This flight brings us near our final segments over the Old Testament. First we will see Zephaniah, who was a descendant of the good King Hezekiah. Next in view will be Haggai, this prophet encouraged his fellow Jews in Jerusalem to complete the rebuilding of the temple.
I want to start by saying, poor Zephaniah, poor Zephaniah. You know he's a neglected fellow. I could prove it. How many of you have heard a sermon in the book of Zephaniah lately? Raise your hands. How many of you have ever heard a sermon on the book of Nehemiah in your whole life? Raise your hands. Okay a few of you. Where did you hear that? Here, okay.
So, so maybe that wasn't totally fair. But ah you know he's a neglected prophet, it's a neglected book. It's a small book, it's hard to find. Some people may still be trying to shuffle around where's that book at? It's tucked back there somewhere; all those other short little books with weird names in it.
He's mistaken for Zechariah sometime which is a different prophet, we're going to talk about it next week as we finish out the Old Testament and because of the theme, he, he, he packs a punch. He's a short little book with a heavy duty punch and a very powerful message and it's not a message that necessarily we would want to read a lot or we would make it our life verse for instance.
I have yet to find somebody who said, my life verse is Zephaniah chapter whatever, verse whatever. It's a message of judgment. It sounds like a hard message but let's call it, this the dark side of love, dark side of love.
And let me illustrate that by a little story. There once was a man who stood over the bed of a young girl and as she looked up at that tall imposing figure of a man, she started screaming and the mother rushed in the room and grabbed her little girl. The man went out of the room, got on the phone and set a plan in motion with another man on the other end of the telephone.
So, the man then quickly rushed back into the room, took the screaming little girl into his arms, rushed out and put her in the back seat of his car and squealed his tires out of the parking lot and took her to a very plain drab looking building to the top floor where there was single light on the ceiling and there a man who was talking on the other end of the telephone plunged a knife into the young girl. You hear that story and you go, "That is horrible, that's cruel."
Well, let me fill in the details. The man who drove the girl was the father of the girl, the girl was his daughter, she burst her appendix, he took her to a hospital and on the top floor where there was a surgery suite, the man who took the knife was a surgeon with a scalpel who operated on the girl to save her life by taking out the ruptured appendix and you go, "Okay, I get it."
And so, that's what you have to do with some of the stories and some of the themes like Zephaniah. He talks about a God who loves His people enough to hurt them in order that He might heal them. He is like the surgeon with the scalpel plunging the scalpel in, carefully performing an operation. And so, this prophet looks through judgment to blessing, that's the theme of the book; through judgment to blessing.
Looking past the judgment, the God says, must come upon a nation that has sin, but in the end, the hurting is to bring healing. He's a very, very good physician; so through judgment to healing. Charles Haden Spurgeon, one of my favorite old dead preachers said that he visited a man on a farm who had a weather wane on the top of his barn and it was a very unusual weather wane because not only did it spin around in different directions with the wind but on the main part of the weather wane were the words "God is Love; God is Love."
And so, Spurgeon said, "Are you by that, trying to show that God's love changes like the wind?" No he said, "What I'm trying to change, say is that, no matter which way the wind blows, God is always love." This prophet, basically in three chapters, tells us that. The wind of judgment will blow through but God is love. The wind of blessing is eventually going to come and it's because God is love.
And so, we as children of God shouldn't question when the wind is blowing against us in adversity and say, "This can't be of God, God wouldn't allow this to happen." Hey, God might have caused this to happen because He wants something good to come out of it. As God says, He's going to bring the judgment through the Babylonians.
Now, I want to teach you two words tonight, two new words, you ready? You can impress all your friends, pre-exilic and post-exilic, just remember those words, because the prophets, the minor prophets break up into those two sections. They're either pre-exilic prophets, that is, they wrote before the exile, before the Babylonian captivity of 70 years or they are post-exilic, they were written after the exile, the Babylonian captivity of 70 years, pre-exilic and post-exilic.
By the way, you also have a third category and that is exilic prophets, prophets who wrote during the exile. Daniel was an exilic prophet; Ezekiel an exilic prophet. But Jeremiah, Isaiah, and, and most all of the others were before pre-exilic prophets. There are three prophets that are post-exile or post-exilic prophets and one is Haggai, that's the one we are going to cover next right after this in just a minute and then the last two of the old testament, Zechariah and Malachi, both of those were written after the exile.
So, now you have learned three new words, tell all your friends about pre, post and exilic prophets. Now, something about Zechariah, oh excuse me, see I am getting it messed up now, Zephaniah.
The prophet Zephaniah was the prophet of the eleventh hour, the eleventh hour. Let me explain, you know prophets would come at different times and give messages, but every now and then you'd have a group of people listening to what the prophet said and thereby turning the judgment or keeping the judgment away for a period of time. Certain things happen, the hearts of the people would respond. It is believed that because of Zephaniah's ministry that the reforms of Josiah, the king, started.
Now, I want to explain that. If you remember back in your history, there was a king of Judah named Josiah and Josiah was eight years old when he became king. You go, "A politician, a ruler of a nation, an eight year old kid." Well, he actually did a lot better job then a lot of politicians who've been doing it a long time, because his heart was after the Lord, he was seeking the Lord.
