There’s a legend of a Persian King who did not have any heirs but had many faithful servants. The king did not know which to choose to become heir to the throne but thought of a way to decide. The king gave instructions for each of his servants to go to the royal kingdom well, where it has been filled with water and has wicker basket containers for each servant. The instructions were for each servant to pump the well and fill their baskets with water. Whoever reached the bottom of the well first would reap their reward.
Some of the servants read the instruction and chose not to obey due to the ignorance of pumping water into a wicker basket. Other servants went to the well to examine the basket, but turned away. A few other servants actually pumped water into the basket but after a few pumps realized the vanity of the task. Yet, there was one servant who kept pumping to follow the instructions of his king. Upon pumping the water to reach the bottom of the well the servant discovered the king’s crown. The servant who fully obeyed the king’s instructions reaped the full reward as heir to the kingdom.
Obedience to King Jesus may not always make human sense and has many challenges, yet to those who fully follow Him will experience the reward of faith. As the hymn writer says, “trust and obey, for there is no other way, to be happy in Jesus, than to trust and obey.”
EXAMINE Haggai 1:12 – 2:9 God’s Promises Inspire Our Obedience
– Haggai is the Lord’s prophet, speaking God’s message of rebuke to Israel for their apathy of rebuilding the temple. They had started building but stopped and over sixteen years later God’s house was still in ruins. People liked idea of a temple but not actual implementation of the work it required. There was apathy, busyness, and the idol of human comfort.
– The Lord gave judgment upon Israel’s sin through critical and condemning circumstances. Their labor was ineffective, their riches were fleeting, and their lives were purposeless. Israel missed blessings because of their spiritual neglect.
– In the end, the Lord’s rebuke resulted in a repentant people as they worked and rebuilt the temple.
Observations On Obedience
Obedience flows from [not for] relationship (Haggai 1:12-14).
Relationship with God
All the people obeyed the voice of the Lord their God (1:12 / 2x). Before, God called Israel “These people” but now Israel is claiming God as their own because they have returned to Him. The relationship between Israel and God was always based on covenant of promise not of works (2:5). In spite of Israel’s disobedience they could claim God’s covenant promise. Haggai transitions from calling them “These people” to a “remnant” to signify their obedience (1:12). Their obedience flowed from relationship and not for relationship. If they obeyed to be accepted in relationship with God it would be short-lived, because soon enough they would falter again. Yet, their only hope was to cling to God’s covenant promise of His grace and faithful presence to be with them.
– Religion: I obey therefore I am accepted.
– Gospel: I am accepted therefore I obey.
Our obedience to God’s commands are not meant to occur out of duty but delight. If we try to obey God by solely focusing on an action to start/stop doing then we will frequently fail. Our obedience and relationship with God will feel like duty and obligation. However, if we can focus on God – on our relationship with Jesus Christ, then there is greater likelihood for delighting in God and obedience to occur more naturally.
Try not thinking about pink elephants by repeating the phrase “Don’t think about pink elephants”. This strategy is unhelpful because the goal is out of alignment with the strategy. If I don’t want to think of pink elephants I need to fill my mind with alternate items that aren’t pink elephants. Likewise, the goal of overcoming sin is not to focus on sin but to focus on the Savior and His grace.
– Galatians 5:25 “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”
– Ephesians 5:18 “Do not get drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit”
– Philippians 4:8 “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
– Colossians 3:12-16 “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience… above all these put on love… let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts… let the word of Christ dwell in you richly”
As a husband I am commanded to love my wife (Eph 5:25). What if I set an alarm on my calendar to remind me to tell my wife that I loved her? At each reminder alarm I said, “Oh, it’s time to tell you I love you.” That is mere duty. YET, if throughout the day I reflect on who my wife is in her character of kindness, joy, beauty, and faithfulness; and in what she does to share love toward me and our family – then, naturally I will speak words of love and encouragement to her on a frequent basis. The latter is not duty but delight.
The more we can saturate, rather than isolate and compartmentalize, our life with God is the more we will obey God from relationship rather than for relationship.
