The Glory of God's Presence, 27 June 2021

The Glory of God’s Presence
Series—Exodus: Journey to Freedom
Exodus 40

Series Big Idea:
The book of Exodus describes God’s gracious liberation of the Jews from slavery to freedom.

Big Idea: We are blessed to be invited into God’s presence.

What’s the most incredible experience you’ve ever had in your life? For some it might be their first time seeing Cinderella’s Castle at Disney World or the green grass at a Mud Hens game. A visit to the Grand Canyon or skydiving would be amazing. There might’ve been a defining moment such as a graduation or new job. Maybe it was the birth of a baby or your wedding day. Last Sunday we looked at what may have been the prophet Isaiah’s most incredible experience.

Isaiah 6:1    In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”

Isaiah 6:4    At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

Isaiah 6:5    “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”

Isaiah was wrecked by the glory of God’s presence…and aware of his own sin and inadequacy. We said God is holy, and remarkably He calls us to be holy, too, something made possible not by our goodness by His amazing grace through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Hallelujah!

Today as we conclude our month-long series on Exodus, we’re exploring God’s presence. We saw in Exodus 3 Moses saw a burning bush and was told to take off his sandals for he was standing on holy ground. Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look at God. The experiences of both Isaiah and Moses teach us that…

God’s presence is truly awesome!


Where is God?

In a word…everywhere! God is omnipresent. Psalm 139 asks,

7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

God appears in the first verse of the Bible.

Genesis 1:1   In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

We understand the earth, but the heavens are not as clear. The original Hebrew word,
shamayim, refers to the sky, air, and indicates something lofty. The scriptures describe God in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve until The Fall, the disobedience which brought sin into the world and with it the death of our intimacy with God. He speaks to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and later Moses who led the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt to the edge of the Promised Land. That journey we call the Exodus, also the name of our book of study in June. It was during those forty years of wandering in the wilderness that…

God’s presence was usually confined to the Tabernacle.

God is everywhere, but His manifest presence was especially present in the Tabernacle. Exodus 40 gives a detailed account of the Tabernacle. It was known as the tent of meeting and required more than a little setup!

Then the LORD said to Moses: 2 “Set up the tabernacle, the tent of meeting, on the first day of the first month. 3 Place the ark of the covenant law in it and shield the ark with the curtain. 4 Bring in the table and set out what belongs on it. Then bring in the lampstand and set up its lamps. (Exodus 40:1-4)

The next verses were filled with detailed instructions for setting up the tabernacle.

“Bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance to the tent of meeting and wash them with water. 13 Then dress Aaron in the sacred garments, anoint him and consecrate him so he may serve me as priest. 14 Bring his sons and dress them in tunics. 15 Anoint them just as you anointed their father, so they may serve me as priests. Their anointing will be to a priesthood that will continue throughout their generations.” 16 Moses did everything just as the LORD commanded him. (Exodus 40:12-16)

Then we’re told additional details about Moses setting up the tabernacle, preparing the special place for God’s presence. If you owned a house and learned the Mayor or Governor or President were coming over, would you take a moment to clean, to prepare? Of course! In this case, God told Moses how to prepare a special house, a special place for His glory.

Then he put up the curtain at the entrance to the tabernacle. 29 He set the altar of burnt offering near the entrance to the tabernacle, the tent of meeting, and offered on it burnt offerings and grain offerings, as the LORD commanded him. (Exodus 40:28-29)

He placed the basin between the tent of meeting and the altar and put water in it for washing,
31 and Moses and Aaron and his sons used it to wash their hands and feet. 32 They washed whenever they entered the tent of meeting or approached the altar, as the LORD commanded Moses. (Exodus 40:30-32)

Then Moses set up the courtyard around the tabernacle and altar and put up the curtain at the entrance to the courtyard. And so Moses finished the work. (Exodus 40:33)

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.
35 Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. (Exodus 40:34-35)

I can’t imagine the incredible experience of God’s glory. Wow! The tabernacle was portable and the people moved it as God guided.

In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out; 37 but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out—until the day it lifted. 38 So the cloud of the LORD was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the Israelites during all their travels. (Exodus 40:36-38)

The writer of Hebrews gives us some details about the tabernacle.

