down or starting to rise and to sell when the prices are high. When the Jewish exiles returned from Babylon they talked about timing. They said it wasn’t the right time to serve the Lord. They had so much work to do for themselves. God responded by asking the people to consider their priorities. We will see 3 things. 1. Consideration 2. Consecration & 3. Construction.
a. Your House, My House
1:2-5: Thus speaks the Lord of hosts, saying: this people says, the time has not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built. Then the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet, saying, is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins? Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: consider your ways!
At this point the exiles had been back in Israel for about 20 years. They had resettled in Jerusalem and in the surrounding area. They had started to rebuild the temple but quit after they received opposition from the Samaritans living there. Because of the local opposition and a letter from the Persian King the temple lay in ruins. To justify their disobedience to God’s commands the people said the time wasn’t right to rebuild the temple. God allowed them to carry on like this for about 20 years. Billy Sunday called an excuse, The skin of reason stuffed with a lie. God had commanded His people to rebuild the temple and now they were making excuses. They were disobedient to His command.
If they weren’t doing what God wanted them to do, what were they doing with their time?
The Jewish exiles were busy building their own homes. God’s house lay in ruins while they built paneled houses or what we would call posh homes. The kind of houses kings and wealthy people owned. God condemned their behavior. They had embraced worldly values. They didn’t love the Lord their God, neither did they give Him first place.
Before we point the finger at them, Let Us Consider Our Ways. Does God’s House in Tent Hill lie in ruins? Under the New Covenant the people are God’s temple. At Tent Hill Baptist Church on Sunday mornings more than half the temple is missing. Where are the missing stones on Sunday mornings? I would suggest that some are working, others are playing sport, some are sleeping in, while others are socializing with family or friends. We run to our homes and the things in them. Our possessions have taken God’s place in our lives. Many stay on Sunday evening to relax in front of the TV. Sunday is no longer the Lord’s Day. For most Christians Sunday is just like any other day. 15 or 20 twenty years ago the majority of Christians went to Church twice on Sunday. Like the Psalmist we were glad to go and worship the Lord. We wouldn’t think of missing it. Yet today, Church attendance is falling at an alarming rate.
Things look bad for our children. How many will quit Church altogether because of their parents complacency? Today, our values have been distorted. We need to consider our ways. We don’t need something new to get the Church going in this fast, hectic world. We need to take a good look at our values. We, Christians need to Consider Our Ways in light of the Bible. Jeremiah 6:16: Thus says the Lord: Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls. But they (the people in Jeremiah’s time) said, we will not walk in it.
It’s time to put our excuses aside. God doesn’t accept them. Benjamin Franklin wrote, I never knew a man who was good at making excuses who was good at anything else. There are no excuses that God will accept to cover our disobedience. I have no intention of coercing you to attend Church from a sense of duty or guilt. I want you to come to Church twice a week because you love the Lord and His people. That’s all! That’s the only motive that pleases God. Love is also the only motive that will keep us walking the right way all of our life.
Let us consider our ways. The Lord’s house has been lying in ruins for far too long while we are running to our own homes. Let us choose today to honor the Lord and attend the Sunday services every week. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have the whole temple here every Sunday morning and evening? Let us honor the Lord by rebuilding His house, and I am talking about the People of God!
b. Your Work, My Work
Haggai 1:6-7: You have sown much, and bring in little; You eat, but do not have enough; You drink, but you are not filled with drink; You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; And he who earns wages, Earns wages to put into a bag with holes. Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways!
God’s house lay in ruins. His work also suffered from their lack of service. The Priests and Levites couldn’t minister in the temple because it lay in ruins. The people weren’t bringing their tithes to support the priests and Levites so they lacked food. There was no singing or prayer going on in the temple because it lay in ruins. There was no place of worship for the people to come and hear God’s Word read. The ministry that God desired wasn’t being exercised. God’s work was not being done. What were the people doing with all their time? Building fancy homes and trying to get rich.
