|Volume 19 Number 4 April 2017||
“Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel saith the Lord; and be strong, O Joshua son of Jehozadak the high priest; and be strong all ye people of the land, saith the Lord, and work, for I am with you, saith the Lord of Hosts” (Haggai 2:4).
Here God, through the prophet, commanded His people to be strong and to work. The background of Haggai’s work can be seen in the Book of Ezra. In the Book of Ezra, we have an account of the laying of the foundation of the second temple in Jerusalem. Under the leadership of Zerubbabel, the Jews returned from Babylonian captivity to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple, which had been torn down by Nebuchadnezzar. Eagerness and enthusiasm characterized this group as they cleared away the debris and set up the foundation of God’s house. Their zeal was soon cooled, however, by the hostility of the Samaritans (Ezra 4:25; Nehemiah 4:1-8). Due to a decree from Artaxerxes (a proper name or possible title for several kings of Persia), work on the Temple stopped, and nothing was accomplished for some 16 years!
Served with this prohibition, the Jews not only yielded to it, but several years afterward, when the violence of opposition abated, they continued to be very indifferent to the work of rebuilding the Temple. The Jews had no spirit or courage to set about it again, but they seemed glad that they had an excuse to be idle.
In these troublesome times, God raised up the prophet Haggai to reprove the Jews from their slothfulness in rebuilding the Temple. The theme of his preaching was the neglect of building God’s house. This was so because neither danger nor difficulty nor poverty prevented them from building their own houses, ceiled houses of beauty and luxury for those times. Their attitude was, “The time is not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built” (Haggai 1:2).
The Need of the Work
The House of God had been neglected long enough, and it was now time to revive it. We can hear the Jews saying, “Why build this house? Why not wait? Why not leave this work of rebuilding to our children?” The answers to their questions were given by Haggai and Zechariah—we do it for God!
In the days of Haggai, the building of God’s house was entirely material, but today the house of God is no longer material; it is a spiritual house. “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). As members of the church, we see the need for building up the church of Christ in our community. Each member needs to be commended for his or her faithfulness in doing what he or she can for the church.
The Responsibility of the Work
The two great responsibilities of accomplishing anything are, “Be strong and work.” They cannot be separated. There can be no work apart from strength; there cannot be strength that does not express itself in work. God desires that the church today be strong in Him. “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might” (Ephesians 6:10). “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).
The potential of the church is unlimited. Think of it, in one month Haggai had the work started! Let us learn from this great prophet.
The Encouragement of the Work
God said to Haggai, “For I am with you saith the Lord of hosts.” Christ also said in Matthew 28:20, “…and, lo I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” Here is the promise of the presence and power of the Lord. This should be enough to silence all of our fears. Paul said, “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). David said, “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord” (Psalm 27:14). Joshua said, “Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest” (Joshua 1:7).
May God continue to bless His people today, just as He blessed the Jews in the days of Haggai and the early church in the first century. Let’s carry out the work of God today, too.
The So-Called Folly of Preaching
Mark N. Posey
Preaching is often regarded as “foolish.” In many churches, it is being set aside for more culturally “relevant” methods to evangelize the lost and edify the saints. Many consider plays, athletic displays, panel discussions, musical extravaganzas, movies, multi-media presentations, clowns, puppets and liturgical dance as “more relevant” to our media generation than a “long and boring” sermon from the Bible heralded by one man speaking to mankind. Yet, with his last words, Paul charged Timothy: “Preach the Word!” He did not call him to adapt preaching to the entertainment methods of his own contemporary culture. In Paul’s day, Greek plays, athletic contests, magic shows, circus acts and give-and-take debates were all popular forms of entertainment. Yet, Paul did not encourage churches to wed the Gospel to such forms for the sake of evangelism or relevance.
Paul held to preaching, the proclamation of God’s Word to men—to the very end of his life—no matter the culture, Jew or Gentile. Our forefathers would have considered these “relevant” and “creative” innovations in our worship services to be a violation of the biblical regulative principle of worship. However, this principle is the very reason we are who we are. It is the “forming principle” of Christ’s church. To violate the regulative principle of Christian worship and practice by substituting preaching with creative methods is to deny the theology that shaped our identity! Preaching and teaching God’s Word is the primary God-ordained means commanded in Scripture to bring sinners to Christ and to edify God’s people. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Our Lord and His apostles commanded:
“and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:47)
“But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:2)
Preaching is indispensable to Christianity. It is God’s appointed way by which sinners hear of the Savior and so call on Him for salvation, for “how shall they hear without a preacher?” (1 Corinthians 1:17; 9:16; Romans 10:14-15). Thus, our task as preachers is dauntingly challenging but nevertheless promising in response.