A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand and the table with its consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place. 3 Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, 4 which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. (Hebrews 9:2-4)

A few verses later we’re told,

But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. (Hebrews 9:7)

Eventually Joshua led the people into the Promised Land in what we now call Israel. Generations later,

God’s presence was moved to the Temple.

King David assembled the materials and his son, Solomon, led the construction of the Temple

Solomon covered the inside of the temple with pure gold, and he extended gold chains across the front of the inner sanctuary, which was overlaid with gold. (1 Kings 6:21)

At the dedication of both the tabernacle and the temple, God’s glory appeared in a powerful way, demonstrating His presence.

Last month we talked a bit about the
temple, the center of Jewish life, one of the wonders of the ancient world. It was a most impressive structure with a variety of designated areas, including the Most Holy Place.

Despite its grandeur and beauty, it was destroyed in AD 70 by the Romans just as Jesus had predicted. While that was a devastating time for the Jews, the impact for the first Christians was somewhat less because the Temple was no longer the sole location of God’s presence. You might say that years earlier on Good Friday, God left the building! It occurred as Jesus breathed his last breath. Matthew tells us…

Matthew 27:50    And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

Matthew 27:51    At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

That’s an incredible experience I’d love to witness…even if it would scare the stuffing out of me! I’ve been through some mild earthquakes, but I’ve never seen rocks split. I’ve certainly never seen tombs open and zombies roam a city, if you can say that!!! This was literally the walking dead, raised to life in the midst of Jesus’ death. But perhaps the most important aspect of this scene was the curtain of the temple torn in two from top to bottom.

God’s presence was unleashed on Good Friday…and Pentecost

Jesus said,

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Acts 2 tells of the coming of the Holy Spirit who dwells inside every follower of Jesus. In fact, Paul told the church in Colossi,

To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)

God lives inside each believer. Where is God? In us! We are the temples of God.

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

This is why we need to pay attention to our bodies, our physical health, and our sexuality. If you are a follower of Jesus, your body is not your own. It belongs to the LORD. Although it’s a radical thing to say in our culture, you are not permitted to do whatever you want with your body. You were made by God. You were made for God. You were made for God’s glory.

I can understand God showing up in the Garden to hang out with His creations Adam and Eve before they rebelled and sinned.

I can understand a holy God dwelling in a sacred part of the tabernacle and later the temple.

I can somewhat understand the sacrifice of Jesus granting us access to the Most Holy Place and making possible a relationship with Almighty God.

I find it nearly impossible to understand God dwelling inside of me, living in me, making my body His temple. This, of course, does not me that I am a God, but rather that God chooses to make His home in my heart…if I make room for Him.

So What?

I want to close with two quick thoughts. First,

God’s presence doesn’t mean we will not suffer, but we are never alone.

Where is God when it hurts? Where was God when you were suffering? He was with you.

Romans 8:37    No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Hebrews 13:5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,

“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.”

I know that raises the question, “If God was with me, why didn’t He stop the pain?” I can only say when we hurt, God hurts. He grants us free will, including the ability to hurt one another. He has a habit of redeeming pain and using it for our good, but beyond that I don’t have any quick, easy answers…but I trust God. Your story’s not over. Perhaps soon you’ll understand. I have many stories of understanding weeks, months, and even years later the purpose for pain in my life. I found this paragraph at GotQuestions.org:

Our lives are like a quilt. If you look at the back side of a quilt, all you see is a mess of knots and loose ends hanging out all over. It is very unattractive, and there seems to be no rhyme or reason to the work. Yet when you turn the quilt over, you see how the maker has craftily woven together each strand to form a beautiful creation, much like the life of a believer (Isaiah 64:8). We live with a limited understanding of the things of God, yet a day is coming when we will know and understand all things (Job 37:5; Isaiah 40:28; Ecclesiastes 11:5; 1 Corinthians 13:12; 1 John 3:2). Where is God when it hurts? The message to take with you in hard times is that when you cannot see His hand, trust His heart, and know for certain that He has not forsaken you. When you seem to have no strength of your own, that is when you can most fully rest in His presence and know that His strength is made perfect in your weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). –

Be comforted to know God is with you. He has not left you. He has not abandoned you. And nobody knows pain like Jesus. If you doubt me, watch
The Passion of the Christ again…or for the first time.