When he was 16 years of age, eight years into his reign, you know what he did? He started finding all of the false altars of Baal, breaking them down, grinding them to powder, taking the, the bones of the priest who had worshiped on those false altars and burn those bones and scattered their ashes. And then, when he was 26 years of age, they were cleaning out the temple and he gave a large sum of government money to fix the temple.
They found a book of the Law and when the Law was brought before King Josiah and it was read and Josiah realized, man, we have fallen away from God, a massive reform happened to the people. And they turned back to God and they celebrated the Passover and it is believed that the preaching of this prophet Zephaniah was one of the key components during that time to bring the people back to God. He was the eleventh hour prophet.
So, the theme once again is through the judgment to the blessing. And so judgment and blessing are the two main themes of this book. You could divide the book up by three chapters basically, I'll give you the exact divisions, but there's three chapters, it's a very short book. I think there is what, 53 verses in this short book, 38 verses in the very next book. It is a very short book.
But the three chapters are the three major themes. Chapter number 1 is look within, look within. Chapter number 2, look around and then chapter number 3, look beyond. So, chapter 1 verse 1 all the way to chapter 2 verse 3 is where they are told to look within, look within your walls, O Jerusalem, and see all of the things that I, the Lord God am going to judge Jerusalem and Judah for. As you look within, you'll discover why the judgment is coming on you.
But then chapter 2 verse 4 all the way to chapter 3 verse 8, they're told to look around, and they look around at different nations, north, south, east and west of Israel as all of them are called into judgment by God.
And then eventually, they're called to look beyond and beginning in verse 9 of chapter 3 to all the way to verse 20, they sort of look beyond the judgment in Jerusalem, beyond the judgment to the nations and to the blessing that is going to come in the future.
So, let's look at verse 1, chapter 1, "The word of the Lord which came to Zephaniah, the son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hezekiah --" there's a lot of 'iahs' there, "In the days of Josiah, the son of Amon, the king of Judah." Now, why are all of those names put in the first verse? To let you know that this prophet was directly related to the royal class of Judah. He's the great, great grandson of King Hezekiah, the great reformer king of Judah, which makes him a cousin to King Josiah who is presently on the throne. So, that genealogy is placed there.
In verse 4, "I will stretch out my hand against Judah and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem. I will cut off every trace of Baal from this place, the names of the idolatrous priests with the pagan priests. Those who worship the host of heaven on the housetops." This was astrology worship. They worshiped the stars, the sun, the moon on altars that were atop their roofs.
"Those who worship and swear oaths by the Lord but who also swear by Milcom or Molech," a Phoenician God. Now, here's the deal, here's the deal, they said they loved God, they loved Yahweh, they, they worshiped in the temple, all that stuff. They said that and they were going through the emotions of temple worship, but at the same time, they were worshiping other things, other gods, other modes of worship.
So, they would blend their worship together. It is called syncretism. It's like saying, I'm going to go church every Sunday because that's going to make me feel really good that I go to church every Sunday and it is really good to show my kids that I go to church every Sunday, then I'm going to live anyway I want to live. God is saying, "You know what? I see that. I'm going to do something about that. You can't live that way." That's not commitment, that's not devotion.
So, verse 6, "Those who have turned back from following the Lord and have not sought the Lord, nor inquired of Him." So, as I said, in ancient times, the rooftops were flat, sort of like New Mexico, but on the top of their roof, there was like an open place where the family would gather in the summer, sometimes they would spent the nights out there. But pagans and now Israelites, those down in Judah put altars on top of their roof, in, in view of the sky, in, in view of the sun and the moon and the stars, a practice known as Sabianism and they believed that the constellations and the movement of the heavens and that their prayer to the gods who govern the heavens would alter their future.
You say, "Oh, well, that's so old fashioned and that's so pagan, that's so primitive." Really? Forty million Americans believe in Astrology, today, in our modern technological culture. There are three times more astrologers in our country along with psychics as there are clergymen in this country, and the American public eats it up. So, it's not so ancient a practice, it just gets repackaged.
So, look at verse 10, "And there shall be on that day, says the Lord, the sound of a mournful cry from the Fish Gate." You're thinking, what does that have to do with me in 2008? "A wailing from the Second Quarter allowed crashing from the hills. Wail, you inhabitants of Maktesh! For all the merchant people are cut down, all those who handle money are cut off."
Now, what he's doing is, he's warning the merchants of the city of Jerusalem who had bring their wears in and out of the Fish Gate, down through the Maktesh, which I'll explain in just a moment and, and there they would buy and sell. And, and here's the point, an invasion is coming of this city of Jerusalem, by the Babylonians, that it's going to wipe out all of their economy, all of their hope, all of their joy will be gone by the Babylonian invasion of 586 BC.
Jerusalem is an interesting place. It's built among a configuration of several hills on the east side, the Mount of Olives on the western side, the western hill or Mount Zion and then smaller little hills all the way around it. Those hills also have valleys and there are three major valleys. On the eastern side is the Kidron valley. On the south-western side, touching the Kidron is called the Valley of Hinnom or Gehenna. The idea of hell comes from that burning, the valley where the garbage was burnt.
