Ben McSpadden: I have a question for you today--Do you have vision? Do you have vision like my kids have vision? There’s lots of vision with nine kids running around. Around my house, there’s lots of vision. The other day we were, it was going to be a busy day, and I knew that I needed to plan some things out. And so, we had just had lunch, and I was thinking through, “Ok, what do I need to do to help the kids get some things done?” and how the things are going to time out, and before I knew it, I was thinking about dinner. So, what are we going to do for dinner? So, I’m thinking about all that in my head, trying to figure some things out, and one of the kids walks through the room and says, “Dad, what are we going to have for dessert tonight?” And I thought, this kid has vision. I’m thinking about dinner, and he’s already on to dessert.
So, what we’re going to look at today is some folks who lacked a little bit of vision, and God sent a prophet, Haggai. That’s the prophet we’re going to look at today. In the Bible, it’s a book that’s only two chapters. It’s really short, but God sends Haggai to his people to help them better see what was going on in their situation because they didn’t fully have the vision of what was going on. One of the phrases that he uses in this book a couple of times is the word, consider. A couple of times he says, “Consider your ways,” and that’s a key phrase that we’re going to look at. Because as we look at their story and what happened with them in their time in history, I want us to consider our ways and what God has for us in our time and place.
It’s a story where misplaced people are returned. Misplaced people are returned. There’s a listening guide there in your program to help you follow along. But, we find this out in Haggai, the very first verse of this book. It says, “In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the governor of Judah, and to Joshua, the son of Jozadak, the high priest.” This is not a memory verse you had growing up in Sunday school. It does not sound very inspiring at all. It’s pretty dry, but what it tells us is where they’re at in history, and that’s really important.
It’s telling us--if we kind of know our ancient history, and if you don’t that’s ok, I did some homework for us, so we can kind of all be on the same page here--is that they have returned from exile. Knowing that that’s the guy who ruled and the year that he ruled, they’ve actually been returned to the Promised Land from exile for about 16 years now. We hear a lot today about refugees, and one of the jobs I had before coming on staff here at Hope was resettling refugees. There’s a difference between refugees and exiles. Refugees willingly flee their country. I say willingly; they get after it because they are being oppressed in some way. The difference with an exile, though, is an exile was forcefully taken from their home country and put into a foreign land.
So, these folks were forcefully taken from their homeland and put into exile for 70 years, and now they’re back in their homeland. And how did they get there? Well, God had been letting them know for a long time. He brought them into their homeland, the Promised Land, Israel, and he made a people out of them. They walked with him, and as things got really good, they kind of forgot about God. They started worshipping other idols; they turned their hearts from God and turned their hearts toward other things. And God had warned them through many people and other prophets, that these things were going to happen if they didn’t turn to him. And they didn’t turn to him, and he told them that they would be in exile for 70 years. But, he wasn’t going to abandon them there; he had a plan. He had a purpose for them going into exile.
It’s kind of like when a kid gets sent into time out or they get disciplined; it’s not there forever, but there’s a point to it to get their hearts realigned. He was realigning folks’ hearts, his people’s hearts, back to him. So, they had spent 70 years in exile, and then they have been returned. And God in his faithfulness and goodness--I mean, when you’re in exile and you’re returning, you may not have a lot of resources--but God had orchestrated all of this. And, he used the geo-political situation of the time to orchestrate his plan. You see, he used the Babylonian empire; those guys were the ones who took over Israel and brought them out of their homeland and caused them to go into exile. And in that 70 years, there was a transfer of power to the Persian Empire, but the Persians did things a little differently, and God was working in the Persian ruler’s heart to send the people back to their homeland.
And not only that, not just sending them back, but they’re going to foot the bill to accomplish one of the key purposes God was sending them back for. He sent them back; one specific thing was to rebuild the temple. And rebuilding the temple was important, because this is where they met with God, where God’s presence resided, and this was a big identifier for them as a people of God to have the temple rebuilt. The Babylonians, when they took over, came in and ransacked it, burned it. It was in shambles, but they were sent back, these Israelites coming back from exile, to rebuild it. And, they did a really good job the first two years; the first two years they laid the foundation. But in the first two years, the surrounding minority groups were kind of jealous of the Hebrews, of the Israelites, and they didn’t want them working on those projects because they knew that the temple represented that they were doing better. And, they were going to get more powerful; they didn’t want that, so they really started to oppress them and cause trouble.
