Oracle Three

Bible Text: Haggai 2:10-19 | Preacher: Rev.M. | Series: reCONSTRUCTION: A Study of Priorities from the Prophet Haggai | Well this morning we are continuing again in our current sermon series, “reCONSTRUCTION: A Study of Priorities from the Prophet Haggai”. Throughout this series, we have been looking at the prophecies of Haggai, a prophet known well to the people of Israel, although maybe not as well known to us today. One of the primary questions that Haggai’s prophecies brings is the question, “What is most important?” Last week we looked at the second oracle that focused on the promises of many great things to come, including prosperity for the people and glory for the temple, God’s house.

 

Oracle Three is dated to December 18, 520 B.C. So, we are again looking at about a month and a half between this oracle and Oracle Two, about the same amount of time passing between Oracle One and Oracle Two. While Oracle One had five and Oracle Two had three, in this oracle we have four sections: the Introduction found in verse ten, the Moral Impurity in verses eleven through fourteen, the Curses in verses fifteen through seventeen, and the Blessings in verses eighteen and nineteen.

 

So, let’s dive right into the Introduction in verse ten where we read, “On the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month in the second year of Darius, the Lord’s word came to Haggai the prophet:” Now unlike the first two oracles, we don’t have as much information offered in this introduction. We still get the specific date at the beginning and are told that the Lord’s word has come to Haggai, but that is it. We do not have any kind of command about saying anything to the governor or the chief priest or the rest of the people like we had in the others.

 

From the Introduction we go to the next section of this oracle, the Moral Impurity, found in verses eleven through fourteen. There we read, “This is what the Lord of heavenly forces says: Go ahead and ask the priests for a ruling: ‘If someone lifts holy meat into the hem of one’s garment and that hem touches bread, stew, wine, oil, or any kind of food, will it be made holy?’ And the priests responded, ‘No.’ Haggai said, ‘If an unclean person touches any of these things, will it become unclean?’ And the priests responded, ‘It will be unclean.’ Then Haggai responded: Thus has this people and this nation become to me, says the Lord, and everything that they do with their hands. Whatever they offer is unclean.”

 

WOW! This is quite a contrast from the last oracle. Oracle Two was a much happier, joyful, and all-around positive message. But this section on Moral Impurity sounds a lot like what we heard in Oracle One with the covenant curses. “Thus has this people and this nation become to me, says the Lord, and everything that they do with their hands. Whatever they offer is unclean.” Cleanliness, especially regarding worship and sacrifice, was an excessively big deal for the people back then. And here God is saying that there is nothing that they can offer that will not be seen as unclean in God’s eyes.

 

So, from here we move on to the third section, the Curses. I have to say just seeing that name and after what we hear in the previous section, I think things are going to worse before they get better. So, in verses fifteen through seventeen we read, “So now, take it to heart from this day forward. Before stone was placed on stone in the Lord’s temple, when one came to the granary for twenty measures, there were only ten; and when one came to the wine vat for fifty measures, there were only twenty. I struck you — everything you do with your hands — with blight and mildew and hail; but you didn’t return to me.”

 

Here God is reminding the people that before the temple was built, they did not have enough food or drink. God reminds them that they did not go back to God to ask for help, to offer praise, for anything. God reminds them that they abandoned the covenant agreement they had with God and so God struck them with blight and mildew and hail. God never abandoned them, even in the hardest and darkest times, but they gave up on that covenant promise, they failed to stay faithful to God.

 

Finally, we come to the fourth section of the oracle called the Blessings. After all the moral impurity and curses, a section called the Blessings should be a welcome change I would imagine. In verses eighteen and nineteen we find, “So take it to heart from this day forward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month. Take it to heart from the day when the foundation for the Lord’s temple was laid. Is the seed yet in the granary — or the vine, the fig tree, or the pomegranate — or has the olive tree not borne fruit? From this day forward, I will bless you.”

