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After the Doom Is Over, and the Gloom Is Gone (1 of 6)
Series: A Journey Through Haggai
I want you to think with me for a moment in regards to the following situation. Perhaps you have just discovered that you have lost everything that you have, and own. Your home has been destroyed. Your vehicles have been totaled. Your clothes have been totally consumed. Your bank account has been wiped out. Your food pantry has been invaded, and you don't have any means of buying more. And, your investments, and all of your assets have been frozen. You have lost everything! I believe you would agree that would be your worst possible nightmare.
However, if the above were true, and were to happen, let me ask you, 'What would you do?' If this, in reality, were to take place, how would you respond to it. No doubt, some would just file bankruptcy, and start over. Some would go live with family, and friends. Some would try to rebuild. But, many would do absolutely nothing at all. They would just quit.
No doubt, many would feel like the man who was lost in the desert. He has been out of food and water for days. His lips are swollen, his tongue is swollen, he's all beat up, and bloody. Some of his bones are almost peeking through. He has been scraped and beat up by the cactus, sand, and sun. He's blistered. As he's crawling over this little hill he comes across this little plant, and props himself up on the bloody elbow, looks down at the plant, and says, "You know, if things keep going like this I might get discouraged!" 1
Yet, while the natural response to this sort of disaster would be to give up, there comes a time when one has to face the music, shake the dust off, and get back up and go at it again. However, in order to do that, one would have to set a list of goals, and priorities, in order to reestablish themselves, as well as their possessions.
I think about the man who found himself in deep financial distress. His job was gone, and his savings were exhausted. As a matter of fact, things got so bad that he, and his family, moved out of their house into a tent. One day, while discussing his situation to a friend, he said, "My son has had to leave college. My wife has canceled her medical treatments. And, my daughter is walking four miles to high school to save bus fare. If this situation gets any worse, I'll have to sell my Cadillac!" 2
Truly, that was a man who had his priorities a little mixed up.
In the text before us, today, we are introduced to one of the gloomiest periods, position, and plights in all of the history of the Old Testament. It involves the Jews, and their attempt at rebuilding the temple. For, here was a people who, when re-entering their homeland, discovered that everything had been lost. Nothing was left standing, and nothing remained. Thus, they come back into the city, God's city, and they demonstrate what to do, "After The Doom Is Over, And The Gloom Is Gone!"
As we begin this study of the book of Haggai, keep in mind the period, the people, and the problem that the prophet is writing about. As a matter of fact, in this book, the second shortest in the Old Testament, Haggai delivers a Call To Build, A Call To Behold, A Call To Behave; and, A Call To Believe. Thus, as we come to the opening of this book, let us consider 3 basic, primary truths in order to establish the setting, the scene, and the situation the prophet finds himself in. You will notice:
I. THE TIME THAT THE PROPHET FACED (v. 1)
As we examine, not only the first part of the chapter, but the first part of this book, we see the time that the prophet faced. This was a peculiar time, as well a pertinent time. This was an undesired time, a unpleasant time; and, an unexpected time. For, as we consider this time, you will notice that:
A. IT WAS A TIME OF DESOLATION
1. As we examine the time the prophet faced, we see that it was a time of desolation.
2. Now, when one passes from one book of the Bible to the next, he must realize that he may be passing over a century of time.
3. Such is the case here. The years between Zephaniah and Haggai were not silent years by any means. For, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel kept the prophetic witness alive.
4. Therefore, when Zephaniah preached, Assyria had not yet fallen. However, by Haggai's day, another world empire, by the name of Babylon, had come, and they had gone.
5. Thus, the time that Haggai faced was a time of desolation. The Assyrians had come from Nineveh and overthrown Israel. Then, the Assyrians, themselves, had been overthrown by the Babylonians. Also, keep in mind that the minor prophets predicted, and prophesied that he Babylonians were coming, and that God was going to use them to bring judgment upon Jerusalem.