So, eventually, the Israelites said we are going to put a stop to this; we’re going to stop this project. Have you ever gotten on a project and then kind of lost some steam? The wind is kind of out of your sails; it was harder than you thought, and you just kind of quit. You don’t want to bring it up; it’s sort of an eye sore. You just kind of let that...it’s...maybe it’s in the backyard somewhere where...it’s out of sight, and you don’t want to see it. It’s just an eye sore. Here’s a couple of pictures of some buildings that were left abandoned. Now, these are not the buildings of the Jewish temple, but you can imagine, just looking through some of these pictures where weeds have grown up because they started the first two years, but it’s been 14 years since then. And, they haven’t paid the landlord to do the lawn work, and it’s just kind of left in shambles. It’s a mixture of a remodel; it was torn down so there’s stuff there. There’s ruins, and yet they also have to rebuild, so it’s sort of a mess. You don’t really want to bring it up; it’s sort of a sore spot, and you just don’t want to bring it up.
So, the Israelites just didn’t think it was the right time to build again, and they hadn’t thought it was the right timing for the last 14 years. So you can see, that’s a bit of an excuse over and over again. It’s just not the right timing. They had actually gotten sidetracked, and God is going to challenge them on this. And he says, “Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Consider your ways…’” Consider your ways; what’s going on? They are brought back for a purpose, and they got sidetracked. What I want us to do this morning for ourselves is I want us to consider some of our ways. Why did I come to Hope Church? I want you to ask yourself that. Why did you come to Hope Church?
You may have come here for the first time 30 years ago; you may have come to Hope Church for the first time 15 years ago, or maybe today is your first day here. Why did you come? Maybe a friend or a family invited you. You said “yes” for a reason, and we all have all kinds of reasons of why we would come to the places that we come. For my wife and I, we had a ministry background, a church background. We had some experiences overseas, and we were, we had a question about how to do church life in a healthy way that would impact generations beyond us wherever we landed. And, that was sort of our purpose in coming here because we had been impacted by different people; we’d heard really good things, so we showed up at Hope Church for the first time. And, that was sort of our purpose for coming to Hope Church.
But you may have come for a very different reason; your marriage might have been in trouble, and you were like, “Man, I’ve got to solve this thing, and I hear that God has something for me on it. I need to get back in church.” Or, we started having kids, “Happy Father’s Day!” You know, as a dad, it’s not always easy, and man, I need some help with my kids so that my wife doesn’t go crazy and hate me for the rest of my life. What do I do with these kids? Maybe the church has an answer; maybe that’s my purpose, or maybe you’re just trying to figure out purpose in life in general. You’re going, “What is my purpose?” The thing is that sometimes, I want us to consider this question, because sometimes when God brings us to a place for a specific purpose, if it’s not solved in a 30-minute episode we can kind of get sidetracked. There’s other things that take over. Sometimes for my wife and I, the way we said it was we were looking for a healthy church DNA that we can reproduce, and that’s a purpose that doesn’t really expire on us very easily. It’s kind of complicated; it’s kind of big. It’s going to take us the rest of our lives, but we can get sidetracked even in that.
Even in ministry purposes we can get sidetracked. Because it’s big, it’s not easily solved in just a couple of minutes. What’s the reason God brought you here, and have you gotten sidetracked for that purpose? Maybe you finally got into church, and you’re like, “Well, I thought if we just showed up things would be fixed.” And, God wants more for you; he wants to help you. You need to put some pedal to the metal and get some traction with some of those things that God’s called you here for. But what’s the purpose God has brought you here in this place, and have we gotten sidetracked? Maybe we just need to sit and think and ask God, “Why? Why here? Why now? What’s the purpose that you brought me here for?”
Maybe that’s a question that you’re still trying to find the answer to. Maybe you’re not sure why you’re here; you’ve just got this sense that you’re supposed to be here. There are people who have been walking with God for a long time, here, who have helped me out, and we want to help others out discover and experience who God is and his purpose for your life. We want to help you with that, so this is a good place if you’re not really sure why God brought you here. We want to help.
