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Posts Tagged ‘prophecy’

1. Where it is mentioned in Scripture: (post-Jesus’ resurrection) Acts 2:17-18; 19:6; 21:4; Romans 12:6; 1 Corinthians 12-14; Ephesians 2:20; 3:5; 4:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22; 1 Timothy 1:18; 4:14; 1 John 4:1-3; Revelation 19:10. Jesus said he would send out prophets – Matthew 23:34. Examples of prophets: Agabus (and others) Acts 11:27-28; 21:10; several are named, including Barnabas and Saul (Paul) – Acts 13:1; Judas and Silas – Acts 15:32; the four daughters of Stephen – Acts 21:9.

2. What is it?

  • It is Spirit prompted: Prophecy is a “manifestation of the Spirit” – 1 Corinthians 12:7. (2 Peter 1:21; Acts 21:11.)
  • The person is in control. They can choose to speak or not – 1 Corinthians 14:29-30. “The spirits of prophets are subject to prophets” – 1 Corinthians 14:32. It can be received and then delivered later.
  • Prophecy is spoken to people, not God. It is a message from God. “One who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation” – 1 Corinthians 14:3.
  • It can come in a dream (Acts 2:17), a vision (Acts 2:17; Revelation) or simply as a verbal message.
  • It is a revelation from God about a matter – 1 Corinthians 14:30. In 1 Corinthians 14 “prophecy” and “a revelation” appear to be talking about the same thing.
    • It can disclose “the secrets” of someone’s heart – 1 Corinthians 14:24-25.
    • Agabus predicted a famine – Acts 11:28.
    • Prophets in Antioch confirmed sending out Barnabas and Paul on their first missionary journey – Acts 13:2.
    • Agabus warned Paul about his coming arrest – Acts 21:11.
    • Timothy was given guidance and encouragement for ministry – 1 Timothy 1:18.
    • A gift for ministry can be given by prophesy – 1 Timothy 4:14.
    • The book of Revelation is a prophecy. It includes exhortations, admonitions and visions of the future.
  • It can come as an encouragement or as an admonition (warning, challenge, rebuke) – 1 Corinthians 14:3; 14:24-25; Revelation.
  • It is not simply a teaching or a sermon, but these can come from prophetic insights given to the teacher or preacher. Teaching is a different gift – 1 Corinthians 12:28. Although in the Old Testament much of what prophets did was teach and preach based on the revelation God gave them. Paul saw his teaching as prophetic – 1 Corinthians 14:37-38.

3. Not everyone has this gift. Paul says, “earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy” – 1 Corinthians 14:1. He also says, “Now I want all of you to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy” – 1 Corinthians 14:5. Nevertheless, the question he asks in 1 Corinthians 12:29, “are all prophets?” grammatically requires a “no” answer. Although each of us has the Holy Spirit in us and so at any point any of us could exercise any gift, if God so chooses, normally God gives different gifts to different people and then calls us to act as a body complimenting each other. So only some will have a regular gift of prophecy.

4. Prophecy must be evaluated. Since it purports to give a message from God, it must be tested to see if it is sound. Paul says, “do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good” – 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21. He says, “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said” – 1 Corinthians 14:29. 1 John 4:1 says, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” It is evaluated by the Scriptures.

5. Prophecy does not equal Scripture. All of Scripture is inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16) and prophecy also comes from the Spirit. But there are prophecies that are not recorded as Scripture in both Old and New Testaments (e.g. King Saul and Silas. See also Mark 13:11). And Scripture itself is made up of more than prophecy, including narratives, parables, teaching, proverbs etc. To be Scripture requires something more than just giving a prophecy. For instance, in the New Testament it has to be “apostolic.” That is, it has to be from the apostles or from the apostolic church under their guidance. They had a unique and nonreplicable role in giving us the message of Jesus. This is the foundational and irreplaceable revelation of Jesus. No prophecy today can claim this. Rather each prophecy today must be judged by the apostolic witness.

6. Rules for prophecy in church. Two or three may speak. “If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent” – 1 Corinthians 14:29-30. Everything must be done decently and in order – 1 Corinthians 14:40. “For God is not a God of confusion, but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints” – 1 Corinthians 14:33.

7. Paul’s high view of prophecy. “Earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy” – 1 Corinthians 14:1. “The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets” – 1 Corinthians 14:5. Prophecy builds up the church.

8. How is prophecy a sign to believers (1 Corinthians 14:22, 24-25)? Prophecy builds up, consoles and encourages believers – 1 Corinthians 14:3. It shows that God’s favor rests on them because he is speaking to them. Prophecy can even lead an unbeliever to become a believer – 1 Corinthians 14:24-25. And then that person will confirm that “God is really among you” – 1 Corinthians 14:25.

9. More from Acts. a) Prophecy is the larger term of which tongues is a sub-category. They all spoke in tongues and Peter said this fulfilled the prophecy that all would prophesy – Acts 2:14-17. b) Prophecy can be an outward evidence of the reception of the Spirit (Acts 2; 19:6). But so can any other Spirit manifestation/gift or no manifestation at all (Acts 13:12, 48-42; 14:21).

10. Love is more important than prophecy. “If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge . . . but have not love, I am nothing” – 1 Corinthians 13:2. “As for prophecies, they will pass away” – 1 Corinthians 13:9. But “love never ends” – 1 Corinthians 13:8.

