AS WE COME TO OUR PASSAGE TODAY, GOD’S PEOPLE ARE BACK ON MISSION BUT THEY ARE ALREADY DISCOURAGED.
Satan is good at what he does. So good, in fact, that discouragement has taken root and it’s only been a month since the work had resumed.
Unlike Joel which is incredibly difficult to date, because of the time markers that we have in the book of Haggai, we can determine with precision when events took place.
In the first chapter of Haggai, we found that they got back to work on the Temple on the 24th day of the 6th month
Now, look at Haggai 2:1 “On the twenty-first day of the seventh month, the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai”
About a month has passed and the people of God are already struggling with discouragement.
What discouraged them so quickly?
How do we go from the passion of getting back on Gods mission to needed another encouraging word from the Lord in order to stay on that mission so quickly?
IT COULD BE because they were discouraged due to the busyness of their lives outside of this work.
The 7th month (Tishri): One of the busiest times on the Jewish calendar!
In Ezra 3 we learn that the celebration feast had been reinstituted when the foundation of the Temple was rebuilt. During this month, there were three big events on the calendar to be held
- Feast of Trumpets (1st Day)
- Day Of Atonement (10th)
- Feast Of Tabernacles (15th – 22nd)
Maybe their discouragement was because of exhaustion due to this.
Maybe they were discouraged because of their perspective.
According to verse 1, the Lord is speaking to them on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles.
According to 1st Kings 8:2, exactly 430 years before, to the day, King Solomon dedicated the first Temple and all they saw was a foundation and how much work they had yet to do.
AOn top of that, the Lord speaks to them through Haggai on the last day of the feast of Tabernacles.
Throughout this 7-day celebration, to commemorate the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, the provision of God during that time and the Promise of a land flowing with milk and honey, their ancestors would live in tents constructed from palm trees and branches with beautiful fruit from the harvest decorating each one.
A Priest would lead a procession to a spring each day fill a pitcher with water and then travel back to the beautiful Temple to pour the water on the Altar to remember how God had provided water in the dry land for His people!
YET – according to what we read in chapter one last week, there was no fruit to decorate their tents and there was no Temple to go celebrate in
For these reasons and many more, the people are discouraged.
BUT GOD has a word for His despondent people.
Look with me at Haggai 2:2-3 “Speak to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, to the high priest Joshua son of Jehozadak, and to the remnant of the people: ‘Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Doesn’t it seem to you like nothing by comparison?”
The Lord asks three questions here and in doing so, helps His people to see the root causes of their discouragement. In doing so, I believe we see the three most common causes to our own discouragement as well.
1.Discouragement Comes From The Curse Of Comparison
Verse 3 “Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory?”
Haggai spoke some 7 decades after the temple was destroyed. Certainly, there were some old men who had seen Solomon’s temple in its splendor.
There were men and women, now long tin the tooth, that could remember what the Temple looked like. They remembered the beauty, size and scope. They remembered brilliance of the colored stones as the sun glistened against them in the heat of the day. They remembered the sights and sounds of all the people the people bustling around the complex and the praises to God being sung in it’s courts. They remembered that as children they would see people from far and wide who’d traveled all the way to their city to feast their eyes upon.
THIS TEMPLE was not going to be like that one. That was the reality before them.
When Solomon built the first temple, he spared no expense in materials and hired the best talent he could find to do the work. The temple to be rebuilt couldn’t match the majesty of that first temple.
They began to compare what once was to what now is…and they grew discouraged because of it.
Ezra tells us that this discouragement began taking place just after the foundation was rebuilt.
Last week, we read from Ezra 3 that after the last stone was put in place during the reconstruction of the foundation, the people responded with shouts and songs of praise!
BUT NOT EVERYONE JOINED IN ON THE WORSHIP
Ezra 3:12 “But many of the older priests, Levites, and family heads, who had seen the first temple, wept loudly when they saw the foundation of this temple”
Those who’d never seen Solomons Temple rejoiced when the mission of rebuilding the foundation was completed but those who’d seen it mourned.