The book of Haggai also tells of how misplaced priorities are remembered. The prophet points out to the people what their priorities have been and how it’s working out for them. This is what he says, “You have sown much and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough. You drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm and he who earns wages does so to put them in a bag with holes.” It goes on to say, “‘You looked for much and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why?’ declares the Lord of Hosts,’ because my house is in ruins while each of you busies himself with his own house.’”
Now, it actually says in the book of Haggai that they had built paneled, wood houses, and in that time and in that place, that was actually like custom-home nice. So they had been...they weren’t totally destitute, but they couldn’t really get ahead. They planted crops, and God blew them away. They put money into purses with just holes in them, and it was hard to get ahead. And yet, they were still somehow able to build some nice houses, and sometimes, do we feel like we can’t get ahead? We just can’t seem to get ahead with our goals. Actually, what the prophet, Haggai, was saying was of no surprise or should have been no surprise. Often the prophets just reminded people of what God had said he was going to do. In fact, about 900 years before, Moses warned the people of God that if you get off track, these things, these types of things will happen. The harvest will not come in; things will not work out, and he warned them 900 years ago. And, here it is happening again.
So God was faithful to his Word, even when it hurt, but he wasn’t leaving them totally destitute. But, have you ever felt like you couldn’t get ahead? That’s actually something that really we feel that pinch right here in our own metroplex. I ran across an article recently that said that Dallas-Fort Worth millennials are saddled with some of the highest debt in the U.S., says one report. Now, we don’t have the highest standard of living; I mean, you’ve got places like New York and L.A., but some of our folks are saddled with some of the highest debt. It’s usually and said it was comprised mostly of auto loans, student loans, and credit cards. I guess, maybe they have more debt than the guys in New York, because we don’t take the subway as much. We drive our own cars, the car loans, the auto loans, but we feel that pinch, especially in our own metroplex. In Texas, other big cities--San Antonio, Houston, and Austin--they all have that; we kind of hold some records for carrying debt. And when you carry debt, man, it’s hard to feel like you’re getting ahead.
Now in Haggai’s context, he knew exactly what was going on. The people had neglected God’s priorities, and it wasn’t wrong for them to plant crops and provide for their families. However, their priorities had gotten out of order. You see, when you put God’s priorities last, they usually never get done. It’s easy to forget, because our own priorities can be so time and resource consuming. I own a house, and if I’m not careful, that house can own me. I’ve been told that it’s great; the best thing to do is to not have a boat, but have a friend who has a boat because those things can own you. These things just own us at times. There’s always something to fix; I’m in the middle of a project right now. There’s always something to fix. It’s not perfect, but it is livable. That’s why I moved in because we could live there. We could actually live there, and so many times, though, our priorities can, if we let those take first place, they can outstrip anything else that God would have in mind for us. And, God’s not in need of our resources; in fact, he’s the Great Provider, but he wants our hearts to be wrapped around things that really bring us true life and true joy. He’s a Good Father; he wants good things for us, but he knows often we wrap our hearts around things that don’t give us full life and full joy. So, he brings us back around. He gets our attention, and he wants us to consider our ways. He blows some of our efforts away to get our attention.
I could spend all my effort fixing up my house or fixing up my truck, and I can’t take it with me when I die. It doesn’t last forever. I need to adequately house my family; I need good transportation. When you’ve got nine kids, you’ve got to cart them around somehow, and God understands those are the things I need. But, I’ve got to get my priorities in the right order; we call this priorities sorting or values sorting. We have to sort; we have to look at what’s the most important thing, and am I allocating my time, my energy, my resources to getting those most important things done first? An example of this is when we just welcomed baby number nine into our house, and as a dad, if you’ve had a baby recently, you go to the hospital, and you’ve got to have that car seat. If they’re going to let you take the kid home, they want to know the kid’s safe in a car seat. And, we had lots of things going on leading up to that. I had the car seat; I had that priority down, but many of you were praying. My wife had experienced some major health risk issues with this pregnancy that kind of surprised the doctors because we had had a lot of successful pregnancies.This one, something new popped up, and it was life-threatening.