So, you have the Kidron Valley, you have the Hinnom Valley and right in between a short shallow valley called the Tyropoeon Valley and then the Tyropoeon Valley where the city of Jerusalem is in sort of a lowland area, that's where the market place was and that's here the idea of the valley of Maktesh or the Maktesh was in that Tyropoeon Valley, it's where all of the economy of the city of Jerusalem took place.
The Fish Gate, it is believed, was a gate that faced the north and it became later known as the Damascus Gate. It's through the Fish Gate, that the Babylonians came from the north and swept down through the land and breached the city walls entering through the Damascus Gate to take over the city.
So, now scoot down to verse 14, "The great day of the Lord is near." Stop right there. You have read as I have read, many of the Old Testament prophets use this phrase, "The day of the Lord." The most famous so far has been Joel, because his theme was "The day of the Lord." Twenty-six times, Old Testament prophets used the term, "The day of the Lord." This guy, Zephaniah, uses it 18 of those 26 times.
So, it is one of his major themes, "The Day of the Lord." He says, "The great day of the Lord is near, it is near and hastens quickly, the noise of the day of the Lord is bitter there. The mighty man shall cry out. That day is the day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of devastation and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness."
Now, what is the day of the Lord? I'll refresh your memory. The day of the Lord is simply a period of time in which there is direct intervention by God in human affairs. It's as if God says, you've had your day, the day of man is now over. I, God, am going to act supernaturally through a chain of events in a time period known as the day of the Lord.
Typically, the term, the day of the Lord is used escatalogicly, that is speaking of the end times, the end of days, the tribulation period or the Great Tribulation Period and certainly, the Great Tribulation is the ultimate day of the Lord, the time of judgment, the time of divine intervention, very graphically described.
In fact, there are, there's no subject or, or just about no other subject in the Bible with as great a detail as the day of the Lord. Prophet spoke about it, Jesus elaborated on it, Mathew 24, Luke 21, the Gospel of Mark. Chapters 6 through 19 of the book of Revelation are totally devoted to the day of the Lord.
So, the day of the Lord often speaks escatalogicly or the end of times. But sometimes, it is used in a local immediate non-escatalogical manner. Now, can I complicate it even further? Sometimes, it's used both ways, where a prophet will look at a day of the Lord that is coming for the local people that he's writing to, but that is a picture of the far off greater big day of the Lord that is coming and this prophet does that.
What he's saying here is basically, a day of the Lord is coming on Judah and that day of the Lord is going to be like, the day of the Lord that's coming on the whole world. There is a microcosm or an example or a preview of coming attractions or a harbinger, whatever word you want to use to describe it, of what is going to take place in the worldwide scope.
Chapter 2 verse 1 continues "Gather yourselves together, yes, gather together, O undesirable nation, before the decree is issued, Or the day passes like chaff, before the Lords fierce anger comes upon you, before the day of the Lord's anger comes upon you, seek the Lord, all you meek of the earth, who have upheld His justice, seek righteousness, seek humility. It may be that you will be hidden in the day of the Lord's anger."
By the way you know what the name, Zephaniah means? It means the Lord will hide; these are the plain words of the prophet's name. It means the Lord will hide and here he says, in the day of the Lord's anger, it maybe that you will be hidden. Now, understand something about the nature of God in judgment. It is typically God's character, God's nature to shelter His own from the full brunt of His wrath. It doesn't mean that God's kids don't suffer, don't, don't misunderstand that. Jesus said, in the world you will have tribulation, but the tribulation that comes from the world is very different than the wrath, the tribulation, the full brunt of judgment that comes from the Lord, two different sources, two different reasons.
So, example, God send the worldwide flood, it destroyed everything but there was a family that found favor in His side, family was Noah and those eight righteous ones were lifted off the earth during the time of judgment. Then there's the case of the Egyptian judgment, plague after plague after plague and ultimately the death of their first born, remember? But all those who believed in God, who trusted in God and applied the blood to the door post and lintels of their house, they were spared the full brunt of God's Judgment.
So, God's style is to not allow His people to go through the full brunt when it's His wrath and His judgment in the day or days of the Lord. So you got the example of Noah and the flood, you got the example of Egypt and there are other examples we could cite but let's move to a future one and why, some of us, including myself believe in a pre-tribulation rapture, because it fits categorically with the character and nature of God, who makes a difference in judgment. As Paul said to the Thessalonians, "God has not appointed us to wrath but to obtain salvation through Christ Jesus."
Also, you remember in Revelation, when Jesus writes that little postcard to the church at Philadelphia and said because "You have persevered," Jesus said, "And you have kept my word, therefore I will keep you from the hour of trial that will come upon the whole world." And that hour of trial that came upon the whole world is written about in chapter 6 through 19 of that same book of Revelation. It's God's style, God's character to keep His people from His wrath and that's a good thing, because if you read about the day of the Lord, you find out its pretty gnarly.
In fact as you read through the book of Revelation, you notice a pattern of seven in the judgments, right? There's seven sealed judgments and then after that there's seven trumpet judgments and after that there's seven bowl judgments and with each set of judgments and indeed with each judgment of the seven, they become worse and more intense.
For example, the fourth sealed judgment is the judgment that wipes out one-fourth of the entire population of the earth is destroyed in that one judgment and that's just the first set. Then you move to the trumpet judgments and the sixth trumpet judgment wipes out another one-third of the population of the earth.
