Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament prophetic book of Haggai, and more specifically, is found in the second and final chapter of the book. WHAT A DIFFERENCE A MONTH MAKES! When reading and studying the prophetic book of Haggai—particularly the second chapter, you will notice that it takes place literally a month after the first prophetic word was released. In all reality, the prophetic ministry of Haggai appears to have lasted only two months, and was essentially “for such a time as this.” When the prophet Haggai emerged and stepped on to the scene, he essentially did so with and for the express purpose challenging the complacency that was present within the hearts and minds of the remnant of the people of God who returned from their captivity in the land of the Chaldeans. In the first chapter of the prophetic book of Haggai we discover the effects of failing, and perhaps even refusing to carry out and complete the work of the house of the Lord. “Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes” (Haggai 1:6). Within this single verse the prophet Haggai emphatically states and declares that their refusal to carry out and consider the work of the house of the Lord was directly affecting and impacting their every day lives. The remnant of the people of God who were living and dwelling within the land were sowing much, yet were reaping little—all because of the work of the house of the Lord. The remnant of the house of Israel that returned from their captivity ate, but never had enough—all because of the work of the house of the Lord. This same people drank, yet they were never filled with drink because of the work of the house of the Lord. What’s more, is that the remnant of the children of Israel clothed themselves, yet were never able to remain warn because of the work of the house of the Lord. Finally, the remnant of the people of God earned wages, yet their wages seemed to vanish as quickly as they were obtained—all because of the house of the Lord. When you read the second verse of the first chapter you encounter the general mindset of the remnant of the people of God during the time of Haggai, for the prophet describes them as saying within and among themselves, “The time is not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built” (Haggai 1:2). I must pause right here for a moment and emphatically declare that we run into a great problem, and play an incredibly dangerous game when we allow ourselves to become so brazen that we can dictate and control the work of the house. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which Jesus spoke when His parents came searching for Him after they had departed from Jerusalem without Him—“How is it that ye sought me? Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49). Examining the life and ministry of Jesus is the single greatest example of engaging in the work of the Lord, the will of the Lord, and the word of the Lord, for Jesus fully and completely committed Himself to actively engaging in each. I can’t help but consider the words which are recorded in the book of the Psalms concerning the Messiah that was to come—“I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart” (Psalm 40:8). When you come to the New Testament book of John, you will find countless examples of Jesus’ emphatic declaration—not only of His desire, but also His intention—of performing the work and will of the Lord. When speaking to the disciples in the thirty-fourth verse of the fourth chapter Jesus proclaims and speaks these words unto them—“My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish His work” (John 4:34). In the very next chapter, Jesus declares and proclaims these words—“My Father worketh hitherto, and I work” (John 5:17). In the sixth chapter we read these words which were spoken by the Son of God—“For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of Him that sent me” (John 6:38). In the eighth chapter of the same New Testament gospel the eternal Word of God makes this declaration—“And He that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please Him” (John 8:29). Finally, in the ninth chapter of the same gospel, we read these words which were spoken by Jesus—“I must work the works of Him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work” (John 9:4).
When you examine the life and ministry of Jesus Christ the Son of God, you will quickly notice that His single purpose, His single aim, His single ambition within and upon the earth was to do the work and the will of Him who sent Him. As a young child—no more than twelve years old—we find Jesus speaking of being about “His Father’s business,” thus indicating the tremendous reality that He was upon the earth for one single purpose. Jesus Christ did not come to the earth to do His own will, or to carry out His own agenda, plans or purposes, but to do the work and will of the Father. In all reality, this is what is so absolutely incredible about the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. When you examine the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness, you will quickly encounter the reality that the entire purpose of the temptation was to ensure Jesus would indeed and would in fact carry out the work and will of His Father which was in heaven. In fact, as you ready and study the temptation of Jesus, you will notice that they not only touch the will of God, but they also touch the word of God, and even the worship of God. I am utterly and completely convinced that the enemy and adversary has always targeted and been after our desire, ambition and willingness to perform the work and will of the Father, and to directly challenge the divine word of God within our hearts and lives. At the very heart and core of all of this is the decision we need to make whether or not we will worship the Lord and serve Him alone. When the adversary and enemy came to Jesus in the wilderness, he did so after Jesus had already fasted for forty days and forty nights, and was thus in a vulnerable position from an earthly and physical standpoint. It was at this moment the adversary attempted to come unto Jesus and challenge His willingness and commitment to give Himself wholeheartedly to the work, the will and the word of His Father which is in heaven. Before His earthly ministry would even begin, the Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness—not only to fast forty days and forty nights, but also to be tempted of the devil. This actually brings me to an incredibly important reality and concept—the concept of how many men and women attempt, or are attempting to enter into full-time ministry without being tempted. How many men and women have attempted to enter into and engage in full time ministry, and yet have never been tempted, tried and tested prior to? I would dare say the Spirit and the Father would and could not allow or permit Jesus to enter into the ministry—even the very ministry for which He was sent—without first driving Him into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.