And finally,

Someday we will experience God’s presence in unimaginable ways.

1Corinthians 2:6    We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 However, as it is written:

“What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived” —
the things God has prepared for those who love him—

1Corinthians 2:10    these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.

One day we will see God face to face.
One day there will be no more suffering or pain or tears.
One day we will experience the full glory of God’s presence…forever!

In the meantime, let’s enjoy every moment when heaven kisses earth, where God’s Kingdom comes and His will is done on earth as it is in heaven…the place where God dwells.

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

Fit for the King, 27 December 2020

Fit for a King
Mark 12:30

Big Idea: We are to glorify God not only with our heart, soul, and mind but also our bodies.

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. It was great to worship with many of you, both here on campus and with those who participated online.

Here we are…that awkward time between Christmas and New Year’s. Gifts are returned. Decorations come down. Toys are broken! And if you’re like me, you may have eaten too many Christmas cookies which leads to those dreadful
new year’s resolutions! I think our entire world is looking forward to Friday, though the calendar change will not end the pandemic, political chaos, and division in our land, unfortunately. But a new year is a chance to develop a new you, to maybe set some goals, begin some new habits, and get a fresh start.

I want to challenge you with two things:

  1. 1. Mission:119 (Mission119.org)
  2. 2. 40 Days of Prayer (https://mailchi.mp/cmalliance.org/40daysofprayer-signup)

According to YouGov, 28% of Americans planned to make New Year’s resolutions last year: 39% of Millennials, 30% of us GenXers, and 19% of Baby Boomers. The most popular resolutions are

  1. 1. Exercise more (50%)
  2. 2. Save money (49%)
  3. 3. Eat more healthily (43%)
  4. 4. Lose weight (37%)
  5. 5. Reduce stress (34%)
  6. 6. Get more sleep (30%)
  7. 7. Stick to a budget (30%)
  8. 8. Focus on spiritual growth (28%)
  9. 9. Travel more (25%)
  10. 10. Learn a new skill (25%)


I think they are all noble quests, but I found the first seven especially fascinating because they all fit into two categories: money (2, 7) and body (1, 3, 4, 5, 6).

We’ll talk about money in the future, but today’s focus is on the body, becoming
Fit for the King.

The Jewish Bible we call the Old Testament is loaded with hundreds of rules and commands about everything from relationships to animal sacrifices. Religious leaders would add their own rules, traditions, and interpretations to suit their preferences and ensure others would be impressed by their outward piety (despite their prideful, unseen hearts).

During Jesus’ years on earth teaching and modeling what it means to be human and glorify God, he was asked which of the laws was most important. He replied,

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ (Mark 12:30)

I think most people understand what it means to love with your heart. After all, a heart is the symbol of love. The original Greek word here for heart, kardia, refers to feelings. We can emote love to God. Loving God with all your soul is different. It involves the spirit, something a bit more abstract, perhaps. The Greek word psuche literally means breath. Many in the western world understand loving God with our mind. We read and study the Bible. We develop statements of faith and talk theology, helping one another understand a knowable yet mysterious Creator God. Loving God with our mind can involve our imagination and understanding in addition to mere facts and data.

But then there’s the last one. How do we love the Lord with all our strength, our might, our ability, our power? This certainly takes on a physical dimension. First, a little church history lesson.

In the early days of Christianity, there were some who believed the body and all material reality are evil. This was called Gnosticism. These people thought only the spiritual was good, and salvation was achieved by moving toward a purely spiritual state, transcending the body. Even today, some churches see the body as just a temporary skin that will burn up, a vehicle for our journey on earth until the bus to heaven comes. All that matters, they teach, is the spirit, the soul.

The opening pages of the Bible in the book of Genesis reveal everything as created by God, for God, and for God’s glory…including you and your body. God’s reaction to His work was repeatedly “very good.” Obviously sin has corrupted God’s beautiful work, but that never classified the material world as evil.

