TODAY’S READING FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT- Haggai 1:1-2:23

Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, and Obadiah prophesied after King Cyrus of Persia granted those held captive in Babylon permission to return to Jerusalem.

Haggai and Zechariah exhorted the people and the leaders Zerubbabel (governor) and Joshua (the priest) to complete the work of rebuilding the temple.

Haggai is dated in relation to a Gentile dynasty. There would be no more kings in Judah until Messiah would be born king (Matthew 2:2).

Haggai 1:1 1 In the second year of Darius the king, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the LORD came by the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest,

We learn from the Book of Ezra that work on rebuilding the temple began two years after the first remnant returned from Babylon. The foundations were laid in 536 B.C.  Opposition from enemies of the Jews caused the work to come to a halt soon afterwards (Ezra 4:1-6). The temple lay unfinished for approximately 15 years (from 536 B.C. to 520 B.C.).

Ezra 4:24 24 Then work on the house of God in Jerusalem ceased, and it was stopped until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.

It is at this time that Haggai delivers the first of his four messages that will be delivered in these two short chapters.

The returned exiles, discouraged by the setback to the temple’s reconstruction, gave their attention instead to rebuilding their homes.

The governor Zerubbabel and priest Joshua would need the encouragement from the prophets Haggai and Zechariah to launch the temple reconstruction once again.  The Word of the Lord would convict the people of the spiritual malaise that had set in due to their materialistic preoccupations. The people claimed to be waiting for the right time, yet convincing themselves that the right time had not yet arrived. However, they did not have that attitude towards building their own houses!  Sometimes our claim to be waiting on the Lord for ‘the right time’ is an excuse for our spiritual laziness!

Beginning with Chapter 1 verse 2, Haggai gives the first of his four messages (Haggai 1:2- 11) exhorting the people to “consider their ways”.  As people who had made a covenant with God, they have neglected their calling and were suffering for it. Haggai explains why.

Haggai 1:9-11 9 You look for much, but behold, it comes to little; when you bring it home, I blow it away. Why?” declares the LORD of hosts, “Because of My house which lies desolate, while each of you runs to his own house. 10 “Therefore, because of you the sky has withheld its dew and the earth has withheld its produce. 11 “I called for a drought on the land, on the mountains, on the grain, on the new wine, on the oil, on what the ground produces, on men, on cattle, and on all the labor of your hands.”

Haggai assures them that the Lord would be with them as they took on this project. The Lord says, “I am with you!” (Haggai 1:13)

This reminds us of the words of the Risen Lord Jesus, who says, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age,” as He gives them the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations! (Matthew 28:19-20)

The good news is that this message spurred Zerubbabel and the people to take action, get back to work, build the temple in reverence for God (1:12).

There are three messages in Chapter 2. Each of them is called for due to the moods of the people, which threatened to prevent them from finishing the work that God had called them to.

After 7 weeks of construction, the people took a necessary break to celebrate The Feast of Tabernacles. It must have been discouraging, in the context of coming to the temple for the holiday festivities, to see the building in an unfinished state. It was especially difficult for those who remembered the former glory of the Temple of Solomon before it was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar.

The prophet has an important prophecy to make that should encourage them all. They should not belittle their efforts. God had a plan for this temple that would be greater than that of the temple of Solomon. For Christ Jesus, ‘The Desire of the Nations’, would be the glory who would appear on the floor of this temple. It would be enlarged by King Herod’s later construction, but the glory of this temple would be God Incarnate, the glory of the only begotten of the Father.

The symbol of silver adornment would be matched by that which silver represents- REDEMPTION. The symbol of gold would be matched by what it truly represents- THE PERFECTION OF DEITY. God would come to this place in the Glorious Person of His Son and accomplish His perfect redemptive work.

Haggai 2:9 9 ‘The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘and in this place I will give peace,’ declares the LORD of hosts.”

Jesus would make peace by offering Himself as the perfect sacrifice to atone for sin.

John 14:27 27 “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.

He makes peace by the blood of His cross (Colossians 1:20). He is our peace (Ephesians 2:14). And now, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1).

The Lord promises to shake the heavens and the earth when Christ returns at the end of the age (Haggai 2:7).

Haggai 2:7 7 ‘I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth (desire KJV, treasures ESV) of all nations, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the LORD of hosts.

This verse is quoted in the Book of Hebrews,

Hebrews 12:26-27 26 And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “YET ONCE MORE I WILL SHAKE NOT ONLY THE EARTH, BUT ALSO THE HEAVEN.” 27 This expression, “Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.

Those who trust in the Greater Temple of the Lord Jesus are part of an unshakeable kingdom (Hebrews 12:28).