So now effectively with just two judgments you have half of the entire population of planet earth destroyed. Then you get to the seven bowl judgments and the seventh one is cataclysmic and catastrophic, the mountains and the islands are leveled, flattened and hailstones weighing 125 pounds each, fly out of heaven, killing people on the earth.
So, this is God's day, this is God's judgment, the ultimate final escatalogical end times, day of the Lord that is coming and this is simply a trailer of that, this is simply a preview of what is to come. But what happens even during that horrible time in the future, God saves a remnant, there's 144,000. Not only is the church not there but those believing Jewish people are spared, a 144,000 spared from the judgment of God that will then enter into the millennium.
So, look within, chapter 1verse 1 to chapter 2 verse 3. Second in this book, look around; look at the other nations that God is going to judge. Let me, let me just show you what's going on, to show you how, how cool God is. The Lord allowed Babylon, before that Assyria to be His chastening rod, to get His people's attentions, to spank them. In other words I'm going to use Nebuchadnezzar, or I am going to use Shalmaneser and all these other rulers in their nations to get you guys -- your attention back on Me and eventually after a few years, you are going to turn back to Me.
But their desire is to destroy you totally, ultimately. Now they've messed with you and you are my people and though I have used them to get your attention, I'm going to punish them for what they did to you.
So, now beginning here in chapter 2, in verse 3, four different nations are addressed and all of them are representative nations from four different points on the compass, north, south, east and west. Let's just run through a few of these verses. Verse 4, "For Gaza shall be forsaken, and Ashkelon desolate; they shall drive out Ashdod at noonday and Ekron shall be uprooted." These were the Philistine cities and this was a little nation that was to the very east right along the, the seaboard of the nation of Israel and Judah. By the way this is the disputed territory still today, the Gaza Strip.
In verse 8, "I have heard the reproach of Moab," now he is pointing to the east, "And the insults of the people of Ammons," still to the east "With which they have reproached my people, and made arrogant threats against their borders." Verse 12, "You Ethiopians also," now they're from the south, "You shall be slain by My sword."
Verse 13 "And He will stretch out His hand against the north and destroy Assyria, and make Nineveh," which is the capital of Assyria, "a desolation, as dry as the wilderness." So all of these other nations that hassled Judah aren't going to escape God's judgment. Okay Jerusalem, look within, look what I'm going to do inside your own quarters, inside your own walls but then look around and at all those people who hated you and hassled you, I've got a plan for them.
The Babylonian army is not only going to wipe out Judah and take some of them captive, but also destroy those other nations, until God will deal with Babylon even later on. So let's go to chapter 3, we've looked within, we've looked around and now the theme is look beyond the judgment to Judah and beyond the judgment to the nations and look to the healing that's going to take place, the coming well being. And in verse 9, there's a great passage that says, "For then I will restore to the peoples, a pure language and they or that they all may call on the name of the Lord to serve Him with one accord."
Another way to translate that is I will purify the lips of the people. It is a little bit of dispute as to what that means exactly. Some think it just simply means that this is a contrast between the idol worship that's been going on in the land and God is saying, look eventually what you're going to speak? You're going to speak my beautiful phrases, you're going to utter from your lips pure worship in contrast to the impure, vile words of prays to the pagan gods and goddess. It could mean that.
In fact it could be taken to mean that ultimately in the Millennial Kingdom when Christ rules and reigns from the thrown of David in Israel, that then and only then will it be pure around the whole world. That's a possibility but still other scholars believe and I'm not going to be dogmatic but believe that this is a reference to after the captivity and they would come back speaking Chaldean which they did, the language the Jesus spoke was Chaldean or Aramaic, it was the standard language around that part of the world because of the Babylonian captivity. It could be that this is a promise that God is going to restore Hebrew, the pure language of the Jews back to them eventually.
Now, that's interesting because if that's the case, that didn't happen till recently in fact, very recently. If you go to Israel today, they speak Hebrew, but years before that they didn't speak Hebrew. Now I'm going to read you something that comes from a very reliable source but you will have a question mark after I tell you the source and what they say, this is from the Encyclopedia Britannica, it's a reliable source right?
This is a 1911 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica listen to the comment and I quote, "The possibility that we can ever again recover the correct pronunciation of ancient Hebrew is as remote as the possibility that a Jewish empire will ever again be established in the Middle East" close quote. Well that was 1911, I wish those guys could hung around till 1948, and seeing that a nation was reborn in that land and today the prophet Zephaniah could walk down the streets of Tel-Aviv and read every menu in every restaurant in that city and in Jerusalem.
And though there are differences between Ancient Biblical Hebrew and Modern Hebrew, a modern Israeli can read Ancient Hebrew, in fact they can sit in the shrine of the book and read the Scroll of Isaiah the Prophet from the Dead Sea Scrolls as they could read Modern Hebrew. There's enough similarities there.
It could be that that's what he's referring to. We're uncertain but look at verse 15, "The Lord has taken away your judgments, has cast out your enemy. The king of Israel, the Lord is in your midst and you shall see disaster no more. It shall be or in that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem, do not fear Zion, let not your hands be weak. The Lord, your God in your midst, the Mighty One will save. He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing."
