Last week was ALP's "Spiritual Life Week" on campus. For 4 days, the high school had chapel and some other events. Of the 4 chapel days, I spoke 3 of them for a total of 9 preaching engagements ("talk" rather than "sermon" is the cook, relevant terms these days). I was mentally exhausted by the end of it, but God did some awesome things.
I did a series on the book of Haggai (pronounced Hagg-ai NOT Hagg-ee-ai). It was a tough message especially for teenagers. But God's Word is always powerful. For some background, Haggai was addressed to the post-exile Jews who returned to Jerusalem from Babylonian captivity. They found Jerusalem in shambles with the Solomonic Temple destroyed. After building the foundation for a new temple, the people left it for 18 years and built for themselves "paneled houses." The series went like this:
Serve God first and foremost (chpt. 1). The thrust of chpt 1 is to motivate the people to rebuild the temple. The people's avoidance of the temple communicated 2 major things: they did not care about worshiping God and they did not care about the presence of God. You see, the temple was the dwelling place of God, the house of God. God residing with Israel is in part what distinguished them from the nations (for the nations). It was also the ordained Old Covenant format of worship. No temple means no sacrifices and etc. They avoided God, and instead built their own houses and livelihoods.
Chapter 1 is a radical message that ministry to God come before everything: family, friends, comforts of life, and so on. So often, we put our own needs first, but God demands from his disciples first in everything. This was the primary thrust of Jesus call to followers-all or nothing. But he wasn't the first to preach a radical message. Haggai did the same.
Not only should God come before everything else, our service for him is more important than everything else. I am not convinced that the Bible says family is the first "institution" that should have our focus. I believe our focus should be solely and completely on Jesus. He is the one that requires everything of his followers, even our family and lives. This is the implication of Haggai.
Chpt. 2 addresses the 2nd problem, the presence of God, by reassuring the people that his presence would return. Imagine the situation. The temple of Solomon, so beautiful and magnificent, has been destroyed. This new temple is really no comparison in its majesty. Yet God reassures his people that the value of the temple is not how it looks but based on the One who dwells in it.
This was also significant since the concept of God's dwelling w/ his people is a constant theme throughout the Bible. When his glory left the temple as mentioned in Ezekiel, it was a big encouragement for God to say, "I am with you." The focus of believers should not be heaven or a place but rather the presence of God. Just as the Israelites understood that entering the promised land w/out the presence of God was not a good thing, Christians need to have a Christ-centered focus and not a heaven-centered focus. Heaven is after all a creation. To desire a creation over its creator is idolatry (cf. Phil. 3:7-9)
Ultimately, the new temple brought the elderly Jews who had seen Solomon's temple to tears (cf. Ezra 3), yet Haggai says that the glory of the 2nd temple was greater. I believe that this is progressively fulfilled in Jesus as the new temple who judges Herod's temple and points people to worship him rather than a place (big theme in John's gospel account), the church is expanded as the temple of God w/ the Spirit residing in us, and ultimately the New Jerusalem is one large temple where all the nations gather to glorify God as he promises to dwell with his people and be their God (beautiful covenant language and fulfillment in Rev. 21:3ff). This prophecy was a big encouragement to keep working no matter what the new temple looks like.
The last 3 verses of chpt 2 are very messianic. There is exodus language, and clearly Zerubbabel is a figure of Jesus. God, who takes his grandfather Jehoiachin off as a signet ring, re-establishes the Davidic line by making Zerubbabel his new signet ring. This New David would conquer the enemies and shake the world. This earth shaking event is described in exodus terms, bringing the thought of a New Exodus to mind. Redemption is provided by the New David, Jesus Christ. This is the final encouragement to the people, that there is a New David coming who will bring the people a New Exodus.
I praise the Lord for how he used this series. At least one child that I know of committed to follow Jesus. Other teachers told me how there perspective was refocused on Jesus. Praise the Lord for his grace!!!