Our celebration of the birth of Jesus is testimony to this. He came as Emmanuel, God with in what we call the incarnation. God became flesh. Jesus came into our world with a real body like ours. His presence. To quote writer Ragan Sutterfield,

Early theologians saw this as a work by which Christ was renewing creation, restoring the bodily life through resurrection. Christ’s mission was not to rescue spirits for an ephemeral heaven, but rather to bring resurrection to a created order that had been trapped by the powers of Death. For Christians, the body is not a thing to transcend, but to resurrect.

Someday our bodies will be like the resurrected body of Jesus, but a physical body nonetheless.
Our bodies are not evil. In fact, Paul gave a wonderful teaching to the church in Corinth about our bodies. He said,

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)

Where is God? God is everywhere, but God’s Spirit which used to appear in different places throughout scripture was unleashed in the second chapter of Acts. The Jewish temple in Israel was destroyed, but now God lives within every follower of Jesus.

We are God’s temple.

What a remarkable reality! God’s house is not this building. It’s us! This might be why we sometimes talk about letting Jesus come into our heart. We invite God to dwell, to make His home in us. It doesn’t mean that we are God or become God, but that God lives in us.

You were made by God.
You were made for God.
You were made for God’s glory. This includes your body.

Your body is a gift from God. No matter how it compares to supermodels or professional athletes, you were created by God in His image with dignity, value, and worth. All of our bodies are different—and they change over time—but we’ve been given them to bring glory to God.

How do we love God with our body?

We can glorify God with what we
put into our bodies.

I’m not going to shame you for your holiday feasting, but think about your fuel. If you put Mountain Dew in a car’s gas tank, how long would it run? If you feed a dog nothing but Cheetos, how healthy would it become?

When I was a kid growing up in church, I used to hear people say, “Don’t smoke. Your body is a temple.” We know now that tobacco use can harm our bodies, leading to cancer and other ailments. But do you know what the number one killer in the USA is?

Presently, it’s COVID-19…so please wear a mask to protect those around you. It’s a simple way to possibly save lives.

The number two killer—and the number one killer in most years—is heart disease. I always found it ironic when an overweight, potluck-loving preacher told people to avoid tobacco while he ate his way toward death! One large Christian comedian remarked, “If the body is a temple, I’m a megachurch!”

I think we all realize obesity, COVID-19, cigarettes, and drug abuse can be harmful to our temples. What we are learning more about is nutrition and the effects of chemicals in our foods. I’m not a nutritionist, but good information is easy to find. One of our church members, Nancy Pickens, is a great resource on nutrition.

We can glorify God with what we
do with our bodies.

I asked for some input on this sermon from Nancy and her husband, Dr. Michael Pickens. Here’s what he said:

Loving God with all our strength means using our body to show God you love Him. This means directly loving Him through our worship and by giving Him the first fruits of our labors, both of which require using our bodies. And, it involves loving others as Jesus commanded us - being His hands and feet, which also involves using our physical bodies.

Therefore, we are to “enthusiastically” use our physical bodies, the “temple” of the Holy Spirit, to show God we love Him. How are we going to be able to do this foggy headed, tired/exhausted, and sick all of the time, because we are eating refined and nutritionally deficient artificial foods and not exercising? We can’t! How can we give abundantly from the fruits of our labor if we are spending a huge chunk of our income on doctors’ visits, drugs and hospital stays? We can’t!

To “run the race”, to “fight the good fight”, we need to get back to nourishing our bodies with the bounty that nature provides. God’s nature. Fruits and a lot of veggies in a rainbow of colors, with smaller amounts of meat and grains… Who would want to fly in an airplane made out of parts from a junk yard?

And, we have to get out of our chairs and move! That doesn’t mean tedious hours on end on the elliptical trainer or pumping iron for endless hours in the gym, unless you like to do those things. Walk, bike, swim. You can play games, such as tennis or pickle ball. Make it fun! Just do it on a regular basis. Make arms and legs of steel, instead of spaghetti, to serve our God with all your strength!

I couldn’t have said it better myself!

There’s not much in the Bible about working out at the gym, swimming, or playing pickle ball, but that’s because they didn’t spend 93% of their time indoors…or driving cars! I doubt Jesus and his friends lacked exercise.

