Becoming A Church That Honours God
Haggai 1:12 - 2:9
Rev. Bryn MacPhail
God sent the prophet Haggai to preach to the remnant of Israel--to urge them to get
on with the work of rebuilding God's temple. The people had been previously unmotivated
to build the temple since, for the last 15 years, they experienced great opposition when trying to rebuild it. The people eventually began to prioritize other things
above rebuilding the temple--they began to prioritize, in particular, looking after
their own homes.
Haggai, like most prophets, did not mince his words--he did not hold a degree in
domestic diplomacy. Haggai's rebuke was piercing: "Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in paneled houses while this house lies desolate
Haggai's challenge to the people was bold and full of conviction. The pressing question
was; how would the people respond to Haggai's challenge?
One of the great discouragements of the Christian ministry is when a minister preaches
from the Bible with as much power and conviction as he possesses only to be greeted
with yawns and looks of indifference by his parishioners. Discouraged because no
matter how clear and forceful the preaching is, many people revert back to what they
were doing all along.
Yet, from time to time, the Word of God strikes home, and a life is genuinely changed.
On the largest of scales, this is what happened in response to Haggai's preaching.
In modern terms, Haggai essentially told the people, "It's time for you to stop thinking
about yourselves. It's time to get up off your couch and get on with the work of
the Lord". The amazing thing is that the people did what Haggai told them to do
After hearing Haggai's message, the text says that, "Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest,
the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the Lord their God and the words of
Haggai the prophet
Haggai told the people to do something and they did it. This is a preacher's dream!
Keep in mind how many people we are talking about here. It says that "all the remnant of the people
" obeyed the words of Haggai. Haggai preached a message to 50,000 people and 50,000
people did what he asked of them.
These people did not blindly follow Haggai either--as if he was simply some charismatic
leader. The text says that the people not only responded to "the words of Haggai
", but they also "obeyed the voice of the Lord
" and they "showed reverence for the Lord
"(1:12). In short, you could say that when the people heard Haggai's message, they
responded by honouring the Lord
So the first thing that happens is Haggai preaches the Word of the Lord
. In response to this preaching, the second thing that happens in this text is that
the people begin to honour God
. And finally, in response to the people's decision to honour God, the third thing
that happens in this text is that God sends a message back to the people: "I am with you
For the people of Israel, assurance of God's presence was the pinnacle of encouragement.
It's like the five year-old whose parent walks with them to their first day of school.
Suddenly, school doesn't seem so scary. It's like us, as adults, when we go to an important doctor's appointment accompanied by our spouse. Suddenly, our fears our
eased by the comfort that we are loved. In the same way, when the people in Haggai's
day were assured that the Lord was with them, the obstacles to building the temple
" by the Lord, the people "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 Darius the king
Haggai issued a challenge and the people met that challenge. This is important to
note as this sermon is on the heels of 6 sermons on our 7 stated "goals". The goals,
of course, represent our challenge
as a church. I wonder how many of you would be able to name the 7 goals of this church.
We have been challenged, first of all, to worship God
--not only Sunday, but everyday. We have been challenged to equip one another to do ministry
in this church. We have been challenged to nurture youth
and help them develop a relationship with Jesus Christ. We have been challenged to serve others
--that is, we are to discern the needs of others and attempt to meet those needs.
We have been challenged to evangelize
the unchurched--by sharing our faith with others, we expect our church to grow
. And finally, we have been challenged to improve our church facilities
--we are to take the necessary steps to allow our church building be a witness to
our community and to be a reflection of our beautiful, majestic God.
The challenge has been issued to us. We have two options: we can spend our time listing
all of our obstacles in meeting this challenge or we boldly accept the challenge,
trusting in the strength and mercy of God.
What is clear in this text in Haggai is that the people of Israel honoured God by
accepting the challenge of rebuilding the temple. The question is, "Are we going
to honour God by accepting the challenge to fulfill our 7 stated goals?".
