Monday, June 25, 2007

Obtaining God's Bessings

Obtaining God’s Blessings
Haggai 2:10-19

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, saying, 11 "Thus says the Lord of hosts: 'Now, ask the priests concerning the law, saying,

12 If one carries holy meat in the fold of his garment, and with the edge he touches bread or stew, wine or oil, or any food, will it become holy?" ' " Then the priests answered and said, "No." 13 And Haggai said, "If one who is unclean because of a dead body touches any of these, will it be unclean?" So the priests answered and said, "It shall be unclean."

14 Then Haggai answered and said, " 'So is this people, and so is this nation before Me,' says the Lord, 'and so is every work of their hands; and what they offer there is unclean. 15 'And now, carefully consider from this day forward: from before stone was laid upon stone in the temple of the Lord--

16 since those days, when one came to a heap of twenty ephahs, there were but ten; when one came to the wine vat to draw out fifty baths from the press, there were but twenty. 17 I struck you with blight and mildew and hail in all the labors of your hands; yet you did not turn to Me,' says the Lord.

18 'Consider now from this day forward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, from the day that the foundation of the Lord's temple was laid--consider it: 19 Is the seed still in the barn? As yet the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have not yielded fruit. But from this day I will bless you.' "

Are there any among us who do not desire God’s blessings on our lives? I often ask the people I encounter throughout the day how I might pray for them. They usually mention a difficulty at work, or a family difficulty, or a rebellious child, or a health issue. Everybody wants God to bless them.

Yesterday, as Diane and I were returning from a brief Family outing, I stopped for fuel at one of those places which majors on alcohol. A young woman walked in wearing so little clothing as to leave almost nothing to the imagination. The female clerk looked at her and said, “Hey girl, you ain’t never gonna change are you?” She replied, “Nope. I do what I want to do and wear what I want to wear.”

These were the people of God Haggai was speaking to. They were the chosen people. They expected God’s Blessings because of that. They had been set aside and then delivered out of slavery into a land which flowed with milk and honey. Their king became the most powerful man in the world and the nations marveled at his wisdom.

1. If one carries holy meat in the fold of his garment, and with the edge he touches bread or stew, wine or oil, or any food, will it become holy?" The answer to this question is absolutely not. Holiness does not transfer. The people possibly have come to believe that one can become holy by associating with or participating in holy things. Here it appears that unrepentant Jews participating in God’s Holy Worship had polluted that worship.

They continued to live in sin, even though they attended church and paid their tithes. They continued their former lifestyle without a change, and their very participation seemed to desecrate God’s Temple.

Over and over again Scripture teaches that there is a difference between God’s people and the world. That difference is not merely one of activity. It is one of relationship. The unique people of God have such a relationship with Holy God that the world is made to wonder at the cause of their joy in the midst of both success and persecution.

We need to learn today that wearing a cross or carrying a Bible does not make us holy. Praying in a restaurant before meals does not make us holy. If we remain clothed with the filthy rags of the world, if we continue to pursue the same goals as the world, if we crave the attention of the world, we are not changed.

How do you react when something good happens to you? Do you praise God and rejoice in His glorious mercy? Perhaps many do. So how do you react when something bad happens to you? Do you grouse around while griping, grumbling, and complaining, or do you rejoice in God’s glorious mercy? You see, the genuine Believer is to rejoice and give thanks “ all things...”

Proverbs tells us in chapter 15:8, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD: but the prayer of the upright is his delight.” God is not pleased with the religious exercises of those who continue to thumb their noses at God while determined to continue their own paths.

2. "If one who is unclean because of a dead body touches any of these, will it be unclean?" When Haggai asked this question, the priests were quick to respond, “Yes.” The law made clear that holy things could be contaminated by direct contact with uncleanness.

In this age it is very important that we understand the implications of this. A man or a woman, a boy or a girl, can develop polluted thinking by the things they associate with. That is why it is so important to guard our ears from certain sounds, our eyes from certain sights, and our lips from certain delicacies.

Those things we dabble in, those things we casually touch, those things we carelessly listen to come into our very soul and become authorization for the enemy to establish a beachhead within our lives. That is why Paul warns us in Ephesians 4:27 to not give place to the Devil. That is phrase speaking of warfare, and it is closely associated with what our U.S. Marines try to do when they are put ashore on an hostile shore. They try to establish a beachhead. From that beachhead, the Marines set up a command post and build up a stronghold. That is precisely what the devil attempts to do in your life by the things you associate with.

That is why parents have such responsibility to guard the activities of their children. Over and over I hear parents lament the condition of their children. Yet they refuse to obey God and lovingly discipline their children consistently. Today’s children often decide too many of their activities. They decide with whom they will play, what they will listen to in terms of music, which movies they will watch, and they are allowed to choose to emulate terrible role models in dress and makeup. Children need firm boundaries to guide them as they learn how to make the kind of decisions which will enhance both their lives and those of their progeny.

