Rebuilding the House – Haggai 1

Haggai


Author: Alan Smith Date: Sunday, November 6, 2016 Campus:

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We have another standalone subject today – entitled “Rebuilding the House” and it is based on part of the Bible called the book of Haggai.

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Last week Gareth spoke about a man called Daniel – a Jewish man who lived in exile in Babylon around 600BC. Although Daniel was pressured to become a Babylonian he did not turn away from God nor did he fight like a rebel. He sought the prosperity of the city he lived in so that in time the people would see the truth about God – and indeed after 70years the people were allowed to return to Jerusalem.

Today’s Bible passage is called Haggai after a prophet who lived around 520BC in Jerusalem and he received messages from God to pass on to the people.

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Read Haggai 1

The people had been allowed to return from exile in Babylon some years previously by the sympathetic king Darius and were settling in. They had rebuilt their own homes but the temple remained in ruins and nothing was being done about it.

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Why does God need a house? Is God making the people feel guilty about doing up their own houses instead of his? How is this relevant to us today?

God is the maker of the universe – the heavens and the earth - and doesn’t need a house to live in the same way that we need shelter and somewhere to keep our stuff. But in the times before Jesus, God’s presence was limited to being experienced by a few people at particular times. God appointed priests to administer his laws which enabled him to draw near his people from time to time even though they had done wrong - and this usually took place at the temple.

So having a temple was a vital focus for the people. Before Jesus came, the people could not access God’s presence all the time. Many of us take for granted we can be aware of God’s presence wherever we are physically – but it was not like that in those days before Jesus. If you are not a Christian or have not experienced God’s presence yourself then this may sound strange – but even today when certain things have been said or sung you may have felt moved or excited or peaceful and that is how God begins to make his presence known to us.

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God says that he does not want a house to live in but because he would enjoy it - seeing what the people do for him.

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honoured,” says the Lord.

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God is our father and enjoys what we do and this act of worship translates into increased blessing for the people. If you have or have had young children you may have had brought to you pictures they’ve drawn, cakes they’ve made, Lego creations etc. All these bring pleasure enjoy them because of who made them – no matter what they look like or taste like. They make you smile. God loves us the same way.

So God’s temple, his house, is a focus for meeting him and worshipping him and it brings him pleasure and it enables him to favour us – to bless us.

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You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”

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“You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house. 10 Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. 11 I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the olive oil and everything else the ground produces, on people and livestock, and on all the labour of your hands.”

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This is so important to understand – that being close to God, changes the physical world so that it works for us instead of against us. It releases God’s favour, his blessing on us. The key to seeing insurmountable difficulties conquered is to focus our love and energy on God – not first of all on the problems we see. The world tells us to focus on problems and improve ourselves. How many of these things which went wrong for the people are still happening to us today? You may even feel pressure at church – perhaps you think God favours people who’ve done more time as a Christian, or are busier with church activities, or who pray more, or who read the Bible more. But this is not true! God loves is overwhelmingly for all of us!

God tells us to focus on him - and the truth that he has already dealt with those problems through Jesus and to believe the problems have no power to remain.

So rather than improve ourselves to be able to deal with trouble God blesses our faith by being with us by his Spirit in those troubles so that the troubles dissolve.

Everything in the world wears out and breaks down in time but did you know that when you put God first, you are less affected by these factors than someone who does not put God first?

This is not a point to debate – God spells it out and he is Truth so it must be true. So the answer isn’t to be better, be stronger, earn more, spend less, live frugally… it’s to get closer to God.

God’s house – the temple - was broken and the meetings and sacrifices were unable to be carried out. The result was that the environment and life itself was hard for the people. God gives the people a challenge – turn aside from worrying about your efforts to provide your possessions and rebuild my house, but so I can enjoy you and what you make and do for me. And the things of life that fill your time will be made easier by my favour and blessing on you. You’re not wasting time by doing up a temple, your showing your love to a God who wants to bless you more. By making God the focus, all the other things you need in life will be provided too.

