Title: Press On Date: 11/5/06
Text: Haggai 2:1-9
The whole remnant of Israel in Jerusalem responded positively to Haggai’s message, they changed from a group of me-first people to a group of God-first people. They restarted the building project of the temple after 24 days they heard the 1st message of Haggai. When I prepared the previous message, I prayed that we will follow the footsteps of these Israelites. And I believe God has convicted us and some of us have put into actions such that we will change to a God-First person.
But I want you to know Satan won’t let them change that easily because Satan doesn’t want them to do God’s work. He will use every tactics to stop us from doing God’s work. The Bible says,
2Ti 3:12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
One of the most effective tactics that Satan uses through ages is to scare us. Because Satan knows, when we are afraid, we will stop working and start worrying.
Transition: How would Satan scare us? We can learn this from the 2nd message from Haggai in Haggai 2:1-9. [Read 2:1-9]
Satan won’t attack them from the very beginning because he knows whenever we make a resolution or we start a new work for God, we are full of excitement. So, he will wait, wait until the zeal of our commitment starting to cool down and the reality begins to sink in. 2:1 tells us the project had started for 27 days. Within these 27 days, Satan careful reminds the Israelites, the challenge of rebuilding the temple. 2:1-3 tells us the challenge of rebuilding the temple.
- The Challenge - (2:1-3)
You want to rebuild the temple for God? It is impossible! You want to be a God-First person? Look at you, it is impossible. Why is it impossible? Let me give you 3 reasons.
- The task is too big
It is impossible because the task is too big. The temple is not a very big house. It is 60 cubit (L) by 20 (W) by 30 (H) (1 Ki 6:2). That’s 105 ft by 35 ft by 52 ft. (Easton’s Dictionary). 3,500 sq ft is just a moderate size house in our standard. Yet, it is an enormous project. Solomon spent 7 ½ years to build this temple (1 Ki 6:38). 30,000 outside labor are hired (1 Ki 5:13-17) together with 153, 300 Jewish worker:
1Ki 5:15 Solomon also had 70,000 burden-bearers and 80,000 stonecutters in the hill country,
1Ki 5:16 besides Solomon's 3,300 chief officers who were over the work, who had charge of the people who carried on the work.
But how many people do you have? They have less than 50,000 remnant in Jerusalem. This number includes women and children. How can you rebuild the temple? It is just impossible because the task is too big.
- The price is too costly It is impossible because the task is too costly. Even you have enough man power, you won’t have enough money to restore the temple. We should know “Go up to the hills and bring wood” is not sufficient to restore the temple. The temple is not only made of wood and stone, it is also made of gold, sliver, bronze, iron and jewels. In 1 King and 1 Chronicle, they recorded what David and the leaders contribute for the construction of the temple:
108,000 talents of gold (1 Chron 22:14, 29:4, 6)
1.02 million talents of silver
bronze and iron – beyond weight
Today’s value: $34 billion USD
The jewels – another $34 billion USD.
Silver vessels - $2.4 billion
Gold vessels - $2.7 billion
Stone and timber - $12 billion
Wages for the labor for 7 years – 500 million
the silk vestments of the priests, the purple vestments of the singers, trumpets; other musical instruments - $5 million
Total cost: $90 billion (some estimate: 174 billion)
Even you have a master card, you won’t be able to pay the cost of this project. In other words, it is impossible because we don’t have money.
- The glory will never be the same It is impossible because even you have the man power and the money to rebuild the temple, the glory of the temple will never be the same. No wonder when they laid the foundation 14 years ago, “old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid,” (Ezr 3:12) Why? Because they know the glory of the rebuilt temple will never be the same. In Zechariah 4:10, Zechariah recorded that there were people despised the rebuilding of temple calling it “the day of small things.” (Zec 4:9-10). They are convinced the glory will never be the same.
The glory of the temple is not because of the size of the project nor because of the luxury material they are using. It is because God dwells in it. When Solomon dedicated the temple, “a cloud filled the house of the LORD, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD.” (1Ki 8:10-11) This is the reason why the temple so glorious. Because God dwells in it. But because of their rebellion, God’s glory left the temple in Ezekiel 10. God no longer dwelt in the temple and for this reason, their country was defeated, Jerusalem was desolated and the temple was destroyed. Even we are able to rebuild this temple, will God dwell once again in this temple? For those pessimistic people, the answer is no.
Since it is an impossible challenge, why bother rebuild the temple? Let’s go home.
Application: Isn’t that true that Satan uses the same tactics to attacks us every time we try to live for God?
You want to put God first in your life? Sure. But let me remind you it is impossible, it is too difficult. The task is too big. Be realistic! Let’s put both God and you first in your life.