Now, that verse that I just read, yeah, it is a little bit different in the King James, but it used to be a song that we used to sing years ago, even here, years ago and in the King James, it's the, "Lord Thy God, in the midst of thee is Mighty, he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy, he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing."
It's a great song. Would you like to sing it? Well, let's see how much time we have and finish the next book and maybe we will go back to it but, but here's the point. Like a bridegroom, who would rejoice over the bride, the Lord delights in His people; know this, tonight, He delights in you. You say, I don't feel very delighted and you don't know what I've been going through. But God does and even as He saw this land that would be buffeted, it was the same land that He promised to bless, and, and here's the key to the blessing.
The Lord, the King is going to be in your midst. This is a tremendous promise because the Lord. Well, you remember Ezekiel? There's several chapters where Ezekiel actually sees the presence of God leave town. God splits. God is out of dodge and at first, he sees the presence of the Lord in the temple, the Shekinah glory hovering over the temple, he sees it but then he sees the glory of God in chapter 8, 9 and then in chapter 10 move toward the east and sort of hover over the eastern gate and then eventually go east over the Mount of Olives and depart, the glory departs from the temple, the glory departs from Israel.
Now, God says, I'm coming back and eventually He will come back in a very unique way, at the end of the day of the Lord. Jesus Christ Himself will come back to the earth to His people; there will be a Millennial Kingdom on the earth. There will be a temple in the Millennial Kingdom on the earth but eventually, in the eternal state in New Jerusalem, in New Heaven and in New earth, God Himself, it says, is the Temple. There's no need of light, there's no need of a building, God will dwell intimately with His people, forever and then this will be ultimately fulfilled and that day the Lord is in your midst.
Let's go to the next book, the book of Haggai. It is the second shortest book in the Old Testament, 38 verses only; 1131 words, though it is short, it packs a punch, sort of like the first one but it's a wonderful little book. Okay, so, so this guy Haggai is the first and there are three, I said, this is the first post-exilic prophet after the exile. So, get this in your mind now, all we did is turn a page but we have moved forward in history.
These other guys, the other prophets were, were way before 586 BC, way before the exile in Babylon, way before the 70-year captivity and they're saying, Babylonians are coming, look out. They're going to get you guys. They're going to wipe you out. Okay, so that has already happened now.
Now, they've come back to the land. So, this is now after the exile. Anybody know how many people came back when they were released back in the land from Babylon? Fifty thousand, not even 50,000 of all of the people of the Jews, Israel, and Judah came back but 50,000 did come back and they started getting so excited about rebuilding the Temple of God, they cleared the courts, they moved the debris away, they built an altar of sacrifice, they started sacrificing animals. They were all excited. God's going to do it again.
He's going to build the temple. But as time went on, they stopped building. In fact, I'll give you a time line, about 536, in the spring of 536, the debris was cleared and that altar was built or the foundations of the temple were laid and then they stopped building and they started sort of like leaving the work of God and turning toward their own personal affairs, for a number of reasons. They got discouraged; they got hassled by their enemies.
Cyrus, the guy who allowed them to come back has died. His successor, a guy by the name of Cambyses, he is the Artaxerxes in c
chapter 4 of Ezra, is the new guy who is kind of hassling the Jews, so they just quite building. But now, in this book, we're in the year 520 BC, some 16 years later, after they started to build and then quit.
Now, they start building again. So, I hope you're asking, well, why? So, you're asking what? Why? I'm glad you asked. I would like to tell you why. They started building again because four individuals came on the scene, Zerubbabel, he's the mayor of town, he's the governor of Jerusalem. Joshua, he's the high priest, he's the religious dude and then two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah inspire the people to build and that's what takes us to Haggai, chapter1 verse 1.
Hey, how many of you remember 1989, a film called "The Field of Dreams?" Remember that film? And what was the line that was build on a baseball field then what did he -- the little voice he heard? If you build it, they will come, right? Shoeless Joe Jackson and all those great baseball players of the past would show up and play baseball, yeah right, like in the middle of Iowa, but, but that's how the film goes.
If you build it, they will come. The theme of this book could be, if you build it, He will come. If you build the temple, if you go back to seeking first God's kingdom rather than your own little personal lifestyle and agenda, God will come in His glory and meet you there and bless you, that's the theme of this book.
So, Haggai, Chapter 1 verse 1, I'm going to quickly outline as we go through this, four reasons that they just gave up on the work of God. Reason number one, selfishness; they were selfish, they put their own interest before the interest of the Lord. "In the second year of King Darius and the sixth month on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by Haggai, the prophet to Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the High Priest saying, Thus speaks the Lord of hosts, saying, this people says, The time has not come, the time that the Lord's house should be built."
Okay so that's what they're saying and they started building it and 16 years go by and they're still saying it. It's just not the right time. I don't think, I don't think God really at this time is leading us to like build the temple, that's what they are saying. So, "Then the word of the Lord came by Haggai, the prophet saying, is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses and this temple to lie in ruins?" So he gets right to the point, right.
Haggai is basically saying, look, you're building your own homes, you're making it really fancy and really nice and it's all about you and you're neglecting the temple of God. So, you're saying, I just don't really feel led that it's, it's like the right timing to build God's house but I really feel led it's like the right timing for me to live my life.
