HAGGAI 1:12–15 ESV
“Then 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 feared the Lord. Then Haggai, the messenger of the Lord, spoke to the people with the Lord 's message, "I am with you, declares the Lord." And 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, on the twenty-fourth day of the month, in the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king.”
Last night, we began in the book of Haggai. The prophet was raised up to tell God’s people that they needed to resume the construction of the holy temple or their lives would continue to experience discontent. The people had focused all their energy when they returned home from captivity on building back up their lives, but they neglected God’s sanctuary. Haggai’s message was clear: restore the temple and you will be restored to peace.
As we look at the text for tonight, we see a complete 180º turn in the people. As the text tells us, the Spirit stirs Haggai, then stirs the governor, then stirs the high priest, and then stirs the people to obedience. The work of the temple resumes! The people listened to the words of the prophet and obeyed the Lord’s call. The Spirit stirred the people from the top down.
The real proof is found at the end of v12, when it simply says, “And the people feared the Lord.” This wording is important because it signifies that the people have regained perspective. The reverent fear of the Lord is what sets the proper perspective for approaching and worshipping God.
In Proverbs 1:7 we read, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” The people of God had little fear or reverence for God, which is why their houses were extravagant and the temple was unfinished and empty. They were foolish to ignore the importance of putting God first, of having Him at the center of their lives and of their livelihoods. But through the stirring of the Spirit, the fear and reverence for God was restored, and the work of the temple resumed. And when the people resumed their work for God, God resumed His work in them.
As Christians, we believe the the Holy Spirit is moving, always and everywhere. God’s presence is available and His power is accessible. But we must listen to the Spirit’s call, whether through the scriptures or through the activity of God around us, if we want to tap into what God is doing. God is stirring up peace in the hearts of those who will love Him and obey His word. Peace is our for the taking, if we will put God first.
The stirring of the Spirit that we read about in our text is something that we can tap into if we will be about the work of the Lord. We must not wait till things get bad and let the ruin start its awful, destructive process. That work, that stirring, is essential and God desires we live with His Spirit as a people who are stirred to action. That action or activity happens through all sorts of ministry. Whether we are table to teach, share, guide, or volunteer, we will be able the Lord’s work. Of all the ways to contribute to God’s stirring up in the world, it is prayer that is central to all of it. Through prayer, we connect our hearts to God and we store up treasures and peace on behalf of those we pray for. Prayer is an essential characteristic of God’s stirring Spirit.
Now, all of this talk about stirring and what that means for us tonight reminds me of something funny but familiar to all of us: cooking. I’m probably going to make you hungry, but bear with me as we look at how the Holy Spirit stirring in our lives is akin to what is required when cooking certain things.
Just this morning I asked my mama about a good recipe that requires stirring. Her grandmother had the most amazing chocolate pie recipe. Growing up, mama would double Nana’s pie recipe. She would make one that we all could eat warm, right out of the oven, and then put the other in the fridge and cover it with foil for daddy to eat later when he got home. Mama liked it warm and daddy liked it cold.
That pie is one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. That good crust with the rich chocolate filling and the fluffy meringue topping. In the end, its that good chocolate that makes that pie what is.
Making the chocolate just right is important. You gotta get the mixture right—the cocoa, the flower, the milk, the eggs, the sugar, the butter, the vanilla flavoring. Everything has to be stirred and mixed and put in at the right time. But most importantly, you have to stir that chocolate or you’ll burn it. If you burn it, the pie is ruined. The scorched taste will permeate the whole dessert. You have to keep that chocolate moving, bringing it to the right thickness, and then pour it into the pie crust.
My friend Kristen is an outstanding cook. She told me about all the things she has to keep stirring when she’s in the kitchen. I’ll quote her here: “You have to stir the old fashioned boiled chocolate icing until it cools or it will lump. You have to keep stirring gravy to keep the lumps out. Anything you put milk or cream in will curdle if you don't stir it. Scrambled eggs will burn to the pan. The old fashioned caramel candies have to be stirred for almost an hour, and it's thick and hard to do if you’re not strong. I have to stir my Alfredo sauce constantly until the cheeses all melt. It takes a long time.”
The people of God abandoned their work because it got hard, they stopped stirring, in other words. The recipe of their lives didn’t pan out because they had both a missing ingredient and a missing ethic. 1) God was not central and the focus of their lives, and 2) they didn’t stir themselves to work hard for God.
The Spirit of God came and moved within the people but this was God’s way of getting their attention and showing them what life could be like. Once the work resumed and their spiritual life began to make sense again, God reminded them of a very important point. He says in v13, ““Then Haggai, the messenger of the Lord, spoke to the people with the Lord 's message, "I am with you, declares the Lord."”
God did not abandon His people the way His people had abandoned Him. For God to show such mercy by saying He would be with them, shows that He was quick to turn His heart to them, even in the midst of their sinfulness. Look at how Paul tells us in the scriptures of God’s love for us, even when we are sinful and neglecting Him, as Paul says, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 ESV).
My challenge for us tonight is that we would be stirred back to believing, active faith; that we would be stirred into a powerful, Spirit-filled worship of God; that we would be stirred into Christian action for a lost and dying world. From the top down, the Spirit of God seeks to stir up salvation in the hearts of those who do not know Him; and for the ones that do, He desires to stir up a mercy and grace that would be shown and shed on the hurting and wandering who are outside these very walls tonight.
I would bring back last night’s challenge to make this point. Consider your ways, reexamine your life, reevaluate your faith, and be stirred to action by the ever-moving Holy Spirit of God. Pray and pray often, as is the proper activity of a believer of God and follower of Christ. Ask you pastor or Sunday school leaders who it is that you can be praying for. Join them in the sometimes lonesome-task of lifting up the hurt and the needs of a community you are in the midst of. Put Jesus back at the center and be stirred. Amen.