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Series: Paul to the Thessalonians

Paul mosaic

We are in the fifth and final section of the teaching portion of 1 Thessalonians, which Paul began in chapter 4. And so we have looked at relationships with one another in the church, respecting Christian leaders, living in peace with one another, and helping those who struggle in various ways. We have also looked at relationships with everyone, inside and outside the church. And here Paul taught us not to return harm for harm, but to be patient with all, and to do good to everyone.

Today we look at vs. 16-22, focused on our relationship with God. There are eight statements which are held together by two themes:

– vs. 16-18 have to do with speaking to God in praise and prayer

– vs. 19-22 have to do with God speaking to us by means of prophecy (Ben Witherington)

  Let’s begin with vs. 16-18.

Talking to God: Praise and prayer

 “16Rejoice always, 17pray without ceasing, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

Rejoicing has to do with expressing our joy. This is quite similar to giving thanks (Psalm 97:12; Philippians 1:4; 1 Thessalonians 3:9), which is the expression of appreciation for benefits and blessings. Given that there is a prayer focus here (prayer comes right between them) these expressions of joy and thanks are given to God. I am calling this praise to God.

Now, rejoicing and giving thanks are a kind of prayer, but here Pau distinguishes prayer from these, so the focus in on petitionary prayer, or making our requests known to God.

  The phrase, “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” applies to all three of these things. It is God’s will for us to rejoice, give thanks and offer up our requests to him. God wants us to be in relationship with him; for us to communicate with him our praises and our concerns.

But how can we do these thing always? How can we rejoice always? How can we pray without ceasing?

If we take this literally, it doesn’t make sense. We have to sleep for one thing. But more to the point, you can’t both talk to God and also to someone else – at the same time. Or again, you can’t both rejoice with those who rejoice and also weep with those who weep, as Paul says (Romans 12:15) – at the same time

Rather, Paul is referring here to set times of daily prayer according to the biblical pattern. That is, morning and evening prayers, or perhaps also afternoon prayers. We see this all throughout the Old Testament in the Psalms and in Daniel for instance, as well as in the New Testament. In fact, there is a reference to this in 1 Thessalonians 3:10 – “we pray most earnestly night and day . . ..” This was a common Jewish way of talking about daily prayers in the evening and the morning.

Paul is saying, keep to your daily prayers, continue day and night; morning and evening. Always rejoice by coming before God constantly morning and evening. Unceasingly pray by coming before God morning and evening. And, of course, we can also pray and rejoice as we are able throughout each day. 

But there’s another part to this. Paul is saying keep praying even when things are hard. They were going through persecution, so the message is:

  • Keep on rejoicing, as individuals and as a group, not just when things are good, but when things are hard. This echoes Jesus in Matthew 5:11-12. When you are persecuted “rejoice and be glad.”
  • Keep on praying, as individuals and as a group, not just when things are easy, but when you have difficulty after difficulty. This echoes Jesus in Luke 18:1. “And he told them . . . that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.”

This also fits with v. 18 – give thanks “in all circumstances.” It’s easy to give thanks when things are just fine, but we are also to do this when things are not good – that’s what “in all circumstances” means.

But how can we rejoice and give thanks in bad times? Well, it’s certainly not based on our feelings or that we’re having a good day. It’s based on understanding what God is doing in our lives, and the bigger picture of the hope that we have, which is far greater than whatever temporary suffering we may have in this world. And we can do this because the Holy Spirit within us is the source of our joy (1 Thessalonians 1:6).

Some questions to consider . . . How is your prayer and praise life? Rate yourself:

  • Do you only come to God in an emergency?
  • Do you only pray and give thank on Sundays at church?
  • Do you have a private prayer life?
  • Are you constant in your prayer life?

Paul is teaching us here to be in this last category. Think about it. God spared nothing to be in relationship with us. He created us, bore with us, gave his only Son. But often we make little or no effort to spend time in relationship with God. This helps put things in perspective.

Are you overwhelmed by hard times? Paul calls the Thessalonians not to give up in persecution. And his word to us is don’t lose heart. When you have difficulty after difficulty piling up on you and it seems like praying is useless – keep at it. Press through. God will take care of you.

God talking to us: Prophecy

“19Do not quench the Spirit. 20Do not despise prophecies, 21but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22Keep away from every evil kind.” I want us to look first at what is the key to understanding these verses, prophesy. And so I ask what is prophesy? We have to turn to 1 Corinthians since it is just mentioned here in 1 Thessalonians.

  • It consists of words the Spirit prompts you to say. It is a manifestation of the Spirit, like all spiritual gifts, which in this case comes in words – 1 Corinthians 12:7; 14:12. It might be a word of encouragement, insight or even challenge.
  • It is directed “to people,” in contrast to speaking to God – 1 Corinthians 14:3.
  • It is intended for “their strengthening and encouragement and comfort” – 1 Corinthians 14:3.

So prophecy is simply speaking out a word from the Spirit in your own words. It’s a part of the promise of Joel 2:28-29 that all believers will have the Spirit and prophesy. Although some are classified as prophets since they have a specific ministry in this, God can speak through any of his children to say a word of encouragement, insight or challenge.

