The Responsibility of Rest: Returning to Work










Today’s selected reading is found in the prophetic book of Haggai, and more specifically, is found in the first chapter of the book. This passage of Scripture opens up with a completely different time period than any of the previous Old Testament prophets. If you ready and study each prophetic book contained within the Old Testament, you will discover that there were specific time periods when the ancient prophets prophesied the word of the Lord. There were prophets who prophesied during the reign of a single king, while there were other prophets who prophesied during the reign of multiple kings. Isaiah and Jeremiah are two of the most noted prophets who prophesied during the reigns of multiple kings, as Isaiah prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and HEzekiah. Jeremiah prophesied during the reigns of Josiah, as well as Josiah’s sons. What’s more, is that Jeremiah prophesied during a time of national reformation and renewal, yet would ultimately witness and experience the invasion of the inheritance, the destruction of the Temple, the breaking through and breaking down of the walls of Jerusalem, and the captivity of the people of God. When you come to the prophetic book of Haggai, you will not find him prophesying to a people who were living during days and a time of national reformation and renewal, nor did Haggai prophesy to a people who were on the verge of being overtaken by the sword, and carried away captive into the land of the Chaldeans. Haggai also didn’t prophesy to a people who were living as foreigners, as captives and as exiles in a strange and foreign land. When we come to the prophetic book of Haggai, we find him beginning the prophetic ministry entrusted unto him “in the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, in the first day of the month” (Haggai 1:1). The prophet Haggai wasn’t prophesying to a captive people, but to a restored people who had returned to the land and place of their inheritance. Jeremiah and Zephaniah prophesied during days of reformation and revival, while Haggai, as well as Zechariah prophesied during days of restoration and return. REFORMATION AND REVIVAL! RESTORATION AND RETURN! It’s incredibly interesting that in between reformation and restoration there is captivity, and in between revival and return there is exile. I am convinced there is a tremendous prophetic word that is contained within this very reality right now—one that must be carefully understood and paid close attention to.

 Jeremiah and Zephaniah prophesied during days of extreme reformation and revival, as Josiah not only called the people into covenant obedience before the Lord their God, but Josiah also launched a campaign of holiness and cleansing throughout the land, as he tore down altars, images, idols and high places, and burned with fire anything and everything that was disgraceful in the sight of the Lord. We must recognize and understand the witness of the word of the Lord and the witness of the word God during those days, for those days were characterized by the discovery of the book of the law of the Lord, and the emergence and raising up of two distinct prophetic voices. There is a part of me that can’t help but think that it would be just like the Lord to allow the book of the law of the Lord to be rediscovered in the Temple of the Lord, and than at the very same time the book of the law of the Lord was found, there would be two prophetic voices that would be raised up side by side. It is absolutely incredible that just before the days and generation of judgment and wrath the Lord raised up a righteous king who cleansed the land, the Lord caused the book of the law to be rediscovered, and the Lord raised up two prophetic voices. THE WITNESS OF THE CLEANSING! THE WITNESS OF THE WORD OF GOD! THE WITNESS OF THE WORD OF THE LORD! It’s actually quite interesting that the Lord not only had a righteous king ruling and reigning from the throne, but the Lord also had two prophetic voices who ministered side by side with that reign. With that being said, however, this concept of captivity being found in between reformation and restoration must be carefully considered. What’s more, is that this concept of exile being found in between the place of renewal and return is something that runs parallel and side by side with that reality as well. How incredibly interesting it is that the Lord would allow reformation, renewal and revival to take place and be experienced by the people within the land in the days prior to and leading up to captivity and exile. The Lord declared unto Josiah that his humility would grant a temporary furlough and reprieve from the judgment and wrath of the Lord, as that judgment would not be manifested or experienced during his days, but during the days of his sons. Josiah launched reformation, renewal and revival during the days of his reign as king, yet even that reformation and renewal would and could not avert the judgment and wrath of the Lord. One thing I absolutely love about Josiah’s actions, is that they were done and committed knowing full well they would and could not avert the judgment and wrath decreed for the land of Judah. Is it possible that Josiah’s actions weren’t the work of the Lord in providing the initial cleansing of the land prior to judgment? Is it possible the Lord sought to cleanse the land of its idols, its images, its high places, its groves, and the like before He would bring upon it His wrath and judgment? THE CLEANSING BEFORE THE JUDGMENT! Is it possible that Josiah’s actions weren’t even necessarily about his generation alone, but were also about removing all the sins of previous generations, the sins of the reign of previous kings, as well as the sins of that generation, so they would be removed if and when his sons ascended to the throne in Jerusalem?

