“What the Kingdom Values vs. What the World Values” Matthew 16:24-28
Let my cry come before you, O LORD; give me understanding according to your word!
Let my plea come before you; deliver me according to your word!
Father, most gracious, most glorious God of heaven and earth, we seek your presence and ask for your assistance this and each day to do your will. Grant, gracious God, that we would be comforted within your loving watch-care and restored from our sinful depth into your kind and generous light. We know that to know you is the most blessed kindness of life and you are known in your word. May we be ever-mindful to read, study, mark and inwardly digest your word this day and every day that follows. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 The Importance of Daily Sustaining Grace
4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
We’re taking a break from Haggai today to focus our attention on how important it is to have practice the daily habit of feeding our souls. Deuteronomy 6:4 is called the “Shema” because in Hebrew it begins, “Shema Israel Yahweh elohenu Yahweh ahad.” Shema comes from the first word in the verse—it means “hear”. The Israelites were to practice the habit of “hearing”
God’s truths, one of which is who God is. He is one. Of course, in the New Testament, it is revealed that God is one but He is also three. It’s as correct to say that God is one in three as it is to say He is three in one. God is a Trinity, three persons who make up the God-head.
From our passage today, the Israelites also knew God by His character revealed through his law. Here in Dt. 6:5 we are told to love God with all of who we are, at the heart of this command as with all of God’s commands is His character. God commands His people to imitate Him, because His way is perfect, His character isn’t self-serving, it’s creation providing (Ps. 104)!
Then the Israelites were told to teach God’s laws, God’s covenant, to their children. Have God’s word written on the doorposts, so that when they leave the house they read them. We cannot be God’s people without His word! This week and in the weeks to follow where it seems likely we won’t be able to congregate together as a body of Christ, it is so important for us all to maintain these disciplines, to feed our souls with the Word of God. Jesus said we have to eat his body and drink his blood, He wasn’t referring to the Lord’s Supper in John 6, He was talking about receiving Him in faith. Making Him a part of us, so that He grows within us to change us into sanctified sinners!
Jesus is at work restoring the image of God in His people now. The Dutch theologian, looking at you Marshall! Herman Bavinck wrote, Man “is a creature who, right from the beginning was created after God’s image and likeness, and this Divine origin and Divine kinship he can never erase or destroy. Even though he has, because of sin, lost the glorious attributes of knowledge, righteousness, and holiness which lay contained in that image of God, nevertheless there are still present in him ‘small remains’ of the endowments granted him at creation; and these are enough not merely to constitute him guilty but also to testify of his former grandeur and to remind him continually of his Divine calling and heavenly destiny.”
God’s image in us reminding us of God’s grandeur and grace in imparting it to us in a small degree is why some days when you pray, when you read, when you meditate on God’s word is so, so special. God’s presence, God’s sweet communion with you, and your family, reminds you all of your Divine origin and Divine kinship, because you are made in His image. Feed that daily.
May the Lord bless you and keep you;
May the Lord make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
May the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace. Amen.
“Permit us not, O Lord, to hear your word in vain. Convince us of its truth, cause us to feel its power and bind us to yourself with cords of faith and hope and love that never shall be broken. We bind to ourselves today, you our God: your power to hold us, your hand to guide us, your eye to watch us, your ear to hear us, your wisdom to teach us, your word to give us speech, your presence to defend us, this day and every day; in the name of the blessed Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to whom be the kingdom, and the power and the glory, forever and forever. Amen. ” – Patrick1
Haggai 2:10-19 Turning to God
10 On the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet, 11 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Ask the priests about the law: 12 ‘If someone carries holy meat in the fold of his garment and touches with his fold bread or stew or wine or oil or any kind of food, does it become holy?’ ” The priests answered and said, “No.” 13 Then Haggai said, “If someone who is unclean by contact with a dead body touches any of these, does it become unclean?” The priests answered and said, “It does become unclean.” 14 Then Haggai answered and said, “So is it with this people, and with this nation before me, declares the Lord, and so with every work of their hands. And what they offer there is unclean. 15 Now then, consider from this day onward. Before stone was placed upon stone in the temple of the Lord, 16 how did you fare? When one came to a heap of twenty measures, there were but ten. When one came to the wine vat to draw fifty measures, there were but twenty. 17 I struck you and all the products of your toil with blight and with mildew and with hail, yet you did not turn to me, declares the Lord. 18 Consider from this day onward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month. Since the day that the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid, consider: 19 Is the seed yet in the barn? Indeed, the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have yielded nothing. But from this day on I will bless you.”