So, rhetorically, the prophet goes, oh really? Is that what time it is? For you to be self-consumed and self-absorbed. Okay, this was just spiritual talk. That's all it was. It is just blah, blah, blah. That's all this was. This is, this is an excuse. They, they thought it was a reason. It's just an excuse. Billy Sunday used to say, an excuse is the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie. A lot of people have reasons why they don't get involved in God's work or reasons why they don't come to church.
Well, the weather is bad today. It could rain. Well, I've been to movie theaters when it is raining; doesn't seem to keep people away from those places. Well you know, I don't like crowds, you go, you go to a baseball game or a basketball game, crowds of lot more people. Well, yeah, preacher just talks way too long about like Haggai and the Zephaniah.
What's interesting when the game goes into overtime, a lot of people just stay right there and don't move. So, it could be that even some here tonight, though you came, so I certainly don't want to castigate you but could it be the God has a task for you to do until the Lord returns and, and you know it. You're feeling the compelling of the spirit but you said, "I don't know if it is the right time yet" and, and it might not be the right time. But the prophet says, is it time for you to be self-absorbed, self-consumed?
So verse 5, "Now therefore thus says the Lord of Hosts consider your ways." You're going to find that four times in this book. Consider your ways, literally set your heart on your ways or we would say reality check. It's time for you to just sort of assess your own priorities here. Consider your ways, look at what you're choosing.
Verse 6, "You have sown much and you bring in little. You eat but you don't have enough, you drink but you are not filled with drink, you cloth yourself but no one is warm and he who earns wages," get this, "Earns wages to put it into a bag with holes." Now, that sounds like today.
This is the result of inverted priorities. It's like God is saying, you're always working and you're working extra on weekends and you work through the lunch period, you take extra nights and, and yet with all that, you're broke. It's like trying to walk up the down escalator. Every step you take, you take another step, you go back two steps. You take another step, you go back two steps. That's what's happening here. There's an old Pennsylvania Dutch expression, "The hurrier I go, the behinder I get."
So, they were building their houses, they were fulfilling their agenda, it was all about them. They neglected God's work, God's house and with all of their self-absorption, they're not being satisfied, they're not getting ahead of the curve. Listen to this, Proverbs 23, "Will you set your eyes on that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; and they fly away as an eagle toward heaven." You say, that is my experience. It's interesting on the back of the dollar bill; on the right hand side there is an eagle, that's so biblical.
You get it and pretty soon, that dollar goes, phew, phew, phew, phew; it just starts going. You just got it and it's gone. "Thus says the Lord of host, consider your ways." There is number two, "Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified; says, the Lord." Here's the solution; be obedient. Get on with what God wants you to do and build this temple. You know what happens? Whenever you obey God, God is glorified.
Look at verse 8, "That I may take pleasure in it and be glorified." When you obey God, you glorify Him. You know what glorify God means? It's real simple. It means you make Him more famous. You make God more famous. You would say God is already famous; no, around a lot of people, He's infamous. When you show people that you love God supremely, that you're willing to obey Him in every aspect, you show people, even unbelievers. Wow! They must like really have like an inside track with this God. You make Him renowned; you make Him famous because you're obeying His word.
Verse 12 "Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the Lord their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the Lord their God had sent him, and the people fear the presence of the Lord."
I've got to tell you something, this is what a preacher lives for; when people hear God's word, they will go, "Yes! That's God's word to me personally, and I'm going to take it to heart and I'm going to live it." That's what John said, "I have no greater joy, than to know that my children walk in the truth." So here's a message spoken by a prophet that fell on good ears, and the people listened to it, and took it for what it was. This is a message from God to us. Now, we're going to do something about it.
Listen to this, in the New Testament book of First Thessalonians, chapter 2 verse 13, Paul commands the church. He writes to them and he says, "For when you receive the word of God, which you heard from us, you welcomed it, not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you, who believe." I'd tell you what Haggai walked away after that message was obeyed by the people, and he thought, hot diggety dog. I don't know if he actually thought those words or not, but he was excited, as he saw the people respond.
Verse 13, "Then Haggai, the Lord's messenger, spoke, the Lord's message to the people saying, I am with you, says, the Lord. So the Lord, stood up the spirit of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua, the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all, the remnant of all the people. And they came and worked on the house of the Lord of Hosts, their God."
So I want you to notice something, here's a group of people, that heard God's word, they said, "Okay, I think God is speaking to us directly, so let's get to work, let's finish the temple." So they worked, they labored, they served, but what does it say, it's the spirit of God that energized them. You know what it says, basically? It says the spirit -- the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel, and the spirit of Joshua, and the spirit of all these people.
Now there's a principle here, I want to tie it together with a verse of scripture; some of you have had questions on. In Philippians chapter 2 verse 12 and 13, it says this, "Work out your own salvation," remember that verse? It says, "Work out your own salvation, with fear and trembling." And a lot of people go, "I can't believe it says that, it's like a salvation of works, right?" Just read the next verse, and that will be cleared up. "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for its God who works in you, both to will and to do of his good pleasure."
This is how, this is how it operates. When you decide, I'm going to obey God, I'm going to serve Him, I'm going to work hard, not for my salvation, because I'm saved, I want to please Him. You know what happens at that point? At the point of your obedience, God starts working in you, both to will and to do of his good pleasure. He energizes you to do the work. When do I get all is energy and vision? Oh, I guess, it's when I started obeying God.
