This weekend, we talked about obedience. We don’t obey God so we can be blessed, we obey God because we love Him.
In the book of Haggai, the people’s attitudes show us we all battle some of the same things. Have you ever felt like you were trying to do what God asked you to do, but things just aren’t going well? You’re doing what you were told, but not making progress. You’re trying to obey God, but your life isn’t working very well. Is it really worth it to follow God? Is it worth it to serve?
This is what happened with the Jewish people. They were trying to build the temple and it was not going the way they thought it would. They wondered if it was even worth it to obey God. Here’s the problem we all face.
- Conditional obedience to God.
Conditional obedience says, “Okay God, I’m in as long as you’re delivering. God, I’ll obey as long as it doesn’t cost me too much. God, I’ll do what you want me to do as long as I see the results I want to see. But if it makes me uncomfortable, is inconvenient, or you’re not doing what I think you should do, at this point God I pull back.”
God does not give us options to consider, He commands us to obey.
We’re going to see how God clearly shows the corruptive power of sin to his people. God tells Haggai the prophet to ask the priest some questions.
“‘If one of you is carrying some meat from a holy sacrifice in his robes and his robe happens to brush against some bread or stew, wine or olive oil, or any other kind of food, will it also become holy?’ The priests replied, ‘No.'” Haggai 2:12
The priest, when they were going to sacrifice, would carry the holy or sanctified meat in their folded up robe. If they touched something else while carrying that sacrifice, the holiness didn’t rub off.
“Then Haggai asked, ‘If someone becomes ceremonially unclean by touching a dead person and then touches any of these foods, will the food be defiled?’ And the priests answered, ‘Yes.'” Haggai 2:13
He’s showing that sin is like a disease. Sin spreads easier than holiness. It’s the corruptive power of sin. Paul said it this way in the New Testament:
“Bad company corrupts good character.” 1 Corinthians 15:33
He didn’t say good company cleanses bad character. He said that there’s the corruptive power of sin. You could say that sin is like spaghetti sauce. It stains everything that it touches. Because they turned away, their hearts were going after other interests and not after God.
“Then Haggai responded, ‘That is how it is with this people and this nation, says the Lord. Everything they do and everything they offer is defiled by their sin.'” Haggai 2:14
If your heart is not right, it doesn’t matter what you do. Parents know this is true. When one kid does something wrong to another kid so you have kid one, apologize to kid two. Kid one walks up and says,”SORRY,” and walks away. Does that count or not? No. Right thing, wrong heart.
Attitude matters. If your heart isn’t right, whatever you do is wrong. You tell God you will obey Him, as long as He does what you want Him to do. As long as things are working out for you. As long as it doesn’t cost you too much or it’s convenient for you. This is the wrong approach to God.
It’s all about the heart. We do not obey God for what He’s going to do for us, we obey God because of who He is. We obey God because we love Him. This is why getting our heart right matters so much.
God Reminds His People
If you read part 1 of this series, you remember this about the Jewish people:
“He said, ‘Before you build the foundation…'” Haggai 1:15
Before they laid the foundation that’s where they were. They were drinking, but still thirsty. They were eating, but not full. They were putting their money in pockets with holes. They were doing everything to have meaning in life, but they were still empty. Are you accumulating stuff and having as much fun as you can, but still feel like there’s something more? Are you working your tail off, and not getting ahead?
“When you hoped for a twenty bushel crop, you harvested only ten.When you expected to draw fifty gallons from the wine press, you found only twenty.” Haggai 1:16
You thought you were going to get paid so much, but when your paycheck came it was half of that. It’s not working like you thought it would be.
“God says, ‘I sent blight and mildew and hail to destroy everything you worked so hard to produce…” Haggai 1:17
Ok, ouch! God told them that the reason they didn’t get ahead is because He didn’t let them. Why in the world would a good God stop us from having provision when we’re doing everything we can just to survive? What kind of God is that? Is that a God that I want to serve? Is that a God that truly loves me?
“…even so you refused to return to me says the Lord.” Haggai 1:17
There is it. There’s the reason. God is not trying to punish His people. God was trying to restore His people, that was His goal. God may not change your negative situation, because God is trying to change your heart. Not every bad situation comes from God. We live in a sinful, broken world and bad things happen, so if there’s something bad going on in your life right now it’s not because you deserve it, and God is trying to get your attention.