THE CAPTIVITY BETWEEN REFORMATION AND RESTORATION! THE EXILE BETWEEN REVIVAL AND RETURNING! The reason I am so utterly and completely convinced there is a prophetic word that is contained within these concepts is because this nation has witnessed and experienced very distinct revivals, reformations and awakenings. I can’t help but be reminded of Azusa Street, of Topeka, Kansas, of Brownsville, and the like. I am reminded of different seasons within this nation’s history when revival and awakening spread within and throughout the land. I am reminded of days when Jonathan Edwards and the Wesley brothers helped bring awakening to this nation. With that being said, however, if you study the history of this nation, you will quickly discover that such great revivals and awakenings were followed by periods of captivity and exile. Even the most recent revival that was present within this nation—the Brownsville Revival—wasn’t followed by continued revival and awakening, but by captivity and exile. The question I have to ask is why—why does it seem revival and awakening is followed by captivity and exile? Why does it seem that captivity seems to be manifested in between reformation and restoration, and exile between revival and return. I am convinced there are countless churches, ministries, assemblies and the like that may very well have experience tremendous awakening and renewal among them in their midst, yet all of that seems to have been followed by captivity and exile. We would think that revival and reformation would be followed by freedom and deliverance, yet Scripture seems to indicate that it is possible for captivity to follow days of great reformation and renewal. What’s more, is that Scripture seems to reveal and indicate that even judgment and wrath can be the immediate follow up to reformation and renewal. WHEN CAPTIVITY AND JUDGMENT FOLLOW REFORMATION AND RENEWAL! This is actually something quite powerful, and something that warrants a strong consideration on our part, for if we look at some of the great moves of God that have taken place within this nation alone, we must admit that they were not followed by days of freedom and deliverance, but rather by days of captivity and exile. One would not think that it would be possible for reformation to be followed by days of judgment and captivity, yet that simply isn’t the case. It is very possible that reformation and renewal can and may very well be a precursor to and a warning of impending judgment and wrath. In other words, restoration and renewal might be divine acts of mercy within a generation intended to warn and wake them up to that which lies ahead.

If you study Scripture, you will discover that Josiah brought reformation, renewal and awakening to that generation, yet despite that which Josiah brought forth within that generation, it would ultimately and inevitably be followed up by judgment and wrath, captivity and exile. When we come to the first chapter of the prophetic book of Haggai, we come to a period—not of reformation and renewal, nor even captivity and judgment, but of restoration and returning. What’s more, is that when you read this particular passage of Scripture you will quickly discover that restoration to the land and place of the inheritance did not come without responsibility. In fact, if you read the Old Testament books of Ezra and Nehemiah, you will encounter the tremendous responsibility that surrounded and accompanied restoration within and returning to the land of Israel. When the children of Israel entered into the land it was the land of Canaan that would be transformed into the land of Israel, and when they returned to that land after seventy years of captivity and exile, it would remain the land of Israel. If you study the accounts of Ezra and Nehemiah, you will not only encounter tremendous responsibility, but you will also encounter a tremendous burden as well. Consider if you will what is recorded in the opening portion of the Old Testament book of Ezra regarding the return of the people of God within and to the land of inheritance, promise and blessing. “Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, Thus saith Cyrus king fo Persia, the Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? His God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel, (He is God,) which is in Jerusalem. And whosoever remaineth in any place where he sojourneth, let the men of his place help him with silver and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, beside the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem” (Ezra 1:1-4). Within the first four verses of the Old Testament book of Ezra we read of the Lord of hosts stirring up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia in order that a decree might go forth—one that would bring forth the return and restoration of His people within and to the land of their inheritance, promise and blessing. What’s more, is that within these first four verses we discover what was one of—if not the most important reasons for the return and restoration to the land. In the third verse of this first chapter we read of this decree as being such that would call for the rebuilding of the house of the Lord God of Israel, thus indicating and speaking to the responsibility and burden of the need for the Temple of the Lord.  