Haggai reminded the exiles of all their hard work. He says you planted much, looked for much, but it came to little. Instead of becoming wealthy and having plenty to eat and drink, they were hungry, thirsty, cold and poor. Their hard work had accomplished nothing. Their money was put into a bag with holes in it. Perhaps the tax man caught up with them. What was the result of all of this? Dissatisfaction and frustration. Why couldn’t they get ahead? How come they couldn’t make ends meet? What had gone wrong? They had forgotten the Lord. They no longer served Him. They forgot that He blessed their labors and He could also remove the blessing. Deuteronomy 28 warns of this. The generation that followed on after Joshua turned away from the Lord and God had to chasten them. They took God’s blessings for granted and wandered after Baal.
Haggai 1:9-11 describes how God punished the exiles for their unfaithfulness to Him. You looked for much, but indeed it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? says the Lord of hosts. Because of My house that is in ruins, while every one of you runs to his own house. Therefore the heavens above you withhold the dew, and the earth withholds its fruit. For I called for a drought on the land and the mountains, on the grain and the new wine and the oil, on whatever the ground brings forth, on men and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands.
Haggai 2:16-17: since those days, when one came to a heap of twenty ephahs, there were but ten; when one came to the wine vat to draw out fifty baths from the press, there were but twenty. I struck you with blight and mildew and hail in all the labors of your hands; yet you did not turn to Me,’ says the Lord.
We must never forget that God is sovereign. Since Israel didn’t honor Him with their time, money and labor He chastised them. Believers can’t rob God and expect to prosper. God called for a drought in the land so it wouldn’t produce much. He brought blight, mildew and hail upon their crops. God did this so they would return to Him. He wanted them to repent. We might say those silly Jews. Why did they wait for twenty years before they repented of their sin?
Could we have done the same? Our Church has closed down so many ministries over the last 20 years. We had a Men’s and Ladies Choir ministering here and in other Churches. There was an outreach ministry at Stock Yard Creek. The Church was involved in evangelistic outreach in the valley. Hospitality in the home was practiced regularly. Fellowship teas and lunches were well attended. Mission trips took place regularly in Australia and overseas. Numerous home Bible Studies were well attended. Many of our folk were trained, supported and sent out into the ministry. The Youth work prospered.
A great deal of money was raised for missions each year. Some farmers even dedicated an acre of their land to the Lord for missions work. When the new Church was built folk gave up their time to help build it. Yet they didn’t suffer lack because God provided! The Church grew and had the privilege to lead many folk to Christ. God blessed the valley and we prospered materially too. He sent the rains and the creek flowed constantly. The Church practiced Matthew 6:31-33: Therefore do not worry, saying, What shall we eat? or What shall we drink? or What shall we wear? For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
Tragically we have closed down some ministry nearly every year. Why? Because we have changed our values. The material has taken priority over the spiritual. We have planted more crops and worked longer hours looking for greater profit. We have forsaken the values that our parents lived by. We have taken for granted our Christian heritage. We don’t love the Lord like we once did. We are too busy earning a living. Attendance to Church Services, Prayer Meetings and Bible Studies has dropped off. Unless we consider our ways, the fortnightly evening service will soon go. What is the end result of all of this? We have lost spiritually and materially. Our families miss out, our Christian witness is weakened and God’s work in the valley has lost its effectiveness.
We work the same crazy hours that the world does. We no longer reach the lost in the community. The Church has lost God’s blessing. Very few are saved through the Church anymore. God never intended us to live this way. There’s more to life than work. The spiritual part of life must always take priority over the physical part. Has our increased labor increased our income? I think not. For all of our labor we are still hungry, thirsty, cold and poor. Why? Because God has withdrawn His blessings from our farms. An extended drought has stopped the creek from flowing. The prices have fallen on our crops. Life is a struggle. Why? Because we have moved away from God’s values. We do things that we know are wrong. No one believes that we should work on Sundays, yet we still do it. Do we think that God doesn’t see or care?