There are times when our hearts are turned away from God, but God may send something with the intention of bringing our hearts back to Him. What God did shows His love for us. All he did was cut off their supply. Notice he didn’t make them sick. He didn’t kill their kids. He didn’t do something cruel, He just cut off their supply. To get their attention to turn back to Him.
If this seems unloving for a moment, remember, if you are a loving parent you would do the exact same thing to a rebellious kid. If your kid is off at college and you’re sending money every month to help support your kid, and your kid is smoking it away, drinking it away, partying it away, not going to class, abusing your generosity, the first thing you’re going to do as a loving parent is cut off that supply, because until their heart comes back to the right values, you’re not going to continue to supply their party lifestyle. This is what God said. “I’m not trying to punish you, I’m trying to restore you, because I want your heart. Your heart has turned away from me.”
In part 1, you read the simplicity of God’s message. The people knew they we’re supposed to build the temple, but didn’t know how. So God gave them 3 steps. Number one, go up to the mountain. Number two, bring down the timber. Number three, build my temple. That’s how you do it.
In part 2, the people start doing those steps, but get discouraged and give up. So God told them to be strong and do the work. Build the dwelling place of God in your life. Successful people do consistently what normal people do occasionally. Just keep putting down another stone.
Now part 3, God has one simple message, above all else, “I want your heart.” More than anything else God wants your heart. He wants you to seek Him with all of your heart.
Here’s what happened. You used to love God, but now you’ve turned away and are distracted following other things. God wants your heart. He wants to be first in everything.
That’s why the church is so important.
That’s why meeting together each week to worship to sing and serve God is so important.
That’s why Small Groups matter so much, because the pull of the world is so strong. We gather together with other believers and say, “God we want to do life with you and encourage each other.”
That’s one reason why giving matters so much. Saying, “God, as you bring increase I choose in my heart to give you the first.”
There are times when we focus on the wrong things. When God doesn’t have our hearts.
“These people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me.” Matthew 15:8
“The Lord says, ‘These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.'” Isaiah 29:13
Here’s the beauty of this story. God got their hearts and because their hearts came back, so did the blessings of God. Not because they obeyed, but because their hearts were right with God.
Even though they hadn’t finished the temple. Even though they didn’t do anything do deserve it, only because their hearts had changed God said,
“I am giving you a promise now.” Haggai 2:18
Now’s the time to work on God’s dwelling place. Now’s the time to get your hearts right with God. Now is the time to repent of sin that you have rationalized or justified. Now is the time to stop giving God lip service and not give him your heart. Now is the time not to put your house first, but to put His house first. Now is the time.
“I give you this promise now, while the seed is still in the barn. You have not yet harvested your grain and your grapevines, your fig trees, your pomegranates and your olive trees have not yet produced their crops. But from this day onward I will bless you.” Haggai 2:18-19
You’ve still got planting to do. It’s not even harvest time. Even though you did not even plant the seed. God promises a harvest of blessing. Not because they built the temple, but because they gave their hearts. Above all else God wants your heart.
Review what you talked about last week. Have you identified the causes of your discouragement and the steps to take to move out of it?
This is part 3 of this series, what are some themes you notice playing out in your life?
Hear the Word
- Haggai 2:12-19
- 1 Corinthians 15:33
- Do you know a selective listener? Are you one? Did you even hear this question?
- Is cleanliness really next to godliness? If so, how close?
- Read Haggai 2:12-14. What message is God sending through Haggai. How does it apply today?
- Think about verse 2:14 specifically. How much of what you do is defiled by sin? What does God want instead?
- When you’re making the right choices, but life just doesn’t go your way, how do you respond?
- How current are you in your obedience to God? Is there anything on a waiting list?
- What is one thing you’re really struggling to trust God with? How could you give that part of your heart to Him?
- What hard things are happening to you that could be an opportunity to grow closer to God?
- Verses on Obedience:
2 Corinthians 10:5
2 John 1:6
Father, We want to learn to obey You out of our love for You. Holy Spirit, teach us to trust, show us how to believe, and strengthen us to obey. Jesus, You are the only one who makes dirty things clean. Do Your work in us. Amen.
Tell Someone Else
Who can you share this life-giving message with? Is there anyone in your life who is struggling with obedience to God? How can you encourage them?
What step will you take this week to prioritize in your obedience to God?
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