It’s Time! 3. Time to Put First Things First
Haggai 1: 12 - 15
Last week we discovered that dissatisfaction is designed to lead us to find satisfaction in God alone. Today we’re going to see that - It’s never too late to do what’s right as long as we keep the main thing the main thing.
1. Their Response v. 12
One of my favorite things about preaching is seeing people respond to the preaching of God’s Word! Haggai saw this with his people -
A. They hear and obey
God is very specific about what He wants them to do: “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.” God takes great pleasure when we treasure Him and obey what He says. “Then…” As a result of what they heard, they obeyed God’s call: “Then Zerubbabel…Joshua…and all the remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the Lord their God…” This is pretty amazing because most of the time people did not listen to the prophets. Just ask Jeremiah.
We teach our children this truth: Delayed obedience is still disobedience. If you’re drifting and want to get back, then practice immediate obedience. Good intentions don’t matter; only obedience does. Is there something you have not done that you know God wants you to do?
Even religious ritual is not as important as obedience - 1 Samuel 15: 22 “To obey is better than sacrifice.”
Or are you doing something that you shouldn’t be doing? Sometimes God disciplines his people in order to get them back on mission. Psalm 119: 67 “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word.”
Someone put it like this: “We have only one day to follow God and it’s not yesterday because that day is gone. It’s not tomorrow, because we can’t be certain that it will come. All we have is today.” Hebrews 3: 7, 8 “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts...”
Sometimes when we stray and we’re far away, we think that we have to make our way back by performing or earning our acceptance. Listen. You don’t have to prove yourself trustworthy, just trust in His trustworthiness. If you feel a mile away from God, the way to get back is to simply take a step and you’re back! They had drifted and disobeyed for 16 years but all they needed to do was repent and their relationship with God was immediately restored.
When the prodigal son realized that his sin had sent him to the mud that the pigs were living in, he made a turn and headed home. He developed a speech filled with promises of performance. What he didn’t know was that the Father was waiting for him and when he saw his son, he came running to him, embraced him and welcomed him home. Friend, the father is waiting for you with open arms. I love the promise found in Joel 2: 25 “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten.”
It’s never too late to do what’s right as long as we keep the main thing the main thing.
B. They fear and don’t delay
“…And the people feared the Lord.” Literally it means, “to fear in the presence of.” The idea is to have such a holy sense of awe in the presence of the Almighty that we are led to reverential trust. Consider these verses:
• Psalm 2: 11: “Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.”
• Proverbs 1: 7: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
• Ecclesiastes 12: 13: “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”
• Hebrews 12: 28, 29: “…Let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”
Research today shows that many young people find many churches too shallow: “[They] tell us that…Christianity has become so hip, so watered-down, so about entertainment – and they’re looking for something of more substance.”
When churches preach the Word of the Lord robustly and without compromise, people are drawn to the Lord of the Word. That’s how it’s always been according to Acts 9: 31: “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.”
When we hear and obey and fear and not delay, then God goes to work. We could put it like this: It’s not your way, it’s not my way…it’s YAHWEH!
If you find yourself struggling to revere God and your prayers have become rote and routine, let me suggest a practical way to grow in the fear of God. Simply use each letter of the alphabet to represents attributes or characteristics of God. Say it out loud. For example, for “A” - awesome, Almighty, absolute. “B” - beautiful, big, blesser. “C”…..?
After the people responded, God gave them some reassurance. When they hear and fear, God shows that He is near. When we do things God’s way, He makes a way for us to work.
2. God’s Reassurance
A. His presence is with them v. 13
“Then Haggai, the messenger of the Lord spoke to the people with the Lord’s message…” Here we see again the doctrine of the inspiration of the Scriptures. The Bible never claims to be a book written by man. The Bible is the “Lord’s message” spoken by “the messenger of the Lord.” “God had sent” Haggai the messenger with this message for his people. The word of God comes through human instruments - 2 Peter 1: 21 says, “…they spoke as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
Here’s the message God communicated through His messenger Haggai: “I am with you, declares the Lord.” This is emphatic in the original. The God of the angel armies promises to be with us when we hear Him and fear Him. Here are some other passages that affirm this truth
• Exodus 3: 12: “But I will be with you.”
• Isaiah 41: 10: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
• Matthew 28: 20: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
• Romans 8: 31: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”
God is not only with them; He also wakes them up so they can get to work.