 As you continue reading the Old Testament book of Ezra you will read of the rising up, the returning, and the process of rebuilding the Temple and house of the Lord. THE RISING UP! THE RETURNING! THE REBUILDING! One of the most important things we must be careful to consider is that there can be no rebuilding without and apart from returning, and there can be no returning without first rising up. IN order to be a part of the process of rebuilding the Temple and house of the Lord, there must first be the desire and decision to rise up from the place of captivity and exile, and agree to make the journey back to the place of inheritance, promise and blessing. Beginning with the fifth verse of the book of Ezra we read of the return of the people of israel to the land of their inheritance, promise and blessing, and their return to work. RETURNING TO WORK! RETURNING TO RESPONSIBILITY! RETURNING TO A BURDEN! One thing I find to be absolutely incredible and amazing is that when the children of Israel first entered into the land of Canaan, they entered into it with the same type of reality. When the children of Israel entered into the land of Canaan, they entered into it with the incredible burden of responsibility and work, as there was a clear and definite work that needed to be done—namely, engaging the peoples and nations within the land in conflict and battle, and driving them out of the land. When you come to the return of the children of Israel to the land of Israel after spending seventy years of captivity and exile, you will clearly see that they returned not to relax and rest, but to work and rebuild. Despite the fact that the land of Canaan was for the children of israel a place of rest, that rest did not and would not come without and apart from work and responsibility. We have become very good at thinking and believing that rest is absent responsibility and burden, and even absent any type of work that is needed, yet that truthfully is not the case. We are incredibly naïve and deceived if we think that we can have rest without responsibility and work. There have been a number of men and women who have thought and believed that they could disconnect and disassociate rest from responsibility, yet neither the entering in, nor the returning to the land suggest or speak to that reality. Consider if you will what is recorded beginning with the fifth verse of the first chapter of Ezra—“Then rose up the chief of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests, and the L Evites, with all them whose spirit God had raised, to go up to build the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem. And all they that were about them strengthened their hands with vessels of silver, with gold, with goods, and with beasts, and with precious things, beside all that was willingly offered. Also Cyrus the king brought forth the vessels of the house of the Lord, which Nebuchadnezzar had brought forth out of Jerusalem, and had put them in the house of his gods; even those did Cyrus king of Persia bring forth by the hand of Mithredath the treasurer, and numbered them unto Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah. And this is the number of them: thirty chargers of gold, a thousand chargers of silver, nine and twent knives, thirty Baskins of gold, silver Baskins of a second sort four hundred and ten, and other vessels a thousand. All the vessels of gold and of silver were five thousand and four hundred. All these did Sheshbazzar bring up with them of the captivity that were brought up from Babylon unto Jerusalem” (Ezra 1:5-11).

