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2 April, 2017


A couple of months ago, Peacock supermarket started putting up very angry-looking signs saying that people were not to park their cars there for long periods of time.
We went into overdrive trying to overcome the problem.
We approached other businesses with carparks.
We looked at other car parks areas.
We spoke to the real estate agent about renting spaces some distance from here.
We were starting to get a bit panicky.
After all, the signs didn’t look good.

Then someone got the bright idea that maybe we should just go and talk to the people at Peacock, tell them what we’re doing and ask if we can park on the second floor if we all do some shopping there.
The Peacock people explained that those angry-looking signs were not actually for us, and that they were very glad for us to park there and do our shopping.
Though the signs appeared very clear to us, we had misunderstood them.

This illustrates a common truth in our lives as Christians:
often the only hurdles we face are those that we put up ourselves based on wrong expectations or misplaced fears.


Today we are continuing our march through the Bible and we come to the book of Haggai [image] which is the tenth of the twelve minor prophets and so the third last book of the Old Testament.
After Obadiah, Haggai is the shortest book in the Bible but, like all the other books, it’s there for a very good reason: it is the Word of God.

Haggai prophesied toward the end of the period of exile when the Jewish remnant (about 50,000 people) had returned to Israel and were living under the rule of Darius the Great of Persia [image].
A little earlier [image], Cyrus, the previous king of Persia, had ordered the Jews to rebuild their temple in Jerusalem [image].
But because of local opposition – both real and perceived – the Jews had given up on rebuilding the temple of the Lord [image].
The new king Darius however, wanted to see the religions under his rule flourish and so the prophets Haggai and Zechariah got busy encouraging the Jews to work on the temple [image].

What’s important to note here as we look at the message of Haggai is that, not unlike our misunderstanding of the signs in the car park, the Jews had misunderstood the signs of their times and they themselves were actually more to blame for their inactivity than their opponents. Understanding this leads to three key teachings from the book of Haggai.

1. There are consequences for disobedience
不従順がもたらす結果というものがある ということです。

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” Haggai 1:5,6
あなたがたは多くまいても、取入れは少なく、食べても、飽きることはない。飲んでも、満たされない。着ても、暖まらない。賃銀を得ても、これを破れた袋に入れているようなものである。 ハガイ書1:5,6

This is a message for the church today.
To become lukewarm is to become disobedient. To become disobedient is to lose God’s favour. なまぬるくなるということは、不従順になるということです。不従順になるということは、神の支持を失うということです。神によく思われなくなるということです。
Just as the Jews of Haggai’s time were given a mission to rebuild the temple, so we today have been given a mission to build the church of Christ and take the gospel into all the world.
To shy away from that mission because of what seems to be angry-looking signs is to be disobedient.

But the message of Haggai isn’t just a reminder that there are consequences of disobedience. しかしハガイのメッセージは、不従順がもたらす結果があるということを思い出させるだけではありません。
It’s a reminder that obedience to God brings encouragement and strength.
This teaching is throughout the Bible:

Delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4
Seek first the Kingdom of God and its righteousness and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33
God rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:6

There is a call here away from timidity and inactivity – which is disobedience – and to boldness and activity – which is obedience.

There is a particular phrase that Haggai repeats numerous times throughout his book.
He says, “Give careful thought to your ways.”
He repeats this for a reason.
It’s easy for our thinking to become casual and our minds to become distracted.
“Give careful thought to your ways.”

Sloth is often thought of as just being lazy but it’s more than that.
It involves not focussing on what we should be focussing on.
Sloth allows for easy distraction – even being distracted by good works.
If God is calling us to take the gospel into all the world and our response is to paint the church because it could do with a fresh coat, then that hard work is nothing more than sloth – a distraction to take our minds and hearts away from the real work.

“Give careful thought to your ways.” “あなたがたは自分のなすべきことをよく考えるがよい”
This means we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be distracted or intimidated by what’s around us.
Don’t be misled by some of the signs.
When Joshua was leading the Jews into the Promised Land, the word of God was this:

Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Joshua 1:7-9

After His resurrection but before His ascension, Jesus gave this word:

Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
Matthew 28:19,20

It’s a similar message, isn’t it? The fruit of obedience is God’s presence; God filling the church with His presence. This leads us to our second point:

2. Prioritise God’s house
神の家を優先する ということです。

“You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house.” Haggai 1:9
あなたがたは多くを望んだが、見よ、それは少なかった。あなたがたが家に持ってきたとき、わたしはそれを吹き払った。これは何ゆえであるかと、万軍の主は言われる。これはわたしの家が荒れはてているのに、あなたがたは、おのおの自分の家の事だけに、忙しくしている。 ハガイ書1:9

Prioritising God’s house – the body of Christ – is a challenging message for a modern world which prioritises self.
What are your plans for Easter?
Are you fitting the church’s plans around your plans or are you fitting your plans around the church’s plans?
How are you going to prioritise this?
What are your plans for Golden Week?
Our church is planning a big outreach to the community in Golden Week and we need volunteers.
How are you going to prioritise this?

(We can take this teaching to an extreme where we neglect our own families for the sake of the church.
This is a misunderstanding of the teaching and is wrong.
We must take loving care of our families as a priority but this must never lead to neglect of the church and it must certainly never be given priority over a specific call of God in our lives.)

So “give careful thought to your ways.”
How will you prioritise Sunday mornings?
How will you prioritise Bible study evenings?
How will you prioritise the Easter outreach?
How will you prioritise the Golden Week outreach?

I want to encourage you to pray through these questions.
I want to encourage you to seek first the Kingdom of God and its righteousness because there is blessing for obedience. 神の国とその義をまず求めてください。なぜなら従うことに祝福があるからです。
God promises to honour those who honour Him and He will reward those who put Him first with the true desires of their hearts.
Trust God with your time.

3. Don’t compare the works of God
神のはたらきを比べない ということです。

Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory [the Jerusalem temple before the exile]? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing? Haggai 2:3

There is a temptation – I’m speaking to older Christians here – to look at the current works of God and think as the elders did in Haggai’s day,
“This is nothing like the revival I saw in my day.”“
“Back in my country we had hundreds come forward for altar calls.”“
“This is nothing like Pentecost.”
“これはペンテコスト過ぎ越しの祝い のようではない”

Listen to God’s response:神の答えに耳を傾けましょう。

“This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations [the Messiah] will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord Almighty….‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty.” Haggai 2:6,7,9
主の家の後の栄光は、前の栄光よりも大きいと、万軍の主は言われる。わたしはこの所に繁栄を与えると、万軍の主は言われる』」。 ハガイ書2:6,7,9

Let’s pray for this. Let’s work faithfully toward it.
And let’s see God respond to our obedience.