We justify it by saying we have to work this way because times are tough. We say what else can we do? We could do what our father’s did. We can trust God to provide for us. We can love God like we use to putting the spiritual above the physical. I personally don’t believe the creek will flow continually till we stop working on the Lord’s day. Why should God remember us if we are too busy to remember that Sunday is His day.
My Boss At Tacspo Dist.
I worked as a salesman for Tacspo Distributing for about 13 years. My life was very busy and more so when we started our family. I was working about 45-50 hours a week. We were both involved in our local Church. One day the boss called me in and asked me to work extra hours. He went on to say that the economy was tight and we all needed to give a bit more to get through the hard times. He then assured me that we would be able to have some time off when the economy improved.
I then told him that I didn’t think things would improve, they would probably get worse. I wasn’t prepared to work madly now on the off chance I might regain some time later. I told him that there was more to life than work. I also told him that Sunday was God’s day and I wouldn’t work on it. I didn’t intend to miss out on my kids growing up. I didn’t want to have teenagers who didn’t know their dad. Later on I found out that he made a new years resolution to spend more time with his kids.
c. Your Glory, My Glory
Haggai 1:8: Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified, says the Lord.
In verse 8 God gives the people the solution to their problems. They need to get back to work on the temple. The answer to their problem was to live by God’s values once more. They must seek God’s kingdom and righteousness first and trust Him to meet their needs. The people were living for their own pleasure and their own glory rather than God’s pleasure and God’s glory. The Westminster Catechism says, The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. When our lives please God He blesses us. God takes pleasure in our service for Him. When we serve the Lord out of love He is glorified. When we live for our own glory and pleasure He has to chasten us.
Have we been saying it isn’t time to rebuild the Lord’s House? Are we are too busy at present! I believe this passage speaks to us today. Is the Lord’s house lying in ruins? On any given Sunday the temple is half built because the rest are absent. Are we too busy making money, playing sport or socializing with friends? God never intended that we should work 70, 80 or 90 hours a week. That’s not the abundant life He planned for us.
God says to us; Consider your ways. Has our increased labor brought any gain? Or has God chastised us with drought, blight and mildew? We’re still hungry and thirsty cold and poor. We have no joy or satisfaction in life. In seeking the material blessings of life first have we missed out spiritually and materially? I believe that we have. God says to us today consider your ways. Let us decide this day to love the Lord and honor Him. Let’s decide today to delight in the Lord’s Day and set it aside for Him. Israel waited 20 years before they returned to the Lord. They missed out on God’s blessings for 20 years. I believe, if we don’t listen to the Lord this drought will continue for many more years.
Haggai 1:12a: Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the Lord their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the Lord their God had sent him;
Praise God the Jewish Exiles heeded the prophet’s warning. They recognized that God was speaking to them through the prophet. They considered their ways and how they had wandered the wrong way. They repented of their sin. This didn’t always happen. Often the people ignored God’s warnings. This was the reason God had judged them so severely by destroying the nation and carrying a remnant off to Babylon. Christ gave a warning to the Church at Ephesus. Revelation 2:4-5: Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place — unless you repent. If we want the Lord’s blessing we must repent of forsaking our first live. If we don’t He will continue to chasten us.
Haggai 1:12b: and the people feared the presence of the Lord.
The Jewish exiles meant business. They not only obeyed the Lord they feared Him too. The word fear means to respect, to reverence, to be in awe. It’s the respect that a child should have for their parents. A fear motivated by love. God is worthy of our respect. We should be in awe of the Lord for He is great and holy and we are but sinful dust. Proverbs 9:10: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
Afraid Of Hurting Dad
A group of teenagers were enjoying a party, and someone suggested that they go to a certain restaurant for a good time. I’d rather you took me home, Jan said to her date. My parents don’t approve of that place. Afraid your father will hurt you? one of the girls asked sarcastically. No, replied Jan, I’m not afraid my father will hurt me, but I am afraid I might hurt him. She understood the principle that a true child of God, who has experienced the love of God, has no desire to sin against that love.