Not long ago, I was flying a connecting flight through Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, ever been there? Okay, like it's a big airport, right? And there's you always get in -- you, you land at one little port, and you get off from your airplane, and you have to like walk you know it's the complete opposite end of the airport that your next connecting flight is. It's not it's never next to it. It's always on the other side of the universe.
So my plane landed late, and my other one was on time, but you know what? I was so thankful that they have those, moving walkways. So I get on the moving walkway and I work hard, and I walk hard, but because it's a moving walkway, it looks like I'm going 45 miles an hour.
I'm working, but I'm cooperating with a force, much greater than myself. It enabled me, to make it there in time, and here's my point. When we run, when we work, when we serve, we then are cooperating with the power of God to get it done. It's like the moving walkway. He propels you forward to do it. So the people worked, and God stirred up their spirit, they were working out their own salvation, but God was working in them, to will and do to of His good pleasure and that cooperation enabled them to get it done.
Reason number 2, that they stopped building the temple, is addressed now in chapter 2. Okay, you ready? Nostalgia, nostalgia they looked back at how the first temple before this was so much better then this temple. Is doesn't look the same as it used to. That's what they were getting into.
Verse 1, "In the seventh month, in the twenty-first day of the month, the Word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet, saying, Speak now to Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua, the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people, saying, who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now in comparison with it? Is this not in your eyes as nothing?"
How many of you remember back to the book of Ezra, when this even actually happened? They came back and Ezra writes all about it. There's a group of old timers, who had seen Solomon's temple, it was grander, more beautiful, more ornate. So now they make this, make-shift Zerubbabel temple, very, very plain, it's a temple, it works, but in comparison to Solomon's temple, it's just like a cardboard box.
And so on the day, they dedicated the temple, you have this energetic group of young people, going, "Yeah! God is cool, He's great, hallelujah," praising the Lord, and then over here, a group of older people, they're making a lot of noise too, but it's whining and wailing, and crying, "It's not like it used to be." And so, you couldn't distinguish, Ezra said, the noise from the old timers, wailing, and the young folks getting all stoked.
You know if you want to live a miserable life, try to walk forward, looking backward. You'll fall down, you'll bump into stuff, you'll make yourself obnoxious. Try to move forward always looking backward. Now if we start looking at what God has done for us, even here, in this church, and in this city, we have so much to be thankful and so much to be grateful for. But if instead, we start comparing, what God has done here to the day of Pentecost. We're going to, "Oh man! This is horrible", or if we start comparing, what God has done to the Great Awakening.
Now what we are doing is looking backward trying to move forward. It's a new work that God is doing. This was a new work, God was doing here. Interesting, the Babylonian Talmud says, there, says there were five things lacking in Zerubbabel's temple, that used to be in Solomon's temple, according to the Babylonian Talmud, the Ark of the Covenant.
The Holy Fire, number two, the Shekinah Glory of God, of the Urim and Thummim, and the fifth was the Spirit of Prophecy, or the Holy Spirit. In the Babylonian Talmuds, those five things were present in Solomon's temple, were no longer present in Zerubbabel's temple. You know what I say? Big deal, because you know why? Verse 4, "Yet now be strong, says the Lord, and be strong, he says to the high priest, says the Lord, for what? I am with you says the Lord of Horse, Hosts [the Lord of horse, accuse me] the Lord of Hosts." Well he did make all the horses in the world too, so technically He's the Lord of Horses, but anyway, the Lord of Hosts.
So for whatever was lacking in the temple, what was there, was God himself. So reason number two, they just stop the work of God, because it's not like what it used to be, I quit.
Number three, un-confessed sin, now this is two months later. Verse 10, "On the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month," this is around December, "in the second year of Darius," by the way these three messages there's one in September, one in October, now one in December. "The word of the Lord came by Haggai, the prophet, saying, Thus says the LORD of Hosts, now ask the priests concerning the law, saying, if one carries holy meat in the fold of a garment, and with the edge he touches bread or stew, wine or oil, or any food, will it become holy? The priest answered said, "No."
And so, you get the picture, if you carry something sanctified, and made holy, and it touches something defile, will it make defiled thing turn holy? The priest goes, "No way, exactly the opposite will happen." Which says in the, in the very next verse, "And Haggai said, 'Okay, if one who is unclean, because if a dead body touches any of these, will it be unclean?' So the priest answered and said, 'Yeah. It shall be unclean.' And Haggai answered and said, 'So is this people, and so is this nation before me,' says the Lord, 'And so is ever work of their hands, and whatever they offer, is unclean.'"
Impurity is more easily passed on, than purity. If a, if a father is in perfect health, and the son or daughter is sick, if the father touches the sick son or daughter, will that son or daughter -- will the health be transmitted into the body of their sick child? No. But what often happens is the sickness is transmitted from the child to the parent. Defilement is very easy even in spiritual things, but not sanctity, it's not easily passed on.
It's not enough to do God's work, but to do God's work, you, you and I need to do it without defilement, and the defilement going on then was, was they were going through the emotions but they had unconfessed sin. They were still defiling the place, because it was all outward, but inside their hearts weren't any different.
