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. As for me and my house

AS FOR ME AND MY HOUSE, WE WILL SERVE THE LORD

 

Haggai 1-2 (ESV) 1 In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest: 2 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord.” 3 Then the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your panelled houses, while this house lies in ruins? 5 Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. 6 You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes. 7 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. 8 Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the Lord. 9 You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house. 10 Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. 11 And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast, and on all their labors.” 12 Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the Lord their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the Lord their God had sent him. And the people feared the Lord. 13 Then Haggai, the messenger of the Lord, spoke to the people with the Lord’s message, “I am with you, declares the Lord.” 14 And the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people. And they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God, 15 on the twenty-fourth day of the month, in the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king. 1 In the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, 2 “Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to all the remnant of the people, and say, 3 ‘Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes? 4 Yet 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. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts, 5 according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not. 6 For thus says the Lord of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. 7 And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts. 8 The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts. 9 The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.’ ” 10 On the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet, 11 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Ask the priests about the law: 12 ‘If someone carries holy meat in the fold of his garment and touches with his fold bread or stew or wine or oil or any kind of food, does it become holy?’ ” The priests answered and said, “No.” 13 Then Haggai said, “If someone who is unclean by contact with a dead body touches any of these, does it become unclean?” The priests answered and said, “It does become unclean.” 14 Then Haggai answered and said, “So is it with this people, and with this nation before me, declares the Lord, and so with every work of their hands. And what they offer there is unclean. 15 Now then, consider from this day onward. Before stone was placed upon stone in the temple of the Lord, 16 how did you fare? When one came to a heap of twenty measures, there were but ten. When one came to the wine vat to draw fifty measures, there were but twenty. 17 I struck you and all the products of your toil with blight and with mildew and with hail, yet you did not turn to me, declares the Lord. 18 Consider from this day onward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month. Since the day that the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid, consider: 19 Is the seed yet in the barn? Indeed, the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have yielded nothing. But from this day on I will bless you.” 20 The word of the Lord came a second time to Haggai on the twenty-fourth day of the month, 21 “Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I am about to shake the heavens and the earth, 22 and to overthrow the throne of kingdoms. I am about to destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations, and overthrow the chariots and their riders. And the horses and their riders shall go down, every one by the sword of his brother. 23 On that day, declares the Lord of hosts, I will take you, O Zerubbabel my servant, the son of Shealtiel, declares the Lord, and make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you, declares the Lord of hosts.”

Introduction:

We are still early in the New Year and this is my last New Year’s challenge to you. Next week we will continue in that most critical series: ‘what’s love got to do with it?’

I don’t have time to expound the text we read in detail, but felt constrained for quite a while to touch on Haggai early in the year and to drive a few principles home.

Firstly, some words regarding the title. We all know the words of Joshua well, when he gave the Israelites an ultimatum about which foreign gods they want to serve and then stated that he and his house will serve the Lord. We find this in Joshua 24:15 (ESV) “15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Now, this verse is often used as a proof text to say that man chooses God or rejects God, but this statement made by Joshua was to God’s elect. They remained the people of God but they were in adultery or otherwise put idolatry. Is that not a sad state of affairs, that the people of God see it as evil in their eyes to serve their very own God? They actually would consider giving preference to dead gods while they were children of the living God. Now, I would like to ask all of us this morning. Is the worship of God a burden to you, do you maybe prefer other gods and has your commitment not swung from the living God to dead idols which will include anything that comes between us and God?

In Micah 6 we see the same state of affairs where God has to ask his people in Micah 6:3 (ESV) 3 O my people, what have I done to you? How have I wearied you? Answer me!”

 

If we had to be honest this morning, might there not be one or two or more in our midst who are weary of serving and worshipping God? We are children of God, but are there not maybe idols that are more important to us than God? Now do not think that idols are simply graven images. Idols can be my sport, my family, my work, my money, my cell phone, my computer, and guess what, idols can even be my home, or that Sealy Posturepedic King Size bed. We may laugh, but do we realise that man’s commitment to his home over God is nothing new. Back in Amos 6:4 (ESV) we read: 4 Woe to those who lie on beds of ivory and stretch themselves out on their couches, and eat lambs from the flock and calves from the midst of the stall,….” Idolatry is not owning stuff, but it is when our stuff owns us and keeps us away from God. Your house, your friends, your work, your TV, your education, your sport, your family, the internet, your cell phone  and your bed can all own you and keep you away from your worship of God. If you do not believe me, simply ask yourself the honest question this morning. How often do I use one of these as an excuse to for example miss worship on a Sunday? Or you are sitting here listening to the sermon, while your heart is aching to pull out your cell phone so that you can click around on the buttons. Now I know that in Joshua, when he said: “as for me and my house we will serve the Lord” he meant him and his family.