The young were worshipping while the old wept.
They were stuck in what they had decided were the “Glory Days”, comparing what they saw God do in the past with what they didn’t perceive Him to be doing in the present and Kingdom work suffered as a consequence.
These kinds of comparisons between “the good old days” and the present-day – or between the work of God in various places and times – are rarely beneficial and are almost always a hindrance to the present-day mission that Gods has called us to.
Ecclesiastes 7:10 “Don’t say, “Why were the former days better than these? It is not wise of you to ask this”
Comparison leads to unhealthy tension between generations which brings about a sinful disposition toward one another.
If we’re not careful, the old begin to view the young dismissively, discounting what they are doing for the Kingdom and how they are doing it.
EVERY ERA, every generation has it’s strengths and it’s flaws.
When we remember the past as better than it was, we’ll see the present as worse than it is and grow discouraged.
WE honor and learn from the past BUT won’t make it an idol.
We remember what God has done yesterday and embrace what He is doing today so that we can be faithful in continuing the mission He’s called us to tomorrow.
2.Discouragement Comes From A Penchant For Critique
Look again at verse 2 “How does it look to you now?”
As the people looked at the unfinished temple, they stopped looking at what was and started focusing on what wasn’t. They couldn’t applaud the good because they were too busy shaking their fist at what wasn’t.
Having a critical spirit diminishes the positive and accentuates the negative.
It’s a JOY KILLER and there are few things that will discourage Gods people in the work He’s called them to more. Satan knows that.
We’ve all experienced the discouragement that sets in because of unfair criticism.
If we’re not careful and intentional about building and fostering a culture of encouragement and building each other up, the critics will win.
The best of Christianity is sometimes swallowed by the worst – few things will hinder Gods people from Gods mission like critique.
I challenge you to make it your mission to be a bridge builder, not a bridge burner.
Whether at home, work, school or church: I challenge you to root one another on. To champion one another. To cheer for one another. To celebrate what God is doing in and through one another. To encourage one another while it is still today. Our great commission work depends on it.
3.Discouragement Comes From Living In Hyperbole
Some folks are experts in overstating. That's happening here.
Look at end of verse 2 “Doesn’t it seem to you like nothing by comparison?”
The word “nothing” means non-existent.
The massive foundation that had been built through the hard work, blood, sweat, tears and faithfulness of people just 15 years prior was being seen as insignificant! All that had been accomplished was seen as nothing!
Earlier in this message I mentioned how the old run the risk of diminishing the work and methods of the young, discouraging them.
Here, I think it’s wise to mention that the young run the risk of diminishing the foundation of the church that was built by the faithfulness, sacrifice and commitment of the old.
There are seasoned saints sitting among us this morning who have spent much of their lives in service to King Jesus. Brothers and sisters who give faithfully and sacrificially to His causes.
There are dear older saints with grey hair, colored hair and no hair who have seen life at it’s worst and it’s best, who’ve experienced seasons of drought and seasons or harvest, who have known what it's like to weep and to rejoice.
There are brothers and sisters who know and love the Lord Jesus, worship Him in Spirit and in truth and are lifelong students of God's Word.
It’d be a tragedy for you to see them a relic of days gone by. It’d be a tragedy to write them off. It’s a tragedy to view their years of experience and of labor for the Lord through a hyperbolic lens, seeing it as nothing, as insignificant.
They are for you! Ask them to mentor you, to invest in you. Seek their counsel
Let’s read Gods Word to wrap things up
Haggai 2:4-5 “Even so, be strong, Zerubbabel—this is the Lord’s declaration. Be strong, Joshua son of Jehozadak, high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land—this is the Lord’s declaration. Work! For I am with you—the declaration of the Lord of Armies. This is the promise I made to you when you came out of Egypt, and my Spirit is present among you; don’t be afraid.’”
Here’s a word for the discouraged: BE STRONG, GET TO WORK, ABIDE, TRUST.: