Wednesday, September 08, 2010

THE PROMISES OF GOD

In the modern age of limited liability, few things are as advertised. Wise consumers have learned to be careful when signing contracts or purchasing products which come with warranties. The small print typically reveals the real terms and a not-so-ironclad guarantee. This is the way it is in a world system where the bottom line is profit and the end justifies the means. Thinking back on how many times I have been taken by a so-called good deal has made me very weary of promotions, pledges, and promises. "Thanks, but no thanks" has become my usual response to those trying to interest me in a once-in-a-lifetime or limited-time offer. I have come to understand that what they are really interested in is separating me from my money. If it's too good to be true, it probably is.

There is, however, no skepticism in me when it comes to the promises of God found in Scripture. The Bible is very definite that “all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us” (2 Corinthians 1:20). I am glad for that, because the issues at stake are far more important than the things which pertain only to this life. Let's consider four wonderful promises found in God's Word. The first is the doorway into the treasure room of His many blessings, the promise of eternal life to all those who call upon the name of the Lord for the forgiveness of their sins: “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). However vast the doctrines pertaining to salvation may be, we need not complicate the simplicity of the message of the gospel of grace. The prophet Isaiah wrote, "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1). Surely, the worst of sinners can cast themselves upon the mercies of God, and they will not be disappointed. Neither can this wonderful gift of eternal life be taken away once it has been granted, for the Scripture says, “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38, 39).
In my moments of the earthly despair, my thoughts often travel heavenward, and the reality of the joy and glory that awaits me shines like rays of sunshine which pierce through the dark and gloomy clouds of this world. "But as it is written, eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him" (1 Corinthians 2:9). Charles Spurgeon likened the trials of this life to the loosening of the pegs of a tent which anchored it to the ground. Earthly existence was never meant to be permanent, and with each trial which comes our way, we learn more and more to, "set (our) affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2). The outer man may be perishing, but the inner man is renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16). God has prepared a dwelling place for us with Him that has no comparison on earth and that no earthly experience, however wonderful, can equal. Praise God for his unspeakable gift (2 Corinthians 9:15) which we received the moment we first believed, and is ours forever: “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13,14).

Another wonderful promise the Christian is assured of is the promise of the continuing presence of Christ in our lives. Jesus will never forsake those whom He purchased with His blood. Through the presence of the Holy Spirit whom He has given, every Christian has a Divine enablement, sufficient to meet his every need. God's children do not wander through life aimless or helpless, without purpose or plan. God Himself is their compass, wisdom, and strength. David asked, “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?" (Psalm 139:7). We can all rejoice that the Spirit of the living God is with us always. He was with Noah on the ark, with Abraham in a smoking pot and fiery torch, with Joseph in prison, with Moses at the burning bush, with Joshua at Jericho, with Hannah in her barrenness, with David in the wilderness, with Elijah on Mount Carmel, with three Hebrew youths in a furnace of fire, with Daniel in the lion's den, with Nehemiah in the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, with Jonah on board a sinking ship, with Peter on the day of Pentecost, with Paul in his many persecutions, with Mary in the garden, and with John on the island of Patmos. Dear child of God, you are not alone and have not been forgotten by the One acquainted with all of our ways.

The third promise, which is the heritage of the saints, is the promise of God's sovereign will for our lives. We can be assured that our experiences in life are not accidental. The Lord God Almighty is always in absolute control of all things in heaven and upon the earth. If a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His permissive will (Matthew 10:29), then we who first trusted in Christ can be at peace, knowing that God is not only omnipresent, but also omniscient and omnipotent. He sees all, knows all, and does according to His own good will and pleasure (Philippians 2:13), to the end that His children by adoption through faith in Christ might be conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29). Furthermore, everything which God permits in the lives of His children is always in perfect harmony with his Holiness and love for them: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Hard as this might be for us to grasp when the storms of life are raging, let us always remember that Jesus is Master over the tempest. The winds and the waves come at His command, and at His command they cease. Although we now see through a glass dimly, one day we will know that the Judge of all the earth does what is right, what is good, and what is necessary in the lives of His people (1 Corinthians 13: 12; Genesis 18:25).
Tho' night be dark, and it may seem
That day will never break,
I'll pin my faith, my all in Him,
He maketh no mistake.