Prophecy was a completely normal part of the life of the New Testament church. We see references to it throughout the New Testament. And it happens among us as well – from the pulpit, from Sunday school teachers, in our Sunday school classes and small groups and in our praise time. We don’t call it this necessarily, but it happens.

I wanted to give you a specific example today and so I asked God to give me a word for us today. I have actually already said it as a part of my teaching. If I were to say it as a prophecy in the congregation I would say it like this, “I believe the Spirit is asking us today – God spared nothing to be in relationship with us. So why do we make such little effort to be in relationship with him in prayer?”

Now let’s break down these verses and see how they fit together. “19Do not quench the Spirit. 20Do not despise prophecies.” These two phrases basically say the same thing. For it is the activity of the Spirit that animates prophecy. And so to quench the Spirit is to despise prophecies.

Quench is a fire metaphor. It is when you put out a fire. The Holy Spirit is compared to fire in several places (e.g. Matthew 3:11). And so to quench the Spirit is to suppress or restrain the movement of the Spirit among us.

To despise prophecies is to look down on them, reject them, to treat them with contempt. So both of these phrases are about restricting prophecy.

Why restrict prophecy? The answer is simple – it’s easy to abuse. I have seen this and perhaps you have as well. People can speak out their own opinions as if they were God’s, or mix the two together. People can speak out wrong teaching (see 1 Corinthians 12:3; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2). People can speak out things that come from the flesh, from the world, from the evil one – and not from the Spirit.

  So there is certainly a temptation, perhaps especially by leaders, to suppress it; to look down on it. But Paul’s word to us is don’t quench it or despise it because of abuses, rather the answer is test prophecies (also 1 Corinthians 14:29; 1 John 4:1-3).

He doesn’t’ say anything here about how to do this but certainly testing it against the apostolic message, now written down in the New Testament is foundational (2 Thessalonians 2:15).

Once we test what is said, we are to “hold fast what is good.” That is, receive what is truly from the Spirit. But if it is not of the Spirit we are to “keep away from every evil kind” of prophecy – that is, keep distance from receiving bad or evil prophecies. (Notice the spatial language hold on to the good, keep away from the bad) (Gordon Fee’s discussion of these verses is very helpful).

So any prophecy has to be tested. Any if you want to share I encourage you to test it yourself before you share. It might be a bit embarrassing for me or the Elders to have to correct you in front of the whole group. But I will if necessary.

Some questions to consider . . . Are we OK with people speaking out by the Spirit? (Maybe we are more comfortable when we don’t call it prophecy). We will find out because I want to give you a chance to do this next week during the praise time. Think about this. Can we expect the Spirit to move among us, which is what we pray for and desperately need, but only on our terms and in ways that we dictate? “Oh Spirit come and do your work; give us revival; transform lives among us; bring people into your kingdom. But don’t do anything that we are not comfortable with; don’t use any spiritual gifts; don’t let our routines get messed up. We want you, but only on our terms.” Do you think God hears this prayer?

Finally, do you quench the Spirit in other ways? Do you restrain the work of the Spirit in ways beyond the topic of prophecy. When the Spirit speaks to you, but you don’t like what you are hearing – do you suppress the Spirit? When the Spirit seeks to lead you but you don’t want to go – do you quench the Spirit?

I will tell you plainly – we need the renewal and transformation of the Spirit among us as individuals and as a congregation. But we will only receive this when we open ourselves up fully to the Spirit – no strings attached.

William Higgins

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We are looking at the final verses of Haggai today. We have already looked at Haggai’s first message: Instead of building up your own houses, get to work on rebuilding the temple – God’s house. And we have looked at Haggai’s second message: Even though the temple doesn’t seem glorious, God will give it glory; in fact, more glory than the previous temple.

In our verses today there are actually two messages that Haggai gives on the same day – December 18th 520 BC. (And so we will have two messages on the same day). In the first of these, or Haggai’s third message overall, he encourages the people by telling them that-

The  blessings are coming

The blessings are on the way.

Now this third message is connected to Haggai’s first message in chapter one, in that both of them note that they were going through hard times because of their disobedience. In other words, God was disciplining them. But the background to this third message is that they had been obedient now for some three months and things were still hard.

To address this, the Lord has Haggai ask two questions. v. 11 – “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Ask the priests about the law.” He is asking for an official ruling from the priests, as a way of making a point.

In v. 12 we have the first question, “’If someone carries holy meat in the fold of his garment and touches with his fold bread or stew or wine or oil or any kind of food, does it become holy?’ The priests answered and said, ‘No.’” After certain sacrifices, you would carry the leftover meat in the fold of your garment. The meat was considered holy, and the garment as well (Leviticus 6). But the holiness of the meat and the garment doesn’t make anything else it touches holy. And this is the point. As a general rule, holiness isn’t contagious.

In v. 13 we have the second question. “Then Haggai said, ‘If someone who is unclean by contact with a dead body touches any of these, does it become unclean?’ The priests answered and said, ‘It does become unclean.’” So if holiness isn’t contagious, uncleanness is contagious. We are dealing with the rotten apple principle here. A good apple can’t make a rotten apple good, but a rotten apple can make a good apple bad.