If you journey to the fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke, you will encounter the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness, and how it was the divine and eternal Spirit that drove Him into it. “And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days He did eat nothing: and when they were ended, He afterward hungered. And the devil said unto Him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it might be made bread. And Jesus answered Him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God. And the devil, taking Him up into an high mountain, shewed unto Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me: and to whomsoever I will give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve. And he brought Him to Jerusalem, and set Him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said unto Him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself done from hence: for it is written, He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season. And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of Him through all the region round about. And He taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all” (Luke 4:1-15).
COMMAND THESE STONES BE TURNED INTO BREAD! BOW DOWN AND WORSHIP ME! CAST THYSELF DOWN! These were the three temptations which the adversary and enemy thrust upon the Son of God in the wilderness after He had fasted forty day sand forty nights. The more I consider Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, the more I am convinced that His temptation was not only preparation for the ministry he would engage in, but also a test to determine if He would carry out and complete the work, the will and word of God. From the very first temptation alone we encounter the concept of the will of the Father, and Satan’s attempt to entice Jesus to transition away and apart from that will. When the serpent tempted Jesus to command the stones be turned to bread, what He was essentially tempting Him to do was to become self-seeking and self-serving, and to seek His will, His desires, and even His needs before and above that of the Father. I continue to be amazed that while in the wilderness Jesus was tempted to turn stones into bread, yet He refused to do so. Jesus refused to seek and serve His own needs and desires, and refused to operate outside the divine will of the Father. Had Jesus commanded stones to be turned into bread, He would have operated outside and apart from the divine will of His Father in heaven. Jesus could have easily commanded those stones be turned into bread—especially when you consider the fact that later on during His ministry He multiplied loaves of bread to meet the needs of those who had come to listen to Him speak. One thing we must recognize is that there is a vast and fundamental difference between turning stones into bread to suit and meet our own needs, and multiplying bread to meet the needs of others. Jesus could and could not command stones be turned into bread to suit His needs, however, when it came to feeding those who were hungry before Him, He transformed and multiplied loaves of bread, as well as fish. This brings me to an absolutely incredible truth—the truth that it is one thing to command stones be turned into bread to suit our own needs, while it is something else entirely when we operate within the divine will of the Father, and from that place watch as loaves of bread are multiplied and transformed in order to meet the needs of others. Even the miracle of turning water into wine wasn’t to suit Jesus’ own needs, for He and His disciples were invited guests to the wedding at Cana. Jesus’ transforming of water into wine had absolutely nothing to do with Himself, or even His own needs and desires, but rather the needs of those who were present at the wedding. TRANSFORMING WATER INTO WINE, MULTIPLYING LOAVES OF BREAD! The temptation Jesus experienced in the wilderness was one that would directly challenge his willingness to move and operate within the realm of the will of the Father.