Now let me just apply it this way. Whenever we gather together, whenever you get together with another Christian, make sure, that you don't defile the place or the people. Now don't, don't misunderstand me that if you had a bad day that it meant you defiled the people. But don't go in with a bad attitude, a sour attitude rather than a God honoring attitude.
If you've ever been around a person of great faith, their faith is contagious. Make sure, you want to walk away trusting God. Have you ever been around somebody who is very doubtful and unbelieving and sour? That too is very contagious, in fact it seems to spread a lot quicker, a lot more easy.
So we want to do the work of the Lord, and not stop it, but we want to have clean hands and a pure heart, let's watch our attitudes. You know frankly I've been around some Christians, they say, "I'm a Christian", and it's like I want to say, "Please, don't tell anybody, please, you're ruining it for everybody, for the rest of us." I mean to be around some Christians is like witnessing an autopsy. It's like yuhh! They just give off death rather than life. Attitudes can go a long way.
I'll tell you one of the things that I love about you, and I love about this fellowship, you're happy, and I, I, I hear visitors all the time, "What a happy place." You know, bars have happy hour. I think when we gather together, this ought to be happy hour. We have so much to rejoice in for what God has done, and promised us to do. Now let's; oh boy! But I am a loud mouth preacher. Let's, let's go quickly over, and cover the last one, we have a few verses, and then we're done.
Now here's the last reason, that they stopped, and that was unbelief. Now verses 20 to 23 are directed to Zerubbabel, it's a personal message to him. I think he's feeling a little discouraged, he's looking around the great empires, that are very imposing, well he's got just a few thousand people, building a make-shift temple, and they wanted to quit, and he's sort of feeling very discouraged. I'll just tell you this; Satan loves to discourage spiritual leaders. If he wants to work on getting somebody sour, he wants to get a spiritual leader sour first so he can infect a lot of people. So he's feeling discouraged.
Verse 20, "Again the Word of the Lord came to Haggai twenty-fourth month twenty-fourth day of the month, saying, [now I'm going way to fast] so speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, 'I will shake heavens and the earth,' this is quoted in Hebrew's Chapter 12, 'I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms. I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations. I will overthrow the chariots, and those who ride in them. The horses and their riders shall come down, everyone by the sword of his brother. In that day, says the Lord of Hosts, will I take you, Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel,' says the Lord, 'and make you as a signet ring, for I have chosen you,' says the Lord of Hosts."
You know what a signet ring is? It's a little ring, usually worn around the neck, sometimes on the hand, and the stone on the ring, was carved in the symbol of the one who bore it. It spoke of authority. Okay so documents were signed, or made valid by a signet ring, it was the signature of the person. In ancient times, they would take their ring, and stick in some wax, and that signet ring was the signature, it meant the authority of the person.
So, here's the thought here. Zerubbabel is from the house of David. He is in the genealogy of Jesus Christ, both Luke and Matthew have him. Zerubbabel, this lineage of the house of David, it's like you're taking Zerubbabel and saying -- using him emblematically to say the promise for the royal house of David i.e. the coming of the Messiah will come through this man, Zerubbabel. That was the promise of the coming Messiah, and Zerubbabel was in that genealogy, that will be flushed out in Luke and in Matthew.
So, this is what I want to close with. What work has God called you to do, that you've stopped, or you've been discouraged from doing? You just you haven't finished. And you just thought "You know what? It's just it's not the right time. There's lot of stuff I got to do." And it maybe, that you have to get your own house in order, your own life in order; but I do believe, that simultaneous to living your life, having your career, raising your family, we all are called, to build the temple, the house of the Lord, the church of the living God. We're all a part of it; we're all members of the Body of Christ.
What is that the God has put in your heart to do? Find that, and make it your passion, Psalm 37, "Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." I don't think that means delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you, your little heart's desire. I think what it means is, you delight yourself in the Lord, and God will actually give you, the desire for what He want you to desire. He'll put a desire in your heart.
You know when I was first saved, I had no desire to be a preacher, trust me. I was like a plague worst than death. I started delighting myself in the Lord, and I got a whole different set of desires all of a sudden. I desired to read the Bible, I never wanted to read that before, I never wanted to hang around Christians, they were the last group I wanted to hang with before. All these new desires that God put within me; but then there is that desire, the passion that God gives you to fulfill some, some ministry, some work, and each one of you has it.
Let God ask God to give you the desire, because here's the difference. If you took water at 211 degrees, you can make coffee; you can make tea, 211 degrees. Add one more degree, one more degree, one more degree, 212, now you have steam. Now you can make a Latte, now you can power a steam locomotive. Now you can really go places. That one extra degree is desire, passion, will. It's all of the difference between going through the emotions and, ah! It's the desire that god gives you. Ask God to put that passion in your heart, and finish the work, that God calls all of us to do.
Let's pray, Heavenly Father, thank you for your word, thank you for the principles of both of these prophets. These are the very words that the apostles read. This is the Bible that Jesus read and referred to. Thank you Lord, that we can devote our Wednesday nights, to going through the whole Bible from cover to cover. Sometimes moving fast, sometimes slowing down and getting the full impact of it. Thank you for tonight. In Jesus name, Amen.