Next, Haggai makes the application, which is that the people of Judah were unclean. v. 14 – “Then Haggai answered and said, ‘So is it with this people, and with this nation before me, declares the Lord, and so with every work of their hands. And what they offer there is unclean.’” They were unclean due to their disobedience in that they put themselves first and didn’t work on the temple. And this uncleanness infected all that they did and had. More specifically it is the “work of their hands” that is unclean; that is, their harvests and their animals – all that they brought before God as sacrifices.

They thought that, even though they were walking in disobedience, their sacrifices would make them acceptable; that they would cover over their disobedience and make them holy. But the message of Haggai is that their disobedience made their sacrifices unclean and unacceptable.

The holiness of their sacrifices didn’t make their actions holy. But the uncleanness of their actions made their sacrifices unclean.

Next Haggai reminds them that because of their prior disobedience God disciplined them. vs. 15-17 – “Now then, consider from this day onward. Before stone was placed upon stone in the temple of the Lord, how did you fare?” He is asking, ‘how were you doing before you started working on the temple?’

And then, in words similar to what we find in chapter 1, he says, “When one came to a heap of twenty measures, there were but ten. When one came to the wine vat to draw fifty measures, there were but twenty. I struck you and all the products of your toil with blight and with mildew and with hail, yet you did not turn to me, declares the Lord.”

And then Haggai points toward the future. Since they began work on the temple; since they began to be obedient, God will now bless them. v. 18-19 – “Consider from this day onward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month. Since the day that the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid, consider: Is the seed yet in the barn? Indeed, the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have yielded nothing. But from this day on I will bless you.” [The time reference here is unclear. Is it looking back three months to when they began work on the temple and they are now, on December 18th supposed to start looking for the blessing? Or is it saying that the foundation was laid or finished on December 18th  and because of this the blessings will start on this day?]

This is a bold prediction. At this time of year (December) the seed would have just been planted after the late fall rains, and the orchards would not have been bearing fruit. And so without any outward indication of the kind of harvest the seed will bear, and without any indication of the kind of harvest the orchards will bear next season, the Lord says, “from this day on I will bless you” – v. 18.

The problem that they had complained about – hard economic times, would be dealt with. God’s discipline would be lifted, and God would bless them.

What Haggai is really doing in these verses is presenting a before and after picture. Before, they were disciplined because of their disobedience. But now, after, they will be blessed because of their obedience.

Lessons

Let’s see what we can take away from Haggai’s third message. First of all, obedience brings God’s blessing. They were under God’s corrective discipline because of their sin. God was trying to get their attention; to wake them up.

And God does the same with us. As Hebrews 12:6 says, “The Lord disciplines the one he loves.” When we allow sin in our life, we get discipline, not blessing.

But like them, if we submit ourselves to God and obey the Lord, we can know the fullness of God’s blessings for us.

I guess it’s just human nature that everyone thinks they will find happiness by doing their own thing; making their own choices apart from God. But it only comes by doing God’s will. This is how we find peace and happiness.

Second, you can’t cover over sin with good or religious practices. Or to say it another way, you can’t cancel out a life of disobedience to God by doing other good things, so that you say I have done some bad things, but I have also done some good things and they balance each other out.

They thought that since they offered up sacrifices, their disobedience could be overlooked. Sometimes we do the same. We think, ‘I will pray to God,’ or ‘I will come to church,’ or ‘I will help in the soup kitchen’ even though we are willfully choosing to sin. We think, ‘It will be OK. God will accept me. Things will be alright.’

But our unrepented sin contaminates all that we do, just as their sin contaminated their sacrifices. The only remedy is repentance – as Haggai 2:17 says, to turn to the Lord.

Haggai’s fourth message, given on the same day is brief. It has to do with a –

A promise concerning the house of David

By way of background, in Jeremiah 22 King Jehoiachin, or Coniah, as he was also known, a descendent of David, is rejected. v. 24 says, “As I live, declares the Lord, though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, were the signet ring on my right hand, yet I would tear you off . . ..” And in v. 30 the Lord says, “none of his offspring shall succeed in sitting on the throne of David and ruling again in Judah.”

Why is this relevant? Zerubbabel was the grandson of Jehoiachin, and this pronouncement would certainly put a cloud over him and the line of David.

And so Haggai speaks to Zerubbabel, personally, but also as a representative of the Davidic line. vs. 21-22 – “Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I am about to shake the heavens and the earth, and to overthrow the throne of kingdoms. I am about to destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations, and overthrow the chariots and their riders. And the horses and their riders shall go down, every one by the sword of his brother.”

This shaking of the nations is also referred to in Haggai’s second message. Although here it seems more uniformly to point to the end of all things.

v. 23 – “On that day, declares the Lord of hosts, I will take you, O Zerubbabel my servant, the son of Shealtiel, declares the Lord, and make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you, declares the Lord of hosts.” A signet ring is the seal of a king. It functioned like a signature. It was an instrument of authority and a symbol of a most prized possession, usually kept on the possession of the king. And so Haggai is saying – if Jehoiachin is rejected, Zerubbabel is accepted. He is precious, like a signet ring that is not cast off, but kept near. He is God’s servant. He is chosen.

But God is also speaking to him as a representative of the Davidic line. And he is saying that when all other kingdoms have run their course and are judged – the line of David will continue on.

This is similar to the second message about the temple. Even though it seemed paltry, there was a glorious future for it. So also here, even though Zerubbabel is a mere governor in the Persian empire, what will come from him will be great and beloved by God.

