Governor Purdue, by the way, is right. In times like this, human life comes before preserving Florida's mussel population. It's nice to know that when the cards are on the table, the environmental groups side with invertebrates, isn't it?
Now, let me say this, Atlanta is also a wicked, wicked city. I know - I used to live there. Folks, I don't believe we should start saying that God is certainly judging the wickedness of the city, but let's face it, after awhile, we should wonder. Of course, the drought extends over the South, and something I've noticed in my local media lately is the number of MRSA cases being reported in the South. You know, MRSA's death rate is higher than AIDS. I'm old enough to remember when the Religious Right's spokesmen (like our dear departed Dr. Falwell) mounted their pulpits and called AIDS a judgment on gays. So, let's get this straight, no pun intended, shall we, back then, it was okay to say AIDS was God's judgment on gays, but today it's not okay to say that a historic drought and a deadly infection in the general population are God's judgment on a wicked land. Add to that the floods out west, tainted food supplies, lead in toys, increasing prices for food and fuel, a weaker dollar, violent crimes among children, on and on the list goes, and well, I think you get it. It was okay back then ... it's not okay now.
Now, I'm not saying we should say automatically that they are, after all, Jesus answer to the thinking that the wicked were punished by the fall of the tower was "Repent, unless the same thing happens to you, " but I wonder if that attitude has something to do with the state of the American Church. You know Paul Campos' column ran in my local newspaper yesterday. He wrote about Mitt Romney's "faith," and how evangelical leaders and Romney were downplaying his Mormonism in favor of Romney's "as long as we all have 'faith' it's all good," attitude. As Campos pointed out, I'm sure the people who died for confessing the full divinity of Christ would feel differently. That's a slap in the face to the Martyrs of the faith, not to mention Christ Himself. Why bother with "faith" like that? I'm just saying, when all of these mounts up, well, you have to wonder.
Which gets me to wondering about the judgments of God in general. If we're going to talk about God's judgment, we need to start with the Church. You see, in Scripture, if you'd pay attention, "the Day of the Lord" is a day that comes not on the world without reference to the covenant community, but on the world by way of the declension of the covenant community. In the OT, God raised up the nations against Israel. Eventually they were carried off. It was later on that God judged those nations - as the covenant community slowly repented and reformed. In our text below, God sent a drought on the land because of the covenant community. Don't you know that their neighbors in that land were surely affected, but they got it together, and God relented. In the New Testament, "the day of the Lord" came upon Israel at the nadir of the 2nd Temple era, when Jesus came back and terminated the Old Covenant and instituted the New. It was this that then led not only to the destruction of the 2nd Temple, since it was no longer necessary and Israel rejected her own king, who was, of course God the Son Incarnate, God brought "judgment" on the nations via the gospel. He also brought judgment on the spiritual powers, by the same means. However, one day the visible Church and State united, and we all know declension began again. Then came Islam. We could run with the story of church history a great deal, but I think you get the picture.
Right now, in this country, while many of our notable leaders, with some exceptions (kudos!), are minimalizing the content of the faith - others are asking "What is the Gospel?" The American Church is on the verge of a general apostasy - and I'm talking not about the "mainline" denominations here, I'm talking about those that most folks would think have it together. Worse yet, it's in denial. They are fast becoming whitewashed tombs, and it is therefore, time to wonder if the parching of the land is not a sacramental sign of what God sees in the visible church.
So, while waiving the exegesis of this text, I will leave you all with this. Take this to your Sunday School classes and pulpits this weekend and during the week - and do it again next week - and read this text aloud and then pray. Here's a particular request: if you pastor a church or are a Sunday School teacher, suspend your regularly scheduled sermon / lesson next week in favor of this text. It's also a good one, by the way, for Reformation Sunday (see chapter 2). Also, I hate to request bloggers to link to my posts, but, since I know news spreads on Baptist blogs like wildfire (ironic comment about fire and water here), please either link to this post or craft a post on prayer for repentance and rain on your own blogs and request your readers raise this issue too - not for my ego but to "get the word out."