There is a part of me that can’t help but wonder if any man or woman should enter into ministry—regardless of what type of ministry that is—unless they have firmly resolved within their heart and mind that they cannot and will not operate outside the realm of the divine will and work of the Father. I am utterly and completely convinced that there are men and women who like the remnant of the people of God are busy building their own houses, building their own careers, building their own empires, building their own kingdoms—all the while completely neglecting and ignoring the divine will of the Father. What’s more, is that such individuals are actually smug and arrogant about it, and go around boasting as if they have accomplished something truly extraordinary by their great wisdom, power and might. I can’t help but be reminded of the account of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, which is recorded for us in the fourth chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Daniel. Within this passage of Scripture we encounter a king who had become so consumed with pride and arrogance surrounding the Babylonian kingdom and empire that he actually made a great boast before the Lord of hosts. Consider if you will the account of Nebuchadnezzar’s pride, arrogance and boasting as it is recorded for us within the prophetic book of Daniel—“All this came upon the king Nebuchadnezzar. At the end of twelve months he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon. The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty? While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; the kingdom is departed from thee. And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will. The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws” (Daniel 4:28-33). The account of Nebuchadnezzar not only reveals the building of a kingdom and empire, but also a certain boasting that came along with it, as his heart became puffed up with great pride. It’s worth noting that while David king of Israel was walking atop the roof of his palace he saw and coveted a woman he would commit adultery with, and Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon walked atop the roof of his palace, and made an arrogant boast of his perceived might, and strength, and glory,
I would strongly suggest that until you have firmly resolved it within your own heart and mind that you cannot and will not move and operate outside of and apart from the will of the Father, you dare not engage in any type of ministry. Until and unless you are willing to operate within the confines of the divine work of the Father who is in heaven, you have no place in ministry. The triune Godhead has absolutely no place in ministry for those individuals who are more concerned with advancing their own agendas and their own desires and ambitions, rather than the divine work and will of the Father. With this being said, I am convinced there are men and women who are presently in some type of public ministry that continually and repeatedly operate outside the divine work and will of the Father. Such men and women may very well receive a command and instruction from the Lord, and yet like Saul they operate with selective obedience to that which was commanded and instructed. The temptation of Jesus in the wilderness was more than just confirmation of His operating within the confines and realm of the divine will of the Father, but also whether or not He would truly walk in obedience to every word that was spoken by the Father. Even His response to Satan revealed the direct connect with the word of God, as Jesus quoted the book of the Law when he spoke of men not living by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. Does that describe you, and your life, and perhaps even the ministry you have been fortunate and blessed to be a part of? If you read and study the life and ministry of Jesus, you will uncover the reality that His words were not His words, His work was not His work, His will was not His will, and His delight was in pleasing the Father. The author of the epistle to the Hebrews stated that without faith it is impossible to please God, and with that being said, our faith is demonstrated by the works we engage in while on this earth. If not even Jesus who was the eternal and divine Son of God could move and operate outside the realm of the works, the word and will of the Father, and if a servant is not above his master, what makes us even remotely think we can do so ourselves? I can’t help but wonder how many men and women among us within this generation—despite the fact they are engaged in public ministry to some degree, are actively engaged and committed to the divine work, the divine will, and the divine word of the Father who is in heaven. There is a tremendous danger when the work we engage in becomes our work, or when we make it our work. There is a tremendous danger when the words we speak are our words, or when we make them our words. What’s more, is that we play a very dangerous game when we elevate our will above and in place of the divine will of the Father, thus throwing His will to the wind and completely despising, neglecting and ignoring it.
The Lord raised up the prophet Haggai to directly confront the complacency that had become so pervasive among the remnant of the people of God who had returned to the land of inheritance. Those who returned to the land of inheritance and promise, however, allowed themselves to be so caught up and consumed with their own agendas, desires, ambitions and plans, that they completely neglected and ignored the work of the house of the Lord. It was Cyrus king of Persia who not only issued the decree that permitted them to return to the place of their inheritance, but it was this same Cyrus whose spirit the Lord stirred up to rebuild the house of the Lord. The problem was that those who lived and dwelt in the land of Israel were focused on building their own houses, while the house of the Lord lie in waste before them. The remnant of the house of Israel had completely neglected and abandoned the work of the house of the Lord, and had left that work undone. The prophetic book of Haggai seems to suggest that the remnant of the people of God may have initially started and begun the work of rebuilding the house of the Lord, yet they allowed that work to become sidelined. WHEN THE WORK BECOME SIDELINED! WHEN THE WORK OF THE HOUSE BECOME SIDELINED! One of the realities surrounding the life and ministry of Jesus is not only that He would actively engage in the work and will of His Father, but He would carry both the work and will out to completion. There is a tremendous danger when we begin the work and will of the Father, and yet we allow it to become sidelined within our hearts and lives. We do ourselves, the Lord of hosts, and those we have been called to a great disservice when we begin the work to and for which we have been called, yet we don’t carry it out to completion. Such was demonstrated and manifested in the life of Saul king of Israel when he was given a command to utterly destroy Amalek.
