Have you read it recently? What's your favorite verse? Where can you find this
book in the Bible?
Did you even know Haggai was a book of the
Careful now. When you're looking for it, don't blink. It's
38 verses long. Two chapters. Two pages.
But there are some powerful words of the Lord in this tiny book. Words that have a lot to say about our final cross. Words about the Cross of Giving.
Haggai was a prophet who preached to the Israelites who had returned from around a 70 year exile from their native
Think about that. A group of people who had lived in a foreign land for 70 years. Most were probably born in Babylon and had never seen their homeland. The few that had would have had foggy memories at best. This homeland was the stuff of dreams. They had heard stories about the land of milk and honey, but had never used either of them in their breakfast bowl of Corn Flakes. They had probably heard of the strong wall that surrounded Jerusalem, but had not so much as a memory of what it might have looked like. They had listened to accounts of the beautiful temple of the LORD, but these exiles could only imagine what such a temple might have looked like.
They had nothing of their own heritage. Instead, everything they had grown up Babylonian. Babylonian architecture. Babylonian stores. Babylonian marketplaces. The Israelites in captivity ate Babylonian food, lived in Babylonian houses, sat at Babylonian tables...while they dreamed of one day having their own homes again.
Then, things changed. By the decree of the Persian king who had defeated the Babylonians that enslaved them, they were suddenly freed. They were sent back to their homeland. Their dreams would become a reality.
And that's what happened. They went back to Jerusalem. They rebuilt the citiy. They built their own homes. Their own lives. And they personalized it: Maybe, one built a fine archway for the door of his house. Another might have constructed a large living area with an open concept that stretched to the kitchen. Maybe, a few even made sure that they had their own man cave--complete with a table for having a grainy beer and talking about the last chariot race!
After much hard work, I imagine they were feeling pretty good about themselves. Things were starting to shape up. They had everything they wanted. Their homeland was their home again! They had made it just as the memories that had been passed down had described.
But their memories betrayed them.
"This is what the Lord Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house.’"
They had forgotten about something very important. Do you see what it
was? HINT: It wasn't a half bath, a guest bedroom, or even a wine cellar.
It was The LORD's house.
Make no mistake, this wasn't an "Oh, it slipped my mind because I was busy," type forgetting. They had forgotten because they were too concerned with THEIR OWN houses. Look at what God describes through Haggai in verse 4:
“Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, "a feature of royal houses,"
while this house, My house remains a ruin?”
It's easy to see how this might have happened. One says, "I could help with the temple, but first I need to make sure that the dining room table is gets finished before the party this weekend." Another says, "And I know, I did sign up to help lay the foundation for the temple, but...I really need to get this new grill pit set in place." Even another says, "I know someof the ladies were starting to talk about collecting jewels for the temple, but I can't give them mine. I haven't finished bejeweling the back foyer. I'd like it to look nice when I go out to do laundry!?!"
These people didn't care about anything but their own home. But God wanted them to care about his house.
Maybe, you see the connection. We too are often more concerned about our houses than God's house!
But Pastor, you're thinking, I know there was a "work on the Preschool Day yesterday," but...we aren't adding on to this building right now! In fact, we haven't done anything with this church for quite a while now. How could I possibly be forgetting about building God's house, if we aren't in the middle of a building project?
In 1 Corinthians, the apostle Paul wrote a letter to a group of Christians in which he describes his own building project. He says, "We are co-workers in God’s service; you are...God’s building. 10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ!"
If you are wondering, Paul had no history in the construction business. He grew up a
scholar. I don't even think he would have known how to use a trowel.
Yet he called himself a builder. Why? Because he was building God's house. He was adding to God's kingdom. He was using God's Word to add new believer after new believer as stones in the house of the Lord!
Brothers and sisters, this is exactly what God has called us to do in North Raleigh. He has called us to build his home! That doesn't mean a new narthex. It doesn't mean a Megachurch like movie theater. It doesn't even mean a Gothic like cathedral.
It means God wants us to share his Word. This is how he builds his house. A house of believers built on the foundation of Jesus!
