One Comment to “Carefully Consider”

  1. Don McMahon
    April 1, 2019

    “Carefully Consider” (Haggai 1)(3.31.19)
    Haggai 1 (NIV84) A Call to Build the House of the Lord
    1 In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest:
    2 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come for the Lord’s house to be built.’ ”
    3 Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”
    5 Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 6 You have planted much, but have 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.”
    7 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 8 Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the Lord. 9 “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 his 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 oil and whatever the ground produces, on men and cattle, and on the labor of your hands.”
    12 Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the whole remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the Lord their God and the message of the prophet Haggai, because the Lord their God had sent him. And the people feared the Lord.
    13 Then Haggai, the Lord’s messenger, gave this message of the Lord to the people: “I am with you,” declares the Lord. 14 So the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of the whole remnant of the people. They came and began to work on the house of the Lord Almighty, their God, 15 on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month in the second year of King Darius.
    The word of God for the people of God.
    Title: Carefully Consider
    These people. These people…can you hear the lament of God’s heart? There is quite a change from Deuteronomy 7:6–8 (NIV84), and other places too.
    6 For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.
    7 The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8 But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
    Yes, the Israelites broke their LORD’s heart. He had warned them repeatedly through His prophets. The Northern Kingdom was conquered and exiled by the Assyrians; but, even that was an insufficient warning to the stiff-necked people. More prophets, more warnings, but they fell on deaf ears. So, Jerusalem and the Southern Kingdom were conquered. The city and the Temple were in ruins. The people were sent into exile, scattered among the nations.
    The Almighty did not give up on His people. He brought a remnant back to start over. The scattered sheep were gathered back into the fold. At first, they began the work of God, but soon the worries and cares of the world overtook them. The Lord’s house was in ruins. Now they were not My People, they were “these people.” They are twice admonished to “Give careful thought to your ways. Consider your ways.” A literal translation would be, “Set your hearts upon your ways.”
    For the last couple of years, our most common call to worship is a paraphrase of God’s word found in 1 Peter. 1 Peter 2:4–5 (NIV84) The Living Stone and a Chosen People
    4 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
    1 Peter 2:9–10 (NIV84)
    9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
    Peter is not alone in identifying Christian believers as God’s chosen people. The Apostle Paul argues in Romans and Ephesians that we have been grafted into the vine of true Israel, the people of God.
    Of course, in Judaism, the Temple was the focus of their faith. God’s presense was within the Holy of Holies. Sacrifices were made daily for the people’s sins and transgressions. The Temple pleased God and served His purposes.
    Today, the Body of Christ is the Church. Yes, we have church buildings. They are gathering places for worship; an outpost for ministry; and, a schoolhouse for learning the ways of God. Each one of us are like living stones being built into a spiritual house.
    But…are we? Let us carefully consider. Before we really carefully consider, we need to examine the clear parallels and truths established in Haggai.
    The Sovereignty of God is proclaimed. Five times in this first chapter, God is referred to as the LORD Almighty; the great I AM of unlimited power. The Almighty exercises his purposes over nations. The Almighty exercises his purposes over government and religious leaders. The Almighty exercises his purposes in the details of His peoples lives. The Almighty exercises his purposes over nature.
    There are ordained priorities for God’s people. The ways of God must be attended to prior to our personal concerns. God’s house must be put in order before we can put our own house in order. No matter what we plan or how hard we work, the things in this life will come up short. There will be something unfulfilled within us. Our desires will not be satisfied. Our wages will slip through our fingers. The car will break down; we will waste our money on excesses and unnecessary things. That nest egg or treasure we stored up will be simply blown away by the LORD.
    Why? Human tendency is to make excuses, to rationalize. How can God expect anything from me when I am struggling so much? But God’s questions must be answered first: why do you focus on your house while My House remains in ruins? Jesus addresses this issue directly: Matthew 6:33 (NIV84) But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
    Through Haggai, the word of God provides a solution. Now is the time for action. Go and gather the building materials. The governor, the high priest, and all the remnant obeyed. The exact ordering of this obedience in relation to God’s movement is debated by those who are uncomfortable with the mysterious handshake of divine power and the free will of men and women. James is not uncomfortable with this mystery: James 4:8 (NIV84) Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
    Today’s scripture seems to explain it clearly, the people obeyed because the people recognized Haggai was God’s messenger. And the people feared the Lord. The fear of the Lord is a common phrase in the Old Testament. We know that fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
    While fear of the Lord is mentioned infrequently in our New Testamet, it is part of the foundations of our faith. Acts 9:31 (NIV84) Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord.
    And, Jeus clearly teaches on fearing God: Matthew 10:27–28 (NIV84)
    27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
    Then the LORD Almighty assures Haggai and all the people with the great promise of God, “I am with you.” This is the desire of God’s heart as he pursues his people throughout history. The vacancy in our hearts can only be filled by God the Holy Spirit. God says, I will never leave you or forsake you. King David said, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Jesus said, “And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age.”
