Friday, September 9, 2016

"Give careful thought to your ways!"

Day #253

Scripture Reading:  Haggai 1 -2 …

It is God, speaking through the prophet Haggai, who says repeatedly in this brief message, "Give careful thought to your ways …" (1:5,7) … and "Give careful thought" (2:15,18).  God had sent both Haggai and Zechariah to stir up the people of Judah who had returned from captivity in Babylon to set to work rebuilding the temple.  They had been in exile for 70 years and now a remnant had returned, surrounded by their enemies in the nations around them.  They had begun to rebuild, only to be threatened by their neighbors to stop … or else!  So they stopped.  Surely it was understandable.  They were busy resettling and rebuilding their homes and the city wall.  How could God expect them to work on the temple, too, especially in view of the threats of their enemies?

What we need to understand, however … what THEY needed to understand, was that God had brought them back to the land He had promised so that they would testify to the nations that HE alone is God!  The temple was the sign of God's presence with His people and the sacrifices and feasts pointed to the One who would be the perfect sacrifice for sin.  In order for God's plan and purpose to bring salvation to all who believe to be fulfilled, the temple HAD to be rebuilt!

So God sent two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, to speak HIS words to the leaders of the remnant, to Zerubbabel, the governor, and to Joshua, the high priest.  The first part of the message was a stern warning, given as a response to the people who were saying, "The time has not yet come for the LORD's house to be built" (1:2).  God turns the words of the people around and asks, "Is it a time for YOU yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?" (1:4).  God says, "Give careful thought to your ways!" (1:5).  And He goes on to explain why their "economy" was a mess (we do well to listen to this!!).

Again God says, "Give careful thought to your ways," (1:7), and then explains:  "You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. … Why?? Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house" (1:9).  Why the big deal?  Because God's NAME was associated with the temple.  At the present time, God has placed His Name on the Church, the spiritual temple (more about that in a moment), but God has not forgotten the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, or Jerusalem, or the place where Solomon built the first temple and where this second temple was built.

Having heard Haggai's message, "the whole remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the LORD their God" (1:12).  Then God sent Haggai with the second part of the message:  "I am with you!" (1:13).  This has been God's testimony to His people forever and it is His message to believers today.   So the whole remnant of the people "came and began to work on the house of the LORD Almighty, their God" (1:14).  God says again, "Be strong, all you people of the land, for I am with you!" (2:4).  To their leaders God gave a prediction for the future:  "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 the nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory" (2:6-7).  

God reminds them that He is in control of the nations, of the present and of the future.  It is all in His hands, including "the silver and the gold" (2:8). And God gives this promise:  "The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house … and in this place I will grant peace" (1:9).  There is more to this prophecy than may first appear.  This second temple would be blessed by the coming of the Savior, the One who would be "Emmanuel, God with us!" 

As these people rebuilt the temple, God sent Haggai again, saying, "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 … give careful thought to the day when the foundation of the LORD's temple was laid.  Give careful thought … 'From this day on I will bless you'" (2:15-19).  God is telling them to "mark the calendar" and see how He blesses those who obey Him, who trust in Him, who live to testify to His faithfulness to His people.  That's US today!  We who believe are called to be engaged in building God's spiritual temple until Jesus returns to establish His kingdom on the earth.  There is still work to do and we need to be about doing it if we are to receive God's blessing today.

It is now to us that God gives the same assurance He gave to Zerubbabel:  "I will shake the heavens and the earth.  I will overturn royal thrones and shatter the power of the foreign kingdoms" (2:21-22).  And as others before him were "types" of Christ, pictures of the One who would come, God says to Zerubbabel, "I will make you like my signet ring (which bears the name and authority of the King), for I have chosen you" (2:23).  Ultimately, the ONE whom God has chosen to bear His Name before all the earth and to exercise His authority is His only Son, Jesus, the Christ.  It is He who would be called "Emmanuel, God with us" (Matthew 1:23) and it is He who would say, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me …" (Matthew 28:18).

When God shakes the heavens and the earth and all nations ... LITERALLY ... Jesus Christ will come in all His glory, accompanied by the heavenly army of angels, and He will reign in the midst of His people in Jerusalem, the city of David ... and WE who believe will be there!!  Heaven and earth will be full of His glory and there WILL BE PEACE ON EARTH!!!

"Heavenly Father, in Your wisdom You have planned to establish Your kingdom on the earth through Your Son Jesus Christ, and finally on a new earth, where You will dwell in all Your glory in the midst of Your people.  As You call Your people today to be engaged in building the spiritual temple that will receive our Lord Jesus Christ from heaven, so help us to look forward to the establishment of Your kingdom when He will reign over all His and our enemies and Your Name will be the only Name!  Use us to accomplish all that You desire, preparing the world for what is yet to come by proclaiming the Gospel to all nations, calling Your remnant to Yourself, as You did in the days of Haggai.  To You, our God, I give my praise, in Jesus' name, Amen"

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