The fulfillment can be seen in that:

  • God preserved the line of David through Zerubbabel
  • Jesus comes from this ancestry, from Zerubbabel, through Joseph – Matthew 1:12.
  • When Jesus returns all kingdoms will be judged and he will reign as King of kings and Lord of lords.

Lesson

From this last message of Haggai we learn something about God that we need to remember. And that is that God is in control. Certainly the nations seemed all powerful to small and insignificant Judah. But God can shake them and judge them when he chooses. And even though they sin and rebel, ultimately, they are under his control.

And God has a plan for the world which he will fulfill in the proper time. God is in control of the outcome of history, and this will include the line of David.

But God also has concern for individuals, as we see with Zerubbabel. And so in the midst of our confusion, our inability to control things and our inability to see into the future – we can trust the God who does see into the future, who is in control and who cares for each of us. And we can know that if God can make all of history turn out like it should, he can certainly do the same with our lives – as we seek to follow him.

William Higgins

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We are continuing on in our series on the prophet Haggai. Today we look at his second major message in chapter 2:1-9.

Introduction

As we saw last week in Haggai’s first message, God challenged the people to build the temple. They thought that bad economic times meant they should delay the work. But God told them that the hard times were a result of their not working; of their disobedience; of focusing on their own houses and not God’s house. So they should get to work on the temple. And this is what they did. They began to work about three weeks later.

Haggai gave his second message on October 17th, 520 BC. This was during the feast of tabernacles which was a time to remember how God brought them “out of the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 23:43). Everyone would have been gathered together in Jerusalem for this event. Once again the message is for Zerubbabel the governor, Joshua the high priest (the two leaders) and “all the remnant of the people” – v 2.

The background to the message is that –

The people are discouraged

It had been about seven weeks after Haggai’s first message to begin work on the temple, and about three weeks after they began. And it was becoming clear to them that they would not be able to equal the glory the temple used to have, before its destruction. The building would be much the same in design and size, but it would lack the gold and silver – the carvings, items overlaid in gold, the numerous utensils and treasures. They simply didn’t have the resources to provide all this. So they felt their rebuilt temple would be shabby by comparison.

A part of this is that when Haggai spoke this message, as we saw, it was the feast of tabernacles. This was when Solomon dedicated his elaborately ornate temple – 1 Kings 8:2. And so this would have brought back memories of it, as well as the inevitable comparisons between what Solomon produced and their efforts. And the crowds gathered for this holiday may well have made critical comments about the building project. ‘It will never be the same.’ ‘It’s better to do nothing, than to do a poor job.’ ‘What are they thinking?’

And so, after beginning the work, the leaders and workers were now discouraged. This brings us to –

God’s message

Haggai asked the people gathered in Jerusalem, “Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes?” – v. 3. There would have been a few old enough to remember the temple as it was before it was destroyed 66 years before.

And he acknowledges what these people were saying and thinking, this temple is “nothing” in comparison. It lacked gold and silver. It lacked glory; the glory suitable for the one true God.

But the Lord speaks words of encouragement to them. Despite all this, he tells them to keep up the work! v. 4 – “Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord.” He tells them to be strong three times, once to each of the parties that are addressed by the message. He is saying, even though your work looks insignificant, and others are criticizing it – don’t let that cause you to stop.

Rather, the Lord says, “Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts, according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not.” – vs. 4-5. God has promised to be with them, according to the covenant. God has not abandoned them. And his presence is more than enough to sustain them and empower them to do his will, despite obstacles. And so they should not fear failure and thus give up, but continue to work.

After these words of encouragement to the people, comes an amazing prophecy that –

God will take care of the glory. God will provide glory for this temple. vs. 6-8: “For thus says the Lord of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts.”

The basic point here is that God is going to do something “so that the treasures of all nations shall come in and I will fill this house with glory.” God is going to personally take care of what is causing them to be discouraged. What they don’t have, he will provide. As he says in v. 8, the silver and gold are all his, and so he can bring all that he wants.

In the background here is the Exodus out of Egypt, which Haggai has already mentioned, and the people would have been thinking about as they celebrated the feast of tabernacles. Two things in particular from this are highlighted:

1. At the Exodus, God shook the earth. This refers to how God “shook” up Egypt so that Israel could escape. Several Scriptures speak of this in terms of the whole earth trembling and shaking – Psalm 77:18; Judges 5:4-5; Psalm 68:8. God shook the order of things and caused his will to be done.

God is saying he will do this “yet once more,” just like at the time of the Exodus. (So here, as elsewhere, the return of the exiles is seen as a second Exodus). vs. 6-7 – “I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all nations . . ..”

2. At the Exodus, God brought forth treasures. When the people left Egypt, the Egyptians gave them gold and silver – Exodus 12:35-36. And it was no doubt from this that gold and silver was later given to make the original sanctuary in the wilderness – Exodus 35:21-29.

In the same way, God will shake the nations again. Why? v. 7 – “so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory.” So what they don’t have in resources – gold and silver – God will provide, just as he did at the time of the Exodus.

And finally, the Lord says in v. 9: “The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.” The temple that they are working on, which seems so meager in comparison with the one before – will become more glorious than before! So, if the source of their discouragement was that their temple was not as glorious – God gives them a look into the future to say that it will be more glorious.

