Haggai: Looking forward, looking back

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Bib Ref: Hag 2:1-9

Introduction

We were introduced into the message of Haggai as the Old Testament version of seek first the kingdom of God. That if the temple laid in ruin then it was an accurate reflection on their relationship with God. As we saw they were not seeking the kingdom first because their relationship with God was not of first importance.

Summary

As we come to chapter two we come to another message and it’s about a month later. This message focus on the future but it comes to a people who may be looking back and the reason for this is because it appears that the new temple isn’t as impressive as the temple that Solomon built. Yet God reminds his people that he is with them, that His spirit remains in their midst and that God will shake things up because the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. God will provide materially for the new temple because God is moving forward and he reminds the people that he is keeping the promise he made when his people came out of Egypt.

Fair weather believers

One of the things we have to keep in mind here is that God works through his people in all ages but not all ages are the same. We can see it this way – when Solomon’s temple was in all its glory and things are going well in the land. This could lead and does lead to fair weather believers, in other words when things are going well God’s people can cruise along. But there is always danger of creating fair weather believers. Now the reason why God’s  people went from having the land and the temple to having neither was because of their own unfaithfulness – to quote (cotton Mather) “faithfulness begat prosperity but the daughter devoured the mother”. In other words they had it good and they enjoyed the prosperity but they ended up loving that more than God – meaning that 

A casual look at church history will also show that when Constantine became a Christian and Rome had a Christian emperor – it became socially advantageous for people to convert to Christianity in their own way, very similar to Americans in America in the last hundred or so years, though it’s changing fast now. The point is that the Christian who lived in Constantine’s day did not have the same rigorous standards that the believers in the early church did because of the time they lived in – in the same way it is easier to be a Christian in America and Scotland than it is in some other countries.

The point to this observation is that – those who remember the past and how good it was can fail to commit to the present because it’s not like it was. So how do you begin a work and continue in a work when reality doesn’t meet you expectations? Also how do you do God’s work when you have to listen to those who tell you how good it use to be? 

V3 who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory?

We should find this question for a couple of reasons – the first is because this is being spoken at a time which is 66years after the destruction of the temple, meaning that if the people he is speaking to are 70years old – then they would have only been 4years old when they saw the temple. Imagine it like this – as a child you spend time at a favourite place, but then you leave and do don’t come back to it for several years – is it as impressive as you remember it  – not always, because the place has change, well maybe – but even if it didn’t you have. So maybe this new temple isn’t as good as the temple Solomon built and maybe they have an inflated view of the past.

But notice the point to this message – v4 be strong, all you people of the land, declares the LORD. Work, for I am with you, declares the LORD of hosts – v5 according to the promise I made with you, my spirt is in your midst, fear not v6 yet once more I will bless you, I will fill this house with glory, v8all the silver and gold is mine, v9 the latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former says the lord of hosts.

In short the point of this message is that the future will always be better than the past because of the future that God is working to. Now there is only one temple than can surpass the glory of the former temple, which is the spiritual temple consisting of people from all nations, a new community of believers established by God’s saving work through Jesus Christ. the physical temple was a sign of God’s presence amongst his people, but when that temple became a den of thieves were God’s people were robbing God, He destroyed that temple but he replaced it with the church, God’s dwelling place is us his church.

Paul warns the church in Corinth to not do anything that would destroy the temple – if anyone destroys the temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, you are that temple” 1Cor 3:17

Move from past reflection to present action

Believers then even today need to move from reflecting on the past to a present action – God is always moving us forward and we can have confidence that God will always provide because all the silver and gold belongs to him. So we seek first the kingdom, we move from reflecting on the past to present focus and action. 

Now before we get to action we have to be convinced that all work undertaken by the people of God is to be orientated towards the future and the reason for this is because as we serve God all that service is leading to a future evaluation and the evaluation that is spoken of in the new testament is not between what you do and what you don’t do but rather will the work we do make it through the fire, will the work that we put our hand to, a work that will be tested by fire be burned up or will it last.

This is important consideration because of what Haggai says next. Because as we have seen what we put own hand to matters, our own panelled houses or the work of the lord. We must see the world from God’s point of view lest be get involved in a work that won’t make it through the fire. The issue here is not a focus on the type of work but rather on our attitude and focus to work. Will we seek first the kingdom and will that be reflected in what we do.

Exhortation

The assurance is this that just as God was with his people then He is with his people now. The meaning of that assurance is that we have no reason to be pessimistic when the Lord is with us in the work. Meaning that we have no reason to look back but only forward. This then leaves us with that question – which way are we looking?

If the first message of Haggai is on the reordering of priorities – then the second message of Haggai is on the redirecting of our focus. In short the message so far is about how God moves his people forward and as we will see it’s not always something that picks up speed as it goes. But why worry about the speed of change if the direction needs to be address first.

The challenge to us then this evening is a challenge that concerns the direction of everything we do and how this direction is set in place by our focus, which takes us back to the fist message which was a call to put God first. Having been in the ministry for a while now I am aware that there is a big difference between looking at a map for direction and moving in that direction. Knowing where to go and even deciding to go can all be done without any movement taking place?

Haggai probably didn’t understand all that was to happen yet he does understand that what he does in the present matters. We do know the fullness of c2v9 because we are that fullness, we are the place where God dwells and we know the future that God has promised –For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

In that promise we see the activity of the church – speaking the word of God. Jesus emphasises this in the great commission. We all have to do other things, but all those other things should serve this purpose – that’s the focus we all need and all need to remember. 

By Daniel Ralph

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