Relationship with Haggai – Christians/Church
Also important to note is that Israel not only obeyed the voice of their God but the words of Haggai the prophet, whom God sent to them (1:12). God sent Haggai to facilitate the obedience of the people. Haggai was God’s tool and spark.
Likewise, God has sent others in our life to facilitate our obedience. Ultimately, God has sent His very own Son as the Lord’s Messenger to model and motivate our obedience (Jn 15:1-11). Further, God has sent the Holy Spirit to empower and encourage our sanctification (cf. Jn 16:7-15; Rom 8:26-39; Gal 5:16-25). And lastly, God has sent the church – individual and corporate believers to affirm and hold us accountable (cf. Eph 4:11-15).
è Whom has God sent in your life to affirm and encourage your accountability to obey God? This is the role of the local church and shows the importance of being a part – an active participant in biblical community gatherings. If you are not attending church then you cannot be affirmed or accountable; if you are not present then you cannot be pastored.
Relationship with Community
Each of Haggai’s messages is directed toward both religious and civil leaders along with the people. Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah, is part of the remnant who obeys God and is rebuilding the temple. The resources and priority of the nation are aligned with the spiritual emphasis.
Haggai did not have to twist Zerubbabel but trusted the Lord to stir [awake, raise up] the heart of the governor. National revival will not come through politicians or even legislation. National revival occurs when God’s people move beyond apathy to awakening, from religious duty to spiritual brokenness, from politicizing to prayerful trust and obedience to the Lord.
Generally, the civil and religious society have separate functions. Government’s role is to promote the good of its nation, protect its citizens, and punish those who seek to do it harm (Romans 13:1-7). The role of religion is essentially to promote its faith and the good of human society (Micah 6:8). Government should not influence or intimidate religious activity.
Christians have enjoyed a privileged state as the primary religion of choice in the USA. Religious liberty has provided a tremendous platform for the spread of the gospel. Unfortunately, in years past some Christian groups have used their privilege to repel members of society with moral standards rather than persuade them with the transforming power of the gospel. Changing trends among a new generation have altered the moral norms as well as privileged religious liberties.
Religious liberty is becoming a growing concern, where hostility and life-threatening persecution against religion is becoming the norm, including in USA. Christians can be an advocate for religious liberty by
– Promoting liberty for all faiths, especially minority viewpoints. Religious liberty allows the government and the church to function each in its purpose without coercion of either area.
– Promote good works and endure persecution (cf. Matt 5:11-16; 1Peter 2:123-21). Christians who seek to do bless its community and nation and trusts God in hardship will follow in the footsteps of Jesus and the early church.
Obedience is personal and not comparative (Haggai 1:15 – 2:5)
Israel had been unresponsive and in sin for a long period of time. They seemingly took 3 weeks to initially respond to Haggai (1:15). Likewise, another 3 weeks go by and they need continued encouragement from Haggai and the Lord’s promises (2:1).
Israel’s leaders were discouraged about the rebuilding efforts. Haggai asks, “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? (2:3) The leaders compared the rebuilding of the new temple to the previous temple of Solomon (cf. Ezra 3:11-13). Previous building had plethora of resources in Solomon’s wealth:
1 Kings 6:7-22 7 When the house was built, it was with stone prepared at the quarry, so that neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron was heard in the house while it was being built. 8 The entrance for the lowest story was on the south side of the house, and one went up by stairs to the middle story, and from the middle story to the third. 9 So he built the house and finished it, and he made the ceiling of the house of beams and planks of cedar. 10 He built the structure against the whole house, five cubits high, and it was joined to the house with timbers of cedar. 11 Now the word of the LORD came to Solomon, 12 “Concerning this house that you are building, if you will walk in my statutes and obey my rules and keep all my commandments and walk in them, then I will establish my word with you, which I spoke to David your father. 13 And I will dwell among the children of Israel and will not forsake my people Israel.” 14 So Solomon built the house and finished it. 15 He lined the walls of the house on the inside with boards of cedar. From the floor of the house to the walls of the ceiling, he covered them on the inside with wood, and he covered the floor of the house with boards of cypress. 16 He built twenty cubits of the rear of the house with boards of cedar from the floor to the walls, and he built this within as an inner sanctuary, as the Most Holy Place. 17 The house, that is, the nave in front of the inner sanctuary, was forty cubits long. 18 The cedar within the house was carved in the form of gourds and open flowers. All was cedar; no stone was seen. 19 The inner sanctuary he prepared in the innermost part of the house, to set there the ark of the covenant of the LORD. 20 The inner sanctuary was twenty cubits long, twenty cubits wide, and twenty cubits high, and he overlaid it with pure gold. He also overlaid an altar of cedar. 21 And Solomon overlaid the inside of the house with pure gold, and he drew chains of gold across, in front of the inner sanctuary, and overlaid it with gold. 22 And he overlaid the whole house with gold, until all the house was finished. Also the whole altar that belonged to the inner sanctuary he overlaid with gold.
