Haggai 2:1-19 Participating with God
Henry Blackaby made the following famous statement about God’s activity: We need to discover what God is doing and then join Him.
Unfortunately, instead of looking to God, we look to two false areas where we think our church should go. The first false idea is to just follow the trends that we see in other churches. We look to superstar pastors and the great works that happen elsewhere and compare ourselves. This is dangerous because when we compare ourselves, we will either get disappointed, or arrogant. The second false idea is to look to the past as a guide for the future.
In Haggai, this chapter opens with a group of people who see the present situation. The younger generation is excited because they are starting to re-build the temple. The older generation weeps because they remember how much better it was in the past. They remember Solomon’s temple and how great it looked before it was destroyed. The older generation connected to the past. But God doesn’t stay in the past. God is a moving God. He moves forward in time. His church moves forward. His church moves forward in time. If we are going to participate with God, we have to keep up with Him.
To participate with God in what He is doing, we need to stop comparing the present to the past.
““Speak to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, to the high priest Joshua son of Jehozadak, and to the remnant of the people: Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Doesn’t it seem like nothing to you?” (Haggai 2:2–3, HCSB)
The first thing to notice is that God is addressed a variety of people. He is addressing the governor, the high priest, and the remnant. The remnant are those who still believe and follow God. So no one individual participated with God. God used all of His people. Just as today, God uses all of His church to accomplish His work. Yet, even within the remnant, there were different divisions or groups. There was the older generation and the younger generation. These generations saw things differently. The older generation had seen the former glory with Solomon’s temple.
“But many of the older priests, Levites, and family leaders, who had seen the first temple, wept loudly when they saw the foundation of this house, but many others shouted joyfully.” (Ezra 3:12, HCSB)
Yet, the younger generation was excited about the future. This is the reason Paul said to the church at Philippi:
“…Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13–14, HCSB)
Jesus told the Pharisees:
“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the skins burst, the wine spills out, and the skins are ruined. But they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.”” (Matthew 9:17, HCSB)
You can fall prey to this mindset even if you’re only eighteen or twenty years old any time you start comparing the new with the old. The Lord is always looking ahead to new wine, to a new work of the Spirit1. A related problem with thinking about the past is this: we can easily mistake the things of religion instead of the people. Worship that is mainly concentrated on outward ritual in beautiful surroundings is empty religion without the reality and presence of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of the worshippers2.
To participate with God in what He is doing, we need to have faith, not fear.
“Even so, be strong, Zerubbabel”—this is the LORD’s declaration. “Be strong, Joshua son of Jehozadak, high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land”—this is the LORD’s declaration. “Work! For I am with you” —the declaration of the LORD of Hosts.” (Haggai 2:4, HCSB)
To participate with God in what He is doing, we need to work, not worry.
…“Work! For I am with you” —the declaration of the LORD of Hosts.” (Haggai 2:4, HCSB)
“What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” (Romans 8:31, HCSB)
Don’t worry about what other people are thinking. Don’t worry about what other people are saying. Do the work that God has called us all to do.
To participate with God in what He is doing, we need to trust His promises, not our problems.
““This is the promise I made to you when you came out of Egypt, and My Spirit is present among you; don’t be afraid.”” (Haggai 2:5, HCSB)
Sometimes, our problems as a church can seem bigger than God’s promises. We look at our circumstances and we think we can’t do it. We think things like: it’s not possible, there is no way it will work out. However, we need to remember that God made promises to us. He keeps His promises.
To participate with God in what He is doing, we need to give God His glory, not cheap grace.
“For the LORD of Hosts says this: “Once more, in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all the nations so that the treasures of all the nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,” says the LORD of Hosts.” (Haggai 2:6–7, HCSB)
God will fill His house with glory. He will shake the universe to get our attention. This verse is a prophetic verse about the end of time when Jesus returns. God is going to shake the world to get His glory like one shakes a piñata to get the candy.
““The silver and gold belong to Me”—this is the declaration of the LORD of Hosts. “The final glory of this house will be greater than the first,” says the LORD of Hosts. “I will provide peace in this place” —this is the declaration of the LORD of Hosts.” (Haggai 2:8–9, HCSB)
“His voice shook the earth at that time, but now He has promised, Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also heaven. This expression, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of what can be shaken —that is, created things—so that what is not shaken might remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us hold on to grace. By it, we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:26–29, HCSB)
As the Book of Hebrews notes, we have this promise of an unshakable kingdom. We need to hold on to it by grace, not by arrogance. We should serve God with reverence and awe. We live in a time when people say they are a Christian, but they don’t act like one. We live in a time when people say they live under God’s grace, but that grace is cheap.
To participate with God in what He is doing, we need to develop personal holiness, not concentrate on outward appearances.
Two illustrations from the priestly regulations suggest that holiness was not gained by just being in the temple or coming into contact with something holy (2:10–13). Haggai saw that the people were defiled and needed holiness, not just a series of ritualistic observances in the new temple. Once holiness was their priority, they would receive God’s blessing3 (2:14–19).