And God will give peace or wholeness through the temple. God will accomplish through it what it was meant to accomplish.

God shares all this with them, to encourage them not to give up, but to keep working.

The fulfillment. Just briefly, this prophecy was literally fulfilled in stages:     1. Within months of the prophecy, as it says, in “a little while,” Darius, the ruler of the nations of the world, paid for the expenses of building the temple – Ezra 6:8. So they had all that they needed to build and furnish the temple as it should be.

2. About 60 years later, Artaxerxes, ruler of the nations of the world, gave treasures for the temple – Ezra 7. He himself gave silver and gold, plus v. 16 speaks of “all the silver and gold in the whole province of Babylonia . . .” being available.

3. And then, still hundreds of years later, Herod made this temple literally more glorious than Solomon’s. It became a true wonder in the ancient world.

Let me also say very briefly that this prophecy will also be fulfilled in a spiritual way with the coming of the kingdom, with regard to the spiritual temple. Hebrews 12:26-29 applies this prophecy of shaking the nations (at least in part) to the coming of the eternal kingdom. And Revelation 21:26 says that “they will bring into [the new Jerusalem] the glory and the honor of the nations,” referring to Haggai 2 and several other Scriptures.

——————-

Now there are lots of lessons in these verses – about God’s ability to look into the future, about God’s control over the nations, about God’s ability to provide – but I want to focus on the central theme, and say to you –

Be encouraged as you do God’s work

It is easy to become discouraged in the work of God, just like these people were. If we are honest with ourselves, we will see that we don’t have the resources to do God’ work like it should be done; that our work is as “nothing” like Haggai said their temple was as “nothing.”

We will be criticized, just as, no doubt, some criticized their work on the temple. And our work will be compared unfavorably to others, like their work was compared to the former temple and was determined to be not as glorious.

But as Haggai said, we too need to “be strong” – v. 4. We need to keep working – v. 4 and not allow our lack of resources, criticism and comparisons to stop us from doing God’s work. And we need to stop fearing failure or set backs – v. 5.

For just like with them, God is with us to help us, to empower us and to sustain us. And God will provide what we lack. Here it was material resources, but whatever it is – inner strength, talents, skills – God will make up for our lack of resources if we are doing his will and work. And even if it looks meager now, we can know that God will give true significance and value to our work. God is able to do that.

So be encouraged. It’s not about what we do or can do. It’s about what God can do and will do through us. Let’s keep this lesson in mind as we prepare to do God’s work in Kentucky this week and next week with Vacation Bible School.

William Higgins

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We’re finishing up today our look at king Josiah, and as well our series from 2 Chronicles. Before we do this, lets review Josiah’s life, as a reminder, and to keep things in context. Last week we saw how:

  • He destroyed the idols from Judah and even the territory of Israel.
  • He restored the temple, since it had fallen into ruin.
  • He was repentant when the lost Book of the Law was read, when he saw how far off track they were as God’s people, and heard the warnings of judgment.
  • He sought the word of Huldah, the prophetess, who said that judgment would come, but that he would die in peace, before the coming destruction and exile.
  • He led the people in a covenant renewal ceremony, reaffirming their allegiance to God.
  • He hosted an elaborate Passover celebration, the most amazing one since the days of Samuel the prophet, centuries before.

It’s clear that Josiah was a righteous man. He truly sought after God. And he was a bold reformer.

As 2 Chronicles 34:2 says, “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, and walked in the ways of David his father; and he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.” The way he is presented in Scripture, he is the most righteous king since David, with the possible exception of Hezekiah, his great grandfather. In any case, he’s as good as they come.

Yet . . .

our story ends on a sour note. In a completely baffling and startling way, he dies in a senseless battle and for no good reason.

Having completed all the great reforms of the 18th year of his reign, 13 years later, our text says in v. 20 – “After all this, when Josiah had prepared the temple, Neco king of Egypt went up to fight at Carchemish on the Euphrates and Josiah went out to meet him.”

Neco was going north to give assistance to his ally, the Assyrians who were being defeated by the Babylonians. He was passing through a part of the territory of the former kingdom of Israel to get there, along the coastal highway. And Josiah went up to do battle with him, at Megiddo.

Neco tried to dissuade Josiah from battle. In v. 21 he said, “What have we to do with each other, king of Judah? I am not coming against you this day, but against the house with which I am at war. And God has commanded me to hurry. Cease opposing God, who is with me, lest he destroy you.” In other words, ‘I don’t want to fight with you and don’t oppose God’s will.’

  • Well, Josiah didn’t listen – v. 22.
  • He disguised himself for the fight – v. 22, (recalling the story and death of the unfaithful Israelite king, Ahab – 18:28-34).
  • He was shot by an archer and mortally wounded – v. 23, (again recalling the Ahab story).
  • They put him in his chariot and he died, apparently, on his way back to Jerusalem – v. 24.

This was a terrible blow to the kingdom of Judah. This shows up clearly in vs. 24-25 – “All Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah. Jeremiah also uttered a lament for Josiah; and all the singing men and singing women have spoken of Josiah in their laments to this day. They made these a rule in Israel; behold, they are written in the Laments.”

Everyone mourns and cries. Many laments were composed for Josiah, including one by the prophet Jeremiah. They were a part of a now lost book of laments that was still used many years later.