There's so much now I cannot see,
My eyesight's far too dim;
But come what may, I'll simply trust
And leave it all to Him.

The last promise I leave with you is the glorious promise that one day we will be like Jesus, holy and separate from sin: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). As the psalmist said, some things are too wonderful for us to comprehend (Psalm 139:6), and this is one of them. Who among God's people does not long to be free of sin and the suffering it brings? Who among us, born again by the Spirit of God, does not long for complete victory over sin and Satan, the one who is a roaring lion, devouring everyone that he can in this world? Praise be to God, brethren; a new world awaits us in which the destruction and ruin caused by human rebellion and all of God's adversaries will be seen no more: “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie” (Revelation 21:27). Satan himself will be cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10). Hallelujah! The Lord has spoken, and it will come to pass that the glory of God will fill the earth and we will reign with him forever and ever as priests of God in Christ (Revelation 20:6). Following the earthly kingdom of Christ, the Lord will supernaturally bring to pass a new heavens and new earth which will be our final destination. This is an incentive for holy living and constant prayer that our blessed Savior may come quickly: “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2 Peter 3:11-13).

Although there are many more promises of Scripture to feast upon for the encouragement of our hearts, I pray that these few will bless you today and cause your spirit to rejoice in God your Savior. It may not be long before Jesus comes; only the Lord knows the day and the hour, but time is hastening on. With each setting of the sun, we are closer to the time of His appearing, or our home-going. Keep on praying, serving, and trusting. It will be worth it all when we see Jesus.

God bless,

Pastor Tom

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

THE GOSPEL STORY


From Genesis through Revelation, the Bible speaks with a divine authority which calls every man, woman, and child into accountability to their Creator. Man has never been free to do his own will. God’s command to Adam not to partake of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil marked the beginning of man’s responsibility to submit to His Sovereignty: “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:16, 17). Unfortunately, Adam did not comply with the Lord’s command and his rebellion brought immediate and long-term consequences: “Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life” (Genesis 3:23,24). Paradise was lost for the pleasure of a moment and a desire which could never be realized--the desire to be like God (Genesis 3:5). This was the greatest lie of Satan, the Archenemy of God, and the New Age religions of our day perpetuate this delusion. As for the once-perfect environment known as Eden (Genesis 2:8), it was cursed: “And unto Adam he (God) said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee” (Genesis 3:17-19). New Testament revelation confirms the present state of the natural order: “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” (Romans 8:22). The hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, earthquakes, floods and fires which create so much property damage and claim human lives bear witness that all is not well on Planet Earth.

As the progressive revelation of God’s Word unfolded, students of Scripture can easily discern that all suffering, sickness, violence, pain, and death experienced in life throughout human history finds its source in Adam’s sin: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12). Who could ever have imagined such dreadful consequences for a single sin? Would you and I have fared any better? Would we have chosen God’s will over our own? I think not. And now, as the descendants of Adam, we follow in his footsteps; we are sinners by nature and sinners by choice. David brought this to light when he said, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). King Solomon agreed: “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not” (Ecclesiastes 7:20).

Biblical theology affirms that the human condition is one of alienation from God, just as Adam tried to hide from the Lord: “And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:8). Sinners must be sought out by God before they can be converted, just as the Lord called to Adam to confront him with his sin (Genesis 3:9). Feeling the sting of a guilty conscience (Romans 2:15), Adam and Eve covered themselves with garments fashioned out of leaves: “And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons” (Genesis 3:7). How foolish they were to think that garments made with human hands would be adequate. Only God can provide that which is necessary for sinful men, and so we read, “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21). Behind the garments that God made for Adam and Eve is the reality of sacrifice and death. An innocent animal had to die. This clearly pointed to a sacrifice that must be made for the sins of the whole world (John 3:16) which the Lord had spoken of a few verses earlier in Genesis 3:15: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” This was the first gospel proclamation that foreshadowed Christ’s victory over Satan and the forces of evil on the cross of Calvary. Without the proper sacrifice for sin, the ultimate penalty imposed on humanity is death: “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a). This death affects not only the physical body, but also the eternal existence of man. The Scripture speaks of a second death, which is separation from God to hell, a place of everlasting suffering for the unrepentant sinner: “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8). What more shall I say of the doctrine of hell but that modern man, even the professing Christian, finds it offensive? Sinners who are being coddled by popular preachers seek comfort in their sin, not the condemnation of their sin. Repentance is considered a word best left to a bygone age when people were believed to be less educated and more gullible. However, no amount of wishful or positive thinking can alter the judgment that awaits those who know not God and His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:27).