 One thing I find to be quite interesting when reading the second portion of the first chapter is not only the return of the people of God to the land of inheritance, promise and blessing, but we also find the return of the articles of the house of God to the people of God. Ezra records and recounts how Cyrus king of Persia brought forth the vessels of the house of the Lord, which Nebuchadnezzar had brought forth out of Jerusalem, and had put in the house of his gods. It is actually quite remarkable that the Lord would so stir up the spirit of this Gentile and heathen king—not only to issue a decree that would permit the people of God to return to their own land, but this same king would also call for the rebuilding of the house of the Lord, and would return the vessels and articles of the Temple and house of God to the people of God. Just as the children of Israel did not exit and depart from the land of Egypt empty-handed, but would be given gifts from the Egyptians, so also the people of God would not depart from the land of the Chaldeans empty-handed, for they would leave with the vessels and articles of the house of the Lord. RETURNING TO THE LAND OF INHERITANCE CARRYING THE ARTICLES OF WORSHIP! Nebuchadnezzar had indeed carried off and carried away the articles and vessels of the house of the Lord when he carried away the people of God as captives, yet the Lord would call for the return of those articles and vessels, in order that they might be placed within His house once more. I find it absolutely astounding and remarkable that within the first chapter of the prophetic book of Ezra we not only find the returning of the people of God to their land, we also find the beginning phase to rebuild the Temple of the Lord upon the very same ground it once stood. Cyrus king of Persia himself called for the rebuilding of the Temple of the Lord within Jerusalem, and even provided the vessels and articles that would be needed for that Temple to function within and among the people of God. When the people of God rose from the midst of the land of their captivity and exile, they did so carrying the vessels and articles of the house of the Lord, in order that they might once more place them within the Temple, and use them in and use them for the service of the Lord. Cyrus king of Persia was not only moved and stirred as it pertained to the return of the people of God to the land of their inheritance, but he was also stirred and moved for the rebuilding of the house of the Lord within and among them in their midst. It was Cyrus king of Persia who called for the returning and the rebuilding, and within and through the book of Ezra we encounter both realities. When you come to the sixty-fourth verse of the second chapter you will discover just how many men, women and children rose up from the land of the Chaldeans and returned to the land of inheritance—“The whole congregation together was forty and two thousand three hundred and threescore, beside their servants and their maids, of whom there were seven thousand three hundred thirty and seven: and there were among them two hundred singing men and singing women. Their hoses were seven hundred thirty and six; their mules, two hundred forty and five; their camels, four hundred thirty and five; their asses, six thousand seventy hundred and twenty. And some of the chief of the fathers, when they came to the house of the Lord which is at Jerusalem offered freely for the house of God to set it up in His place: they gave after their ability unto the treasure of the work threescore and one thousand drams of gold, and give thousand pound of silver, and one hundred priests’ garments. So the priests, and the Levites, and some of the people, and the singers, and the porters, and the Nethinims, dwelt in their cities, and all israel in their cities” (Ezra 2:64-70).

 Within the Old Testament book of Ezra we read of the return of the people of God to the land of their inheritance, and within the Old Testament book fo Nehemiah we read of the burden of rebuilding the wall and repairing the gates. Consider what is recorded beginning with the first verse of the first chapter of the book of Nehemiah—“The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month of Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace, that Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captive, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire. And it came to pass, when I heard these word, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven, and said, I beseech thee, O Lord God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love Him and observe His commandments: let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father’s house have sinned” (Nehemiah 1:1-6). The opening set of verses within the Old Testament book of Nehemiah are actually quite revealing, for within them we read of a report that was brought unto Nehemiah while he was serving in the royal palace of the king of Persia. A report was brought to Nehemiah that the remnant which was left of the captivity were in great affliction and reproach. What’s more, was that the wall of Jerusalem was broken down, and the gates thereof were burned with fire. A PEOPLE IN REPROACH! A BROKEN DOWN WALL! GATES BURNED WITH FIRE! IT’s absolutely necessary and imperative that pay close attention to this passage, for with return and restoration to and within the land, there also came the responsibility that was directly connected and associated with it. IN other words, the children of Israel could not ignore the fact that the wall was broken down, the gates had been burned with fire, and that the Temple of the Lord had been destroyed with fire. The people of God returned to the land and were immediately confronted with the tremendous magnitude of the devastation and destruction that had come and befallen the land. WHY DO YOU IGNORE REALITY AND NEGLECT RESPONSIBILITY! It must be noted that returning to the land of israel did not come with a serious reality check and a serious call to responsibility, for the reality was that the wall was broken down, the gates were burned with fire, and the Temple lie in utter and complete ruin. There would have been a growing tendency to ignore, and perhaps even neglect the reality and responsibility that surrounded the return to the land, yet the truth of the matter is that that simply wouldn’t and couldn’t be the case. The Lord not only raised up Ezra to help facilitate the rebuilding of the Temple and the altar, and to restore the law in the midst of the people, but the Lord raised up Nehemiah to oversee the process of rebuilding and repairing the walls and gates. What’s more, is that in addition to Ezra and Nehemiah, there was also Joshua the high priest, Zerubbabel the governor, as well as Haggai and Zechariah. So crucial, so important, so vital was the work of rebuilding the Temple and repairing the broken down walls and burned down dates that the Lord raised up two prophetic voices to accompany the work.