 

Much better news, right? Here God tells them through Haggai that they can now see since they began to work on rebuilding the temple as they were commanded, they now grain, wine, figs, pomegranates – they now have things to sustain them. And this oracle ends with some very comforting words, “From this day forward, I will bless you.” We should remember that a covenant is an agreement between two parties, and the people of Israel had broken this covenant with God. And God holds them accountable to it, “I struck you — everything you do with your hands — with blight and mildew and hail; but you didn’t return to me.”

 

But now, because they are becoming again faith to the covenant, they are finally listening to the command to rebuild the Lord’s house, the temple, and God is blessing them once again. When they behave and follow the rules of the covenant agreement, God blesses them, takes care of them, and protects them. When they break the covenant though, God holds them accountable, and sometimes that means cursing them or allowing someone to come along and oppress them. But what it does not mean is that God abandons them. Throughout all the trials and tribulations, God never abandoned the people.

 

So now taking all of this into account, I again have some things that I want you to think about, some questions to consider. First, how much disparity exists between your internal and external life? And why is there that much disparity? We all have some level of disparity between what we show to the world and what we keep inside, but I think it’s important to look at that disparity and determine if the size of the divide is health and appropriate.

 

Second, how can you increase your awareness and knowledge of God’s will? Now this one may seem rather daunting, and I get that. But remember last week when we talked about the spiritual discipline of silence and solitude? We talked about using the quietness to listen for God whispering to you. And the third thing I want you to think about and consider is how can you make a more consistent habit in your everyday life of “considering your ways”? Does it mean putting a reminder in your calendar every day? Or maybe making it a part of your prayer life? Adding it to your time of silence and solitude? You may need to try a few different things to find the one that is right and best for you.

 

Each week so far in this series I have given you a challenge regarding a spiritual discipline, and this morning will be no different. Today I am challenging you regarding the spiritual discipline of meditation. Now I want to preface all of this with the reality that the discipline of Christian meditation is completely different than Eastern meditation. Eastern meditation is primarily about emptying one’s mind in order to reach some plane of understanding inherent within the individual person.

 

Christian meditation on the other hand, is about FILLING our minds with the thoughts of God expressed in Scripture, while also allowing God to transform us into God’s likeness. Christian meditation culls together things like Bible study, prayer, solitude, and Scripture memory. You can boil it down to simply thinking the thoughts of God. So, I want you to try and experiment with the spiritual discipline of Christian meditation this week.

 

Now you are probably thinking, “well that sounds great, but I’ve never done this before, so how about some help here pastor?” Well the good news is that various forms of meditation have been tried and repeated through the generations, so you are not alone in this. For instance, there is Meditatio Scripturarum, which is the meditation upon Scripture and is the central reference point for all forms of Christian meditation. We should remember that meditation is not study, it is about internalizing and personalizing the passage you use.

 

There is also a meditation practice of Christians in the Middle Ages called Re-collection. This was simply a time of being still and quiet. Truth be told, this one may be one of the most challenging for people because it can be hard to be still and quiet. But in this practice, we simply allow our mind the time to rest, reflecting on all that is happening in our life and filtering it through our developed knowledge of Scripture. This practice can be similar to silence and solitude that we spoke about before.

 

There is another form called Meditation on Creation, which I want to make clear is definitely NOT pagan pantheism in any way, shape, or form. Rather it is a wonderful worship of the one and only Creator God. If the heavens declare God’s glory, as we read in Psalm 19, then meditation on God’s creation can be a deeply meaningful practice. And like with Re-collection, it is meditating through a developed filter of Scripture knowledge.

 

These three are just a few forms of the practice of Christian meditation. You may find one or two of these works really well for you, or you might find a better way to meditate on God’s Word that is quite different than the examples I have mentioned. What is important though is that you set aside some time this week to experiment with the spiritual discipline of Christian meditation. The whole point is to try.

 

And while I cannot promise that one of these forms will provide you with some great moment of realization or profound discovery, there is one thing that I can promise you. I can promise that God will always meet you with God’s grace. You have heard me talk these past weeks about the need for spiritual reconstruction, and I can confidently say that God’s grace is one of the most important, if not the most important, building blocks in that process. Amen.