    Haggai can certainly be included in our sermon series and prayers for revival. After a change in priorities; after beginning our obedience; after fear of the Lord; after an assurance of the LORD’s presence; then a great blessing comes. The LORD stirred up their spirit. The governmental leader, the religious leader, and the remnant, all had their spirits stirred. Now, the work of rebuilding God’s house would begin in earnest.
    I doubt that you need me to point out the parallels and the application for us today. No, we are not called to rebuild the Jerusalem Temple; but surely, we are called to be about our Father’s business. We are to be attentive to the spiritual realm of our lives because we are called to be the living stones of which God’s spiritual house is BEING built.
    We can see that the Western Christian Church is in great decline. Europe and the United States are now destinations for missionaries. There is corruption in our churches. Our culture has made us creatures of consumerism and that permeates our church growth movements. We pursue manmade strategies and business practices as we try to sell our product, peddle our wares. We call out, come to Christ and see what Jesus can do for you. We market a prosperity gospel that is self-focused and makes our Almighty God our servant instead of making us the Lord’s slaves. Our gospel is not the gospel that Paul proclaimed as the only gospel.
    There are abuses in the church, including abuse of the weak and the vulnerable. Celebrity preachers and dangerous Deacons obstruct God’s will by their pride. Instead of taking up a cross of sacrifice we seek a crown of self-aggrandizement. Not only are professing Christians friends of the world, they bring the world into the Church. We spent five weeks studying Jude’s warning of ungodly men slipping in amongst us.
    While our denomination deluded itself about unity, they tried to reduce God to a single attribute. Love is a great attribute of God, but the holiness and absolute perfection of God; and all other characteristics of the LORD Almighty must also guide our leadership and our very lives.
    Wait pastor, what can all that possibly have to do with us here at Emmaus? You tell me. Is your relationship with the Lord Jesus of first importance in your life? Carefully consider your right standing with the Almighty. Not only does Haggai direct this twice in the first chapter; but, God’s directive is also repeated twice more in the 2nd chapter:
    Haggai 2:15 (NIV84) “ ‘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.
    Haggai 2:18 (NIV84) ‘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:
    How many of us really do this? We give more attention to March Madness and whether we picked our bracket accurately enough to win. Or, whether our alma mater will make it to the sweet sixteen of the college basketball tournament. We barely pay attention to eternal things. We rarely consider the condition of our souls. When Methodism was a movement instead of a monument, that was a primary question in the class meetings. Brother, sister, what is the condition of your soul?
    W. C. Kaiser says, “All too often we have placed other goals, interests, and joys ahead of the place we should have reserved for the Living God: our children’s educations, our children’s little league games, our advancement in the company, our leisure time on the weekends. The priorities we set in our day-to-day lives testify to our concurrence with modern advertisements that we should “have it our way,” or that “we are the one” around which everything ought to revolve. However, God calls us to make a radical break with all of that type of thinking and planning and to place His ways, His cause, His goals in first place, ahead of every other earthly desire. Doing anything less is simply a modern form of ancient idolatry. We may as well name our earthly distractions Baal, Anat, Asherah or any other of the gods or goddesses of Canaan, for our idols are no better than those of ancient Israel.”
    Paul also calls us to consider carefully: Galatians 6:4 (NIV84) Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else,
    Where are your priorities? Are they earthly centered or ethereally centered? We cannot serve two masters. Anything that comes before Jesus is sin. It could even be ministry that is sin if you are doing it for yourself instead of for Jesus.
    We certainly are a people of excuses. It seems to be part of our nature. We are a but, but, but people. God says to us that the very things for which you are striving are the things you would freely be given if you put your Creator first in your life. Your planting would be fruitful. Your needs would be met and more. Use the wealth and blessings I have given you already, in a righteous way, and more shall be given unto you.
    We are doing a lot of good ministry here at Emmaus. We feed people through our Food Pantry; through our Free Community Dinner; and, through Saturday lunches at Asbury UMC in Atlantic City. We clothe people through our donations to the Atlantic City Rescue Mission and our Atlantic City Street Ministry.
    We try to reach out to our community in many ways. We use social media. Shirley has built a great website for us. We participate in the 4th of July Parade. We have our Drive-Thru Prayer Booth. We are the charter organization for Boy Scout Troop 77 and we host two HOPE grief support groups. Under the leadership of Connie & BW, we have reached hundreds of children through a dozen years of Vacation Bible School.
    We honor God’s word. It is proclaimed boldly each Sunday morning and we read four scriptures at every Tuesday night’s Holy Communion Service. There are at least three Bible studies connected with our church. We give away Bibles and Pocket Testaments; the Upper Room and the Daily Bread.
    We recognize that church growth is determined by our Lord Jesus. We recognize the importance of prayer. Prayer is a major part of all that we do here at Emmaus. And yet, while we can see God working here, we have not actually seen growth in our church attendance. Over the past six months we have been averaging in the 50’s. If everyone that comes would come every week, we would be averaging 100. What does that demonstrate about our priorities?
    So…let us carefully consider. What comes first for us? The LORD Almighty, according to Haggai, is in control. God blesses or withholds blessings. Each of us has a personal responsibility to examine ourselves, our hearts, our souls. We have a responsibility to our families. We have a responsibility to this Body of Christ. And we have a responsibility for the community we serve. Are we ministers of reconciliation? Are we ambassadors for Christ? Are we a holy and royal priesthood? Carefully consider your heart. Consider carefully your ways.
    Amen and amen. Let us pray.


Leave a Reply