 When you begin reading the first chapter of the prophetic book of Haggai, you will discover that the prophet was raised up—not during the days of Cyrus king of Persia, but during the days of Darius king of Persia. “IN the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, in the first day of the month, came the word of the Lord by Haggai the prophet unto Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, saying, Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, This people, say, The time is not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built. Then came the word of the Lord by Haggai the prophet saying, Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste? Now therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways” (Haggai 1:1-5). I find the prophetic words and ministry of Haggai to be truly astounding and remarkable—especially when you consider them in light of the words which David spoken in the hearing and presence of Nathan the prophet. IN the seventeenth chapter of the Old Testament book of First Chronicles, we read these words which David spoke unto and in the presence of Nathan the prophet—“Lo, I dwell in an house of cedars, but the ark of the covenant of the Lord remaineth under curtains” (1 Chronicles 17:1). Please pay close attention to the words which David spoke, for David wasn’t content with the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord of hosts dwelling in and remaining behind curtains while he himself dwelt in a house of cedars. It was at this moment when it entered into the heart of David to build for the Lord a house in which the Ark of His Covenant, and in all reality, His presence and glory could dwell. It was true David had built for himself a house of cedars, but David had become concerned with the concept and idea of a house being built for and a house being built unto the Lord. David believed the Lord deserved and the Lord needed a house within and among His people in order that His glory, His presence, His power, His Spirit might dwell and abide in the midst of them. It was within the heart of David, and it was his desire, aim and ambition that a house be built for and unto the Lord—a house that would shelter the Ark of His covenant in the midst of His people. David was concerned with the house of the Lord—despite the fact, and even though that house hadn’t been built yet. Within Scripture we not only notice the building of the house of the Lord, but we also notice the rebuilding of the house of the Lord. Within Scripture we not only notice the entering in of the people of God, but we also notice the returning of the people of God. With entering comes building, with returning comes rebuilding. We cannot, we dare not, we must not consider—even for a moment—that there can be a returning without and apart from rebuilding.

 When you read the prophetic words and book of Haggai, you are confronted with a people who had become so enamored and so engrossed in their own agendas, their own endeavors, and their own lives, that they completely neglected and ignored the responsibility that surrounded the house of the Lord. The people of God had become so consumed with making sure their houses were built and rebuilt within the land without even thinking or concerning the house of the Lord which was to be built within the land. The Lord raised up the prophet Haggai to challenge the complacency that had become to pervasive within and among the hearts of those who had returned to the land, as undoubtedly they had grown comfortable and secure within the land. They had indeed returned to the land, and perhaps they even rebuilt their own houses, and even repaired the walls and gates of Jerusalem, yet they completely neglected and ignored the need for the Temple and house of the Lord to be rebuilt among them in their midst. I absolutely love the reality and concept of the Temple of the Lord being rebuilt among the people within their midst, for as much as we read and consider their return to the land, we must also consider the Lord’s return to them. The very fact that the Lord was concerned about the Temple being rebuilt within the land suggests the tremendous importance of His dwelling in the midst of His people once more. It wasn’t merely about the people of God dwelling in the midst of the land once more, but about the God of the people dwelling among them in their midst. The people of God had sown much and reaped little because they had each run to their own houses, while the house of the Lord lie waste among them in their midst. I can’t help but wonder if perhaps the people of God had initially begun rebuilding the Temple and house of the Lord within the land, yet they had allowed themselves to be so consumed with their own houses and their own endeavors that they had neglected, ignored, forsaken, and abandoned the work of rebuilding the house of the Lord. When I read the prophetic words of Haggai, I am immediately struck with and confronted by the tremendous need to focus our attention on the Lord’s dwelling place among us and within our midst. We cannot and must not allow ourselves to be so caught up and consumed with our own agendas and endeavors that we neglect and reject the work of rebuilding and building the house of the Lord in our midst—in our homes, in our families, in our marriages, in our communities, on our jobs, in our churches, and the like. The Lord raised up Haggai to awaken this people out of the stupor and out of their stagnation, for they were completely and utterly neglecting the work of the house of the Lord. I would urge and caution you to look upon and examine your own life and see in what ways you might very well be neglecting and ignoring the work of the house of the Lord, and how you have given yourself to your own pursuits, your own agendas, your own endeavors and your own desires. Oh that we would “Consider our ways, go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house,” and then and only then will the Lord take pleasure in it, and be glorified. GO UP TO THE MOUNTAIN, BRING WOOD, AND BUILD THE HOUSE!In this generation this can’t be more applicable, as we must make it our sole ambition and desire to ensure the Lord has a house and a dwelling among us in our midst.

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