6. So, almost a century has elapsed between the time of the prophet Habakkuk and Haggai. During that time, Jerusalem and Judah have fallen and the people of Judah have been in captivity for almost 70 years.
7. At the end of those 70 years, the people were released, and invited to leave Babylon, and return to their homeland.
8. Thus, when they return, and see Jerusalem, they discover that it has been completely destroyed by the Babylonians. There was nothing left for them. The city of God,
Jerusalem, lies waste, and in ruins. For, at the site of the temple, not one stone in left lying upon another. Everything has been removed, and Nothing has remained.
9. Hence, as you can imagine, when they discovered the condition of their city, they were discouraged, discontented, disappointed; and It Was A Time Of Desolation!
B. IT WAS A TIME OF RESTORATION
1. Notice verse 1. We're given a further description of this time, by the prophet, when he writes, and says, "In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixty month, in the first day of the month, came the word of the Lord by Haggai the prophet unto Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest." Thus, we see that it was not only a time of desolation, but it was a time of restoration.
2. Again, here was a people who had been held captive for nearly 70 years by the Babylonians. For 70 years they had been away from their homeland, and as they return they discover that what they knew as home before they left, is no longer the same.
3. Thus, as we establish a time for this event, you will notice the prophet describes it by saying, "In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, in the first day of the month.." Those dates would correlate with August 29, 520 B.C. on our calendar.
4. However, what is more significant that the actual date, is the person Haggai mentions in the first part of verse 1. Again, he specifically mentions the name of one man, a king, by the name of Darius.
5. You see, it was Darius who reversed the indictment against the Jews which kept them from returning to their homeland. He, also, lifted the ban on the rebuilding of the temple. Thus, the way was clear for them to go home. So, while it was a time of desolation, it was a time of restoration, and a time for them to get back to work.
I think of a story told by Clarence Macartney in one of his sermons. There was an old peasant driving into a European city. As he drove, he was hailed by an aged woman who climbed up into his cart. As they drove along, the man became alarmed as he learned his passenger was the plague, cholera. But, the old woman assured him that only 10 people in the city would die of cholera. She even offered him a dagger, saying he could kill her if more than 10 died. But, after they reached the city, more than 100 people perished with this plague. As the angry peasant drew the dagger to deal the death blow, the old woman lifted her hand, and said, "Wait, I only killed 10. Fear killed the rest!" 3
6. Yet, no doubt, those Jews who had the privilege of returning home, when they beheld this gloomy site, they were not only devastated, but they were fearful.
7. For, when they got home, things were not as they imagined they would be. They had pictured a land eagerly awaiting them. Instead, they found a land that had grown sterile, and was overrun with weeds. The temple was removed, the city was ruined, and the people were reluctant.
8. However, Haggai comes on the scene with a message of motivation, and restoration. He, again, calls them to Build, Behold, Behave, and to Believe. He seeks to motivate them from their state of lethargy, and encourage them to commence their work on the temple.
9. Yes, things were bad. As a matter of fact, this was the probably the worst thing that a Jew thought would ever happen. However, while it was a setback, it was now time to lace up the boot straps, tighten up the belt, pull up the overalls, and get to work.
10. Yet, so it is with us. As we begin a new year, regardless of what transpired last year, perhaps even something you'd just as soon forget; it's time to get to work. One cannot let the past harm the present, nor hinder the future. There is a work to be done.
11. You say, 'Preacher, I don't see how things can get any worse. I made some awful mistakes last year. I made some bad decisions. I faced things that I've never faced before.' Yet, in spite of that, I say to you, it's time to Get Up, Brush Off, and Go On! There is a work to do, and a job to finish.
12. Oh, it was a time of gloom and doom. It Was A Time Of Desolation, but It Was also A Time Of Restoration. That is The Time That The Prophet Faced!
