Monday, February 1, 2010

A Lesson from Haggai

There are several Church of God groups today which seem to teach that the preaching of the gospel to the world is over, that it was completed by Mr. Armstrong, and that there should not be a high priority placed on public proclamation, rather, the Church of God should place a high priority only on feeding the flock and getting the bride ready.

There is a lesson I think in the book of Haggai that might apply here.

The book of Haggai starts, "In the second year of King Darius, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, saying, 'Thus speaks the Lord of hosts, saying: "This people says, 'The time has not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built' " ' " (Haggai 1:1-2).

The book of Haggai was written after Judah was taken captive by Babylon, and after some Jews had been allowed to return to Judah. There are parallels between that time in the history of Israel and our time in the Church of God today. The Jews had been scattered and reduced in power, just as the Church of God has been scattered and reduced in power in our time in the last two decades.

The Jews were not prospering, just as in many ways the Church of God has not been prospering since the death of Mr. Armstrong. The people were saying that it was not time to build the temple.

God's reply: "Then the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet, saying, 'Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?' Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: 'Consider your ways! You have sown much, and bring in little; You eat, but do not have enough; You drink, but you are not filled with drink; You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; And he who earns wages, Earns wages to put into a bag with holes.' Thus says the Lord of hosts: 'Consider your ways! Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified,' says the Lord. 'You looked for much, but indeed it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why?' says the Lord of hosts. 'Because of My house that is in ruins, while every one of you runs to his own house. Therefore the heavens above you withhold the dew, and the earth withholds its fruit. For I called for a drought on the land and the mountains, on the grain and the new wine and the oil, on whatever the ground brings forth, on men and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands' " (Haggai 1:3-11).

Today, God's temple is the Church (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). As in Haggai's day, many say that this is not the time to build God's temple. But God's reply to the people in Haggai's time is to go to the mountains and bring wood to build the temple. In the Bible, mountains can represent nations or kingdoms (Isaiah 2:2-3, Isaiah 2:12-14, Isaiah 11:9, Isaiah 52:7, Jeremiah 51:25, Ezekiel 6:1-3, Ezekiel 17:22-23, Ezekiel 33:28, Ezekiel 36:1-4, Daniel 2:35, Micah 4:1). If the lesson of Haggai applies to us today, we are to go to the nations, that is, the public, and bring "wood" or material to build God's temple, the Church. In other words, this is still the time to preach the gospel, to bring in new members, and to build the Church of God.

The lessons in the Old Testament are written for our example to learn from (1 Corinthians 10:11).

The door to preaching the gospel is still open. We still have enough freedom and money to publish and broadcast. New members are still being called into the Church of God and baptized. The opportunities are there, and people need our message. We need the spiritual discernment and vision to see the opportunity, the need, and the responsibility. "Jesus said to them, 'My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. Do you not say, "There are still four months and then comes the harvest"? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!' " (John 4:34-35).

The leaders, ministry, and members of the whole Church of God need to have a zeal to finish God's work of preaching the gospel to the world, feeding the flock, and preaching the Ezekiel warning to Israel. We can do much more than we have done so far. We need to imitate the zeal of Jesus Christ who was so zealous to finish God's work that it was like food to Him. We also should have a desire to finish God's work as we have a desire for food. And God's work still includes preaching to the public a message of repentance, of warning, and of the good news of the coming kingdom of God.

Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:

Will Focusing Exclusively on Feeding the Flock Heal the Church?, Chapter 5

Is the Church Commissioned to Preach the Gospel to the World?, Chapter 5

The Church, Chapter 4

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