 

I however want to challenge you this morning as we face the New Year to commit “all that you are and all that you have” to serve the Lord. I pray that you will be able to say “as for me and my house, the physical one, the one where I can easily hide and be comfortable, we will serve the Lord.” As for me and my bank account we will serve the Lord. As for me and my TV, the Internet, my cell phone and I-Pad, we will serve the Lord. As for me and my sport, we will serve the Lord. As for me and my couch, ivory or not, we will serve the Lord. As for me and my sport, we will serve the Lord. As for me and my work, we will serve the Lord.

 

Maybe another way to say it is: “as for me and whatever kept me from prayer, or whatever kept me from the Word of God, or whatever kept me from worship or Bible study, we will serve the Lord.”

 

It is not a new thing that other things take priority over God, it has always been like that. It comes back to the old Biblical statement: Matthew 6:21 (ESV) “21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Simply meaning, show me what you treasure, show me what you idolize, and that is exactly where your heart is. I remember a pastor many years ago saying to a man: “show me the counterfoil of your cheque book and I will tell you exactly where your heart is and to what extent God features in your life.”

 

Join me this morning as we learn a lesson in this regard from Israel as reflected in the book of Haggai.

 

Let me show you a people in Haggai who should be called to pray: “as for me and my house, or physical dwelling, or whatever, we will serve the Lord.” Now I know it is not really in the text, but the message is there. So look at it with me for a few moments.

 

Let me start with an introduction to the text.

Introduction to the text.

In 586 B.C. the Babylonians ransacked Jerusalem, destroyed the temple and took most of the Jews into exile. About 50 years later Cyrus, the Persian, conquered Babylon, and brought the Babylonian Empire to an end. The next year (538 B.C.) he allowed the Jews to return to their homeland and rebuild the temple at Jerusalem. All of this was owing to the sovereign hand of God fulfilling the prophecies of Jeremiah (Ezra 1:1). Among the returning exiles were (probably) the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. Ezra 5:1-2 sums up for us what these two men accomplished in ministry. Ezra 5:1-2 (ESV) 1 Now the prophets, Haggai and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel who was over them. 2 Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak arose and began to rebuild the house of God that is in Jerusalem, and the prophets of God were with them, supporting them.”

So Haggai and Zechariah were sent by God to assist in the rebuilding of the temple. This work was begun, according to Haggai 1:15, on the 24th day of the sixth month of the second year of the reign of Darius, which in our dating is September 21, 520 B.C. So you can see that about 18 years went by between the return of the exiles and the rebuilding of the temple. This delay is what brings forth the message of Haggai.

The way Haggai motivates the Jews to build the temple of God has a powerful application to our own efforts to build the Church of God, and now we are not talking buildings per sé, but they are not excluded. For this morning I want to see our ‘houses’ as a metaphor for all those idols that can be standing between us and the Lord and between us and being the living temple of God. Often we will simply call it the things that are important to us. And I want to use the temple as a metaphor for the ‘Spiritual Church and our spiritual walk’.

I wish we had time to cover it all, but you need to know that the book Haggai is clearly divided into four distinct messages from the Lord, each of which is precisely dated.

The first message was dated 29 August 29, 520 B.C. and covers chapter 1.

The second message is found in 2:1-9 and is dated the 21st day of the seventh month (17 October 520 B.C.).

The third message is found in 2:10-19 and is dated (on the 24th day of the ninth month which is 18 December 520 B.C.

Finally, the fourth message comes in 2:20-23 on the same day as the third one. This morning we will only have time to survey the first and third so that we understand the context for the second message (2:1-9) which I want to focus on.

 

All I am going to do now for the remaining time is to highlight some principles from three of these messages that are applicable to us this morning. So, let’s look at the three messages together.