What is the point of suffering? If God is good why are there bad things happening in His world? Is He not in control? Can God only cause the nice things to happen, but the evil of life is out of His control?
There are times when acknowledging God’s sovereignty makes our theology difficult. It’s usually times of great trial and suffering. Like being locked up in your house for two weeks because of COVID-19. It’s nothing nearly as bad as the Indonesian Tsunami of 2007, or the Haitian earthquake of 2010 in some ways. But in its widespread effect across the globe, it’s much worse.
My systematic theology professor, Derek Thomas, once noted that God’s providence is typically seen as the supplier of good things. Even in our Reformed and Presbyterian circles. When something good happens, we attribute it to God’s kind providence, but when we park on a hill and the car door slams shut on our fingers, well that’s not providence. It’s my stupidity.
The Westminster Confession acknowledges both truths. The car door slamming shut on my hand is both God’s providence and my stupid forgetfulness of the law of gravity. God ordains each result in life as well as the secondary means that accomplish this result (i.e. gravity).
These verses in Haggai 2 reflect one of those hard teachings of the Bible, that bad things happen because our good God causes them. The purpose for difficult times can be varied in their specific applications, but one thing is always true. Look at v. 17, God explains, “I struck you…yet you did not turn to me”. Israel didn’t honor God, they honored themselves leaving His house in shambles while living in their paneled houses. But then God called them back with the words of Haggai, and now God promises to bless them.
Not that God striking them was the absence of blessing, no it was evidence of his love. God strikes the son He loves to reprove him and bring him back. Our current state of affairs with COVID-19 isn’t due to anyone’s particular sin, but it is, like all calamities given by God for a purpose. Ultimately to turn our attention to Him.
Our quarantine reminds us of reality in many ways, I’ll name a few.
First, it reminds us of our inability and dependence on God. Our nation has been brought to a standstill by a microscopic organism that isn’t technically alive (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/are-viruses-alive-2004/; https://www.khanacademy.org/test-prep/mcat/cells/viruses/a/are-viruses-dead-or-alive).
Second, in it we see God’s power and ability. He orders everything and all things serve his command. This is a foretaste of the judgment that believers are spared, it should be a call to spread the gospel and treasure the gospel even more. M’Cheyne said, “the trials and sufferings of this life are all the hell the believer will have to endure”.
Finally, this too will pass or the end of it will be even better than we could ever imagine! What a thought! Think about all the catastrophes of history—none of them have been the end of the world. Think about what the Church has endured, horrific persecution early on, God used it to spread the gospel and strengthen Jesus’ bride, not to destroy her. Romans 5:1-5, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
And if it is the end of the world (I truly don’t think it is, but would love to be proven wrong), then Jesus is mounting His return as we speak! Which means we should be at work in faith, hope, and love for Jesus, His bride, and even His world—like the five wise virgins from Matthew 25:1-13.
Rest in the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus and in the sure hope of his return today and forever,
1Oden, T. C., & Crosby, C. (Eds.). (2007). Ancient Christian Devotional: A Year of Weekly Readings: Lectionary Cycle A (p. 86). Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books. Patrick, here, is likely St. Patrick of Ireland though this particular book doesn’t specify.
“Fighting the Daily Fight” by Robert Parker1
Dear God, it is so hard for us to fight against ourselves. It is very difficult to overcome an enemy that lies so close and hidden within us as our flesh does. And unless you arm me with divine power, I am in great danger of yielding to this treacherous foe.
Help me to die to myself daily, I beg you. Do not let me be eternally separated by the attractions of the flesh from the life that is in Christ my Savior.
Preserve me this day in your fear and favor, and in the end bring me to your everlasting kingdom, through Jesus Christ. Amen.