So, how much have you cared about that house lately? How much have you cared about telling
others about Jesus?
Think about it: Have you been too busy worrying about your own agenda of moving up in the work world so you might one day achieve the American dream of owning a charcoal BBQ with your own back yard, that you've completely forgotten and ignored God's call to give others the news about Jesus? Have you decided that you can't give money to help spread God's Word, because you think it's more important to spend that money on a 70" HD Television? Have you decided that you won't give any of your time to help your fellow Christians spread God's Word, because you need to give all your extra time to yourself?
If that's your attitude, then God's Word today says: "You're wrong. You're sinning. You've totally forgotten who gave you all that stuff in the first place.
Look at what God told the people of Israel. “Give careful thought to your ways. 6 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.”
In other words, "All you care about is your "dream home." But did you notice something? You don't have it! Why? Because you aren't the one who gives yourself a dream home...I am. And if you don't want to use the gifts I've given you to build my
I'll just stop giving you things."
It's kind of like a mom who gives her child a straw. You're supposed to use that straw to suck milk out of. BUT kids are smart. They find out soon enough that it's way more fun to blow air into the straw. They make bubbles.
What does mom do? She threatens to take the straw away unless her child uses it for the purpose that she gave it to them!
God gives us everything! Brothers and sisters, if we won't use what he gives us for what he tells us, why would he keep giving it us? Isn't that exactly what he told the Israelites in verse 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 labor of your hands.”
Brothers and sisters, the same threat is for us. If we don't use the gifts he has given us to build his house...to spread his Word, then don't be surprised if he takes his gifts away from us. And I'm not so much talking about earthly gifts. There are lots of rich unbelievers. I'm talking about the spiritual gifts we hold dear. We could lose them. The gifts of forgiveness. Eternal life. And Salvation.
Repent from this attitude. Repent from caring about your house, home, and life...more than God's!
This is what the people of Israel did. From their political leader, to their religious leader, to the average laymen. They heard God's threat and repented. According to verse 12, "they obeyed the voice of their God and the message of the Prophet Haggai, because the Lord their God had sent him. And the people feared the LORD."
Hearing their repentance, God immediately began giving again. This time. He gave a message: 13 "I am with you,” declares the Lord.
Brothers and sisters, we have the same giving Lord. To the repentance, he gives forgiveness for our sins of not being concerned about God's house. He gives forgiveness for being more concerned about our own houses. He gives forgiveness for not using his gifts to build house!
And he gives us salvation. This salvation is the promise of deliverance from this society of greed, disappointment, and failure. It is the saving from that greedy, lying devil named Satan. It even defeats the terrifying selfishness of our own heart and brings us into the selflessness of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Jesus who gives, has given, and will give us eternal life.
I'll tell you what. Whatever kind of a dream home HGTV has instilled into your mind, whatever kind of home you hope to raise your children in, whatever kind of getaway you hope to retire to, it is nothing compared to the riches of heaven. There is no place more beautiful, more peaceful, more glorious than the marvelous home. A home that's free.
A home that's yours. A home that's God's.
Think about that. God promises you a place in him home! This is true because, through faith, God has built us into his house!
Now, my dear friends, he simply asks you to join in the building. Join in the giving of your money to buy books that tell about Jesus. To buy flyers that tell about Jesus. To pay for outreach programs, pastors, and teachers that tell people about
I'll tell you what. There was a young child I met with not that long ago. This child was having trouble in school. I asked her if she knew about Jesus. She didn't. So I brought over a piece of artwork that your gifts provided. I spent time telling her about Jesus since your gifts have made it so that is all I spend my time doing. I handed her mother a book that your gifts have provided so she could keep telling her child about Jesus.
Guess what. Three days later. This child was up front for a children's lesson. When I asked what Jesus did on the cross, do you know what she said?
He died for my sins.
Guess Jesus just added a new addition to His house. Isn't it amazing that he used your gifts to do it?
Fellow construction workers, we are in the midst of a gigantic building project. We are building God's house! God bless our gifts as we keep on building. Amen.