PRINCIPLES OF DEVELOPING PERSONAL HOLINESS
Holiness is Not “Contagious” (2:10–12)4
“On the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to Haggai the prophet: “This is what the LORD of Hosts says: Ask the priests for a ruling. If a man is carrying consecrated meat in the fold of his garment, and it touches bread, stew, wine, oil, or any other food, does it become holy?” The priests answered, “No.”” (Haggai 2:10–12, HCSB)
Holiness cannot be passed on, but corruption and pollution can be.
Evil is “Contagious” (2:13)
“Then Haggai asked, “If someone defiled by contact with a corpse touches any of these, does it become defiled?” The priests answered, “It becomes defiled.”” (Haggai 2:13, HCSB)
In other words, if you hang around sin, you can’t help but be affected. But simply hanging around a church doesn’t make you a Christian. You’ve got to be obedient to the Lord personally5.
Holy Works Do Not Make Holy Persons (2:14)
“Then Haggai replied, “So is this people, and so is this nation before Me”—this is the LORD’s declaration. “And so is every work of their hands; even what they offer there is defiled.” (Haggai 2:14, HCSB)
A Holy God Gives All Good Gifts to Holy Persons (2:15–19)
““Now, reflect back from this day: Before one stone was placed on another in the LORD’s temple, what state were you in? When someone came to a grain heap of 20 measures, it only amounted to 10; when one came to the winepress to dip 50 measures from the vat, it only amounted to 20. I struck you—all the work of your hands—with blight, mildew, and hail, but you didn’t turn to Me”—this is the LORD’s declaration. “Consider carefully from this day forward; from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, from the day the foundation of the LORD’s temple was laid; consider it carefully. Is there still seed left in the granary? The vine, the fig, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have not yet produced. But from this day on I will bless you.”” (Haggai 2:15–19, HCSB)
Haggai reiterated the relationship between material blessing and proper worship of the Lord (2:10–19). Holiness cannot be transferred from one object to another, but uncleanness can. When the people neglected the temple, their disobedience was transferred to the sacrifices they brought to the altar (see Ezra 3:3). The Lord could not accept those sacrifices, so their land had been plagued rather than blessed. Now that they were obeying the Lord’s prompting to rebuild the temple, they could expect that the Lord would accept their offerings and once again bless their land6 (Hg 2:18–19).
“Why is it that, when you go to the presses, you’re only getting half as much wine as you hoped for?” the Lord asks. “Why is it that, when you harvest your crops, you’re getting less than half of what you were anticipating? It’s because you’ve been corrupted.”
As Ezra tells us, the people had been holding their religious services—but for the past sixteen years, they had been disobedient to the single thing the Lord had told them to do. Consequently, everything they did was adversely affected. The same is still true. If the Lord has specifically told us to do something and we say, “Later,” our disobedience will pollute and corrupt all of our undertakings. It’s not that the Lord is punishing us. It’s that He’s nudging us back in the right direction. If you’re wondering why things aren’t working, it could be that God is chastening you not to punish you but to correct you7.
Participating with God is a process through peaks and valleys. It is learning to depend on Him as we seek to understand and live out God’s heart through our own lives. There is a stark contrast between churches who participate with God and those who don’t. A fellow pastor listed the differences between live churches (those who participate with God) and dead churches (those who don’t participate with God.)
Live churches are constantly changing.
Dead churches don’t have to.
Live churches have lots of noisy kids.
Dead churches are fairly quiet.
Live church’s expenses always exceed their income.
Dead churches take in more than they ever dreamed of
Live churches are constantly improving for the future.
Dead churches worship their past.
Live churches move out in faith.
Dead churches operate totally by human sight.
Live churches focus on people.
Dead churches focus on programs.
Live churches are filled with tithers.
Dead churches are filled with tippers.
Live churches dream great dreams of God.
Dead churches relive nightmares.
Live churches don’t have “can’t” in their dictionary.
Dead churches have nothing but.
Live churches evangelize.
Dead churches fossilize8.
1 Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary: Volume Two: Psalms-Malachi (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2006), 887–888.
2 Peter Williams, Opening up Haggai, Opening Up Commentary (Leominster: Day One Publications, 2008), 45–46.
3 Samuel J. Schultz and Gary V. Smith, Exploring the Old Testament (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2001), 202–203.
4 Walter C. Kaiser and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, vol. 23, The Preacher’s Commentary Series (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1992), 274–275.
5 Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary: Volume Two: Psalms-Malachi (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2006), 888.
6 Ted Cabal, Chad Owen Brand, E. Ray Clendenen, et al., The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), 1376.
7 Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary: Volume Two: Psalms-Malachi (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2006), 889.
8 Bill Dudly. “Preacher’s Only” Group. Facebook. http://www.facebook.com/groups/113954278699704/ Posted by Bob Tolliver at 10:38am on 12 November 2014. Accessed on 20 November 2014.