God Centered Alarms
Preached by Mike Aiken
Blessings for a Defiled People
Haggai is a prophesy that centers on the rebuilding of God’s temple by the Israelites (Judah and Benjamin), who returned from the Babylonian exile in 538 B.C. The temple was started (altar and foundation- Ezra 3) but then stopped by opposition from those enemies (non-Jews) who lived nearby (Ezra 4). Haggai addresses the two leaders (Zerubbabel the governor of Judah and Joshua the high priest) and God’s people to repent of their inactivity. When Haggai prophesies it is 520 B.C. The first sermon was “God-centered presence. The key phrase was “I am with you says the LORD” (1:13). As Israel was in exile for her sins and failed to make the rebuilding of God’s temple a priority, the people were discouraged. In that message we were reminded of God’s faithfulness throughout Redemptive History.
Last week’s message was God Centered Strength and encouraged us with the fact that God’s Spirit is with us and also emphasized that God is sovereign over all things. We were encouraged to be strong and work because God is with us. God will provide what we need. We may feel inadequate and we are in and of ourselves, but God’s grace is greater and all sufficient for doing what God has called his people to do- preach the gospel; bear witness to what Christ has done in our lives; defend the faith. In the midst of the many excuses we make for not sharing our faith we were encouraged to be strong and do what God has called us to do.
This week’s message is the third message in this series and is found in Haggai 2:10-19. It is entitled “God-centered Alarms.” The theme running throughout is God blesses a defiled people (ESV and NIV). There are two main points I would like us to look at
Questions vv. 10-14 (the analogy)
Is holiness infectious? (vv.11-12)
- No, ceremonial holiness is not infectious!
- Ex. 29:37- anything that touches the altar becomes holy.
- Jesus refers to this in Mt. 23:18- “And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.” Verse 19, “You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? Verse 20, “So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it.”
Is defilement infectious? (vv. 13-14)
- Yes, look at Lev. 22:4-6; Num. 19:11-16
- The point is that it is easier to fall into sin than into righteousness (The Expositors Bible Comm., 588).
- Illustration: If my hands are clean and I touch the wall I leave no visible mark but if my hands have dirt on them and I touch the wall I leave a mark.
- Going through the motions of religion, ie. performing sacrifices on the altar are not acceptable to God when the heart isn’t right. When the attitude is wrong and there is disobedience which is not repented of, God is not pleased with the formal display of sacrifice. Example: King Saul disobeyed God’s command to exterminate the Almaekites. He spared the king and the best of the flock for sacrifice. And God said to Saul through the prophet Samuel, “To obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Sam. 15:22). Cain and Abel (Gen. 4:4,5). Ill. Children can formally and outwardly say they are sorry because their parents told them to do so but the heart attitude is not sorry. Quote: “The dilatory attitude of what may have been only a few had infected and influenced the majority, and the temple rebuilding program had ground to a standstill. The selfish attitude of putting personal comforts first had spread throughout the repatriated community. The people had encouraged one another to build their own houses and to wait for more propitious times to work on rebuilding God’s house. When attitudes are wrong, nothing given to God is really acceptable. So the last part of v. 14 charges that whatever these people offered was likewise defiled. From early times it was quite clear that God wanted sincere worship first and performance of the cult second” (EBC, p. 588).
- Matthew 6:33- “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” The context is God’s provision of our basic needs of food and clothing and to not WORRY. Make God’s kingdom and righteousness your PRIORITY with your behavior, your time, gifts (abilities), and financial resources.
- vi. Hebrews 12:15-“See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.” ILL. Bad Apples and Bad potatoes in a bunch effect the whole batch quickly.
II. Considerations vv. 15-19
From the Past (The Alarms) vv. 15-17
- There was a clear contrast between their lives before and after the recommencement of rebuilding the temple. When they were disobedient and lazy (not building the temple) they didn’t have enough. The agricultural blessings were not there. There was drought and other things God sent as a discipline to his people.
- To take time to reflect on the past can be a healthy exercise for the individual Christian and for the corporate body of believers called the church. We live in a very anti-historical culture. Newer is better than older. Youth culture is idolized and the elderly are not appreciated. The point of this passage is to look back and learn from past mistakes and see the contrast after you repented of your errors. To study Church history is good for the modern day church, so we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past. Application: Take time to evaluate your own life personally, your children and make changes. Ask others who know you well to be honest with you and give them permission to tell you the truth even if it isn’t what you want to hear. Where do you see me weak or off track?
- Hard times should have brought them to repentance but it took the special revelation of God’s prophet Haggai to awaken the people to their disobedience. The same is true today, God sends hard times to wake us up and turn us to him, but God also sends preachers of his word to awaken God’s people to repentance and action. Application: Thank God for the preaching of his word and the conviction the Holy Spirit brings to get you to repent. Martin Luther, the great reformer, reminded us in the 95 theses that the Christian life is one of repentance. It starts and continues with repentance. We come to our Savior over and over again repenting of our sin until we are in our glorified state (the new heavens and the new earth). But until then, we will have this struggle with sin and we need the constant preaching of God’s word to keep us on track.
- Are all hard times God’s discipline? No. This is hard to answer. We should generally ask God to see what we are to learn through the difficulty. God is in control of all things that happen and to do self-evaluation of our lives is biblical and healthy. Is there a sin I need to repent of? Am I off track somewhere. How is my attitude toward God and his work and others? Be careful in passing judgment on others as if you know why God has sent the difficulty into their lives.
About the Future vv. 18-19
- This is referring to the resumption of building the temple which started in 520 B.C. It’s been over a decade since they stopped building but since they resumed it, God will be blessing them. God is pleased with their obedience.
- Verse 19- Questions to consider. Was there seed in the barn? No. Seeds were planted and trees were grown and there is no fruit yet but there will be because God will bless them.
God is encouraging us to be obedient. What is true in the Old Testament is true in the new. God is pleased to bless our obedience. Though our righteousness is as filthy rags and our obedience is never 100% pure God is gracious to bless us. We are saved by grace through faith alone in Christ alone, but the faith that saves does not stand alone. It is active and works. It wants to please the Lord and live a holy life. The gospel has brought us into this state of grace.
Colossians 2:6- “ Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him.” That walk is a life of obedience.
1 John 2:3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may be sure that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
What do we learn about God? He is holy, he judges sin and he disciplines his people for their good and his glory. We see again that our God is sovereign over all things. He created all things and he governs all things he created and all must give an account to God. God blesses a defiled people. Christ is the ultimate fulfillment of the earthly temple. As a defiled people who sin against our Lord in so many ways, remember that God is gracious and he calls us to repent of our sins and to remember that he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. It is because of Christ’s work on the cross that we receive the forgiveness of all of our sins and God is pleased to bless us in Christ. Lastly, God wants us to make his kingdom and righteousness a priority and to go to all the nations and makes disciples. Jesus promises to be with us to the very end of that work. To God alone be the glory. AMEN.