There is no doubt that the world has changed, and the Church is changing. If you add Brexit and the current debate regarding UK and EU protocols regarding products coming to us, you will known that we are experiencing a shortage of several items in our supermarkets. Things are hard!
So, when we come to celebrate and give thanks for Harvest, we need to be so aware that the world has changed, we are changing with it, and therefore our service of Harvest will not be the same that it was 50, 40, 30, 20, 10, 5, even one year ago.
The very fact that this Church is running a Foodbank Ministry tells us of the change taking place.
We are so thankful to the Lord that he has provided, that the land he created still produces food, and we should be counted as blessed that we are living in this part of the world. But we need to remember that there are places on this earth where many brothers and sisters in the Lord have nothing and or very little to eat. Yet, they, too, remain faithful. I am not saying this to make us guilty, but we need to have a global awareness when celebrating our Harvest Sunday.
The book of Haggai is only two chapters long, yet the Word of the Lord comes to Prophet Haggai five times and says, “Thus says the Lord”. Within such a small book, we find Haggai speaking to leaders, priests, and community regarding the lack of care of God’s Temple and how his people should “consider their ways”. There is a strong link between the land, the fruit of the land, prosperity, and God’s Temple.
The Lord withheld his blessing because God’s place was in ruins. Yet, as the Word was heard, people’s hearts changed, and the Spirit of the Lord came upon them.
We in First want the Spirit of the Lord to come upon us, and we want God’s blessing, and we, like Haggai, are starting to rebuild after a long period of so much change that was forced upon us.
Harvest is not just a time to give thanks for God’s provision but also a time to reconnect with one another and with the Lord. To come back to him and worship him in his House. “Consider your ways” is a call to shift our priorities back to the Lord, acknowledging that the silver and the gold are his.
1st. The prophet’s voice
“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 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 panelled 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.” (Haggai 1:1–7 ESV)
The keywords here are “Consider your ways.”
I will not relate to you the historical context of this book, only that the prophet speaks to those who back from exile. Haggai is mentioned in the book of Ezra, and he is contemporary with Zechariah the Prophet.
The year is 520 BC, and the actual time is the first day of the sixth month: late August at the time of fruit harvest.
But before we get to the main message, we need to identify a couple of essential things to grasp.
The first is that the prophet Haggai speaks and receives the Word of the Lord. This is common in most prophets, but what makes him different is that the Hebrew understanding of him as a prophet is more pictorial. It means that the Lord speaks through the hand of the prophet! This means that the Word of the Lord given to the prophet was much more than a prophetic declaration or utterance, but actually, the Word became incarnate within the prophet. The Word was becoming flesh in the prophet!
Second, Haggai is speaking the words of the LORD OF HOSTS, the Lord of the Armies of Israel. So, therefore, what he is about to deliver are the very words of the Lord’s Armies, the Commander in Chief, the Supreme Leader. That is as strong, powerful description as God as get!
Third, the prophet addresses the civil leaders, the religious leaders, and the people.
• Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, Governor of Juda
• Joshua, the son of Jehozadack, the high Priest
• The people, like Haggai, points out: These people say!
At this stage, we don’t know what Zerubbabel or Joshua are saying, but we do know what the people are saying:
“Thus says the LORD of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the LORD.” (Haggai 1:2 ESV)
This is a powerful insight that God knows everything, and he is aware of his people’s words and hearts!
Fourth, the Word of the Prophet is a harsh one, and it is a word that brings light to the very intention of the people. This is what he says:
“Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your panelled houses, while this house lies in ruins?” (Haggai 1:4 ESV). “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.”(Haggai 1:6 ESV)
During the time of coming back to Jerusalem and despite all the opposition they suffered, from outside and from within, they spent more time building up their own houses. Their hearts were on their own homes!
They misplaced their hearts and God’s temple was in “ruins”. They came back to the very place where the presence of God dwelled, He is the reason why they came. But instead, they focused on their homes.
Let me make an observation: I don’t believe that looking after our own is wrong, or it is against the will of God. Yes, the Lord wants us to prosper but not at the expense of totally discounting him. We don’t have that option. Everything that we have belongs to him, even our lives.