The first message:

The first message in chapter 1 reveals to the governor and priest and people that the reason they are all frustrated is that they have tried to make their own lives comfortable while neglecting the temple of God. Haggai 1:4-6 (ESV) 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your panelled houses, while this house lies in ruins? 5 Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. 6 You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.”

 

Is it not time for us to consider our ways? These people lived in perpetual frustration and discontentment. Nothing satisfied. We can't pass over this lesson easily. It's for us, too. If you devote yourself to sowing and eating and drinking and clothing yourselves and earning wages but neglect your ministry in the body of Christ (the temple of God, 1 Cor. 3:16,17), you will live in constant frustration. If you spend your time and energy seeking comfort and security from the world and do not spend yourself for the glory of God every pleasure will leave its sour aftertaste of depression and guilt and frustration.

 

The real issue here people is not the building of the temple. It wasn’t then, and it is not the primary issue for Logos this morning. We don’t have our own place, and it would be lovely to have our own place, but the glory of God is the bigger issue here today. Look at Haggai 1:8 (ESV) 8 Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the Lord.” The building was simply a way or a means to glorify God.

 

They were more concerned about serving their houses than them and their houses serving the Lord. Panelled houses in their day was a luxury. It was not just the rough structure that some were used to, but a little bit of extra refinement. The issue again was not their houses and it was not the temple, it was the glory of God. Why should we be faithful in attendance? Is it so that Logos or pastor Nicki will look good, or I will not be slandered due to my absence? Why do we give? Is it simply so that Pastor Nicki can get a salary in the same way the Levites and Priests who served in the temple were taken care of? The building of the temple was simple and it was practical, but the deeper issue was this: their support of the things of God was a demonstration of their concern for the glory of God.

So, both then and now the real problem is not the neglect of a building or practical things but an indifference to the glory of God.

 

Yes it is true that our commitment is seen in practical things like attendance, prayer, witness, love for God’s Word, Love for one another etc. But do we realise that our failure in these practical things are met with lack in the practical areas of our lives. The message is this. He who seeks to save his life will lose it to continual frustrations; but he who loses his life for the glory of God and the good of God’s cause will find life, deep and fulfilling.

 

Verse 9 sums up the practical situation in Jerusalem beautifully. Haggai 1:9 (ESV) 9 You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house.” Is that not often how we feel? We strive for abundance but it always seems a little.

 

The great news is that Israel listened and on the 24th day of the sixth month they started building the temple. So, after 18 years of neglect and frustration, the people begin to learn the lesson that we all need to learn from Matthew 6:33 (ESV) 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” How long will we delay before we give attention to that which matters?

 

A few quick lessons from the 2nd Message.

The 2nd Message.

God speaks again, app 21 days since they started to build. This is the heart of this morning’s sermon as it has a great word of encouragement for us. They began to build. No longer were their homes priority number 1, but the glory of God was priority number 1. Now, it seems that there was some level of discouragement, because the temple just did not look like the temple that Solomon built.

Maybe we get discouraged here at Logos, as we do not have all the ministries we would love to have, and we do not have the buildings we would  love to have, and we do not have this or that. Look at God’s view on the matter. Haggai 2:3 (ESV) 3 ‘Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes?”

 

Who of you remember the previous ministry many of us were under, who of you remember the facilities we owned, the staff we had, the major budgets and all the ministries, and now we started off with so little. Does what we have at Logos seem like nothing? How many of us compare ourselves with the church down the road or across town? Does this not seem like nothing? What’s the use, we may be saying with Israel: ‘we are working hard and just not getting there’. Now, when Israel reflected that attitude they grew slack to the point that Haggai had to encourage them to work. For them it might have been better to have the beauty of a great memory than an insignificant imitation. So their hands are slack in the work.

Does that sound like anything in your experience? I think anybody who has ever undertaken a work for the cause of Christ has felt that kind of discouragement: the sense that you work and work and the product seems so insignificant. You pour yourself into a thing week after week and month after month and the fruit is so minimal. Then you look back in history or across town and see the grand achievement of others and your temple seems so trivial. And you get discouraged and are tempted to quit and put away your aspirations and drop your dreams and put your feet up in front of the television or any of your other idols and to coast into mediocrity. Who wants to devote his life to a second-rated temple in any case?

But, I have good news for us this morning.

Firstly. God is with us.