Dark as the prospect of eternal judgment may be, all is not hopeless. God’s answer for mankind’s spiritual need is found in Jesus Christ. Born of the Virgin Mary, He came to earth to die as a Divine substitute for sinners, in order to satisfy the judgment on sin demanded by a Holy God: “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17). Whereas Adam sinned and brought about death both physically and spiritually, Jesus died and conquered death, offering salvation to Adam’s descendants-- not by their own efforts (good works)-- but as a free gift: “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). The fact that biblical salvation is a gift from God is seen also in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast”(Ephesians 2:8,9) . If the consequences of a single sin, that of Adam, seems unimaginable, how much more the blessing of Christ’s act of obedience in dying on the cross: “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14). What does all this mean to you? It means that the gift of eternal life is available to anyone who, being convinced of his sin by the Holy Spirit, calls upon the name of the Lord Jesus for forgiveness: “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). God desires that every man born in the likeness of Adam comes to the knowledge of the truth in Christ (1 Timothy 2:4-6). This is the gospel story, the good news for all mankind. The invitation issued by the prophet Isaiah still stands: “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:6, 7). What a promise! God not only pardons, He abundantly pardons. Not only does He abundantly pardon, but abundant are His promises toward those who believe: “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). I pray that this is your destiny. It can be! Examine your heart and seek to determine, with the aid of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8), if you are trusting alone in Christ’s death on the cross for your salvation or in some inadequate human substitute--the fig leaves of your own righteousness. God is willing to clothe you with the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ through faith in the blood He shed for the remission of sins (Matthew 26:28). If you look to Jesus, He will not turn you away, for He has solemnly promised, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). Further assurance to this effect is offered in the promise, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12). This is the guarantee of life without end in the presence of the triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8). This is what God is willing to give to you if you will give your life to Him and ask Him to take away the debt and burden of your sin for Jesus’ sake.

“And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17).

Jesus is the way; without Him there is no going.
Jesus is the truth; without Him there is no knowing.
Jesus is the life; without him there is no living.
- Anon.

May God give you wisdom and the joy of knowing Jesus Christ,

Pastor Tom


Saturday, March 06, 2010

A HOPE AND A FUTURE



“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (Jeremiah 29:11). This verse was a great comfort and assurance to me during a very uncertain time in the early years of my Christian life. Faced with a difficult situation I had never experienced before, the words of Jeremiah the prophet were spoken to me just days apart by two different people as a means of assuring me of God’s presence and the wisdom of His ways. Twenty-five years later, I have never forgotten them. The words at the end of the verse, “to give you an expected end,” are best understood to mean a hope and a future. As believers, we know that all of our tomorrows are in God’s hand, but the circumstances of life often cloud our vision of His gracious love, and we begin to feel forsaken by God. Brethren, I can assure you, on the full testimony of Holy Scripture, that the Lord does know the paths we take, because He has planned the course of our lives for His glory: “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand” (Psalm 37:23,24).

Take for example the patriarch Job: Here was a righteous man who experienced trials, the likes of which no mortal man has ever encountered, to the extent that many do not believe in the historical reality of the book which bears his name. They deem it impossible for any one man to experience such horrific things. But the inspired statement of James, the brother of the Lord, dispels this idea: “Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy” (James 5:10,11).