Haggai 2:6-9—the Glory of the Temple
6 For thus says the Lord of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. 7 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. 8 The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts. 9 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.’ ”
When God says that He will shake the heavens and the earth, this was typical language concerning theophanies (appearances [phany] of God [theos]). It’s similar to what Moses and Israel saw at Mount Sinai when the fire of God descended on the mountain though everything else was covered in a thick cloud of darkness. And the earth shook at what must have felt like God’s very footsteps as He stooped to earth and met His people. God is promising something big here.
Heavens and earth will shake. The sea and the dry land will quake as God shakes creation removing the treasures of the earth’s kingdoms bringing them into his temple. In the Ancient Near East (ANE) the pagan gods were rulers over one of those realms. Worshippers of a sky god couldn’t count on that to help them in earthly matters, and vice versa. Gods of the dry land were no use when you were on the sea.
We see this truth vividly reflected in the runaway prophet, Jonah’s story. Jonah 1:7-10, “And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. Then they said to him, “Tell us on whose account this evil has come upon us. What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?” And he said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” Then the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, “What is this that you have done!” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them.”
Notice that the sailors were afraid before, but once Jonah said “I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land”, then they were exceedingly afraid! It’s commonplace for us to see God as omnipotent over all things, which is good we recognize God’s sovereignty but it should also help us to proceed each day in the fear and favor of God.
The reason God shakes out all the treasures of the earth to fill his temple is because of the preciousness of that temple. Remember again that Solomon’s temple was absolutely gorgeous and this temple was pretty unimpressive. Yet God says, “the latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, and in this place I will give peace.”
The Jews of Jesus’ day probably felt pretty secure they were in the partial fulfilment of this prophecy. Herod’s temple dwarfed Solomon’s temple, all they thought they were waiting for was the peace and prosperity God promised. The Sadducees thought it would come through the earthly rulers and aligned themselves with Rome, more or less. The Pharisees did not believe that, they believed peace could only come through deliverance from Rome. Both of them looked for God’s work with eyes of flesh.
God’s work of shaking the heavens and earth next was felt in a stable in Bethlehem Ephrathah when Jesus was born. God’s treasures of silver and gold are treasures of his love poured out on His people. One day the fulfillment will include all the treasures of the world, but for now we must be content with the greatest treasure of all: our Lord Jesus. In John 2 Jesus claimed that He was temple. He is the fulfillment of the OT prophecies concerning God’s dwelling place! Jesus is the latter glory of God revealed in human flesh, but there’s more than that. Because of his work, Jesus’ believers are now the temple of God by the unifying, indwelling, work of the Holy Spirit.
May the Lord shine his face upon you today and give you peace knowing the maker of Heaven and Earth has made you into His most treasured possession. Even now, as hard as it is to believe because of what our eyes of flesh see, God is shaking all the silver and gold of the earth into His temple-people.
In Jesus’ perfect work and covenant love,
1Piercing Heaven, a collection of Puritan Prayers. Robert Elmer, ed. Bellingham, WA: Lexham press, 2019. P.264. Robert Parker (c.1564–1614) was an English Puritan clergyman and scholar. He became minister of a separatist congregation in Holland where he died while in exile for his heterodoxy. The Revd. Cotton Mather wrote of Parker as “one of the greatest scholars in the English Nation, and in some sort the father of all Nonconformists of our day.”
“The Deeps” from The Valley of Vision. Ed. By Arthur Bennet. (Banner of Truth: Edinburgh, 1975), 134-135.
Give me a deeper repentance, a horror of sin, a dread of its approach;
Help me chastely to flee it, and jealously to resolve that my heart shall be thine alone.
Give me a deeper knowledge of thyself as Savior, Master, Lord, and King.
Give me deeper power in private prayer, more sweetness in they Word, more steadfast grip on its truth.
Plough deep in me, great Lord, heavenly Husbandman, that my being may be a tilled field, the roots of grace spreading far and wide, until thou alone art seen in me, thy beauty golden like summer harvest, thy fruitfulness as autumn plenty.
I am nothing but that thou makest me, I have nothing but that I receive from thee, I can be nothing but that grace adorns me.
Quarry me deep, dear Lord, and then fill me to overflowing with living water. Amen.
Haggai 2:1-5—Take Strength in God
2 1In the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet: 2 “Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to all the remnant of the people, and say, 3 ‘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? 4 Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, 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, 5 according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not.
