Daily Devotional: Tuesday, Mar. 24, 2020

“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

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.” Then the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. 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. 

“Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. 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. 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.

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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, 

Pastor Matt

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”.

Daily Devotional: Mon, Mar. 23, 2020

“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,

Pastor Matt.

 

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.