Therefore, at the time of Harvest, they are not satisfied! They are not satisfied with their food, drink, clothes, wages!
This is why in verses 5 and 7, he says, “Consider your ways”, which means “Set your heart on” – It is an invitation to examine our hearts and it is an invitation to set our hearts right with him.
I believe that God is about to bring another harvest, but for this to happen to us we need to invest in his Kingdom priorities, and we will reap a great harvest that will be physical and spiritual. Both go hand in hand.
“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, and 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. Therefore, the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. 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 labours.” (Haggai 1:8–11 ESV)
The keyword here is withholding.
Before the solution, the Word of the Lord goes further, exposing and describing at great length how displeased the Lord was and how he is responsible for withholding his blessing over creation and his people.
It was not the enemy, but it was due to his own people’s lack of care for restoring the Temple and disregard for him.
Does this sound a little bit familiar? Have we not longed to come back to worship? We need to rebuild; we need to replant our churches to become a place of great Harvest and blessing. If we don’t, we will experience the hand of the Lord withholding his blessing. We need to set our hearts on Him, on Jesus and his Kingdom. The Lord has given us his Church to that.
The solution is God and obeying him. He has given us the way to do it, and it is a way that will bring glory to him. He said:
“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.” (Haggai 1:8 ESV)
The Lord provides the solution; it is his idea, and he tells them what to get and what to do. So when I look at this verse, I don’t see anything complicated, nothing extravagant, but the total opposite.
Go up to the hill, get some wood and build the House! It is imperative, and it is a command, you can do this. You have been gifted, and you know how to rebuild, so now go and find wood and build the House so that God can delight and God’s glory be manifested.
This is so moving and powerful. God’s presence brings delight, brings joy, and when this happens, his glory is revealed. That is his covenant with us; he does not share with glory but only with his people.
The people who set their hearts on themselves were living, working hard with not much return. Their hearts were placed not on the Lord. Now the Lord of Host is saying, set your heart on my temple, where I dwell.
I know this is a symbolic interpretation of this verse; Still, in obedience, Jesus went to the top of the mountain and was crucified on a wooden cross. So that the Glory of God would be revealed to all, his temple became a permanent one, and we are told on more than one occasion by the apostle Paul that we are that temple.
We, his people we are the temple! Are we going to gather wood and build his Church so that His glory will remain, and his presence and delight be evident? If we do, we will reap a great harvest.
3rd. The Reaction
“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. Then Haggai, the messenger of the LORD, spoke to the people with the LORD’S message, “I am with you, declares the LORD.” 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, on the twenty-fourth day of the month, in the sixth month, in the second year of Darius, the king.” (Haggai 1:12–15 ESV)
The Key Word here is obedience.
There are not many places in the Scriptures where you see the words of a prophet been heard and acted so fast!
There was repentance, and there was an acknowledgement that their hearts were misplaced.
The reaction is worth noticing and worth imitating.
It takes place within the leadership of the people, with the Governor and with the Priest and the Remnant.
They obey the prophet’s words, and the Word brought conviction and a fear of the Lord that they perhaps never encountered. The living Word of the Prophet, the Living Word of God, produced all that.
Because the people realised that God’s Word was alive and active and never returned void, they organised themselves and began working on the House of the Lord.
But this is not what happened; before they set out to work, they were filled and awakened by the Lord. Therefore, the logical conclusion is that the Spirit of the Lord stirred up the spirit of the Governor, the Priest, and the people.
I love this, and this is a biblical pattern repeated in other parts of the Scriptures.
• Call to repentance and conviction
• Obedience and returning to the Lord
• Holy Spirt comes to fill us
• We do the work of God under the guidance and power of his Spirit.
This Harvest is a call to come back and rebuild his Church, to bring our first offerings, to thank Him for his faithfulness, for his provision, for his kindness.
It is a call to invest in his kingdom, using every gift that you must see the transformation of our communities.
I am sure that our obedience, triggered by our repentance, will cause us to hear the words that the prophet spoke to the Governor, the Priest, and the people the Lord said:”I am with you.”