On Monday we noted how good the Persians were at keeping records of the date (2nd year of Darius=520 BC), here in chapter 2 we see Haggai is keeping close records as well. It’s the seventh month on the twenty-first day of the month—to us that’s July 21st, but not so with ancient Israel. Their calendar began in mid-March (the month of Nisan lasted from mid-March through mid-April), so the seventh month was September/October (Tishri).
I know you don’t really care about the day or month Haggai was prophesying to the people of Israel, neither do I, but this date is significant. The 21st day of the seventh month, Tishri, was the last day of the feast of Tabernacles. This was also called the Feast of Booths. In this fest the Jews celebrated God’s provision in the wilderness as they journeyed toward the Promised Land. So, we see how Haggai’s prophesy at this moment corresponded very nicely with the feast Israel was celebrating.
At the feast of Tabernacles, the Jews built little Tabernacles/booths to live in temporarily commemorating their pilgrimage when they didn’t have a permanent home. It also commemorated that God’s home wasn’t permanent either—Yahweh traveled in a tent (The Tabernacle) with His people. So as Haggai came forward with God’s message on this day, it had very timely relevance. They were celebrating God’s presence being with them even in the wilderness, when they didn’t have a permanent home and God’s house was still mobile too.
This feast pointed forward to the day when the Temple would be built first by Solomon, fulfilling the requirement of Dt. 12:4-7 (You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way. But you shall seek the place that the Lord your God will choose out of all your tribes to put his name and make his habitation there. There you shall go, and there you shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, your vow offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock. And there you shall eat before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your households, in all that you undertake, in which the Lord your God has blessed you.). Wonderfully appropriate considering they are currently, in Haggai’s time, looking forward to finishing the Temple again.
But, there’s a problem. It’s the same problem we noted yesterday—v.3 “‘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?” They are caught in the tension between what theologians call “the already but not yet”. They’ve already experienced the greater redemption from Exile, greater even than the Exodus (Jer. 16:14-15). That’s HUGE!!
It’s even part of the Ten Commandments—Dt. 5:12,13,15 (Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. . . You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore, the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.). But now the saying will be Yahweh delivered Israel from the north countries (Babylon, Assyria, Persia). So, according to God’s word Israel is currently experiencing a greater redemption than they previously had. That’s the already.
But the problem is what they see in the temple. That’s the not yet. The foundation was a rinky-dink little structure that caused the old men who remembered Solomon’s temple to cry because it was so little (Ezra 3:12). God’s answer is “take courage, fear not”.
Does that mean God is telling us, “buck up little camper” or “keep a stiff upper lip” (read that in a British accent)? If that’s what he means, then we don’t really need God, do we? We can do it all by ourselves already!
That’s not what God means by take courage and fear not. Just look at how God says it, “Be strong, all you people of the land, declares Yahweh. Work, for I am with you, declares Yahweh Sabaoth (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.”
This statement is telling God’s people there’s something for us to do, the Christian life isn’t a spectator activity. Be strong—decide to follow, to rely, to seek God. Work—like doing your chores no matter your age, they need to get done, work. But the foundation of the commands is found in the essence of why God says, fear not.
Yahweh doesn’t say fear not because Israel is so great at doing what they should, nor are we. No, the reason we don’t need to fear is because God is a covenant making and covenant keeping God. We see this revealed in reminders and fulfillment here. First the reminder: “the covenant that I made when you came out of Egypt”. This isn’t any new agreement. God committed himself to His sinners much, much, before any of these people were born. You can rely on God because He’s never let us down! And fulfillment, he brought them out of Egypt under Moses. He’s brought them out of Exile under Shealtiel now. And God himself is with them, His Spirit is in their midst.
At the end of one of the angriest books in the Bible comes one of the sweetest truths of God’s love for his people: The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing (Zeph 3:17). Remember today God’s Spirit is in our midst and He quiets us by his love and exults over even us, as the least deserving disciples we are, he exults over us with singing! FEAR NOT your Father in heaven is keeping you in his plans and protecting you with his might! In that peace, we can work and be strong to His glory and for the good of His people, equipped by his covenant faithfulness.
“In Time of Suffering” a prayer by Robert Hawker1
Nothing can reconcile us to you better than to humbly and patiently learn obedience in the school of suffering.