That reminds of one of my favorite stories. Entertainer John Davidson was told by his dad that he could have the keys to the car for the upcoming prom if he got straight A’s in school, read the Bible every day, and cut his hair. On the night of the prom, he asked his dad if he could drive the car. His dad said, “You had to do three things.” John replied, “I got straight A’s and read my Bible every day.” His dad said, “Son, you didn’t cut your hair.” John said, “Dad, Jesus had long hair,” to which his dad wisely added, “Jesus walked everywhere he went!”

We can glorify God with what we do with our bodies…and that includes rest. We are human beings, not human doings. We need good rest daily. We need to sabbath weekly, taking a day off to enjoy God and those things which bring us joy and delight. We need to use our vacation days, recharging not only our bodies, but our brains. I’ve heard many say the pandemic has caused them to slow down, which can be a good thing, especially when we’re driven to be so busy. I find it’s easier to focus, care for others, pray, and work well when I’m well-rested. Self-care is vital, and that includes rest.

There’s another issue related to what we do with our bodies that Paul addressed to that church in Corinth. He said,

Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit. (1 Corinthians 6:16-17)

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.
19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:18-20)   

As I’ve said before, sexual immorality is essentially any sexual activity outside of a marriage between a man and woman. I know, it’s not politically correct, but that’s God’s plan. Making Jesus Lord means making him master, following his wisdom, obeying his commands. We’re given the freedom to make choices about what we put into our bodies and what we do with our bodies, but those decisions have consequences. I don’t mean to be simplistic, but Daddy knows best. God can be trusted…even with your body. I’ve never met someone who kept themselves pure and regretted it, but there are plenty of examples of people who did whatever felt good at the time, only to find themselves with unwanted pregnancies, diseases, or memories.

If you are a follower of Jesus, God lives in your body. Honor God with your body.

There’s one more thing I want to mention about loving God with our bodies.

We are the
hands and feet of Jesus to those we encounter.

People can’t see your heart, your soul, or your mind. They only see our bodies. We are to be Jesus with skin on, the hands and feet of Jesus. It’s been said that you are the only Bible some people will ever read. Whether you know it or not, people are watching you if you call yourself a Christian. They’re evaluating whether you’re real or a faker. Do you act like Jesus or just talk religious? How you treat your body and use it to serve others matters. Actions speak louder than words, and when we love well, it will be noticed.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ (Mark 12:30)

You can’t have a part-time Lord. He’s master and controller…or not. Following Jesus is not a Sunday-thing. It’s a 24/7/365 devotion to your Maker. Jesus calls us to love him with
all of our heart and with all of our soul and with all of our mind…and with all of our strength…our body.

So What?

What’s your next step today? Perhaps you should make some new year’s resolutions to better take care of the temple. I’ve been trying to do ten pushups a day. It’s not much, but it’s a start. Maybe you need to reduce the food products with ingredients you can’t pronounce, order the small instead of the large portion, or simply eat more fruits and vegetables. Some of you need to choose once and for all to honor God with your body in the bedroom. I believe rest some of us need more rest, whether it’s sleep, taking a weekly sabbath, or using all of your vacation days (I said “some of us!”). We could probably all do more to use our bodies to serve, bless, and love others. Jesus said the most important command was to love God, but then he added,

The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:31)

My prayer for you and me is that we would honor God with our bodies in 2021, loving God well and loving others well. To God be the glory!

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

Haggai, 10 August 2014

Big Idea: God blesses obedience and provides consequences for disobedience…because He loves His children.

Overview: The Jews had put off rebuilding God’s temple, but had made nice houses for themselves. The prophet Haggai rallies the people to finish the temple and enjoy God’s blessings again.

God made a covenant with Abraham who became the father of the Jews. God said if Abraham’s ancestors would obey, God would bless them. If they disobeyed, God would punish them—not because He is mean, but because He loves them and wants them to wake up and return to Him. God often used prophets to call people to repentance and alert them of their sinful ways. Jonah, Joel and Zephaniah are three prophets we have already examined and now we look at a fourth: Haggai.

We actually know little about Haggai the prophet. His name means “festal” or “feast.” He was the first of three post-exile prophets from the Neo-Babylonian Exile of Judah (along with Zechariah, a contemporary, and Malachi who lived about one hundred years later). He may have witnessed the destruction of Solomon’s temple (2:3) which would mean he was in his seventies when he ministered.