Although we cannot say with absolute certainty when and where Job lived, we know that he is not a character of fiction. We have heard about the “patience of Job” because Scripture records his story, and “God is not a man, that he should lie” (Numbers 23:19a). In a very short period of time, Job lost his earthly possessions, his servants, his children, and his health. To say that Job’s future looked bleak would be a gross understatement. Anguish upon anguish fell upon him, seemingly without purpose. Yet, in the midst of it all, Job did not succumb to his wife’s advice, “Curse God, and die” (2:9). To the contrary, Job rebuked her and exclaimed, “What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” (2:10b).

How could this be? Job endured because he understood that in a fallen world, sorrows come upon the just and the unjust -- no man is exempt from heartbreaking loss. Suffering and death are the norm in this life, not the exception (Genesis 3:16-19): “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a); “Through the offence of one many be dead” (Romans 5:15b). This is the law of cause and effect. Job had his theology right in this regard, but his theology was more than head-knowledge. Job’s consolation in his trial of faith was the firm belief in his heart that God makes no mistakes; nothing is without purpose or plan: “Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him: But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:8-10) .

If only we could grasp this, brothers and sisters, we would look beyond the darkness of the night, knowing that the sun will rise again in the morning because God is faithful. He does know what we are going through and accompanies us on our journey (Hebrews 13:5). Suffice it to say that the Christian always has a hope and a future because his hope is in the God who made the heavens and the earth and who sustains everything by the Word of His power (Colossians 1:17). If the universe cannot be shaken free of the hand of God, neither can we be, no matter what we may be facing. Our trials may be long and hard, but we, too, will “come forth as gold” because the Divine goldsmith is using them to purify the dross from his children, or as in the case of Job, to showcase their faith: Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6,7). This truth reminds us that part of the journey of the Christian involves not only the uncertainty of the moment, but also the assurance of a glorious end.

Dear reader, are you presently in “heaviness through manifold temptations [trials]”? Do not despair; remember that in every situation in life, God is at work in us and will continue that good work until the day of our complete redemption, when we will be conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29). Perhaps it will be sooner than we think, and what a day of rejoicing it we will be when we will be like Him: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).

May I suggest, in closing, that you reflect upon the truth that God’s ultimate plan for you is one of peace and not of evil, to give you the brightest tomorrow? I am convinced that this is true for all God’s children without exception, and when that plan is fulfilled in our lives, we will say with the saints on high that it was exactly what we would have chosen if we had the infinite knowledge of God. He is preparing a people for eternity with Him. That, my friends, is long-range planning and far beyond our ability to understand. May we, like Job, find our rest and comfort in the Almighty, whom no man can instruct nor reprove (Job 40:2).

One short life for watching with the Saviour,
Eternal years to walk with Him in white,
One short life to bravely meet the disaster,
Eternal years to reign with Him in light,
One brief life for weary toils and trials,
Eternal years for calm and peaceful rest,
One brief life for patient self-denials,
Eternal years for life, where life is best.

- Anonymous

In His name,

Pastor Tom

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

CONSIDER YOUR WAYS



How often have you been sidetracked on a project which you began in earnest but failed to complete? This was the story of the children of Israel, who returned from captivity in Babylon in 538 B.C. Their numerous sins had led to their exodus from the land for seventy years, but God had graciously kept His word to bring them to their homeland: “For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (Jeremiah 29:10, 11). After the death of King Nebuchadnezzar in 562, the Babylonian empire began to crumble from within and was eventually conquered by the Persians under King Cyrus, God’s anointed (Isaiah 44:28), in 539 B.C. Cyrus was hailed by many of the Jews as a liberator. One year later, he issued a decree allowing the Jews to return home. With newly born hope in their hearts, the first group returned under the leadership of Zerubabbel, the governor, and Jeshua, the high priest. They were charged with the task of building the temple that lay in ruins. The work progressed for two years until the foundation was completed. This was a time of mixed emotions: “And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid. But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy” (Ezra 3:11b,12).

When opposition to the building arose (Ezra 4), apathy set in and the work ceased (Ezra 4:24). For the next sixteen years, the people directed their efforts toward making their own lives more comfortable. They began to rationalize their sin, as recorded in Haggai 1:2: “Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the LORD'S house should be built.”