You want to live a holy life for God? Wonderful! But let me remind you, it is too costly. You can’t watch the movie you enjoy, can’t surf the web, nor can’t go out with friends. Oh, you can do nothing and you will live a life like a monk. Christian is not a legalist, so what the preacher says today can’t be right.
And finally, you would tell yourself, I can’t glorify God. I have lived in a mess for so many years. Even if I change today, it is too late. Let’s give up.
Transition: But our God is a God “who comforts the depressed” (2 Cor 7:6). 27 days after they restart the rebuilding of the temple (Hab 1:15, 2:1), God speaks through Haggai once again. Not to rebuke them but to comfort them and to encourage them. God calls them “the remnant of the people” (2:2) instead of “this people.” (1:2) God also voices their doubt in their heart.
Hag 2:3 'Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes?
[See, God is a sympathetic God. He understands what go through our mind.]
Transition: What are we supposed to do when we are scared and discouraged?
- The Command (2:4-5) God gives us three commands.
- Be strong (v. 4a). Most often the word “strong” is used for strength in battle (I Ki 20:23). Dr. Zempel says our heart is the smallest battle field. Sanctification is a spiritual battle and it is a battle of our faith. Three times God repeats “Be Strong!” There is nothing more important than our faith to God.
“If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.” (Isa 7:9) Our faith determines the outcome of the battle.
When we are in trouble, we often like the father of the boy with an evil spirit in Mark 9:14-27. This father brought his son to the disciples and they were not able to cast out the demon. So, when Jesus finally showed up, the father made a desperate request to Jesus, “if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” How did Jesus anaswer this man? Jesus said, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” (Mark 9:23, KJV) Jesus is telling this father that whether your son will be healed doesn’t depend on “whether I can” because I obvious can, it depends on “whether you can believe.”
God gives us the same challenge when we are discourage, the question is not whether I can, the question is whether you can believe. Can you be strong in your faith? This father catches the essence of the challenge and he responds and says “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). When God asks us, “Be strong,” he is not asking us to be self confident but put our faith in Him; to depend on Him. This is why though the faith of this father is so small, yet Jesus heal his son because our willingness to trust God alone determines the outcome of the battle.
- Work (v4b) The 2nd command is “work!” Don’t stop and wait for favorable environment. Don’t slow down and wait for resources. When we are in needs, anxiety will creep in and paralyses us. But don’t stop there and wait for courage. Our job is to believe. And true faith displays in action. Not only that, it is an action that lasts till the end.
When God commands Joshua to cross the Jordon river, God told Joshua, “the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off from flowing, and the waters coming down from above shall stand in one heap.” But this will not happen until “the soles of the feet of the priests … rest in the waters of the Jordan” (Jos 3:13) Same principle is here, we can only see God’s providence until we work till the end.
- Fear not (v5) Finally, the third command is “fear not.” “Fear not” is a command, not an emotional state. In other word, the reason for them to not be afraid, it is not because they have a peace of mind. We don’t wait for our feeling to settle in order to not be afraid. “Fear not” is something we choose to obey. How can we be not afraid? There is a story about Moody. One day, one member shared with Moody about her wonderful discovery in her devotion.
Psa 56:3 When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
Then, Moody shared with her his discovery
Isa 12:2 "Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation."
How can we be not afraid? When we trust God, we will not be afraid.
Illus: I took 5 classes in my 1st semester in CBTS. I had to write 3 15-page papers in this semester. In the last week of this semester, I had turned in every assignment except 1 paper. I had done research for this paper for the whole semester but I can’t come up with a logical argument for my topic. I was so scared at that time. So scared that I couldn’t concentrate in my writing. I prayed and prayed but I had nothing to write. So, I went out and I told Audrey that I wanted to drop this class because I had back surgery in that semester, so I didn’t have enough time. Audrey said, “No.” Well, I went back to my room and worked but I was so scared, so I prayed again. I still couldn’t concentrate, so I went out and talked to Audrey again. I said, “Can I pretend I have drop this class.” I haven’t finished my sentence and she said, “No!” Okay, I went back the third time, and then I went out to talk to Audrey again. Before I say anything, she said, “No!” Finally, I decided to continue till the end. I have few days left, I’ll rely on God to fight till the end. That evening, I went back to the seminary library to look for a new topic to write. As I scanned through books, I came across a book on my current topic. This book enabled me to find a logical argument on my topic and I finished that paper before the deadline.
Transition: When you are scared, you think it is impossible. God wants us to do 3 things: Be strong, Work, and Not fear. You may question this strategy: Is it a self hypnosis? Is there any different from “Don’t worry be Happy”
- The Cause - God’s promise (2:5-9) The fundamental difference is God’s promise. If our faith is not based on God’s promise, our faith is no more than a wishful thinking. But if our faith is based on God’s promise, nothing is impossible. God repeats His promise in v.4 saying, “I am with you.” Why should we be strong? Why should we work? And why should we not fear? Because “For I am with you.”