We learn by knowing that Jesus, though you are the Son of God, in the eternity of your nature you were pleased in your human nature to learn obedience by the things which you suffered.
Come then, blessed Lord, in all your fullness. I desire only you. Surely you will come in deed and in truth and be the tree of life to my weary soul. Lord, show me your person, glory, grace, and love, and fill every portion of my heart.
As I wait for your coming, I pray that my view of your grace and sense of my unworthiness may melt my whole soul before you and your presence.
So, when my poor heart is afflicted, when Satan storms, or the world frowns, when I suffer sickness, or when all your waves and storms seem to go over me, what relief it is to know that you, Jesus, see me. And that you care!
So, help me, Lord, to look to you, and remember you. And oh! That blessed Scripture: “In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity, he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.” (Is. 63:9) Amen.
Haggai chapter 1—Immanuel, God with Us
The Command to Rebuild the Temple
1 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, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest: 2 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord.” 3 Then the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? 5 Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. 6 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 into a bag with holes.
7 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. 8 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. 9 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 of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house. 10 Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. 11 And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast, and on all their labors.”
The People Obey the Lord
12 Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, 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. 13 Then Haggai, the messenger of the Lord, spoke to the people with the Lord’s message, “I am with you, declares the Lord.” 14 And the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people. And they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God, 15 on the twenty-fourth day of the month, in the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king.
Yesterday, I said the people had forgotten God. It’s clear from verse 3 that’s what they did. After the jubilation of returning to the Promised Land, God’s people suffered great disappointment. The land of Israel wasn’t nearly as great as it used to be, and the temple itself, their pride and joy, the emblem pointing to their unique status as Yahweh’s chosen people was a disappointment too. So, for sixteen years they left it unfinished.
But then something truly remarkable happens when Haggai comes. They hear God’s word and obey! Just think about what you know about the Bible. God’s people aren’t the most responsive people to His word. We aren’t the most humble before Him. We aren’t the most ardent followers of our God. (Not that the World is, but they aren’t supposed to be.)
Haggai experiences great success because God is gracious to a people who continually turn away from their father in heaven. Even though they had been brought back from exile, they expected more when they returned. When God didn’t come through in the way they wanted, they basically found a way more suitable to them (Hagar method, anyone?). Their way involved shoring up their houses while leaving God’s house in ruins. Yet, God said, “I am with you”. Then the work He commanded them to do, the LORD equipped them to do, “And the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people. And they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God.”
As we enjoy the confines of our paneled houses for the next foreseeable future, let us pray with Robert Hawker that we should see the light of God’s grace clearly against the blackness of our sinfulness. May we understand more and more the person of our Lord Jesus who is Immanuel, and who we’ll see soon in Haggai that it is Jesus their temple was pointing to.
May the good shepherd of the sheep equip you today by his blood of the eternal covenant. In Jesus’ love and protection,
1Piercing Heaven, a collection of Puritan Prayers. Robert Elmer, ed. Bellingham, WA: Lexham press, 2019. P. 70-71. Robert Hawker (1753-1827) was originally a surgeon, but in later life trained to be and served as an Anglican priest. He is known for producing Poor Man’s Commentaries on the Whole Bible and Poor Man’s Morning and Evening Portions (Devotionals). Charles Spurgeon would tell his students, “if you want something full of marrow and fatness…buy Dr. Hawker’s Poor Man’s Commentary”.
“From One Degree of Faith to the Next” a Prayer by Philip Doddridge1
“Blessed God, I acknowledge before you my own weakness and insufficiency for anything that is spiritually good.
I have experienced it a thousand times, and yet my foolish heart would again trust itself and resolve to move ahead in its own weakness.
But let this be the firstfruits of your gracious influence: to bring it to a humble distrust of itself, and to rest in you.
I rejoice, O Lord, in your assurance that you are ready to shower me with rich benefits. So, because of your kind initiation, I boldly approach your throne, to find grace for help in every time of need.
I do not mean to turn your grace into a license for immorality or to make my weaknesses an excuse for negligence and laziness. You have already given me more strength than I have used.
I want to be found diligent in the use of everything you supply. If not, any petition like this one would probably provoke you to take away what I have, not impart more.