To fear God rather than man will enable us to do what is right. We won’t compromise our faith. If we fear God we won’t do anything that offends Him. We will abstain from anything that hurts our relationship with the Lord. If we fear God we will challenge those who go astray. If we fear God we will keep His commandments. The Jewish exiles feared the Lord and proved it by their actions. They no longer neglected God’s house and God’s work. God wanted His people to consecrate themselves afresh to the work and they did!
Haggai 1:13: Then Haggai, the Lord’s messenger, spoke the Lord’s message to the people, saying, I am with you, says the Lord.
God saw their repentance and gave them a word of encouragement. He assured the exiles that He was with them. God’s presence meant that they would succeed. He would help them to finish rebuilding the temple. The Lord would protect them. With God on their side could they fail? Never! Christ has given us a commission to take the Gospel to the lost. To make disciples of all nations. But the Lord also promised to be with us until the end. He will never leave us or forsake us. How can we fail? We can’t unless we don’t believe His promise.
Jeremiah 29:11-13: For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.
The Jewish Exiles feared the Lord and obeyed Him. They believed the word He had given them. If God has challenged us to consider our ways we must respond. Will we? To receive God’s blessing in our valley once more requires our repentance. We must return to the Lord. We must live His way. Let us fear the Lord and obey His commands.
We mustn’t leave God’s house in ruins any longer. Will we return to the Lord? Will we seek Him with all our heart? Will we set aside Sunday for the Lord? Will we rebuild His house? Will we return to His service? Will we love Him and serve Him as we used to? God wants to bless us! Will we walk His way so that He can bless us?
Haggai 1:14-15: So the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God, on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month, in the second year of King Darius.
Praise God the people went back to work. The Lord stirred the people’s hearts to obey Him. 23 days after Haggai challenged them to consider their ways they got back to work. Why the delay of 23 days? What happened with the time in between? They probably had a time of confession and cleansing. They wanted to be right with God before rebuilding began. They may have collected the wood needed for the work. Planning and preparation isn’t a waste of time. I am sure that God was pleased with their change of heart.
When the Lord challenges us about something it is good to feel convicted and fear Him. But it mustn’t stop there. Real obedience will always lead to action. The Jewish exiles repented and loved the Lord again. They got back to work and finished the temple. They did the work God had for them. They supported the Lord’s house. The Levites and Priests served in the temple. They offered their sacrifices and offerings to the Lord once more.
What about us? What do we need to do? First and foremost we must love the Lord. Then we must allow Him to set our values. The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He (God) delights in his way. Psalm 37:23 God doesn’t want us to work ourselves to death. He wants us to have a deep and meaningful relationship with Him. God wants us to bring up our kids to love Him too. The Lord wants us to love Him and come together to worship Him out of that love. God wants us to share that love with others. We need to make our relationship with the Lord our number one priority in life. In life people matter possessions don’t!
Let’s stop Sunday work altogether. Let’s trust God to provide. Sunday is God day. Let us go to Church morning and evening. The Psalmist said, I was glad when they said unto me let us go up to the house of the Lord. Psalm 122:1 In the past we loved to meet together. Let’s make sure we have a meaningful time with the Lord every day. Bible reading and prayer is so important. Let’s have family devotions with our kids each day. Let us share our lives with our children and teach them sound spiritual values. Let’s example it too.
Let’s join a prayer and Bible Study. The blessing you will receive is far better than anything on the TV. Let’s practice hospitality in our Church and in our homes. Let’s serve the Lord willingly. There are opportunities for service all around us. Let us serve where God would have us to. What will motivate us to keep doing all these things? The love of Christ will. Let us make this year the year God blesses us as we serve Him. The Lord has said to us consider your ways; It is time to build My house again. Let’s rise up and do it!