We have surprisingly great detail about the time of this writing. This book contains five separate messages. First, some background. In 538 BC, Cyrus king of Persia issued a decree allowing Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. Zerubbabel led about 50,000 Jews back to Jerusalem where they completed the foundation of the temple in 536 (Ezra 3:87-11) causing great celebration. Unfortunately, the Samaritans and other neighbors felt threatened by this progress and opposed the continuation of the work. As we will see, the Jews abandoned the project leaving the temple unfinished.

  • First Message (1:1-11) Rebuild The Temple
September 1, 520 BC

In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest: (1:1)

He used a gentile king to date his writing. He is very specific. September 1, 520 BC Zerubbabel (“sown in Babylon”) is the political ruler.

This is what the LORD Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come for the LORD’s house to be built.’” (1:2)

When the people returned to the land, they were enthusiastic but they encountered great obstacles. They decided to maintain the status quo.

When things get hard, we often say, “The LORD is leading me elsewhere.”

Nehemiah encountered great opposition when rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.

the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” (3-4)

People decide to follow the LORD’s will until it requires sacrifice. When we decide to follow our will, we overcome the obstacles.

They used time as their excuse. It’s not the LORD’s will. It’s not the right time.

Following Jesus is rarely easy, safe and comfortable.

How much do you spend on God and how much do you spend on yourself? Money? Time? Energy?

Many tip the waitress more than they tip God!

“Many Christians are like those ancient Hebrews, somehow convincing themselves that economy in constructing church buildings is all-important while at the same time sparing no expense in acquiring their personal luxuries. Contrast this with medieval Europe where peasants lived in squalid conditions while great cathedrals were being built.”
-Expositor’s Bible Commentary

We are so comfortable! Prophets were stoned, not stars. They woke up the people.

Now this is
what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have 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.” (1:5-6)

These are biting words!

This is
what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. (7)

Twice God says, “Give careful thought to your ways.” “Put/set your heart upon your roads/ways” is more accurate. This is essential for us today. Why do you do what you do? What future are you planning? Most people spend more time planning for a vacation than they do eternity…or even the next season of their life.

Give careful thought to your ways.

God disciplines those He loves. (Hebrews 12:5-11; Revelation 3:19)

There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25)

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9)

What road are you on today? Where is it leading?

Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the LORD.

People look for miracles but God says go to work! He does not bless lazyness.

Student: “Professor, the book you gave us to read is dry.”
Professor: “Dampen it with a little perspiration from your brow!”

We have spectator sports but are not to have spectator Christians.
Get in the game. Get to work!

Go to the mountain
Bring wood
Build the house

“You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the LORD Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house. Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the oil and whatever the ground produces, on men and cattle, and on the labor of your hands.”

God withheld blessing.

Blame God. He says He’s responsible, but He will explain why.

- The Response of the People (1:12-15)
September 24, 520 BC

Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the whole remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the LORD their God and the message of the prophet Haggai, because the LORD their God had sent him. And the people feared the LORD.

Then Haggai, the LORD’s messenger, gave this message of the LORD to the people: “I am with you,” declares the LORD.

God is with them. He is with us.

So the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of the whole remnant of the people. They came and began to work on the house of the LORD Almighty, their God, on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month in the second year of King Darius.

The people responded during the previous 23 days.They are ready to build the temple. Haggai inspired the people to action.

The civil leader: Zerubbabel the governor
Shealtiel means “asking of God in prayer”

- Second Message: The Temple will be Filled with Glory (2:1-9)
October 21, 520 BC

On the twenty-first day of the seventh month, the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: “Speak to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people. Ask them, ‘Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing?

See Ezra 3:8-13

But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy. No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away. (Ezra 3:12-13)

There were shouts of joy and the sounds of weeping. This temple is small compared to Solomon’s temple. “Back in the good old days…”

But 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, ‘and work. For I am with you,’ declares the LORD Almighty.

“Be strong, be strong, be strong…and work!”

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. (Ephesians 6:10)

God determines who is great.

‘This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.’ (2:5)

“This is
what the LORD Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the LORD Almighty. ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the LORD Almighty.” (2:6-9)

All nations desire silver and gold. Solomon’s temple had millions of dollars worth of silver and gold. This new temple was nothing compared to the splendor of the first temple. A future temple is coming that may be in view here.

