One Comment to “Be Strong and Work”

  1. Donald McMahon
    April 8, 2019

    “Be Strong and Work” (Haggai 2)(4.7.19)
    Have you ever heard someone say? “I wish the Lord would tell me what to do. If only God would speak to me.” Likely, you have said or thought this exact same desire. We are told that God speaks to us through our circumstances. God speaks to us through other believers. God speaks to us in our prayer time…if we are sincerely using our quiet time with the Almighty in order to receive and not only to send.
    Certainly, God the Father has spoken to us through God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the exact image of the invisible God. In fact, Jesus is God. If you believe our Bible is the word of God, which I do, then a red letter Bible vividly displays Jesus’ words, God’s word.
    When it comes to other parts of the Bible, many professing Christians disagree to what extent God’s word is God’s word. I believe that scripture is God breathed. The writers were inspired by God the Holy Spirit and the authors, through their individual personalities and understanding, shared this revelation.
    In some instances, the plain reading of scripture, leads me to believe the Lord’s word is being dictated pretty clearly. When the prophet says, “This is what the Lord says,” it would seem foolish to try to qualify or limit its authority. Today, we have one of those texts that seems unequivocal: “This is what the Lord Almighty says,” and thus ‘declares the Lord Almighty.”
    So, if you ever wanted to hear a word directly from God, pay attention. It is crystal clear that the LORD Almighty is speaking. The people in Haggai’s day needed to hear it and we need to hear it. It applies to our personal faith. It applies to the Church. It applies to Emmaus Church. And, it speaks to all aspects of our Christian walk.
    Haggai 2:1–23 (NIV84) The Promised Glory of the New House
    2 On the twenty-first day of the seventh month, the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: 2 “Speak to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people. Ask them, 3 ‘Who of you is left who saw this house [The Temple] in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing? 4 But now be strong, O Zerubbabel,’ declares the Lord. ‘Be strong, O Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the Lord, ‘and work. For I am with you,’ declares the Lord Almighty. 5 ‘This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.’
    6 “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. 7 I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord Almighty. 8 ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty. 9 ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”
    Blessings for a Defiled People
    10 On the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Haggai: 11 “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Ask the priests what the law says: 12 If a person carries consecrated meat in the fold of his garment, and that fold touches some bread or stew, some wine, oil or other food, does it become consecrated?’ ”
    The priests answered, “No.”
    13 Then Haggai said, “If a person defiled by contact with a dead body touches one of these things, does it become defiled?”
    “Yes,” the priests replied, “it becomes defiled.”
    14 Then Haggai said, “ ‘So it is with this people and this nation in my sight,’ declares the Lord. ‘Whatever they do and whatever they offer there is defiled.
    15 “ ‘Now give careful thought to this from this day on—consider how things were before one stone was laid on another in the Lord’s temple. 16 When anyone came to a heap of twenty measures, there were only ten. When anyone went to a wine vat to draw fifty measures, there were only twenty. 17 I struck all the work of your hands with blight, mildew and hail, yet you did not turn to me,’ declares the Lord. 18 ‘From this day on, from this twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, give careful thought to the day when the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid. Give careful thought: 19 Is there yet any seed left in the barn? Until now, the vine and the fig tree, the pomegranate and the olive tree have not borne fruit.
    “ ‘From this day on I will bless you.’ ”
    Zerubbabel the Lord’s Signet Ring
    20 The word of the Lord came to Haggai a second time on the twenty-fourth day of the month: 21 “Tell Zerubbabel governor of Judah that I will shake the heavens and the earth. 22 I will overturn royal thrones and shatter the power of the foreign kingdoms. I will overthrow chariots and their drivers; horses and their riders will fall, each by the sword of his brother.
    23 “ ‘On that day,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘I will take you, my servant Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will make you like my signet ring, for I have chosen you,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”
    The word of God for the people of God.
    It is extremely clear that this is the word of God that came to the prophet Haggai. 2 Timothy 3:16–17 (NIV84)
    16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
    Let us start with the authority of the One who is speaking. Are you familiar with term “mover and shaker?” It is a term for a powerful person who initiates events and influences people. I asked Mr. Google about the origination of this moniker, mover and shaker, but found no reference to Haggai or the Lord Almighty.
    In verse 6, God says, I will once again shake the heavens, earth, land, and sea. Even the nations. Once again means the Lord Almighty has done it before. Then in the 22nd verse, God once again promises to shake and shape history. This shaking includes everyone from monarchs to chariot drivers.
    My friends, there is only one mover and shaker, the Lord Almighty. When God makes His clarion call, the trumpet blast will be heard far and wide. People from all over will come and glorify the Almighty. All wealth belongs to the Lord. In the presence of the Lord Jehovah, there will be glory and peace.
    God reminds the people that because they had become dead to their God, everything they touched was defiled. Think about that. As a matter of fact, the next verse calls God’s people to give careful thought, to consider why they were in this predicament.
    Conditions were hard and provisions for life were in short supply. Why? Did God strike down the work of their hands just to demonstrate he was in control? NO! The Lord states that He wanted them to repent and turn back to God. The Lord’s desire was for the chosen people to be a holy and faithful nation; but, they refused. Then the people are told again to think about why wine, olive oil, fruit and seed are in short supply. Now, now that you have given it careful consideration, I will bless you says the Lord Almighty.
