Archives For Haggai

Why?

Chris —  September 12, 2015 — Leave a comment

In the context of life’s most difficult moments, we want to know “why?”

We might at as well ask to to pluck the planet Mars from the heavens between our thumb and forefinger and flatten it between our hands like a piece of Play-dough. We have neither the strength nor the wisdom to comprehend the reasons of the Universe.

Indeed, flattening Mars between our palms would be far easier than understanding all the reasons of life and history.

However, having acknowledged how little capacity we have for understanding the reasons of God in the universe, we should be quick to note that it is not as though we have no understanding in hard times. There is so much we do understand.

To begin with, love is real. There is truth in Queen Elizabeth’s words after 9/11 that grief is the price we pain for love. The depth of pain we feel when met with sudden loss reminds us of the reality of love. Grief hurts so much because love is so real.

Still more, amid loss, we understand more about the love of parents for children when we see their grief. Could any reasonable person explain the feelings of a mother for her child by merely saying that evolution organically programmed mothers to care for their young?

A parent’s love for his or her child also assures us that the present path on which we find ourselves is the only possible avenue forward towards redemption. Had there been any other option, God the Father would have pursued it rather than giving his only begotten Son (John 3:16). Sending a child to die is the last option any parent would choose.

No, we cannot pluck Mars out of the air like we are taking decorations off our Christmas tree. Nor can we understand why life can hurt so much. But we can be sure that love is real. And that the God who loves us so much that he gave His only Son is the one true God who can be trusted even though we cannot comprehensively understand why.

See also:

Reflections on the Road During Our Time of Grief

Amid Tragedy, Let’s Talk

The Danger of Cherry-Picking Only Praises from the Psalms

Incurable Cancer and the Problem of Good

The Real Problem of Evil

Ask, “How Long?” Instead of “Why?”

9 Reasons Tim Keller’s Book on Suffering is Superb

Andy Naselli’s interview of John Frame regarding the Problem of Evil

Men seek an understanding of suffering in cause and effect

Job: A Writer of Superb Genius Has Erected a Monumental Work

When Suffering Avoid “I Hate Thee” and “I Hate Me”

I have been immersed in the book of Haggai today – – and decided to take a break  by listening to someone else preach a sermon on Haggai. I “stumbled” across this sermon by John Piper which, as it turns out, is not an exposition of Haggai. It is, however, instructive for churches who are at various crossroads. It was preached at Bethlehem over 20 years ago and is worth a listen.

Listen here.

I am very excited to begin a new sermon series on Haggai this Sunday at the Red Brick Church. My gifted friend, Andrew Kischner, graciously served our church by writing the following introductory thoughts. If you are from our church family, this post will be a tremendous help in preparing for our sermon series in December.

A Brief Background & Overview of Haggai

Andrew Kischner

 The book of Haggai outlines the account, from a prophetic perspective, of how the temple that endured until Jesus’ day came into existence after the remnant of Israel returned from the Babylonian exile. “Lord of hosts,” used 11 times, connotes the controller of a vast army, but the Commander did not sound the retreat to stop building. The Lord of hosts speaks through Haggai the prophet four times over the course of 15 weeks calling the remnant to finish building the temple. For each sermon delivery, a precise date is given, which makes Haggai the most precisely recorded book in Scripture.

Prophecy 1

Haggai 1:1

29 August 520 BC

To Joshua, Zerubbabel

“Rebuke”

Prophecy 2

Haggai 2:1

17 October 520 BC

To Joshua, Zerubbabel, All

“Encouragement”

Prophecy 3

Haggai 2:10

18 December 520 BC

To All

“Blessing”

Prophecy 4

Haggai 2:20

18 December 520 BC

To Zerubbabel

“Promise”

For the genre to which Haggai belongs, Minor Prophecy, Haggai is an overwhelmingly positive book. It’s filled with hope, encouragement and covenant renewal. The people of God are actually responsive to God’s Word and the temple finds its completion through the ministry of Haggai, Joshua, Zerubbabel, and also Zechariah, who is not mentioned in Haggai.

But, before continuing any further, it’s important to make note of the broader historical scope and setting of Haggai. As noted above, Haggai is a prophetic account of how God’s people reconstructed the Temple. Ezra is the corresponding historical account of how God’s people came to rebuild the Temple. Haggai, then, can be understood as a parenthetical remark or memorandum on Ezra’s historical account. God’s call to rebuild His house through Haggai comes in the midst of a very specific historical progression outlined in the book of Ezra. The historical progression in Ezra 1 – 4 is as follows.

Cyrus king of Persia issues a decree to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem and offers a monetary grant for it; a remnant of 50,000 returns to Jerusalem and Judah as a result; they constructed the altar of the temple and began making offerings to the Lord; they constructed the foundation of the temple, which resulted in mixed response from the remnant – joy and discouragement; the remnant is met with opposition from the previous inhabitants of the land in the form of threats and bribes; the opposition party writes a deceitful letter of accusation about the remnant to the Artaxerxes king of Persia; Artaxerxes writes a return letter issuing a decree that the remnant cease rebuilding Jerusalem; upon delivering the king’s edict to the remnant “the work on the house of God that is in Jerusalem stopped, and it ceased until the second year of the reign of Darius of Persia” (Ezra 4:24). Enter, first words of Haggai, “In the second year of Darius the king…”

Haggai in relation to EzraEzra 5 – 6 provides a parallel account with the book of Haggai. We learn through these chapters that the remnant faced opposition when they resumed reconstruction on the temple, but eventually Darius the new king told the opposition party to keep away on the basis of his historical investigation of Cyrus’ decree. And, God providentially worked through Darius to provide additional materials and offerings for the temple from the hands of the opposition party.

If the historical account from Ezra did not provide enough complexity for the returning exiles, there were more issues for the remnant to work through. Imagine settling in a completely ravaged land and city that cried for restoration, all of society from top to bottom– agricultural production, buildings, etc. Add to that the reality that they were still firmly planted under the rule of the Persian Empire. Where was their long-awaited Davidic ruler to oust them from Persia’s grasp? Wasn’t the 70 years of exile over, why weren’t they experiencing the blessings of God? It’s as though they had brought exile with them. How were they to cope with the drought and solve widespread famine?

With all the complexity involved in rebuilding homes, agriculture and society, while facing opposition and discouragement, how would the remnant prioritize their projects? Which projects were categorized as urgent and which projects could they postpone? What work would they give themselves to with all the work to be done?

Haggai seeks to provide resolution in the midst of this background. Our church should consider our context as well, in the midst of this Christmas season and the combined complexity of our lives, and inquire into our priorities and desires. Though Haggai’s four sermons occurred over the course of fifteen weeks, Pastor Chris Brauns sermons will occur over the course of four.

The key verse for Haggai is “Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the Lord.” God says to the remnant, “Share My passion for My glory by finishing the Temple.”