When Jesus returns to this earth, He will enter Jerusalem and bring peace.

God looks upon these series of temples as one house.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1-2)

- The Third Message: The Defiled People will be Blessed and Purified (2:10-19)
December 24, 520 BC

On the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Haggai:

“This is
what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Ask the priests what the law says: If a person carries consecrated meat in the fold of his garment, and that fold touches some bread or stew, some wine, oil or other food, does it become consecrated?’”

The priests answered, “No.”

Then Haggai said, “If a person defiled by contact with a dead body touches one of these things, does it become defiled?”

“Yes,” the priests replied, “it becomes defiled.”

Then Haggai said, “‘So it is with this people and this nation in my sight,’ declares the LORD. ‘Whatever they do and whatever they offer there is defiled.

On this day, Haggai went to the priests and asked two things about the law:

  1. Will the holy that touches the unclean make it holy? No.
  2. Will the unclean that touches the holy make it unclean? Yes.

Holiness is non-communicable.
Unholiness is transferrable/communicable.

The Mosaic law did not cover every possible scenario. The priests decided such matters and it became the law.

We have a similar method today. There is a difference between statute or statutory law (passed by legislation/congress) and common law (a matter brought before a court).

“‘Now give careful thought to this from this day on — consider how things were before one stone was laid on another in the LORD’s temple. When anyone came to a heap of twenty measures, there were only ten. When anyone went to a wine vat to draw fifty measures, there were only twenty. I struck all the work of your hands with blight, mildew and hail, yet you did not turn to me,’ declares the LORD. ‘From this day on, from this twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, give careful thought to the day when the foundation of the LORD’s temple was laid. Give careful thought: Is there yet any seed left in the barn? Until now, the vine and the fig tree, the pomegranate and the olive tree have not borne fruit.

‘From this day on I will bless you.’”

God says the people returned to the land but not to God. You can swim in holy water and it won’t make you holy. Baptism of your body won’t automatically change your heart.

“‘If a descendant of Aaron has an infectious skin disease or a bodily discharge, he may not eat the sacred offerings until he is cleansed. He will also be unclean if he touches something defiled by a corpse or by anyone who has an emission of semen, or if he touches any crawling thing that makes him unclean, or any person who makes him unclean, whatever the uncleanness may be. The one who touches any such thing will be unclean till evening. He must not eat any of the sacred offerings unless he has bathed himself with water. (Leviticus 22:4-6)

Ceremonies and religious rituals will not purify your heart.

“Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man ‘unclean’; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him ‘unclean.’” (Matthew 15:17-20)

By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. (Matthew 7:16-20)

You can’t make manure smell good by dumping perfume on it!

The heart must be changed. How?

Who can say, “I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin”? (Proverbs 20:9)

“Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. (Isaiah 1:18)

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. (1 Peter 1:18-19)

What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

God is saying the reason the people are not blessed is they have unclean hearts. Now that their hearts are right, they will be blessed.

Is your heart blocking God’s blessing in your life?

- The Fourth Message: The Promise to Zerubbabel (2:20-23)
December 24, 520 BC

Why two messages on the same day? Good question!

word of the LORD came to Haggai a second time on the twenty-fourth day of the month: (2:20)

Tell Zerubbabel governor of Judah that I will shake the heavens and the earth. I will overturn royal thrones and shatter the power of the foreign kingdoms. I will overthrow chariots and their drivers; horses and their riders will fall, each by the sword of his brother.

God will overthrow all nations.

“‘On that day,’ declares the LORD Almighty, ‘I will take you, my servant Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will make you like my signet ring, for I have chosen you,’ declares the LORD Almighty.” (2:23)

The signet ring is an identification of royalty. Zerubbabel is in the line of David.

The Messiah will not only come through David but also Zerubbabel. He appears in both Matthew 1 and Luke 3 genealogies.

Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords. He will rule and reign someday.

The little temple built in Haggai’s day will one day welcome Jesus.

So What?

There are a few vital lessons we must understand from Haggai.

  1. God must truly be first in our lives. No other gods. No idols.
  2. God will bless us when we obey and discipline us when we disobey.
  3. God’s grace is amazing. He never gives up on us. His love is unconditional.

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.