I. THE TIME THAT THE PROPHET FACED
II. THE TRUTH THAT THE PROPHET FORMED (v. 1b-2a)
As we move on to consider the beginning, and background of the prophet, we not only see the time that he faced, but the truth that he formed. As a matter of fact, in few words, much is said about the man, the message, and the ministry. For, we are told that:
A. HE WAS A MAN WHO DISCERNED THE TRUTH
1. Notice the verse 1. We're told that "In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, in the first day of the month, came the word of the Lord by Haggai."
2. Then, in verse 2, we're informed just who it was that was speaking. For, the prophet says, "Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts.." Hence, here was a man who discerned the truth.
I think about a preacher who was doing what we are doing, and that is, going through the Minor Prophets. He was looking at them, one right after the other. He came finally to the book of Amos. When he did, he asked the congregation, "What shall we do with Amos?" A man sitting in the rear of the church said, "He can have my, 'cause I'm going home!" 4
3. Haggai was a man of great discernment as to the Word of the Lord, and the Lord of the Word. God had given him a specific message, a specific mission, and a specific ministry. Hence, the prophet used great discernment in following that which God wanted him to do.
4. The name Haggai literally means 'festive.' Some scholars think that he was born during one of Israel's annual festivals. Jerome said that Haggai "sowed in tears that he might reap in joy." 5
5. History has indicated that Haggai was a very old man when he was called on to prophesy, and preach. He was a man who had seen Solomon's temple, in all of it's glory. Also, Jewish tradition has made Haggai a member of the great synagogue, which was the forerunner of the Sanhedrin council. 6
6. Thus, no doubt, Haggai had learned a few things, and had seen a few things in his life. He had witnessed the ups, and downs that come in the Christian life. He had witnessed the mountains, and the valleys; as well as, the troubles, trials, and tribulations that are faced while one serves God.
7. Thus, he being a man of experience, using great wisdom, and discretion in his message. For, when he witnesses what the Jews are facing, he is called on to exhort them, encourage them, and edify them to gain motivation to finish the work that God had given them. Yes, He Was A Man Who Discerned The Truth!
B. HE WAS A MAN WHO DELIVERED THE TRUTH
1. Notice, again, verse 1. Particularly the phrase, "came the word of the Lord by Haggai the prophet unto Zerubbabel."
2. Then, in verse 2, we see the delivery of his message for "Thus speaketh the word of the Lord of hosts, saying.." So, not only was he a man who discerned the truth; but, he was a man who delivered the truth.
3. Again, here was a prophet who was a people who were in dire straits. They had lost everything, and had nothing. They had returned home, after nearly 70 years of captivity, only to find everything that they had known before they left, to be in ruins, and waste.
4. Thus, up steps Haggai, and not only discerns the truth, but he delivers the truth. You see, there was a special message that these people needed to hear. There was a message exclusively reserved for them. It was a message to a hurt people, give them hope, as well as, help. Thus, he not only discerned what they needed, but he delivered what they needed.
I think of the time that the leader of the Scottish Reformation, John Knox, preached a sermon against idolatry in the city of Perth. He had preached an unpopular message, to an ungodly multitude. For, idolatry was running running rampant, and wickedness was abounding. Thus, Knox preached with such power, and force, that he had scarcely gave the invitation before people began to rush out on the streets and smash all of the statues with several miles of the church. His message produced immediate results. 7
I think of a story I read recently that told of two brothers. These brothers were rich, and they were also wicked. Both lived a wild, unprofitable life, using their wealth to cover up the dark side of their lives. On the surface, however, few would have guessed it, for these cover artists attended the same church almost every Sunday, and contributed large sums to the church.
The church eventually called a new pastor. He was a young man who preached the truth right down the line with great zeal and courage. Before long, attendance had grown so much that the church needed a larger building. Being a man of keen insight, and strong integrity, this young pastor had also seen the hypocritical lifestyle of these two brothers.
Suddenly, one of the brothers died, and the young pastor was asked to preach his funeral. The day before the funeral, the surviving brother pulled the minister aside and handed him an envelope. The note inside said, "There's a check in here that is enough to pay the entire amount you need for the new sanctuary. All I ask is one favor. Tell the people at the funeral that my brother was a saint!" The pastor gave the brother his word, and he would do precisely what was asked. That afternoon, he deposited the check into the church's account.
The next day, the young pastor stood before the casket at the funeral service and said with firm conviction, "This man was an ungodly sinner, and wicked to the core. He was unfaithful to his wife, hot-tempered with his children, ruthless in his business, and a hypocrite at church. But, compared to his brother, He Was A Saint!" 8
5. I want you to listen to me for a moment. As I have said already, there are some goals that I have set for myself in this new year. One of those goals being that I am afresh, and anew committing myself, once again, and as never before, to preaching the infallible, inerrant, and inspired truths of the scroll of God.
6. I realize it may be unpopular, and I realize it may be unwelcome. But, the fact of the matter is, in these days, we are suffering, not from a lack of the truth. But, from a lack of the truth being preached.
7. It's not that we don't have the truth, it's that we don't hear the truth. It's not that we don't possess the truth, it's that we don't proclaim the truth. Thus, this year, if it is nothing else, will be a year where this pastor consumes himself with preaching the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help me God!
8. Such was the testimony of Haggai the prophet. He Was A Man Who Discerned The Truth, and He Was A Man Who Delivered The Truth. There was a task to complete, and a time to complete it. Thus, no other message would do, other than that spoken of by the prophet. That is The Truth That The Prophet Formed!
I. THE TIME THAT THE PROPHET FACED
II. THE TRUTH THAT THE PROPHET FORMED
III. THE TRAGEDY THAT THE PROPHET FOUND (v. 2b)
Not only in the opening of this book do we see the time that the prophet faced, and the truth that the prophet formed; but, we see the tragedy that the prophet found. Though he was a specific man, carrying a specific message for a specific mission, there was a problem, and a tragedy that he found. As a matter of fact, this tragedy consisted of the fact that there was:
A. A PEOPLE UNYIELDED TO THE WORD OF GOD
1. Notice verse 2. "Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, This people say, the time is not come, the that the Lord's house should be built." Thus, here was a people unyielded to the Word of God.
2. The fact is that God has allowed their captivity. God had allowed their bondage, bitterness, and blight. However, now, God had also allowed their release, and removal from enemy territory.
3. Thus, God allowed that for a specific purpose, and that was so that they could return home, and begin the work on building the temple.
4. So, God raises up a prophet, and through him, He speaks to His people. And, he tells them that it's time to put an end to laziness and being laboring.
5. However, when God speaks, these people listen, but they do not hear. God is speaking, specifically, but they are not tuned in.
6. God says build, but the people do not believe. God says do it, but the people doubt it. God says get to it, but the people don't get at it. The Word had come, but there was a
people unyielded to the Word of God.
7. I ask you, today, when God speaks do you listen to Him? When God moves upon your heart do you obey Him? When God primes you, prods you, and pricks you, do you respond to Him? If not, then you, just like these people, are unyielded to the Word of God.
8. The fact of the matter is that most people wouldn't know the voice of God if He called them on the telephone, or used a megaphone. It's not that they don't hear it, but they simply don't listen to it.
9. No doubt, God has clearly, and plainly spoken to some of you, in regards to certain areas of you life. Yet, you sit there, turning the volume down on your spiritual hearing aid, unyielded to His voice; and, as a result, you are the same today, as you were years ago. You are unchallenged, uncharged, and uncharged.
10. Thus, the prophet has a difficult task before him. For, he is raised up with a message to a multitude, who were A People Unyielded To The Word Of God!
B. A PEOPLE UNPREPARED FOR THE WORK OF GOD
1. Notice, again, verse 2. "Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, This people say, the time is not come, the time that the lord's house should be built." Hence, here was a people, not only unyielded to the Word of God, but unprepared for the work of God.
2. The prophet comes on the scene, at a most undesirable time. He marches straight into Jerusalem headquarters, and delivers the message to a man by the name of Zerubbabel.
3. Now, Zerubbabel is a very important figure in this prophecy. He is a key player in this. As a matter of fact, Zerubbabel was the "governor of Judah." He was a civil, as well as a civic leader. His name means 'born in Babylon,' and he is the one who is going to lead the people in the project of rebuilding God's House.
4. Thus, Haggai delivers the message. And, his message begins by informing Zerubbabel that God has spoken and said that it is now time to rebuild. However, the people have said that "the time is not come, the time that the Lord's house should be built."
5. So, we have a problem. God says 'Yes,' but the people say 'No!' I ask you, 'Who do you think was right?
6. However, the tragedy was that here was a people who was unprepared to do what God asked them to do. For 16 years the work of rebuilding the temple had stood still, due to an apathy concerning prophecy.
7. You see, one of the causes of Jewish apathy about the completing the temple was a wrong attitude toward prophecy. The people seem to have erroneously interpreted, form prophecy, that the temple could not be rebuilt until the desolation's had run their course. Thus, using prophecy as an excuse for inaction, they said, "The time is not yet come.." 9
8. However, God said that the time had come. God said that the job was to be done, and it was to be done now. No questions, no quarrels, and no quirks. IT WAS TIME!!!
9. Let's bring this down to where we live. As we begin this new year, God has spoken to some of you, and said, 'The time is now.' It is time for you be more committed, and re-committed. It is time for you to be more faithful, fruitful, and fearful. It is time for you to work, witness, and win. It is a time for you to get rid of excuses, and get ready for exercise. Yes, it is a time for action, regardless of your agreement.
10. So, I ask you, 'Are you going to do what God has asked you to do?" Are you going to hear His voice, heed His voice, and honor His voice? Are you going to commit, this year, to being a greater Christian than you were last year?
11. Or, are you going to continue in the same mode, method, and means by which you simply went through the motions last year. Friend, I want you to be very honest with you, and say, 'If you don't going to get in, then get out! Because there's a work to be done. And, if you're not going to get in the way, then get out of the way of somebody else who wants to do something for God.
12. For, here was a people much like many of us today. They were A People Unyielded To The Word Of God, and A People Unprepared For The Work Of God. Truly, this represented The Tragedy That The Prophet Found!
I know of no greater example of determination, and persistence, than the bee. A red clover blossom contains less than one-eighth of a grain of sugar. Now, 7000 grains are required to make just one pound of honey. A bee, must visit 56,000 clover heads, in order for him to make one pound of honey; and, there are approximately 60 flower tubes to each clover head. When a bee performs that operation 3,306,000 times, it secures sweetness enough for one pound of honey. 10
Someone has well said of the grumbler:
"In country, town, or city, some people can be found
Who found their lives in grumbling at everything around;
Oh yes, they always grumble, no matter what we say.
For these are chronic grumblers and they grumble night and day.
They grumble in the city, they grumble on the farm,
They grumble at their neighbors, they think it is no harm;
They grumble at their husbands, they grumble at their wives,
They grumble at their children, but the grumbler never thrives.
They grumble when it's raining, they grumble when it's dry,
And if the crops are failing, they grumble and they sigh.
They grumble at low prices, and grumble when they're high,
They grumble all the year 'round, they grumble till they die.
They grumble on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday,
Grumble on Thursday too,
Grumble on Friday, Saturday, Sunday,
They grumble the whole week through!" 11
Oh friend, may God deliver us. I don't want to be a grumbler, a griper, or a groaner; but, I want to be a goer! Doing that which God has asked me to do. Oh yes, as we begin our examination of this small, yet powerful book, we see The Time That The Prophet Faced, The Truth That The Prophet Formed, and The Tragedy That The Prophet Found. As we take out of the old, and bring in the new, may we heed the advice of the wise prophet, and may we know how to respond "After The Doom Is Over, And The Gloom Is Gone!"