So, our minds and our priorities were re-shuffled, and we were thinking through those things, but everything turned out well. And, we got to take the baby home, and we got the car seat. We get home, and then there’s a dad-fail. I got my priorities out of order. We get the baby home, and I forgot to set up the baby’s bed. She didn’t have a place to sleep, but don’t worry. I re-sorted my priorities very quickly, dropped what I was doing, and go, “Oh, yes, she needs a place to sleep.” So, we got that figured out, but sometimes we have to re-sort our priorities because they get out of order. And, the most important things don’t get done, and so, we have to go back and go, “We have to get the most important things done first.” Yeah, there’s still projects to do, but the greater priorities have been taken care of.
Jesus reminds us of this when He says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” When He’s talking about all these things, He’s talking about, He’s talking to a group of people, and He’s bringing up things like things you’ve got to eat, things you’ve got to wear, where are you going to live. It’s really interesting, because way, way back 1,400 years before, Moses’ people were worried about--Where are we going live? What are we going to eat? What are we going to wear? And then, we get to 520 B.C. in Haggai’s time, and they’re worried about--What are we going to eat? Where are we going to live? What are we going to wear?
Then, Jesus, first century--What are we going to eat? What are we going to wear? Where are we going to live? Today, we have those same issues. There’s not a whole lot of new problems here; it may look a little different, but God knows these things. He says, “If you seek first the kingdom of God and its righteousness, all these things will be added unto you.” He knows what we need; he knows what we want, and he knows the difference even when we don’t always. But, he’s going to take care of us. He’s a good Heavenly Father.
And so, there’s a happy moment in the book of Haggai. During this time, a lot of prophets, when you read them, are kind of doom and gloom, but Haggai, his name kind of is related to this concept of festival. So, he’s like the party prophet.Party on, Dude! He’s a happy guy, and there’s a happy moment that we read in this first chapter. It says in verse 12, “Then Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, and Joshua, the son of Jozadak, the high priest…” So, the political leader and the religious leader, “...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 feared the Lord.” And, this is a happy moment, because they had obeyed. Now, what we’re going to find out is that because they obey, God’s going to say, “I am with you!” And not only that, he really (once they decide to obey and begin to act on rebuilding it)...he kind of stirs up their spirits and gives them that extra wind in their sails to get it done. But they first obeyed, and they acted, and then, God began to give them that extra push and really helped them.
So this is an encouraging moment that they obeyed God, and they feared him. Sometimes, we know the good we ought to do, but we just really don’t want to do it. We don’t feel like it; it’s not the right time, and yet, if we would step back and understand that this is what the Lord has said, we need to do it even if we feel like it. We begin to act, and God can come along and really help us accomplish that even more. So this is a happy moment; the first part of the chapter, they were kind of saying, “Consider your ways. You kind of got off-track here. I brought you back to rebuild a temple, and you’re not doing it.” And 23 days later, only a couple of verses later, we see them beginning to obey and to act, and this is good news. And as we see this, we want to consider their example. We need to ask ourselves, “What priorities do I need to re-sort? Are there priorities that I need to re-sort? Maybe I haven’t completely left God off my radar, but maybe I’ve let something else consume my resources before I invest in God’s priorities.
Often our problem isn’t that we don’t love God; it’s just that we love something more, and it gets in the way. Maybe I need to re-sort my time commitments; maybe I need to re-shuffle and reconsider my daily routine, so that I’ve built in time to really spend getting to know God and reading His Word. Maybe he wants me to invest in his people and his work? Maybe I need to re-sort my financial commitments, so I can give in a God-honoring way? He asks, in the Bible, He talks about giving first fruits. That’s before the bills come in, and it’s this idea that we’re honoring God with our first fruits, not just the leftovers. Because often, there’s not a whole lot leftover once the bills come in. So, maybe we need to re-sort that?
Maybe we need to re-sort the use of our abilities; maybe before we go on and develop our personal hobby we need to stop and go, “Is there an ability I have that I can help develop God’s people? Are there priorities that I need to re-sort? Again, Haggai helps the people see beyond their current circumstances and helps us. And we see in this story, that there’s misplaced expectations that are realigned--misplaced expectations that are realigned.