Finally, let me say this, I'm just a worthless slug, okay. I know, in the grand scheme, very few people actually listen to me, but if I don't speak out, how am I any better off? How are the people of God any better off? The same thing is true of you. Also, I subscribe to the belief that one voice really can effect great change. You never know what your one lonely voice in the darkness can do, because we're nothing, our Lord, meanwhile, feeds multitudes with a few loaves and fishes. Pray, folks, pray, and do whatever you can, even if you're just a pew warmer in your church compared to others, to help.
Oh yeah, and pray for more rain. Thank the Lord for what was sent this past week. Pray He will overrule the weather and cause the coming storm systems this week (two I believe) to park themselves over the driest areas. Atlanta has 90 days of water left. Durham, NC has 69 as of this writing. Pray that the Lord will provide some relief to this places. Pray He will change the hearts of the people in the churches, if, indeed, He is calling attention to that, and certainly pray that the wicked in general will repent in these places, and if not, He would nevertheless relent for the sake of the covenant people and His love for them. I've lived in both areas, and I can testify to what I have seen. Pray that the state governments in these states would work together and that the federal government would do what it can to help.
Now, our text:
1In 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, saying,
2"Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'This people says, "The time has not come, even the time for the house of the LORD to be rebuilt."'"
3Then the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet, saying,
4"Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses while this house lies desolate?"
5Now therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts, "Consider your ways!
6"You have sown much, but harvest little; you eat, but there is not enough to be satisfied; you drink, but there is not enough to become drunk; you put on clothing, but no one is warm enough; and he who earns, earns wages to put into a purse with holes."
7Thus says the LORD of hosts, "Consider your ways!
8"Go up to the mountains, bring wood and rebuild the temple, that I may be pleased with it and be glorified," says the LORD.
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."
12Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the LORD their God and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the LORD their God had sent him And the people showed reverence for the LORD.
13Then Haggai, the messenger of the LORD, spoke by the commission of the LORD to the people saying, " 'I am with you,' declares the LORD."
14So the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and worked on the house of the LORD of hosts, their God,
15on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month in the second year of Darius the king.
1On the twenty-first of the seventh month, the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet saying,
2"Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people saying,
3'Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? Does it not seem to you like nothing in comparison?
4'But now take courage, Zerubbabel,' declares the LORD, 'take courage also, Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and all you people of the land take courage,' declares the LORD, 'and work; for I am with you,' declares the LORD of hosts.
5'As for the promise which I made you when you came out of Egypt, My Spirit is abiding in your midst; do not fear!'
6"For thus says the LORD of hosts, 'Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land.
7'I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations, and I will fill this house with glory,' says the LORD of hosts.
8'The silver is Mine and the gold is Mine,' declares the LORD of hosts.
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."
10On the twenty-fourth of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to Haggai the prophet, saying,
11"Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'Ask now the priests for a ruling:
12'If a man carries holy meat in the fold of his garment, and touches bread with this fold, or cooked food, wine, oil, or any other food, will it become holy?'" And the priests answered, "No."
13Then Haggai said, "If one who is unclean from a corpse touches any of these, will the latter become unclean?" And the priests answered, "It will become unclean."
14Then Haggai said, " 'So is this people. And so is this nation before Me,' declares the LORD, 'and so is every work of their hands; and what they offer there is unclean.
15'But now, do consider from this day onward: before one stone was placed on another in the temple of the LORD,
16from that time when one came to a grain heap of twenty measures, there would be only ten; and when one came to the wine vat to draw fifty measures, there would be only twenty.
17'I smote you and every work of your hands with blasting wind, mildew and hail; yet you did not come back to Me,' declares the LORD.
18'Do consider from this day onward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month; from the day when the temple of the LORD was founded, consider:
19'Is the seed still in the barn? Even including the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate and the olive tree, it has not borne fruit. Yet from this day on I will bless you.'"
20Then the word of the LORD came a second time to Haggai on the twenty-fourth day of the month, saying,
21"Speak to Zerubbabel governor of Judah, saying, 'I am going to shake the heavens and the earth.
22'I will overthrow the thrones of kingdoms and destroy the power of the kingdoms of the nations; and I will overthrow the chariots and their riders, and the horses and their riders will go down, everyone by the sword of another.'
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.