Sound familiar? Jesus said …

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Matthew 6

33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Seek first the kingdom of God and all these other things (food, money, clothes) things that those who do not know God seek after – these will be added – given to you too.

So the rebuilding of the temple with God’s help in Haggai’s time was primarily to draw the people closer to God, so they would enjoy his presence and be blessed by them.

So what should we do today so that we can also experience God’s blessing?

Jesus came, he died & rose again and as proof that he had dealt with all our sin for ever, sent the Holy Spirit to live in us.

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John 15

26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me.

If Jesus failed then the Holy Spirit could not have come. Our sin would have stopped him. God cannot abide the presence of sin. So if he lives in us then we are confirmed as sinless. Really? Only last week I had a wicked thought, I swore at someone; I acted like God didn’t exist. When Jesus died he took all our sin so anything new to me was already dealt with 2000 years ago. And any new sin does not change my status. I am forgiven. I can still feel annoyed with myself but I can say sorry and focus on my God, not myself and not my sin. Ignoring my sin after saying sorry does not mean I am treating sin as unimportant – rather I am agreeing with God that is has no right to continue a hold on me afterwards because Jesus has already been punished for it.

John 19

30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

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No more temples are required. God lives IN YOU.

In fact you are a temple if you like – a place where God’s presence lives.

So doing up buildings is the Old Testament (pre-Jesus) way of having more of God’s presence in your life and receiving more of his favour (blessings) too.

Jesus changed all that – now your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.

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1 Corinthians 6

19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies.

Once you invite God to be Lord of your life you carry his Spirit like treasure inside your body. The challenge to us today is what kind of temple are we?

Are you clean and shiny on the outside, and you and God are worshipping together inside – or is the temple empty on the inside? Are you a ruined temple because you don’t believe God even wants to be near to you because you stopped bothering with God a long time and neglected him?

So what is the way we can “rebuild the house” today?

Our lives consist in the physical world in what we do in or with our bodies. But before you rush in and make a list of what you think are your problems - Stop!

The temple was not rebuilt until God stirred up his Spirit in the people. God loves us so much he wants to even work with us on the rebuilding!

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So first pray. Ask God to help you. Make a tiny step towards God by silencing the thoughts in your head that accuse you of not being good enough and just ask him. Then believe that what you have asked for has been given – even if you don’t quite see it yet. That is faith.

Don’t say “seeing is believing” – that’s wrong! – say “believing is seeing”.

If God has promised it then he will deliver on it!

I am reminded that when Jesus went into the temple (the very same one that was rebuilt in Haggai’s time!) he met people carrying on a business there. Part of the rituals followed by the people to be forgiven for their sins involved sacrificing birds and some enterprising people would take your money and convert it into temple money so you could buy the items you needed. You were being ripped off - twice…

Your temple may also currently be inhabited by ‘robbers’. Activities, thoughts, behaviours which are at odds with God’s presence and rob you every day of the peace, joy, love and closeness with God that you rightly deserve because of Jesus!

But let God point out the things that you should do. Don’t tackle everything. But he will bring up things and you will find more peace when you deal with those first.

Remember God does not demand we improve he asks to come closer and work with us on everything!

Pray that God takes away our appetite for sin. A lot of our trouble comes from having a healthy appetite for the things we shouldn’t do – and I don’t just mean food! Pray that God will give you more of an appetite for him and his word.

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Read the Bible a little. Pick out God’s promises and dwell on them.

See God as a loving friend who wants to be totally reunited with you, not a sulky friend who wants to keep punishing you! Let us draw near to God!!

Summary

God sees the people are focussing on their own needs and providing for themselves – prioritising work on their houses.

Meanwhile the temple is still ruined so the people are not meeting to honour him there, nor do they desire to for they are busy.

God explains that ignoring him has consequences in the physical world. Everything works against us when we try to do it all ourselves, without involving him.

God does not get angry but instead he himself by his Spirit provides the energy, the enthusiasm to motivate the people into repairing the temple so they can meet to praise him and consequently see their lives blessed more.

Even though God was the instigator of the repairs he does it so that ultimately he can bless the people more!