Allow me to provide you with some motivation to accept this challenge. When the people
of Haggai's day accepted the challenge to obey God, God promised them three things.
If we choose to honour God, these are the three things we can expect to receive:
1) God's presence
, 2) God's provision
, and 3) God's peace
Before the people began the work on the temple God assured them of His presence, "I am with you
", He declared. God's promise of His presence
was enough motivation to get the people started on rebuilding the temple.
It seems, however, that at some point, the people began to get discouraged. They began
to wonder how they could build a temple as beautiful as the previous one. This discouragement
is recognized by God who, through the prophet Haggai, asks a rhetorical question: "Does (this temple) not seem to you like nothing in comparison (with the former temple)?
The people wanted immediate results. They had agreed to meet the challenge, but after
experiencing initial results that they were less than pleased with, they began to
This is important to note because many churches that strive to honour God will experience
initial disappointment. We may experience disappointment if we invest time and money
into youth ministry and find ourselves still lacking teenagers. We may experience disappointment if we go to great lengths to evangelize the "unchurched" only to
have no one join our church.
But notice how God responds to this discouragement. God doesn't say to the people
of Israel, "Well thanks for trying". God doesn't console them by saying, "You did
your best". No, God continues to motivate the people to meet the challenge of rebuilding
the temple: "take courage Zerubbabel . . . take courage Joshua . . . and all you people of the
land take courage
Not only does God tell the people to "take courage
", but He also orders them back to work(v.4). Why should these people "take courage
"? Why should they go back to work? The Lord repeats His promise--"(go back to) work; for I am with You . . . My Spirit is abiding in your midst; do
"(v.4, 5). Like the people of Haggai's day, we must learn to approach our challenges
courageously knowing that the "Spirit
" of the Lord is in our "midst
Perhaps we are like the people of Haggai's day who need a lot of reassurance: "That's
terrific that the Lord is present", we say, "but how is that going to get the job
done for us?".
Notice how God in His grace meets this need of reassurance. On at least two occasions,
the Lord promised the people of Israel His presence, but they still weren't convinced
that was enough to get the job done. So in addition to promising the people His presence
, God also promises the people His provision
The people must have been wondering where they would get all the things necessary
to make the temple beautiful again. How could God's presence
solve the problem of a lack of resources? "Thus says the Lord of hosts . . . I will shake all the nations; and they will come
with the wealth of all nations; and I will fill this house with glory
"(v.7) Through the prophet Haggai, the Lord reminds the people that "the silver is (His), and the gold is (His)
"(v.8). In short, the Lord will provide.
This is truly amazing. The Lord, throughout Scripture, commands us to do many things--He
issues us many challenges. But here in Haggai, we learn what we learn elsewhere in
Scripture, that when the Lord asks you to do something, He helps you do it.
I wonder how many churches have failed in ministry by simply neglecting to call on
God for help. As the Psalmist has said, "Unless the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain who build it
So the Lord promises us His presence, He promises us His provision, and there is one
more thing that He promises us--the Lord promises us His peace
After describing how He would provide for the people of Israel, the Lord concludes
His encouragement by stating that "in this place I shall give peace
"(v.9). Now anyone who has studied the history of Jerusalem can tell you it is anything
but a "city of peace". The "peace
" promised here to the people is something far more profound than peace from physical
fighting--this is a reference to the work Christ would do between God and man.
The promise of "peace
" qualifies the promise of presence. Because the Lord's presence may not be a particularly
good thing if you are not at peace with Him. Think of those the Lord was referring
to when He said, "I will shake all the nations
"--those countries experienced God's presence in a powerful way, but they did not
experience God's peace.
God's promises to the people of Haggai's day are the same promises given to us today.
The challenge is before us--our 7 goals outline all of the hard work ahead of us.
The question is, "Are we committed to meet this challenge?".
If we are, I'd like to encourage you by reminding you that while we work, we can count
on God's presence, God's provision, and God's peace--and may that motivate you to
serve Him more faithfully. Amen.