Haggai 2:4 (ESV) 4 Yet 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. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts,…”

 

The Lord of hosts encourages all, all the leaders and all the people to be strong. Simply, do not faint, don’t grow weary, don’t lose heart, and don’t give up. Why: “for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts,…”

 

Let’s today get this out of our minds. Bigger, better, grander and newer is not the bench mark. We do not lose face if we do not have the biggest and best and grandest and newest. We lose face when we are the church of God, and God is not with us. That is why Spurgeon could cry from his pulpit in prayer: “oh Lord, may we once again desire thee and not thine.”

God clearly did not agree with their assessment of the situation. If they think their work on the temple is of so little significance that they can quit, they are very wrong, for God says, "Be strong or Take courage … work!"

There is a second joyous message for all of us today.

Secondly: More is built than what we see.

We see this in verses 6-9. Haggai 2:6-9 (ESV)6 For thus says the Lord of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. 7 And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts. 8 The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts. 9 The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.’ ”

 

Here is the real deal. We often look at what is made out of concrete, wood, metal and cloth or that which is a visible and practical ministry, and we make value judgments on that basis. God however has a different view of things. The silver and gold and things like that are in any case His, and the fact that He entrusts it to us is grace and we are simply stewards of God’s things. But there is something greater to behold this morning. God says: ‘Logos, take courage, work and fear not, not only because I am with you but because there is more being built than what you see’. All you see is the external stuff, but God promises to take your work, fill it with his glory and make your labours worth a million times more than you ever imagined.  I just love verse 9:9 The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.’ ”

 

Church family, all you might to is preach a sermon here, or take up an offering, or welcome a visitor, or pour a cup of tea, or hug a child, or do the Power Point or the sound, or set up or clean up, or invite a friend, or pray, or testify, or sing from the bottom of your heart, or run the website or debate an atheist, or invite a friend or whatever you do, but God will take that and fill it with His glory. Oh how I pray that God will simply fill this place with His peace and His glory. It is not about me as pastor and it is not about you as member, it is all about God and God will glorify Himself at Logos.

My friend, if what you see here in a new congregation seem insignificant and you want to grow slack, and live a life of mediocrity and unfaithfulness, because you are only impressed by the newer, better, grander and greater then God says to you today: “Take courage, be strong more is built than you see.”

God can take the fruit of our labour and make it glorious beyond measure, no matter how trivial and insignificant it may seem to you now.

There is a principle here that applies to you and me: God takes small, imperfect things and builds them into a habitation for his glory. O, how we should take courage in our little spheres of influence! Just think of the basic message to Mary when Christ was to be born. What more appropriate word could God have said to Mary as Jesus was growing up: Take courage, young mother, you give birth to more than you see.

And so it is with every one of us. Nothing you do is a trifle if you do it in the name of God. He will shake heaven and earth to fill your labour with splendour. Take courage, more is being built than you see.

What it does require though is to simply say: “It is not time for me to live in my panelled house, but it is time for me and my house to serve the Lord.” All that I have and all that I am is not there for me to be glorified and for me to simply enjoy, but for me to glorify God with it, and God will make sure that all my efforts and all my commitment will be saturated with His glory.

In closing:

 

So God says, consider your ways. You work yourself to a standstill and yet you are not blessed. Why? Because of my house. But look at Israel since the day they started taking care of God’s home. Yes, we do it all for His glory, but there is material promise. Look what happened since the day they started serving the God of the things instead of the things granted to them by God. Haggai 2:18-19 (ESV) “18 Consider from this day onward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month. Since the day that the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid, consider: 19 Is the seed yet in the barn? Indeed, the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have yielded nothing. But from this day on I will bless you.”

 

Now remember, God does not want crusty die hards working in His Kingdom, but free and joyful labourers. I believe this needs to be our number one item on our prayer list: “Lord Stir up your people, touch your people once again and revive us oh Lord”.

 

So take courage when you serve in the church of Christ in whatever way no matter how small according to you, because more is being built than what you see and you have this promise. God is with you as you do so.

 

So let’s take all that we have and serve the Lord unreservedly to the point that we can say, me and my house, or me and my gifts, or me and my sport, me and my hobby, or me and my money and so we can go on, we will serve the Lord.

 

Amen!

Logos Community Church: 19 January 2014