    There is no doubt who is in charge; and, it is not you or me. While there is a vestige of authority in government and religious leaders, God says he is in control there too. Whether it involves putting food on the table or kings on thrones, there is divine influence. This does not negate human free will or responsibility. We already stated that God’s cursing or blessing was in response to human choices. In the end, God’s purposes cannot be thwarted.
    Maybe you are beginning to wonder if I have forgotten that today’s message is entitled “Be Strong and Work.” The Lord enlists his people in his kingdom work by this command: be strong and work.
    This past Wednesday night, after choir practice, Shirley was teasing me. At the end of rehearsal we practice the following Sunday’s hymns. Our closing hymn is titled, “If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee.” She asked me how that fits with my promise to make Communion Sundays, Comfort Sundays, which I started doing in February. I replied, “Yes, that is why the sermon is “Be Strong.” Shirley retorted, “Be Strong and Work.” Yes, we often misunderstand Suffering God to Guide Us and we misunderstand work. I will begin to address these concerns now.
    The Lord asks Zerubbabel the governor, Joshua the high priest, and the remnant, the faithful few, are you disappointed with how this rebuilt Temple compares to the First Temple? Trust me. The glory to come will stun you. This Second Temple was to be retrofitted and upgraded by King Herrod a few years before Jesus was born; but, I do not believe that is to what the Lord Almighty is referring. The central issue to God’s glory is God’s presence.
    All of us know that the presence of God is everywhere, he is omnipresent. There was a special manifestation in the Jerusalem Temple, as Yahweh was in the Holy of Holies, enthroned on the Mercy Seat, that contained The Ten Commandments. The Temple was also the center of sacrifice.
    In the Lord Jesus, we have the final and perfect Sacrifice. The Jerusalem Temple is no longer needed. When people acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit resides within them; they are the Tabernacle of God the Holy Spirit. And, as we recite in our Call to Worship, we as Living Stones are being built into a Spiritual house; a Spiritual Temple. Instead of one Temple in Jerusalem, there are tens of thousands of Holy Temples, churches around the world. Certainly, this is a more glorious Temple.
    The building of this house of the Lord Almighty is not complete; and won’t be until Christ’s Second Coming. It is no easy task; evidenced by God’s call to governmental leaders, religious leaders, and the faithful remnant to BE STRONG. This is not primarily a physical strength, not a Samson strength. It is a spirtual strength. It is an enduring and preserving strength. It is a strength through the Holy Spirit and it is a grace. It is made possible by the Presence of God. This is why immediately following a call for strength is the promise, “For I am with you,” declares the LORD Almighty.
    I will give a tiny sampling of scripture about strength:
    Isaiah 40:29–31 (NIV84) — He [God] gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
    Luke 24:49 (NIV84) — Jesus said, “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
    Jeremiah 1:8 (NIV84) — Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord
    Ephesians 3:16 (NIV84) — I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,
    1 Samuel 17:45 (NIV84) — David said to the Philistine [Goliath], “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.
    2 Timothy 2:1 (NIV84) — You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
    When I originally submitted my sermon title to Hannah, it was simply, Be Strong. When I started examining the scripture I realized that I had done what most Christians do in their practical application of their faith. I skipped it. I rushed by “and work.” We are all fine and dandy with theology; as long as it remains abstract. But, James warned that faith without works is dead. I say to you that you have to work to have works. We are God’s instruments for bringing that glorious house of God, that Kingdom of God to fruition.
    So, does adding the requirement to work make the promise of God’s presence, strength, and glory less comforting? Adam was created to work. He had to tend to the Garden of Eden. Jesus came to do the work of the Father, which included dying on that Calvary Cross. We are to work out our faith with fear and trembling the Apostle Paul tells us. Work in NOT a four letter word. It is but it isn’t. If it was good enough for Adam, for Jesus, and for Paul, it is good enough for me; and, for you! There is fulfillment in work; especially in kingdom work.
    This call to be strong and work is immediately followed by a gigantic proclamation. The great I AM made a covenant, which is more than an agreement; and, more than a contract. It was with people Israel when they were brought out of bondage in Egypt. It is a covenant for all of us that he has called out of this world into His kingdom. It is a contract guaranteed and sealed by the sentry of God the Holy Spirit. Therefore, do not fear.
    God says do not fear; be men of courage; or be strong, nearly 90 times in scripture. Of course, the implication is that a challenge is ahead that requires bravery and stalwartness. On the other hand, in the first chapter of Haggai and 100 other places, fearing God is commended. Truly, if God is for us, who can be against us? In other words, the victory is the Lord Almighty’s.
    So, why did I pick a closing hymn with the title “If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee” on a Comfort Sunday?
    1. If thou but suffer God to guide thee,
    and hope in God through all thy ways,
    God will give strength, whate’er betide thee,
    and bear thee through the evil days.
    Who trusts in God’s unchanging love
    builds on the rock that naught can move.
    Christians are not called to be masochists. This is not referring to suffering and pain caused by the sinful behavior of others. This is not God ordained suffering to bring us back into a proper relationship. This suffer is not a refining fire or meant to exercise and grow our faith muscles. But, the word suffer in this hymn title means to tolerate, support, accept, stand, or abide in God’s guidance. Trust God even when you cannot see the wisdom in God’s ways.
    As we go about building this local house of God, Be Strong. You are going to need to be strong to do this kingdom work. Not a strength originating from within you. Rather, it is a strength manifested within you by God…for God’s glory.
    Amen and amen. Let us pray.


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