“And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the Lord: I have performed the commandment of the Lord. And Samuel said, What meanteth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear? And Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed. Then Samuel said unto Saul, Stay, and I will tell thee what the Lord hath said to me this night. And he said unto him, Say on. And Samuel said, When thou wast little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the Lord anointed thee king over Israel? And the Lord sent thee on a journey, and said, Go and utterly destroy the sinners the Amalekites, and fight against them until they be consumed. Wherefore then didst thou not obey the voice of the Lord, but didst fly upon the spoil, and dist evil in the sight of the Lord? And Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and have gone the way which the Lrod sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But the people took of the spoil, sheep, and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in Gilgal. And Samuel said, hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, He hath also rejected thee from being king” (1 Samuel 15: 13-23).
I must make the emphatic statement that it is one thing to begin the work of the Lord, it’s one thing to perhaps carry out the work of the Lord to a certain degree, but it’s something else entirely to complete the work. The question that I have to ask you at this very moment is while you might be carrying out the work of the Lord, are you completing it? Saul began and even carried out the work of the Lord, yet he did not do so unto completion. In Saul’s own eyes, and in his own mind he believed he had carried out the work and will of the Lord to completion, yet through the prophet Samule the Lord declared unto him that omission of even a fraction of the work, word and will of the Lord is a complete and outright failure to complete the work. One of the things I regularly face is picking up a book, starting to read it, and yet not finishing the book before I put it down or put it back on the shelf. There are a number of books I have had every intention of picking up, reading, and finishing, yet for one reason or another, I have put them down. The same thing is true of movies and television shows, as there are a number of both I have started watching, yet have stopped watching. If I am truly being honest with myself, as well as with you, the reason I put down the books, and the reason I turned off the movie or television show is because I grew and became bored. I have always stated that if the movie or television show doesn’t grab my attention and keep it relatively quickly, I not only lose interest in it, but I also grow bored. Now, you might be wondering what any of this has to do what is presented in this article, but the reality of it is that it has everything to do with it. I am absolutely convinced there are a number of men and women who have perhaps taken up the work and will of the Lord, yet they have quit engaging themselves in that work. Such individuals have found, and perhaps even allowed themselves to grow bored with and in the midst of the work, and as a result, have stopped engaging in the work. There are countless men and women who like the remnant of the people of Israel dwelling in the land after returning from captivity have ceased carrying out the work that is before them—either because they have become so caught up and consumed with their own agendas and endeavors [i.e. building their own houses], or because they have grown bored, disenchanted, and perhaps even disconnected from the work. Such men and women have found the work of work of the Lord to cut into and interfere with their own endeavors and agendas, and as a result, have allowed the work of the Lord’s house to fall by the wayside. Perhaps the best question to be asked at this point in time is whether or not you yourself have grown bored and disenchanted with the work, the word and the will of the Lord within the earth. The remnant of the people of Israel who had returned from captivity had initially engaged themselves in the work of the house, yet they allowed themselves to be sidetracked by their own pursuit and agenda. As a result, the work of the house has suffered, as the altar lies in complete disrepair and disarray.
What is so incredibly unique about the second chapter of the prophetic book of Haggai is that there is directly connected to the rebuilding of the house of the Lord the glory of the Lord of hosts. If you study the history of the Tabernacle, as well as the Temple of the Lord, you will notice that in both structures, the glory of the Lord filled the house, as the cloud covered and consumed the house. As you continue reading the second chapter of the prophetic book of Haggai, you will find the Lord speaking of a future glory that would indeed be greater than the glory that was found within the former temple. Consider if you will the words which are recorded for us beginning with the fourth verse—“Yet not be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the Lord; and be strong, O Joshua, the son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the Lord, and work: for I am with you, saith the Lord of hosts: according to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not. For thus saith the Lord of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts. The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts” (Haggai 2:4-9). If you read these words written and spoken by the prophet Haggai, you will notice and understand the direct connection between carrying out and completing the work, and the glory of the Lord. To help illustrate and confirm this reality even further, Beginning with the thirty-third verse of the final chapter of the Old Testament book of Exodus, we find these words concerning the work and the glory—“So Moses finished the work. Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And when the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys: but if the cloud were not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys” (Exodus 40:34-38).