The leaders became stuck in their work because they compared their accomplishments to a previous generation. The Lord through Haggai had a message for them: “O Zerubbabel, declares the Lord, Be strong. O Joshua, Be strong. Be strong all you people of the land… Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts, according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not” (2:4-5). God reassured the people with His promises to be with them, bless them and their work. God referenced the covenant He made with previous generations who were rescued from Egypt and brought into the new land. Referencing Israel’s history was able to recall God’s steadfast love and faithfulness. The personal presence of the Lord instills courage and conviction that what God demands, He will deliver.
We live in a culture of comparison. We are tempted to equate circumstances and relate to the appearance of others, especially marketing induced desires.
The key danger of comparison is establishing a false standard that we were never meant to follow or could never obtain.
Keys to overcoming comparison:
– Appreciate the complexity of the world. There is freedom in admitting we cannot achieve or control every accomplishment in the world. We can rest in the humbling truth that there is only one God and it is not us.
– Affirm the diversity in others. There is beauty in the fact that our world is not boring uniformity. We live in a world of various colors, shapes, and sizes.
– Analyze the source of your contentment. Christ is our only standard of measurement. The death of comparison is contentment in Christ, realizing He is our only righteousness and He covers all our insecurities and inadequacies.
Obedience to God is glorious (Haggai 2:6-9).
In addition to comparison, Israel measured the temple rebuild in terms of size and scope. Our world believes the large are in charge, even Christians think that in order to be successful you have to draw large crowds. Yet, Jesus speaks of the kingdom of God with a reversed perspective from earthly terms. What humanity views as small, heaven views as significant. Jesus spoke about a mustard seed, one of the smallest seeds, which once planted will grow to influence everything else in its surrounding area. Jesus chose only a dozen followers, with one who would fall away to be His disciples and change the entire world of human history. Jesus gathered a few loaves of bread and two fish to be used for feeding thousands. In God’s kingdom, He is not looking for worldly awesomeness but simple availability. God does not need you to be awesome, He already has that taken care of.
As Christians, we should never discount the small that we have to offer God. It may not appear like much on the surface, but it is of great value for God’s kingdom. Your small word of encouragement, or behind the scenes act of service, or your faithfulness in little things will produce a great impact.
God promised to transform the temple built by Israel into something greater than they could imagine. The Lord declared He would “shake the nations, so that the treasures of all nations will come in” and the house would be filled with “glory” – “the latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former” (Haggai 2:6-8). These promises are references to the sending of Jesus Christ as the glory of the Father into the world. Christ’s presence with His Spirit in all believers is more glorious than the previous worship of the OT saints. God is our Immanuel and in His presence is “peace” (Haggai 2:9).
God is shaking the nations and even His church today.
– Does the church desire only former glory without future glory?
– Will the church awaken from its apathy?
– Will the church pray and persevere for a movement of God to see in the next two years
Will you believe God to transform your disobedience into future glory? Trust Jesus Christ.
Will you pray for SPBC future glory to be greater than its former by advancing His kingdom & not our own?
 John Dickerson, The Great Evangelical Recession, chapter 9 “Good”
 Ralph Smith, Word Biblical Commentary: Haggai (2:1).