The third prophetic message is given on the ninth month of that same year. The topic is sin. It contaminates. God could not bless them the way He wanted to because they were defiled. Uncleanness caused separation from God. If a Jew became defiled by touching a corpse or open sore, he was to be reckoned unclean, separated from the camp, and needed to be cleansed by bathing and offering a proper sacrifice to restore fellowship. Haggai was implying through a series of rhetorical questions that they could not impart holiness to the temple, but they could defile it by their sins.  Because their earlier behavior had violated the terms of the covenant they had made with God, they were experiencing the consequences through a suffering economy. If they repent and mend their ways, they will be blessed. (Haggai 2:10-19).

Proverbs 14:34 34 Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.

The fourth and final message in the Book of Haggai is a special word of encouragement to Zerubbabel.

Zerubbabel was of the royal line of David. He was the grandson of King Jeconiah (Coniah) and ancestor of Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 1:12; Jer 22:24, 28). Instead of wearing the crown as king, he was the humble governor of a struggling remnant.

God would bring judgement to the nations that wear this world’s crowns, but God would make Zerubbabel a signet ring.

Haggai 2:23 23 ‘On that day,’ declares the LORD of hosts, ‘I will take you, Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, My servant,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you,'” declares the LORD of hosts.

TODAY’S READING FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT – Revelation 11:1-19

Bible scholars are challenged by chapters 6- 19. There are four major interpretations:

  1. The ‘Preterist’ believes that these events have been accomplished in the past (Latin ‘praeter’), all being fulfilled by 70 A.D. when Titus of Rome destroyed Jerusalem.
  2. There are those who hold to the historical view, believing that these events take place throughout the church age.
  3. There are those who hold an ‘idealist’ view, that see the Book as a highly symbolic piece of apocalyptic literature, and therefore it is to be interpreted in a highly subjective manner.
  4. There is a futurist view, which treats the text more literally and believes that these events take place in the future. They see the events in Chapter 11 taking place in the period known as The Great Tribulation.

There is also an ‘eclectic’ view that believes that something is to be gleaned through a combination of the interpretative grids listed above.

The problem with the praeterist view is that much of what is written in Chapters 6-19 has no correspondence with the events that occurred prior to 70 A.D. Also, if we are to take the current consensus of scholars that the Book of Revelation was written at the end of the first century, all the events would have been in the past and have no relevance to the reader. It also does not square away with what the Lord told John about writing about the things which will take place ‘after these things’ (in the future) (Revelation 1:19).

The problem with the historic view is similar. There is no correspondence between what has taken place in history to date to that which is written in these chapters.

The problem with the idealist view is that it is entirely up to the subjectivity of the reader, and it can mean whatever the reader wants it to mean. This weakens its warnings.

There is much to commend about the futurist view. But it also causes us to humbly admit that we cannot be dogmatic about how the events described will play out in the future.

In this chapter, we see the temple in Jerusalem. The historic, partial preterists and idealists see the temple as the church.  However, there are problems with this view. Jews and Gentiles are united in the church (Ephesians 2:11). They are separated here. It makes sense to interpret the temple as a literal temple that will be built in the future. 

The Apostle John is given a measuring rod. And like the man whom prophet Ezekiel saw in his vision (Ezekiel 40), he is to measure the temple of God, the altar, and the people who worship in it. He is measuring out the bounds that will make the temple, altar, and people to be protected by God. The Lord claims ownership of these. He is not to measure the courts outside the temple because they have been given over to the nations.

In the Old Testament, God sometimes measured and marked out places for destruction (2 Samuel 8:1-42 Kings 21:13-15). The Lord knows just where to draw the line. Sometimes we see that God measures what He is laying claim to as owner (Zechariah 2:1-5). In Revelation 11, God is having the temple, the altar, and the people who worship Him measured for preservation. Those who meet Him at the altar of the cross are His true worshipers, and His favor rests upon them (Luke 2:14).

The city of Jerusalem, however, will be tread underfoot for 42 months. 42 months, or 1,260 days, equal three and a half years.

Divine authority will be granted to two witnesses, who will prophesy during this time. They are called the two olive trees and two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. This recalls the vision of the lampstands and olive trees that Zechariah saw in his vision in the Old Testament (Zechariah 4:1-7). They have power to defend themselves, symbolized by the fire that comes out of their mouths to decimate anyone who wants to harm them. Some believe these two witnesses are the return of Moses and Elijah, representing the Law and the Prophets, as they will display the power that accompanied their earlier ministries, Moses turning water to blood, striking the earth with every plague, and Elijah shutting up the rainclouds and causing drought.

The beast (Antichrist) that came out of the Abyss will make war on these two witnesses and kill them. Their dead bodies will lie in the street in the great city, where their Lord was crucified (Jerusalem), only now it is mystically called Sodom (carnality) and Egypt (worldliness).

Those whose affections are set on things below, those who ‘dwell on the earth’ from all nations, will look upon the dead bodies for three and a half days and not permit their bodies to be laid in a tomb. The people of the lie will rejoice at the death of these two witnesses and give gifts to one another as if it were a holiday (11:11).