I must confess that I also am guilty at times of such rationalization, both with sins of commission and omission. One can only imagine what thoughts crossed the people’s minds when, day after day, they looked upon the abandoned temple left to the destructive elements of nature. Human nature being what it is, they eventually became accustomed to living without the house of the Lord as the center of their religious life. How could this be? Alec Motyer reminds us, "To refuse to build the Lord's house was at best saying that it did not matter whether the Lord was present with them. At worst it was presuming on divine grace, that the Lord would live with his people even though they willfully refused to fulfill the condition of his indwelling that he had laid down." The lesson here is that a Christian can get quite accustomed to life in the world. Stay away from church, fellowship, or ministry for a period of time, and you will adjust to life without those things. Life in Jerusalem continued as normal, or so the people thought, until two of God’s prophets arose and sounded out the Word of the Lord. Their names were Haggai and Zechariah (Ezra 5:1). This seems to be the way of the Lord when he addresses the indifference of his people. They go about their day-to-day affairs until God, without any advance notice, calls upon them to “consider their ways.” This was the focus of Haggai, a virtually unknown man of God, whom God used as his mouthpiece: “Then came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying, Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste? Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways” (Haggai 1:3-5). Calvin commented, “He [God] condemned the sloth of the people; for, being intent on their own advantages, they all neglected the building of the Temple; and he shows that they were deservedly suffering punishment for their ingratitude; for they despised God their Deliverer, or at least honored him less than they ought to have done, and deprived him of the worship due him.”

Dear friend, does this sound like you? Have you become slothful in your Christian duties, honoring God less by putting self first? Take heed! Haggai told the people that serving self before God is not the path to blessing. As you read his message, you find that it puts emphasis on four things: First is the rebuke and call to solemn reflection (1:1-7). Next, Haggai points out that sin is the reason for their lack of prosperity (1:6 and 9-11); this is followed by a call to repentance (1:8). Finally, there is a word of encouragement: “Then spake Haggai the LORD'S messenger in the LORD'S message unto the people, saying, I am with you, saith the LORD” (1:13).

Every preacher’s desire is a positive response to the preaching of God’s Word. This is exactly what happened with Haggai: “And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and did work in the house of the LORD of hosts, their God” (14). Repentance is turning from disobedience to obedience, from self-will to doing God’s will.

One of the hidden blessings in this revelation of God’s grace working in the hearts of the people is found in chapter 2 of Haggai. Ironically, although this second temple was outwardly inferior to the temple built by Solomon, God said: “The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the LORD of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the LORD of hosts” (2:9). What comfort and assurance it is to know that God is not like man, whose vision and knowledge is limited: “Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” (Isaiah 46:9-10). With great practical wisdom, Dr. J. Vernon Mc Gee reminds us that “God was encouraging the discouraged builders of Haggai’s day to see their temple in the
perspective of the ultimate purpose of God. Oh, that you and I might see our present circumstances in that same way! We need to look at them in the light of eternity and to look at them in the light of God’s purpose for us.” As children in whom God delights, we build more than we see if our desire is for God’s glory. But we do not build without difficulties. The enemies of Israel discouraged the returning exiles from doing what God wanted them to do. They constantly hindered them in their goal (Ezra 4:4). For all of us who know God, this is the reality of life. Numerous trials and spiritual foes will come our way which can frustrate us and discourage us from the tasks God has given us to do. In addition, the desire to take care of our own affairs to the exclusion of building up the Kingdom of God is ever present. However, as those redeemed from the kingdom of darkness (Colossians 1:13), we must always remain vigilant and stay passionate for the glory of the Lord. Don’t grow weary, because there is no going back to Babylon. Babylon is the world and there is no joy in Babylon. We must press on in faith, without wavering or doubting when the hills of life are steep, the valleys low, and the storms severe. The God who brought Israel back to the land of promise is our God. We can be confident that He will guide and provide for all our needs through “the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7). “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the LORD of hosts” (Haggai 2:8) . Don’t forget what you set out to do for the one who did so much for you (John 3:16). Keep your eye on the prize and finish the work!

“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8).

May the Lord be glorified in our lives,

Pastor Tom