We have to remember that, like Hezekiah before him, Josiah was seen as a Messianic figure: a son of David who could restore the people of God to their rightful place in the world; who could bring back times of blessing and peace.

He was a person that people put their hope in. He had accomplished so much. Yet he dies in this tragic way, and then not too many years later, Jerusalem is destroyed and the people are taken off into exile in Babylon.

There’s a tension in this story that makes us ask . . .

Why??

Why did he die? The other righteous kings received material blessings and miraculous victory in battles. He died a senseless death. Nothing good came of it.

And why did he die like this? With regard to Huldah’s prophecy, it’s true he didn’t live to see the destruction of Jerusalem, but it would be hard to say that he died in peace.

2 Chronicles 35:22 gives the immediate answer. After Neco told Josiah he didn’t want to fight, and that God had told him to accomplish his mission, v. 22 says, “Josiah did not listen to the words of Neco from the mouth of God, but came to fight in the plain of Megiddo.”

If we ask, “How could he know this was God speaking?” We don’t know. Perhaps he tested it with some Judean prophets, and went to war anyway.

But the broader context is that he didn’t accept the word of the Lord through Huldah that unstoppable judgment was coming. And we could also add here the word of Isaiah the prophet to his great-grandfather Hezekiah; and the word of Jeremiah the prophet, Josiah’s contemporary – both of whom said judgment would come.

  • Perhaps he thought that his reforms would stop the judgment. Why else would he be out picking a fight with an empire, in an area that was not even his own land?
  • Perhaps he thought that God would intervene and he would be able to reunite and restore all Israel to its former glory under his rule.

But according to God’s word this was not a time for restoration, it was a time for judgment.

And so instead of staying in his territory, being faithful, and dying in peace, he ventures off to do what God had not purposed, and is killed by Neco. He placed himself outside of God’s will. And the result was that Huldah’s prophecy over him was nullified. He did not die a peaceful death.

A lesson

Let’s see what we can learn from this.  Josiah was true in his worship, not an idolater. He lived according to the precepts of the Law, both religiously and morally. But he still failed, because he didn’t listen to God; what God’s purpose was for the people at that time and in that place.

This teaches us that even if we are doing all that the Scriptures teach – we still need to listen to God, to know what God is up to in our particular situation.

It teaches us that even if we are trying to do something good for God – we still need to listen to God. Is this what God wants, or is it what we want?

God was trying to speak to Josiah, but he didn’t listen. He spoke through Huldah and even the pagan Neco. But he failed to heed the message.

May we be sensitive to hear the voice of the Spirit in our lives and what God wants to do in our lives. And may we not simply go out and do whatever we think is right and good, but what God tells us to do; what God’s purpose is for us – in this time and in this place. Lest we place ourselves outside of God’s will for our lives. We need to listen to God.

Finally, a reflection on . . .

Josiah and Jesus

As I said, Josiah was seen in a Messianic way, a son of David who could save God’s people. Jesus also was a son of David and also a descendent of Josiah (Matthew 1).

And so as we prepare to receive the Lord’s supper this morning I want to end with some comparisons and contrasts between Josiah, a partial foreshadowing of the Messiah, and Jesus, the true fulfillment:

  • Both sought to obey God: If Josiah was faithful, except for the incident with Neco, Jesus never failed, but was faithful in all things.
  • Both were tragically killed: If Josiah was killed for no good purpose, acting outside of God’s will, Jesus willingly gave his life according to God’s will.
  • Both raised great hope: If Josiah’s actions led to despair and lament for many years, Jesus’ resurrection from the dead brought true hope, joy and salvation forever.
  • Both are connected to Megiddo: If Josiah was killed by a pagan king, Jesus will defeat the nations when he returns in glory at Armageddon (Revelation 16:16), the New Testament name for Megiddo.

And it is Jesus that we celebrate this morning, this son of David, that we remember as we partake of our meal.

William Higgins

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We are beginning to draw to a close our ‘on again, off again’ series on the kings of Judah from 2 Chronicles. To give us some perspective on where we have been, we have looked at: Asa, Jehoshaphat, Joash, Uzziah, Hezekiah, Manasseh and now Josiah. We will have covered 300 years of history.

Josiah – the basics

  • He began to reign at eight – 34:1. His father had been assassinated, which is why he became king so young.
  • He reigned thirty one years – 34:1.
  • He was righteous. As 34:2 says, “he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, and walked in the ways of David his father; and he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.”
  • He began to seek the Lord when he was 16 years old, in the 8th year of his reign. As 34:3 says, “while he was still young, he began to seek the God of David his father” (NIV)

The 12th year of Josiah reign

This is when he begins to reform God’s people. Remember, Manasseh, his grandfather spent most of his time as king, 55 years, promoting various forms of idolatry. And his father Amon also took this policy. So idolatry was deeply ingrained throughout the land of Judah and the territory of the former northern kingdom of Israel, which had been destroyed by Assyria. Now here Josiah is, 20 years old, trying to set things right.

First, he destroyed Judah’s idols. “He began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the Asherim, and the carved and the metal images. And they chopped down the altars of the Baals in his presence, and he cut down the incense altars that stood above them.” – 34:3-4.

The story goes on to tell how he scattered the dust of the idols over the dead idol priests graves and he burned the bones of the priests on their altars – thus defiling the altars.