But after three and a half days, the breath of life from God comes into them, and they are raised from the dead. As they stand on their feet, great fear comes upon all who are watching them. They hear a loud voice from heaven calling them to “Come up here,” and they ascend to heaven in a cloud, with their enemies watching.

After the ascension of the two witnesses, there is a great earthquake that destroys a tenth of the city and kills 7,000 people. These events put the fear of God in the hearts of the survivors, and they give glory to God (11:13).

The third woe is the sounding of the seventh trumpet that unleashes the 7 bowls. Heaven is anticipating the arrival of history’s climax. Loud voices in the heavenly beings and 24 elders give glory to God in worship, falling on their faces in adoration:

Revelation 11:15-18 15  Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.” 16  And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17  saying, “We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign. 18 “And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth.”

The Chapter closes with a vision of the temple in heaven opened and the ark of God’s covenant appearing. There is no mention of blood on the mercy seat, and so the perfection of God’s testimony of holy justice will be put on display with the fury of lightning flashes, thunder peals, earthquake, and a great hailstorm (Rev 11:19).

TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PSALMS – Psalm 139:1-24

This is a good prayer to pray aloud to the Lord. It is up close and personal.

This is a Psalm testifying to God’s omniscience and inescapable presence.

He knows our every thought, motive, and action. He understands our thoughts when we don’t understand them ourselves. He is intimately acquainted with all our ways.

He knows the words we will say before we say them.

With such a complete knowledge of who we are, it is a miracle of grace that when He puts His hand upon us, it is not to crush us but to lead us and rescue us (v.10). He deals with us as a Father who cherishes and chastens His beloved children.

The Psalmist confesses that the Lord has him completely covered (v.5, 7-9). He can meet us in whatever circumstance we find ourselves in.

We may be overwhelmed with situations of darkness; we can put our trust in Him.

Psalm 139:12 12 Even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You.

He understands our physical struggles. He has known us from our first formation in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13).

Do you give thanks to God for your physical frailties?

Psalm 139:14 14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well.

The Lord knows us. How well do we know the Lord? The Psalmist counts as precious the thoughts God has given us in His Word (Psalm 139:17-18).

The Psalmist recognizes that he is in a spiritual battle and asks God to deal with his enemies. Those who hate him, hate God (Psalm 139:19-22).  This is what Jesus taught.

John 15:18 18 “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.

Those who love the Lord cannot be friends with the world.

The Psalmist knows the dangers of introspection and self-analysis. Therefore, we need to ask the Lord, who is omniscient, omnipresent, and all wise, to bring conviction and conversion to every part of our being.

Psalm 139:23-24 23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; 24 And see if there be any hurtful way in me and lead me in the everlasting way. 

TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PROVERBS- Proverbs 30:15-16

Proverbs 30:15-16 15 The leech has two daughters, “Give,” “Give.” There are three things that will not be satisfied, four that will not say, “Enough”: 16 Sheol, and the barren womb, Earth that is never satisfied with water, and fire that never says, “Enough.” 

PRAY FOR THE NATIONS- YEMEN

Yemen

Republic of Yemen

Asia

Geography

Area: 531,869 sq km

Mountainous south and southwestern portion of the Arabian Peninsula and the Indian Ocean island of Socotra.

Population: 24,255,928    Annual Growth: 2.90%

Capital: Sana’a

Urbanites: 31.8%

HDI Rank: 140 of 182 (U.N. Human Development Reports 2009)

Peoples

Peoples: 28 (61% unreached) 
Unreached Peoples Prayer Card

Official language: Arabic    Languages: 14 

Religion

Largest Religion: Muslim

Religion

               

Pop %

Ann Gr

Christians

19,405

0.08

2.9

Evangelicals

4,275

0.0

5.1

Muslim

24,236,523

99.92

 

Challenges for Prayer

Yemen was once famous for frankincense, myrrh, and coffee, but now growing the mild narcotic qat dominates agriculture. Over 80% of the adult population chew it, nearly 40% of the national economy is involved in qat farming and 55% of all water usage is devoted to its production. An estimated 20 million working hours a day are spent chewing it. The negative effects are immense on productivity and social and family life. Attempts to alleviate poor health care, low levels of education and economic underdevelopment are all undermined by widespread corruption.

Christianity once had a strong presence but was almost completely wiped out by the 7th Century Muslim conquest. According to tradition, Shem founded the city of Sana’a, and the Queen of Sheba reigned in Yemen and sought wisdom from Solomon three millennia ago. May the modern people of Sheba seek after the wisdom from God as promised in Isaiah 60:6.

PRAYER: Lord, You are faithful and have called us into fellowship with Your Son, whom You have made to be for us, our perfect solution, our righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. Our confidence is that He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete us. So, sanctify us wholly, O God. Search our hearts to see if there be any wicked way in us. Give us the grace to turn from every sin, to say ‘no’ to ungodliness and worldly lusts. Cause us to love what You love and hate what You hate. Give us boldness to be faithful witnesses to Your wonder-working grace. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.