But as I firmly resolve to exert myself, I ask for your grace to fulfill that resolution.
Fill me with the right attitude toward you and my fellow creatures. Remind me always of your presence, and that every secret of my soul is open to you.
May I guard against the first sign of sin, and may Satan find no room for his evil suggestions. Fill my heart with your Holy Spirit, and take up your residence there.
Dwell in me, walk with me, and let my body be the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Take me from one degree of faith, love, zeal, and holiness, to the next, until I appear perfect before you through Jesus Christ my Lord. In him I have righteousness and strength. Amen.”
It’s Easy to Forget God—Haggai 1:1-2
I’m not a big devotional guy by nature. Or at least I used not to be, I would just read the Bible, verse by verse, book by book. We can never neglect the reading of God’s true, inspired Word—even for devotional literature—and expect to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus (2 Pt. 3:18). But over time I’ve found devotional reading to be some of the sweetest literature out there. I love to read prayers and devotional writings of the puritans; they combine theological precision and a yearning for to capture God’s heart in words. So, as I attempt to give us at Kiski a devotional that is my goal: to give accuracy mingled with heartfelt desire to know God intimately. We’re going to look at the book of Haggai in the next several days.
Haggai 1:1-2 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, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest: “Thus says the LORD of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord.”
Haggai is one of the post exilic prophets (the other two are Malachi and Zechariah; Ezra and Nehemiah describe the history associated with this period). He prophesied in 520 BC—and yes it was that precise because the Persians, whose king was Darius, were very good at record keeping!
In Ezra 3 it tells us that the temple’s foundation was laid, but here it is sixteen years later and nothing had been done. The foundation was still there, but the temple hadn’t been started. Yahweh (LORD in all caps in most English Bibles) spoke to the leaders of Israel, Zerubbabel and Joshua the High Priest, “these people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the LORD”. Further down in this chapter we’ll see that the people are living well for themselves, but they’ve left God’s house to lie in basic ruin.
They’ve forgotten God. When they built the foundation in Ezra 3, it says in v. 12, “But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid”. It lacked the grandeur of Solomon’s temple. The temple’s foundation wasn’t what they expected, they were disappointed, what they wanted the temple to look like had let them down. They were finally back to the Promised Land of Canaan, and this was just not how the temple should look. So, they forgot God and what God had done for them.
On a human level, it’s understandable, Jeremiah had come decades before this telling them the hard news that exile was coming. But in the midst of the curse of the exile, God promised deliverance greater than even the Exodus (kind of like the protoevanglium2 in Gen. 3:15), Jeremiah 16:14-15 14 “Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when it shall no longer be said, ‘As the Lord lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ 15 but ‘As the Lord lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he had driven them.’ For I will bring them back to their own land that I gave to their fathers.” (ESV)
Haggai’s mission was to remind the people about God and who God is. How true this is for me today and every day—God’s deliverance is something I love so deeply in my own life, but often I live as if God’s kindness is something owed to me. I take it for granted instead of seeking “to be found diligent in the use of everything God supplies”. We have a duty to honor God with all of our being and that’s part of what Haggai told Israel. But he also did it in a way that reminded them of God’s love and kindness.
In chapter 2:4 we read, “Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, 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.”
Trials are given to us so that we might remember where our strength is to be found—in him. Our situation now, with a pandemic that will cause economic distress for months at least, not to mention the physical and emotional turmoil, can’t be understood to the smallest detail, but we know this, it is meant to turn God’s people to the one who sustains his people.
Psalm 103:13-14, “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.”
May the Lord bless you and keep you today.
In Jesus’ lovingkindness,
1Piercing Heaven, a collection of Puritan Prayers. Robert Elmer, ed. Bellingham, WA: Lexham press, 2019. P. 64-65. Doddridge was an 18th century English Puritan serving in independent churches. His The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul was Patrick Henry’s favorite book.
2 Greek protos, “first,” euangelion, “gospel”; used as a title for the first Messianic promise in Gen. 3:15. This promise contains a prophecy of the coming of a great deliverer of fallen man, who would be born of a virgin (see Virgin Birth) and would utterly defeat the old serpent, Satan,* who had just procured the fall* of the human race. Dictionary of Theological Terms.