3. And now, carefully consider from this day forward: from before stone was laid upon stone in the temple of the Lord. Haggai tells the people to mark this day, the day they re-started their work upon the temple. The day they decided to do things God’s way. For all these sixteen or so years that they had allowed the temple of God to just lie there, they had not been blessed. Their harvests had not been full. The work of their hands had not brought satisfaction. Their labors had been just so much empty activity. But from the day they chose to obey Him, they would see that He had already begun to bless them. They might not see it, but as the prophet Habbakuk had proclaimed, “...the just must live by faith...”

It is time for them to begin acting as if they believe God. They need to live in anticipation of the harvest to come. Elijah, we’re told, was a man subject to the same passions which plague all of us. Yet one day, after a drought of three years, he went up on a mountain and prayed for God to bring relief. Then as he looked out over the horizon and detected a faint wisp of a cloud in the distance, he said that’s enough. He said, “Folks, it’s going to come one of those stump floating, gully washing down pours.” Elijah believed God and he began running for home.

That’s what Haggai is telling the people here. You’ve planted your seed. You can now anticipate the harvest. God will bless.

Now this presupposes several things to us: (1) We’ve gathered and stored good seed. (2) We’ve prepared the ground properly to receive the seed. (3) We’ve spread the seed evenly over the area. (4) We’ve tended the plot where the seed has been planted. (5) We’ve made preparations for the harvest. (6) We’re prepared to put harvest to work.

I remember, as a child, that four of us would take a bed sheet and toss shelled corn into the air allowing the wind to blow away the husks and refuse. Then that corn would be carefully examined and preserved for next years planting. In our area, it was always important to keep good seed corn because it was just too expensive to purchase new seed corn each year. Now the seed we store up is the Word of God. It is good seed and we need to spend time ingesting it into our souls so that it might be ready for planting in God’s planting season.

Preparing formerly cultivated soil is always different from preparing new ground. With formerly cultivated soil one only needs be careful to rotate the crops so that the nutrients are allowed to regenerate regularly. The breaking up of the soil is fairly easy, and one doesn’t anticipate discovering roots or huge stumps hidden beneath the surface. But preparing new ground is a different story entirely. Brush and trees have been cleared leaving untold and unknown obstacles beneath the surface. For two or three years, one might continue to catch his plow on a heretofore unknown root or boulder. Such a discovery often requires the use of considerable energy and a sharp axe or kaiser blade to remove. In the case of a large boulder, one might be forced to dig around it to dislodge it enough to move it out of the field.

The seed planted in new ground often grows quite fast, but it also has considerable competition because even the most through inspection will not discover the seeds of the briars, morning glory vines, and cockle burrs mingled with the soil and the good seed.

Once the seed starts to grow we take the mule and using a “gee whiz” we clear out from between the rows and toss freshly turned dirt against the young stalks to protect the roots from the harsh sun and remove some of the competition for the precious moisture.

While the plants are growing, storage facilities must be maintained, and in some instances new facilities built or existing facilities enlarged in anticipation of the bountiful harvest. Nothing is worse than having a great harvest with no place to put the grain.

Then some of the grain is turned into feed for livestock, some for food for the family, and some is sold on the market, and the best is retained for next year’s crop.

God says through Haggai that they need to begin acting as if they anticipate a bountiful harvest. He said, “I’ve already begun to bless you. The seed may still be in the ground and you might not be able to see its growth, but I’ve already begun to bless you. Mark this day that you began to walk in obedience and you’ll see that I’m faithful.”

Now, folks, let me add a bit of caveat here. God does not bless those who act in order to be blessed. He blesses those who act out of a heart which desires to serve and obey Him. That is why the people of Israel were so troubled. They were doing what they did in order to receive a blessing, not out of an obedient and loving heart. That is why God had withheld His blessings.

The people were now concentrating on building up God’s Temple. Haggai could promise them on the authority of Holy God that God’s blessings had already begun.

Exactly what is your motivation for what you do? Is your worship pure and guileless? Are you trying to worship Christ while hanging on to the old dreams and aspirations? Do you live each day in promise of His blessing?

1 comment:

den10 said...

Mike, As I was studying one day a question came to mind. As I read Prov.1:7 since the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom what is the end of or completion of wisdom in our lives?? We as parents use FEAR as a tool to help our children stay in the center of our will. Obeying us keeps them safe, wholesome, chaste and separate from the world. Fear of loss of freedoms, fear of embarrassment, fear of consequences and if all else fails fear of pain has a motivating affect on our children's actions. Then as they mature and grow up, we have to go from fear based instruction on to trusting that what we have taught them through fear, reinforced by love will be enough to keep them on the straight and narrow path. We hope and pray they begin to do what is right simply because it is the right thing to do and they see most of what we said and taught was correct and because they love and respect us and don't want to disappoint us. This I think very much parallels our Christian walk and I feel is the unwritten lesson of Prov. 1:7. We must move on from doing what we do as Christians in fear, to doing what we do out of a sense of worship and love and a thankfulness for our blessed relationship with our Savior. That to me is the END or completion of wisdom in a Christians life.