And, what happens is they begin to build, and in chapter two, actually a couple months go by. Just a few verses later, but it’s actually months in actual time, and they’re getting close to the end of the project. It’s not quite what they thought; it’s like, “Move that truck!” And then, it’s like, “Wah, Wah, Wahhhh…” It wasn’t...you kind of look at it, and it’s like “meh.” It’s just not, it’s just not there. This is what it says; it says, “Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes?” See, some of them are old enough, they were young enough when they went into exile, and they had survived that; and they came back. They had seen Solomon’s temple; Solomon’s temple was beautiful. It was laden with gold; it was precious. There was just amazing things; it was the original. It was beautiful. This was nothing like that. This just kind of paled in comparison, and their expectations of all this hard work, I mean, God made such a big deal about it that he wanted us to get after it. And, now we’re getting close to completion, and it just doesn’t seem like it’s that big of a deal. And, sometimes our expectations are something that are misplaced.
I ran across this article on HGTV; they had a series on dream homes.Here’s a picture of one of them. This is the 2005 Dream Home over in Tyler, Texas, but this article covered 2005 to 2014. It talked about all these dream homes, and it gave you the rest of the story. So, they built these dream homes, and then somebody, some lucky winner, won the dream home. But what the rest of the story was was that many of those who won couldn’t afford to keep them. The guy who won this home was actually from Indiana or maybe it was Iowa; it was somewhere up there. He actually said I’m going to try to make a go at this, and he moved to Texas to actually try to live in this house. Whether it was reality or realty, I’m not sure which; one of those caught up to him, and he could not afford to keep it. They say the grass is greener on the other side, you just wouldn’t want to pay the water bill, and that is kind of what happened with this guy. He couldn’t do the monthly upkeep; he couldn’t afford to pay for the homeowner’s insurance, the property taxes. And, eventually this dream home went into foreclosure, and I’m sure that when he heard the announcement that he’d won this great prize, he never expected that it would go into foreclosure.
And, that’s kind of what’s happening with the people of Israel is that they had these great expectations, and it’s not turning out like they thought. They’re almost done rebuilding it, and it’s just not what they imagined. It’s not as good as what they either remember or what they heard Grandma and Grandpa talk about how great Solomon’s temple was. So, they’re kind of disappointed; it’s just not everything it was cracked up to be. But, you know, even Solomon’s temple was just a shadow of what God was aiming for and what he was pointing people to. Solomon’s temple was not the standard that God was giving people. This is what the Lord says when he speaks to the folks when they are like this is not what we expected. Here’s what he says, “Yet now, be strong, O Zerubbabel,’ declares the Lord. ‘Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jozadak, the high priest. Be strong all you people of the land,’ declares the Lord. ‘Work, for I am with you,’ declares the Lord of Hosts. ‘According to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My spirit remains in your midst; fear not.” Then it goes on further to say, “‘And I will shake all nations so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord of Hosts.” And what they didn’t know, but what we know, if we’re on this side of history and we’ve read the New Testament--we know this is talking about Jesus Christ. He is the desire of all nations; He’s worth more than all the riches of the nations, and God talks about in the New Testament through Jesus and the New Testament writers that actually those of us who follow God, our bodies are the temple of God. His presence is going to reside among us, those who follow Him. It’s not going to be limited to this geographic location and this man-made building, and yet His presence is with us as we walk with Him. And, this is amazing; this is more beautiful than Solomon’s temple. And God is preparing his people for this coming of the Promised Messiah. In fact, he says a little bit later in that same passage, he says, “The latter glory of this house…” talking about Solomon’s temple… “...shall be greater…” Excuse me, the latter glory is future; I’ve got to get my old English right. “‘The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former,’ says the Lord of Hosts. ‘And in this place I will give peace,’ declares the Lord of Hosts.”
