I. From us to God
II. From God to us
Haggai 1:1-11 In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest: 2 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come for the Lord’s house to be built.’ ” 3 Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” 5 Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 6 You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” 7 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 8 Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the Lord. 9 “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house. 10 Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. 11 I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the oil and whatever the ground produces, on men and cattle, and on the labor of your hands.”
In the name of Jesus Christ, who has given careful thought to his ways and tells us to do the same, dear Christian friends,
“He was a good kid from a good family. How did he get hooked on heroin?” It just doesn’t make sense. “They just celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary. Why would they now get divorced?” It just doesn’t make sense. “He never smoked, but now he has lung cancer.” It just doesn’t make sense.
The younger we are, the more likely we are to think that there is a law of nature, a scientific breakthrough, or a Google search that will make everything make sense. The older and more experienced we become, we realize that there are plenty of times when life refuses to make sense!
Giving doesn’t make a bit of sense, either! Why would we want to give our hard-earned, much-deserved wealth to someone else? What have they done to warrant it? Or why would we want to give to God since he has everything already? Why would God want to give us anything at all since we disobey him every day? See! GIVING DOESN’T MAKE A BIT OF $ENSE! whether it is I. From us to God II. From God to us.
In 586 BC, God’s people in Judah had been taken away to captivity in Babylon. Jerusalem had been surrounded and attacked, their homes and the LORD’s Temple going up in smoke ending in a pile of rubble. Why the destruction, death and deportation for them? They were God’s people! To them, it just didn’t make sense.
When some of them returned to Jerusalem in 538 BC, they must have been thinking the same thing. The place was a ghost town, walls and gates of both city and Temple were broken down. It just doesn’t make sense.
To their credit, they rolled up their sleeves and got to work. The walls of the city were rebuilt and the altar was installed. Soon, they would dig deeper and lay the foundation for a brand-new Temple.
But you know how people are! They soon lost interest in rebuilding God’s house and put their attention on rebuilding their own. Now, that made sense, right? If they took care of themselves, they would be in better shape to take care of God’s house. If the Mrs. is happy, then everyone is happy, right?
But God knew his people and that they were uninterested in getting back to the rebuilding of his house. So he sent the prophet Haggai with this message: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the Lord. “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house. Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the oil and whatever the ground produces, on men and cattle, and on the labor of your hands.”
Do we ever think selfishly like the Jews of old? Any financial advisor worth his weight will teach you to “pay self first”, invest wisely and get more money. “Give money away”, get less money. That’s the way money works, right?
If I prioritize the work of the Lord with FIRST fruits giving, then that means that every other area of my life will suffer, doesn’t it? Humanly speaking, giving doesn’t make a bit a sense. It’s also true, that the default mode of our sinful nature is to keep stuff, store stuff, stockpile stuff, even hoard stuff—as we look out for the three most important people in our lives— me, myself and I. We call this “the good life”. God calls it greed. We call it “being sensible”. God calls it sin.
Did you notice in Haggai’s sermon how the Lord turned our eloquent excuses to “not give” upside down? You plant much, and harvest little... Eat and drink, but aren’t satisfied.... Clothed, but not warm... Money is placed into a purse with holes... Much, turns out to be little… Translation: the people had less, because they gave little.
Has your tradition of giving preached a sermon to others like that of the Jews of old? With your paneled houses and your procrastination in regard to God’s house and work, are you showing that giving to God FIRST doesn’t make a bit of sense?
The economy is strong. Employment is up— the highest in nearly 50 years. In the first half of 2018, it was reported video game sales were up 40%-- at that time $19.5 billion was being spent on those entertainment items. If your offerings have remained flat over the last two years, is that a sign that God does not hold first place in your heart?
Do you think that the people who gave generously to the rebuilding of the Temple in Haggai’s day went home and God let them freeze to death? After Haggai’s rebuke, why could the Israelites give so confidently to the Lord and his work? Because they believed in a God who gave himself completely for them!
God’s giving— that makes no sense! That’s why it’s called grace— undeserved love! It is why we describe it as amazing.
Jesus didn’t give 10% of himself for you. He was in it 110% for you and your salvation! What dedication to your salvation did it take for Jesus to leave streets of heavenly gold for the cow manure of Bethlehem’s barn? How much was Jesus willing to give up for us, not even having a house to call a home or a pillow to plop his head on! How full is Jesus’ sacrifice for your forgiveness as he goes all the way to the cross for you!
The One who willingly made himself nothing for you upon the cross is your everything. The One who said: “I thirst” is the one who washed you clean in the water of baptism! The One who cries out to his heavenly Father “Why have you forsaken me” is precisely the one who will never leave you or forsake you! The one who prays “Give us this day our daily bread” is the same one who opens his hands and satisfies the desires of every living thing, including you. That is the One we can trust to take care of all our needs!
Is your relationship with your Savior your life’s priority? Or is it just another one of life’s hobbies? How can you tell? Go home this week and spend a prayerful half an hour with your last bank statement and credit card report. Look at the numbers and see if you can spot any priorities they might point out to you. Numbers don’t lie.
Consider what you can change. Think about how you can increase the percentage you currently give to Jesus. Take the time to pray about what you discover.
I am confident the resources for us to do the Lord’s work are available. They might be tied up right now in unnecessary expenses. The question is not one of resources, but of our resolve.
Where is the LORD and his work on our list of personal priorities? Is he a FIRST
fruits priority? Or is he a leftovers hobby?
My prayer this morning is Haggai’s message opens your heart in a major way this week. You worship the ultimate Giver. God gave you his first— Jesus, the Firstborn over all creation. God gave you his best— his Son, in whom he is well-pleased.
Your God is faithful. Trust him. Bank on his promises. And then get busy—not building a new house for God—but filling up this current one!