B. His power awakens them v. 14a
They moved from apathy to an awakening. The word “stirring” means to “wake up a sleepy person so they’re alert and ready for action.” It also has the idea of “rousing, motivating and agitating” and implies: “So the Lord caused their spirit to be awakened.”
There are many places in the Bible where we are told to rise from spiritual sleep –
Romans 13: 11: “Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep.” Keith Green song - “Asleep in the Light.”
“You close your eyes and pretend the job’s done.
The world is sleeping in the dark that the church just can’t fight, ‘cause it’s asleep in the light.
How can you be so dead when you’ve been so well fed?
Jesus rose from the grave and you, you can’t even get out of bed!”
Have you ever been stirred by the Spirit? 2 Chronicles 36: 22, God “stirred up the spirit of Cyrus” to send the people back to Jerusalem. Ezra 1: 5, “Then rose up the heads of the fathers’ houses of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites, everyone whose spirit God had stirred to go up to rebuild the house of the LORD that is in Jerusalem.” After sliding into spiritual sleepiness for 16 years, God is stirring His people to get back to work. It’s never too late to do what’s right as long as we keep the main thing the main thing.
Another prophet reminds us that God’s purposes must be done in God’s power. Zechariah 4: 6 “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts.”
Philippians 2: 13 pulls together our role and God’s role: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” We’re to work out what He has worked in.
God’s purposes ultimately depend on God’s power. He gives the orders. He gives the energy. And He works out His will and His ways for His pleasure and glory.
I’ve been praying that God would stir us to accomplish His purposes in our country -
Oh God, we are burdened for our nation…we turn from the sins that we have committed against your Word and your Name. We turn away from our contentious words and ways toward one another that has led us to division and polarization. We turn away from our disrespect and lack of dignity toward each other, and we turn away from our continual devaluation of all human life from the womb until death in this world. We also turn away from and refuse to participate in skepticism, criticism, and cynicism in our nation. We turn away from anything that divides us, and we run toward the gospel of Jesus Christ that is the only thing that has the power to unite us together.
We pray for Bible-preaching churches to unify in Jesus Christ and we pray for our country passionately, perpetually, privately, and publicly.
We pray for your power to unify families, workplaces, communities, and cities. By Your Spirit, lead us to forgiveness, reconciliation, healing, and unity.
We pray for people of all races to come together as one…give us the courage to stand against all racial and ethnic division.
Oh Lord, wake up Your church spiritually and convict Your people to agree clearly, unite visibly, and pray extraordinarily until the next great revival occurs in our generation.
In the mighty and majestic name of Jesus Christ who is the Only Saviour and the Only Hope in this world, we pray. Amen.
3. The Result v. 14b
Knowing that God is with us gives us great comfort. Then His power awakens us so we can get to work serving. They “came and worked on the house of the LORD of hosts, their God.” Let’s think about what they “came” to. They came to the place of previous destruction, where the ruins were a reminder of what their enemy had done and where they had previously failed. That’s why they needed a fresh stirring from the Lord. The word “work” has the idea of “completing, accomplishing and finishing.” God’s workers went from being delayed to being disciplined to being deployed. God’s encouragement led to their empowerment.
2 extremes to avoid -
• One is to experience a stirring and not do anything about it.
• The other is to serve in your own strength without any stirring from the Spirit.
The stirring of the Spirit must always lead to serving in the Spirit. God’s work depends on God’s Spirit. Church, it’s not enough to just be stirred emotionally; we must be stirred to action. The Holy Spirit is stirring…now let’s get to work and serve like never before!
Jesus called his disciples to live on mission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” While the disciples wanted more information about end times, Jesus tells them to be His witnesses. They were to wait to witness until the Holy Spirit stirred them: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” A promise of power and a mandate for mission is given, but there is no stirring of the Spirit.
This happens at Pentecost: “And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.” The Spirit of God did not merely “stir up” their spirits but filled them and empowered them and gave them the words to say. Not only that, but now the Holy Spirit of God dwells not in a building, but in believers!
We’re to ask the Spirit to stir us and we’re also called to awaken each other. We must hear and fear and then get ourselves in gear! We can do that because He is with us and within us and He has awakened us.
When the people repented and rededicated themselves, revival broke out! What is God asking you to do? How can you obey Him…today? Remember that delayed obedience is really disobedience.
It’s never too late to do what’s right as long as we keep the main thing the main thing.
Is there anything that’s stealing your focus? What one thing is distracting you from full devotion to Christ? It really comes down to priorities, doesn’t it? When we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness life will come into focus.