A call to construction (Haggai 1:1-15)

The book of Haggai was written around 520 B.C. It was a letter addressed to all the people, though particularly addressed to Zerubbabel the governor and to Joshua the high priest. The purpose of the book is to encourage the people in completing the building of the Temple. The completion of the Temple had been delayed for around 15 years and it was time for the people to get back to work. The book of Haggai gives four basic appeals or commands. Those commands are as follows: A call to construction, a call to courage, a call to clean living, and a call to confidence. Each of these commands are introduced with the phrase: “the Word of the Lord came.” I don’t know about you but I certainly desire that the Word of the Lord would come. As believers in Christ we should have a desire to hear the Word of God speak to us. We should continually seek out a Word from the Lord. We should long to hear God speak to us. I do not want God to be silent. I want Him to speak to me and to my church. Oh, that we would hear the Word of the Lord!

In verses 1-2 of chapter one we see a basic introduction. The prophet Haggai is introduced and the recipients of the book is revealed. In verse 2 we find that the people find themselves in a state of complacency. They knew that the Temple was not yet finished. They knew that there was work that needed to be done, but they simply did not care. How often do we find ourselves that way? We get caught up in the routine and the comfort of life. We are satisfied with the way things are and we become lazy. Many churches across our nation finds themselves in this very rut. They are just going through the motions with no vision and no purpose. They have no desire to do the work, they have no desire to strengthen and build the house of God. My prayer is that we would never find ourselves in such a state. May we always be moving forward. May we always seek to advance the kingdom of God.

In verses 3-15 we find four things that we should consider for our own lives and for our church. These four considerations will encourage us to come out of our complacency and answer the call to action.

The Problem. In verses 3-6 we see the problem that Haggai is addressing. The New American Commentary says, “The first of Haggai’s four messages is in the form of a disputation speech that is intended to call into question the reasons advanced by the prophet’s community for not completing the work of rebuilding the temple. That work had started shortly after the first returnees from Babylon made their way back to Jerusalem in the days of Cyrus. Although some progress had been made in the years following the initial return from Babylon, enthusiasm for the project had long since waned as the people increasingly focused on their own needs to the neglect of religious priorities. Now, almost two decades after the initial attempts, through a series of spoken messages Haggai sought to rekindle the flame of commitment.”[1]

The problem that existed was three-fold. (1) Focusing on riches (v. 4). Haggai does not hold anything back. He does not beat around the bush. He asks them how can they sit and enjoy the luxury of their own home while the house of God is left unattended to. Unfortunately, we face the same problem today. It is easy for us to get trapped in the web of materialism. It is easy for us to care more about ourselves and our own comfort than we do about the church. There was a time when the church was the center of the community. There was a time when churches were filled with families whose entire lives revolved around their relationship with their church family and the life and ministry of the church. Now, there is so much that distracts us. There is so much that pulls us away. Now, it is very difficult to find people who are willing to serve. No one wants to make a commitment anymore. There are things that desperately need attention yet they are left undone because we are too focused on our personal riches and comfort.

(2) Living outside your means (v. 6). The second problem that Haggai addresses is found in verse six. Here we have a description of those who are living outside their means. They have nothing to save. They have nothing to give. They fill their houses and their lives with material possessions. They spend money that they do not have, finding their finances escaping like money put into a bag that is filled with holes. We have all been guilty of this at some point in our lives. We find ourselves over our heads in debts that we have little time for anything else other than servicing our debts. We struggle to give because the bills are just too much. All of which was done by our own choosing. It all came from our selfish attitudes, caring more for ourselves and our personal pleasure than we care for the things of God.

(3) Neglecting the house of God (v. 4). In verse four Haggai mentions that the house of God lies in waste. The house of God has been neglected. One of the saddest things to see is a church that has lost its way. I have seen churches that were once thriving and doing much for the Kingdom that is now doing very little. I have seen churches that once packed out large sanctuaries that are now meeting in a smaller room to save on the electric bill because they now have so few people left. There are churches across our nation that are dying. Why? Because they neglected the house of God. They got caught up in the ways of the world. They started being inward focused rather than outward focused; caring for themselves rather than reaching out to the community around them. As a result, they allowed the facilities to sit and deteriorate. Church, we must not neglect the house of God. We must be here. We must be involved. Our lives should once again revolve around the church that we attend. We must build and strengthen the church. We must work hard to win our city with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We must not allow the church to die. It is too important. There is too much at stake. We must not neglect the house of God.