Next, he destroyed Israel’s idols, that is, the territories north of Judah. 34:7 says, “he broke down the altars and beat the Asherim and the images into powder and cut down all the incense altars throughout all the land of Israel.”

The 18th year of Josiah’s reign

This year is the focus of the rest of our story today. He is now 26 and he accomplishes more in this one year, than any other king in terms of reform (only Hezekiah comes close).

Five things need to be pointed out here: 1. The temple restoration. It needed repairs – 34:8. As it says in v. 11, the previous kings had let it go to ruin, presumably Manasseh and Amon.

A collection from both Judah and Israel was given for the work – 34:9-11. So we again see that some in the former kingdom of Israel were connecting with Judah.

The Levites oversaw the work – 34:12-13. It notes in particular the Levitical musicians, who it says, “were over the burden bearers and directed all who did work in every kind of service . . ..” This is interesting. Were they simply supervisors, or did they play music at the work site to set the pace? Its not clear.

2. The “Book of the Law” is rediscovered. 34:14-15 says, “While they were bringing out the money that had been brought into the house of the Lord, Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law of the Lord given through Moses. Then Hilkiah answered and said to Shaphan the secretary, ‘I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the Lord.’”

It may have been hidden in the temple during a time of invasion or threat from an unfaithful king, like Manasseh or Amon.

This could refer to all five of the books of the Law, from Moses, the first five books of the Bible. But most think that this refers to a particular part of the Book of the Law, that is, the book of Deuteronomy.

The book was read to Josiah – 34:15-18. Deuteronomy is clear that breaking the covenant, as they had done, would bring judgment and exile. 34:19 says,  “And when the king heard the words of the Law, he tore his clothes.” As Josiah says, “For great is the wrath of the Lord that is poured out on us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the Lord, to do according to all that is written in this book.” – (v. 21). He knew they were in serious trouble.

So he sent messengers to see if this would indeed happen – 34:21. They found a prophetess named Huldah, who gave them . . .

3. A prophetic word. She said that, because the people had forsaken God (v. 25) and committed idolatry, judgment would come. “Thus says the Lord, behold, I will bring disaster upon this place and upon its inhabitants, all the curses that are written in the book that was read before the king of Judah.” – 34:24

She goes on to speak out God’s word in v. 25 – “. . . my wrath will be poured out on this place and will not be quenched.”

But she also had a word for Josiah. Because his heart was tender and he humbled himself before God when he heard the Book of the Law (v. 27), “Behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring upon this place and its inhabitants.” – 34:28.

So he got mixed messages. Unstoppable judgment for the people. But kind regard for him as king.

After hearing all this, Josiah didn’t despair, but acted to do what was right. He gathered everyone together at the temple, to carry out a . . .

4. A covenant renewal ceremony. He read to them the book of the Law – 34:30. And then he recommitted to following God’s covenant. It says, “And the king stood in his place and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant that were written in this book.” – 34:31.

He also led the people to recovenant – 34:32; to be faithful and to do God’s will as well. And he also “made all who were present in Israel (the northern territory) serve the Lord” – 34:33.

The rest of v. 33 sums up, “All his days they did not turn away from following the Lord, the God of their fathers.”

Finally, 5. The celebration of Passover. We won’t get into all the details of this. We looked at Hezekiah’s Passover celebration several weeks ago.

Suffice it to say that Josiah’s was even more grand. For instance, they had nearly twice as many sacrifices at this celebration.

35:18 says, “No Passover like it had been kept in Israel since the days of Samuel the prophet. None of the kings of Israel had kept such a Passover as was kept by Josiah . . ..” A sweeping statement!

On this high note, Josiah ended his 18th year as king – 35:19.

Lessons from our story

1. Young people can do great things for God. When he was 16 he began to seriously seek after God for himself. Not because of parents, or circumstances, but from his own heart and desire.

And this is what we look for in those who come for baptism. But this is a call to all our young people whether you are baptized or not. Are you seeking after God? There are so many distractions in the world. Give yourself fully to seeking after God and you can do great things for God as well.

When he was 20, he was a leader who began to act as a reformer. Do we as a congregation have room in our midst for young people to serve and to lead?

When he was 26 he accomplished all his great reforms. At 26, he was one of, if not the greatest of all the descendents of David. So, yes, young people can and should be serving and leading and doing great things for God’s kingdom.

2. How to respond to God’s word. Josiah was walking in the light he had. But then they found the Book of the Law and read it to him, he responded immediately to all that was new to him, to obey God’s word. He sought to make things right, when he learned how far off track they were.

When we read the Scriptures, when we hear the word, when we learn something new – we also need to respond immediately to obey God’s word in our lives. When we find out that there are things in our lives that need to change, may we act like Josiah, with humility and speed to make things right.

Finally, 3. How to go about covenant renewal. This is one of several examples of this in 2 Chronicles.

What I want to say is that, since we are in a process of covenant renewal, we can learn from Josiah how to do this the right way.

34:31 says, he “made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant that were written in this book.”

Our hope, as Elders, is that as we go through our covenant renewal that each of us will take it seriously. And that we will all reaffirm our trust in and obedience to our Lord Jesus. And that it will come from our heart, and that we will make it with all of our heart and soul, like Josiah.

William Higgins

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Here is the teaching from the Good Friday service – Jesus’ Death in Psalm 22:1-18

William

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