Oracle Four

Bible Text: Haggai 2:20-23 | Preacher: Rev.M. | Series: reCONSTRUCTION: A Study of Priorities from the Prophet Haggai | Today we will be closing our current sermon series, “reCONSTRUCTION: A Study of Priorities from the Prophet Haggai”. As previously stated, Haggai was a very well-known prophet to the people of his time, even though he is not always as well known in our time today. Hopefully though through this series you have come to know Haggai, at least a little bit. Now one of the primary questions that Haggai’s prophecies brings is, “What is most important?” Last week we looked at the third oracle that spoke about the failings of the people regarding their covenant with God, the repercussions of that failings, and their return to good standing with God and the covenant.

 

Now Oracle Four is dated to December 18th, 520 B.C. which is the same date we had for Oracle Three. But unlike Oracle Three’s four sections, Oracle Four only has three sections. We again start with an Introduction in verse twenty. From there we go to the section of God’s Promise, found in verses twenty-one and twenty-two. And finally, we end with the last section of God’s Signet Ring, found in verse twenty-three. This oracle is considerably shorter in the number of verses compared to the first three.

 

So, let us begin with the Introduction. In verse twenty we read, “And the Lord’s word came to Haggai a second time on the twenty-fourth of the month, saying:” Well this clearly explains the duplicate date situation with Oracle Three. But also, like Oracle Three, we have a very short introduction that doesn’t give us a whole lot of information. Again, we still get the specific date and that the Lord’s word has come again to Haggai. But we also again are lacking a command to speak to anyone like the governor or chief priest.

 

From here we go to the second section of God’s promise where we read, “Speak to Judah’s governor Zerubbabel: I am about to make the heavens and the earthquake. I will overthrow the thrones of the kingdoms; I will destroy the strength of the nations. I will overthrow chariot and rider; horses and riders will fall. Each one will fall by the sword of his companion.” Now there we go! Here we get the command to speak to the governor and tell him of God’s coming actions. God is going to make the heavens and earthquake. God is going to overthrow kingdoms and destroy the strength of nations.

 

Finally, we come to the section of God’s Signet Ring. In this section we read, “On that day, says the Lord of heavenly forces: I will take you, Zerubbabel, Shealtiel’s son, my servant, says the Lord; I will make you like a signet ring because I have chosen you, says the Lord of heavenly forces.” Now this is incredibly good news, at least for Zerubbabel. God is promising to make him so important that he will be like a signet ring. In Old Testament times, signet rings were used as a personal signature or symbol of family heritage. By God declaring Zerubbabel to be like a signet ring meant that God would work through Zerubbabel in the world.

 

So here we have an oracle that overall offers a message of hope and a positive outcome for the people of Israel. This again comes into contrast to what we read in third oracle, much in the same way that the second oracle offered a positive message compared to the first oracle. We seem to have a pattern in these oracles of negative, positive, negative, positive. But at least we are ending on a positive note, one full of God’s promise for the people and their leaders.

 

So, with all of this in mind, I once again want to pose some questions to you to think about. First off, how might you define “hope”? And with that, how important is “hope” to you? Next, I want you to think about a time when you felt hope-less. What contributed to that feeling? And what happened in the end to change your outlook? Third, has your sense of priorities changed at all during this series? Fourth, how has your spiritual life changed during this series?

 

Finally, I ask that you think about some of the spiritual discipline practices we discussed over these past weeks. We covered the spiritual disciplines of prayer, silence and solitude, and Christian meditation so far. And in a moment, we will discuss the spiritual discipline of worship. But I hope that you will take at least one of these new practices and incorporate into your life as part of your spiritual reconstruction.

 

Now as I mentioned, we are going to discuss the spiritual discipline of worship. Most of us probably associate the word “worship” with a group of people sitting inside a church building with music from a piano or organ. Or at least we used to before this pandemic hit. But the truth is that this is only one expression of “worship”. Did you know that worship can actually happen at any moment, and for that matter in every moment, throughout your day? Even when you are alone.

 

For instance, many of the Psalms are celebratory worship songs. For some people, reading, memorizing, or reciting those Psalms can be worship. Singing along with a favorite worship album can greatly impact some people’s day for the better. Taking a walk and simply noticing the beauty of the world around you, and prayerfully thanking God can be worship. Worship is not just what we come here on Sunday to do. Worship can be an everyday experience.

 

But there can be some challenges for people in some of these forms of worship. Let us take the worship we normally would do together on Sundays. Not all of us are Pavarotti, that is the truth. And because some people are not the best singers, they may feel outside of the realm of worship. But we need to remember that singing is not all there is to worship. Worship is an attitude of the heart, not the mouth. Worship can happen for those who are unable to speak, those unable to sing, those embarrassed to sing, or even the tone-deaf. Music and singing are forms of worship, but just a few of many.

 

Let me offer you a few other examples of forms and acts of worship. Art. Did you know that for centuries men and women have turned to drawing, painting, writing, poetry, playing instruments, and many other forms as a means of worship. In fact, a good friend of mine from seminary who is a pastor in Iowa does what is called liturgical art where he will draw during the worship service, creating images that relate to the scripture and message for the day. He has created some of the most beautiful images I have ever seen.

 

Or how about dancing? Yes, I said dancing. My niece who lives in South Carolina with my sister and brother-in-law, has been a part of a liturgical dance group in their church. She and several other youths perform these amazing dances along to different Christian songs. That is a form of worship! Or what about serving? Serving can be a form of worship too. Buying a hungry person a meal, paying the toll for the car behind you, babysitting for a friend who hasn’t had any time out, mowing the lawn of a neighbor who is no longer capable. All of these actions can be a form of worship because worship is itself service. In the original language of the Old Testament the word worship carries a connotation of service, thus we have the “sacrifice of praise” and “service of worship” terminology.

 

You see worship is at its core, simply an expression of honor, gratitude, joy, and pleasure in God. God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in God. And that brings me to another point. Worship is not about us in the sense that we are not the focus of worship. God is the focus of worship. Worship is meant to glorify God. Sometimes we focus too much on what our personal preferences are over the acts of worship themselves, and by doing that we are not giving God the full glory that worship should offer.

 

Psalm eighty-six, verses nine and ten tell us, “All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord; they will bring glory to your name. For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God.” American clergy, social reformer, and speaker, Henry Ward Beecher once said, “I never knew how to worship until I knew how to love.” There is a lot of truth in that statement, especially because worship is also an expression of our love for God.

 

So, this week I want to give you one last challenge for this series and for our time together. I want you to try to engage in a form of worship that you have never tried before. Whether through art, or music, or one of the other forms I previously mentioned, I am challenging you to try something new. I know new things can be scary. I know new things are the equivalent of change, which is also scary. But hey, if you are watching this right now or hearing it, you have already embraced a new way to worship, right?

 

And it is through these new experiences that we can continue to do the work of spiritual reconstruction. And that is work that we need to continue in. That is work that we need to invite Jesus to, as we work to strengthen our relationship with. And it is the foundation of God’s grace that allows us to build new and better things inside ourselves. Our spiritual reconstruction can only succeed when we willingly and active accept God’s grace and the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Go forth and build my brothers and sisters. God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit await our invitation into our hearts that reconstruction might begin. Amen.