The Call. Now that Haggai identifies the problem, he gives out a call in verses 7-8. This call is two-fold. (1) Consider your ways (v. 7) Sometimes it is good to sit back and reflect on where you are in your life. When is the last time that you considered your ways? Maybe it is time for you to take some time off from all the busyness of life and reexamine who you are and God’s purpose for you. Consider these questions: Have you been focusing too much on riches? How much time do you spend trying to earn money compared to the time you spend with your family? Are you living outside your means? Do you find yourself trapped in the debt of materialism that you have little to give and little to save? Has your life been all about you or are you living for Jesus? Have you neglected the house of God? How often do you come to church? How involved are you? Do you just sit on a pew or are you involved in the work? As a church we should consider these questions: Are we an inward focused church or an outward focused church? How involved are we in bringing the Gospel to this community? Are we doing enough? How organized are we? Are we professional in all that we do? Do we put 100% in everything we do? Are we all in? If this church closed its doors today, would anybody notice? How much of a loss would it be to this community if this church was not here? How much of an impact are we making? Think about it. Consider your ways.

(2) Build and strengthen the house of the Lord (v. 8). Instead of neglecting the house of the Lord, we should build the house. Instead of ignoring the house of the Lord, we should strengthen the house of the Lord. The primary purpose of the church is to evangelize and equip. We are called to build the house of the Lord by faithfully preaching the Gospel and bringing people to Jesus. A growing church is one that is constantly outward focused. It is a church that engages and infiltrates its community with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are also called to equip. We are called to encourage each other in our walk with God. Look at what Ephesians 5:18-21 says. We are to speak to one another in ways that encourages and uplifts our faith. Look also at Ephesians 4:11-16. God has given us pastors and teachers in the church in order to teach us truth and doctrine and to equip and train us in doing ministry. Therefore, we must not be complacent. We must not allow the house of God to lay waste. We must be obedient to God’s Word and get involved in building and strengthening the house of the Lord.

The Judgement. Verses 9-11 describes what happens when the house of the Lord is neglected. When we neglect the house of the Lord we will find ourselves in the midst of a terrible drought. The Lord will withhold His hand from us. His blessing will be removed. Have you ever experienced a spiritual drought? Perhaps you are in one right now. Your relationship with God has become stagnant. Your prayers are hindered. Your love for God has grown cold. You have become indifferent. You have lost your fire and your passion. Perhaps, such a state has come upon you as a result of your deliberate neglecting of your personal walk with God and your deliberate neglecting of the house of the Lord.

The Response. Our complacency and apathy has been revealed to us. Our sin has been made known. A call has gone forth for us to return to the Lord’s house and neglect His house no longer. Verses 12-15 shows us how we are to respond to what we have heard. There are three basic elements of our response to what we have heard.

(1) Repent. The first step to getting back on track is to confess your faults and to turn away from your sin. We must cry out to God to forgive us of our complacency and our lack of concern and we must ask Him to deliver us and to restore us.

(2) Obey. Once we repent, we must then obey and do what we are instructed to do. The people heard the Word of the Lord given to them through Haggai. They then woke up from their slumber and obeyed the Word. A key principle in scripture is that obedience brings blessing. Obedience to God’s Word is the key to God’s blessing.

(3) Work. The people not only repented and obeyed, but they also went to work to build the house of the Lord. Church, there is much work to be done. We do not have time to be lazy. We must wake up, roll up our sleeves, and get to work.

Every time we hear the Word of God preach, it demands a response. The question is, are we going to ignore God’s Word or are we going to obey God’s Word? It’s time to build the house of the Lord. Will you join us? Will you obey?

 

[1] Taylor, R. A., & Clendenen, E. R. (2004). Haggai, Malachi (Vol. 21A, p. 101). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

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