God expands this promise in three periods: the past, the present and the future.
- The past (v. 5)
God says, “I am with you … according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt.” Has God rejected his people? For these pessimistic people in Haggai’s time, they said yes. But Paul answers, “By no means!” (Ro 11:1) “The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” (Rom 11:29) The covenant that God made with Abraham still stands today. The same God who has delivered Israel out of Egypt is the same God today. So, work!
Same principle applies to us Christian. No matter how low we drop, God will not forsake His children. There is nothing in this world, there is no power in this age that is able to separate us from the love of God (Ro 8:38). Not even sin can separate us from God because God is only 1 prayer away from a disobedient child. 1Jo 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
- The present (v. 5b) God was not only with the Israelite in the past, He is with them now. God says, “My Spirit remains in your midst.” My spirit lives among you. Zechariah is a younger prophet who works together with Haggai at that time. Listen to what Zachariah says about God’s spirit:
This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts. (7) Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of 'Grace, grace to it!'" (“it” refers to the temple.) (8) Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying,
Zec 4:9 "The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you.
Don’t listen to those who said the glory of this temple will never be the same. My spirit dwells among you. My spirit will enable you to finish this project. “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit.”
- The Future (v. 6-9) This is the most exciting part: What God orders, He will pay for it. The key for v. 7-9 is God is the subject: God will fill His temple with treasures (v.7). God will fill His temple with glory (v. 9). You think the previous glory is unthinkable, God will make His temple even more glorify. And, finally, God will fill this land with peace (v. 9). Can you imagine Palestine to be a land of peace? We have tried 50 years and there is no peace in Palestine. But God says, “in this place I will give peace.”
What God orders, He will pay for it. You don’t have to worry about resources, or building permit. God will shake all nations to accomplish His task. Just work! “in a little while, God will shake the heavens and the earth.”
We have an advantage that those Israelites didn’t have. We are thousand years later and the Bible told us how God shook this world:
After they resumed the project, Israel’s enemies questioned them saying
"Who gave you a decree to build this house and to finish this structure?"
"What are the names of the men who are building this building?" Ezr 5:3-4
These enemies even sent a letter to the King Darius in order to stop the project.
Ezr 5:5 But the eye of their God was on the elders of the Jews, and they did not stop them until the report should reach Darius and then an answer be returned by letter concerning it.
Two things miraculously happened. First, Darius issued an order to find the original building decree. It is an unthinkable event because Darius had just gone a civil war. Why would he find time to verify a building project? Also, these Israelites are being charged with anti-government, if you are a King after a civil war, won’t you just put them down for safety reason? But, Darius issued an order to find the original building decree in Ezra 6:1.
The second unthinkable thing is the search starts in Babylon (i.e. Iraq), but the record is found in Ecbatana, the capital that is in the province of Media (in Iran).
God shook this King Darius, and Israelites got their building permit.
Ezr 6:7 Let the work on this house of God alone. Let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews rebuild this house of God on its site.
Not only that, God shook the nations, and they paid for the building expanses.
Ezr 6:8 Moreover, I make a decree regarding what you shall do for these elders of the Jews for the rebuilding of this house of God. The cost is to be paid to these men in full and without delay from the royal revenue, the tribute of the province from Beyond the River.
What I find it most funny is “the province from Beyond the River” is referring to where the enemies lives. God made Israel’s enemies pay for the building cost.
“What God orders, He will pay for it.” I learned this phrase from Pastor Jason. I have lots of opportunity to work with Pastor Jason. I remembered about 1 year ago, I showed Pastor Jason the Chinese church that I used to go to. And I mentioned to him, they may want to sell this church to buy a bigger one. Then Pastor Jason suggested maybe ANBC can buy this building. In my heart, I asked, “ANBC can’t afford this church.” But I say nothing. Well, Pastor Jason is as smart as usual, then he ask me, “Do you know the story of the Family Baptist Church?” He told me that 10 years ago, when Family Baptist just started, they didn’t have a building. But there was a pastor in Chicago went through a tragedy and lost 6 of his children. The judge granted Pastor Willis over 200 millions for compensation. Pastor Willis called Family Baptist and offered to give them 1 million USD. Family Baptist Church declined the gift but asked for a no interest loan. This is how they got this beautiful Church building.
“What God orders, He will pay for it. If we do our parts, God will do his part.
Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations : A Treasury of Illustrations, Anecdotes, Facts and Quotations for Pastors, Teachers and Christian Workers (Garland TX: Bible Communications, 1996, c1979).
 R. Laird Harris, Robert Laird Harris, Gleason Leonard Archer and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, electronic ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999, c1980), 276.
Other thought: If God can fill the temple, why doesn’t God build the temple Himself? For our benefit.