He’s telling them, you know, what you remember is not my final destination, and what you’re experiencing right now, even that is not it. There’s going to be something even greater. And you know, Jesus actually, He often tried to get people to understand that. He says this; He says, “Sell your possessions. Give to the needy. Provide yourselves with money bags that do not grow old, with the treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” At the beginning, Haggai is talking about these folks putting their money in purses with holes in them, and now Jesus is telling us to trade in those kind of money bags and trade it in for money bags that are very secure...more secure than the FDIC, more secure than any bank vault. He’s preparing us for something more.
So, the question I want us to ask ourselves for each of us is “Where do I place my hope?” Where do I place my hope? Do we place our hope in the things that we can see? Often they don’t quite fill the hole in our soul. It’s nice to get new stuff. It’s nice and shiny for awhile, and it’s enjoyable. But over time, it kind of loses the luster of the new. Or, if you’ve ever gotten kind of a raise, and it’s “Wow! I got a raise and new standard of living!” And then after a while, you kind of get used to that, and you would appreciate a little bit more. It doesn’t matter what your socio-economic standard is, we could always use a little bit more because we get accustomed to things. What do we place our hope in?
Haggai is saying that even when our works, our sense of accomplishment comes up short because it doesn’t reflect the good old days that we were told about or we remember. Or, it’s not what we imagined the results would be with all of our hard effort, but he’s telling us that God has something more in store. He has a wow beyond the now that we need to be looking towards, so where do we place our hope? Where do I place my hope? Is it in my home and my stuff. I mean, I could even be on the more noble side and say, “Is it in my family? Is it in my relationships?” Is it in my accomplishments for the kingdom? Actually, the prophet reminds me to place my hope in God, the treasure of all nations. He’s going to shake this place and fill it with the treasure, the desire of all nations.
I’m a pastor, but I don’t even place my hope in church. Now, it’s a high priority, and I believe I need to be connected and plugged in, and it’s a big purpose for my life. I know God wants us to build each other up, to invite others to discover and experience Him; it’s a huge priority, but I also know it’s not everything that God has in store. Because no matter what church I’m a part of, there’s cracks in it. We’re imperfect; my mom used to say, you know, “Benjamin, when you go looking for a church, you’re not going to find a perfect one. And if you do, don’t join it because you’ll screw it up!” She was really good with self-esteem and her kids, but the reality is that we’re not going to get complete perfection. But, we’re starting off really good when we walk with God and we walk with each other and we build one another up. This is how God intended it. This is the beginning...the beginning; the kingdom is at hand. He has good things in store for us, but my hope is in God.
Hope Church as a people helps me realign my sights to the One, True Hope of Jesus Christ that’s worth more than all the treasures of the world. It’s beyond anything I can fully imagine; I can imagine some of it, but still it’s beyond. It’s a wow beyond the now. So, I’m going to have the band come up now, and as they come up, we’re going to pray, and we’re going to sing some songs to the Lord in response the things we have talked about today. But as they get set up, I want you to look back over your listening guide, and take some time today to look at those questions and to answer those questions for yourself. Not for me, but for you...these questions--Why did I first come to Hope? What’s my purpose in being a part of this people? Are there priorities that I need to re-sort? What do I put my hope in?
These are the kinds of questions that are very life-guiding for you, and the summer’s a great time where our schedules are a little different and we’re re-sorting anyway. We’re thinking through how we’re going to spend the summer and what’s the next 12 months look like; this is a great time to re-evaluate, and I want to encourage you to take time today to look through those questions and answer them for yourself. And, then ask God how you can be lined up with what he intends. Let’s pray. Lord, we thank you so much that you are going to shake the heavens and the earth and that you bring us the treasure, the desire of all nations, Jesus Christ, to be in our midst, that you desire good things for your children, that you want to give us full life and joy, and you don’t want us to be robbed of imitation. And so, we thank you for that, but sometimes, Father, it’s hard. We get our priorities out of order. We get our hope misaligned, and we’re asking today, Father, to see clearly, to have good vision for what you intend for our lives. Help us to discover your true intent and purposes and help us to invite others to experience that, as well. As we sing today these songs, we pray that you would be honored, that you would be glorified, and that you’d help us understand how to take our next steps with you, that you’d give us the courage to take those steps. We pray these things in Jesus Christ’s name. Amen.