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Living by Faith (Vol 19) - God First - Part 2

Sunday English Service - 25 NOV 18

Transcript

Hebrews chapter 11 and verse 4. By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks. We've been looking at Hebrews 11 and learning about faith, we have titled this series as Living by Faith. The book of Hebrews consists of teachings given in the first century to people who came into Christ from Judaism, Jews who became Christians. They're undergoing a lot of problem and persecution and ridicule from the Jewish traditional people, and this author is trying to strengthen them by showing them how this Christ and the new covenant, and all that He has done and brought, is much superior to the old covenant, and much superior to Moses and Aaron and all their works. This is the thing that everything foreshadowed in the Old Testament. This is the fulfillment of everything that was spoken in the Old Testament. So, he's trying to impress upon them in the midst of the ridicule that they're facing, that they have not believed in vain and they have believed in Jesus, and Jesus is superior to Moses and Aaron and all the Old Testament saints and the old covenant.

In chapter 11, he speaks about faith. It's a famous faith chapter where heroes of faith are listed all from the Old Testament. Now, sometimes there is an opinion nowadays that, if it's Old Testament, it's old. We don't need the Old Testament anymore because we are in the New Testament. We are in the new covenant. It's wrong. The Old Testament speaks about Christ. Jesus Himself said, “You read the scriptures and they speak of Me.” At that time, it was only Old Testament available, He’s telling the disciples, “You've read the scriptures, you should have read about Me. It's all speaking about me,” He said. And everything that is there in the New Testament is foreshadowed and typified in the Old Testament and in the old covenant. Therefore, we should never think that the Old Testament is unimportant. There are beautiful things that can be learned from the Old Testament and particularly about faith he draws a lot of conclusions from the life of these great saints from the Old Testament.

The first example that he takes us to after first three verses of talking about what is faith and how faith works, he takes us to the first example and that is the example of Abel and Abel’s faith. Now talking about Abel’s faith, he says, “By faith Abel offered a more excellent sacrifice than Cain through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts and through it he being dead still speaks.” I told you that we will divide it into three parts. The first part is about Abel offering to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain. We talked about that. In what way is Abel’s offering more excellent than Cain’s? Not because that he’s brought a blood sacrifice and Cain did not bring a blood sacrifice. I believe in blood sacrifice and what it typifies, what it foreshadows. That it foreshadows the death of Christ on the cross and how that there is remission of sin only through the shedding of blood. I believe all that. Recently, I taught a series of the blood of Jesus. So, I have no problem with all those things. But in this verse, the emphasis is not about the blood of the offering, the bloodshed and so on. It is not about who brought a blood sacrifice and who didn't bring the blood sacrifice. The difference is not that one brought a blood sacrifice and the other did not bring a blood sacrifice. The difference here is faith. One brought with faith the other brought without faith.

The point is very clear. And most of the Bible scholars point that out. It's not about that. That is taught elsewhere thoroughly and fully in the scripture, about the blood sacrifice and all of that, and we believe that. But this verse is not trying to teach that. The issue here is not what kind of offering each one brought, it is how they brought it. Did they bring it by faith? By faith Abel did it. In Cain’s offering there is no faith. How do we know? Faith is not some mysterious thing that you exercise it and nobody knows whether you have real faith or not, no. Faith is something which is real. If it is in you then there will be actions that correspond to that faith on the outside. You can tell by the actions whether true faith is in the inside. That's why James chapter 2 is very important. It’s talking about faith’s works. So, if there is faith there'll be corresponding works. Works that will show what kind of faith is there, whether it’s genuine true faith or not. That kind of work is not there in Cain’s. What do you find in Abel’s sacrifice? In Abel’s sacrifice we find in Genesis chapter 4 where the story is told about how they brought the sacrifices, we’re told that Abel brought the firstlings and the fat of his flock. Two words are used: the first and the fat. The fat terminology is old, so let me use the new terminology. The first and the best he brought. Fat refers to the best.

So, Abel’s works of bringing the first and the best showed that he truly honored God, that he treated God in the way that God should be treated. He loved God and honored God and believed in God. True faith was there. You can see it in the sacrifice. The way he brought it. He brought it by faith. There is faith in him. Regarding Cain’s offering strangely it doesn't say anything. It just says that he brought from the fruit of the field. Nothing very special about it. It didn't say that he brought the very best out of the fruit of the field or anything like that. It doesn't say that he brought the first and the best, those terms are not used. For Abel specifically is used.

So, we talked about the first and the best last week, how God testified about Abel’s faith, about God testifying about Abel’s offering. What is there in that offering? What kind of offering did he bring? It’s an offering that showed his love to God, his respect and reverence to God and his honor that he showed to God by bringing the first and the best. So, we talked about the first fruits last week if you remember. First fruits is a teaching that is taught throughout the Bible really. And some people again talk about the first fruits and bringing the first fruit offerings and so on as an Old Testament concept. No! The first fruit means that God must be first, that is why you give the first fruit. Why the first fruit? When you have a harvest God said, “Don't eat until you have brought a portion of that harvest and given it to Me, and honored me with it, because I am the one who gave it to you. First do this and then go and eat from it.” The Bible says very strangely some very wonderful things there about it. In one place it says when you go to the promised land and the trees yield fruit, you shall not eat of it until the fifth year. Why? The first few years you dedicate it to God, then rest of it is yours.

I showed you two examples last week. One is the example of widow of Zarephath and Elijah, how she was going to eat her last meal along with her son in the time of famine and planning to die eating the last meal. And the prophet comes and says, “First make me a cake.” He says, “First.” He said, “If you do that, I am telling you right now, the flour will not diminish neither would the oil diminish from your vessels. The Lord God of Israel says that. Bring it,” he says. “First you bring it.” Lo and behold she goes and brings it and the Bible says they ate many days from that time, that whole family ate it. The flour and the oil never diminished. The more she cooked with it, the more it was there all the time. There was supernatural multiplication. And in that house, there was no famine because she gave to God first.

We looked at another example, the example of the city of Jericho, which was the first city that Israelites captured as they conquered the promised land. God said, “In the first city, because this is the first one, I want everything to be dedicated to Me. All the gold, silver, everything that you take from there is to be dedicated to Me. Nobody touches anything, everything belongs to Me.” One fellow went and took a bar of gold and some silver and some pieces of clothing and hid it, and as a result in the next city they were terribly defeated by a small group of people. They were driven out. When they corrected the situation and punished the man who did it and repented from what they did, they went to the same city back again. God wonderfully and easily gave the victory. It's all showing if you put God first, that's the idea behind the first fruits. If you put God first, then what will follow is victory, what will follow is abundance, what will follow is plenty. This is the message of the Bible.

Some people say, “Well, this first fruit and tithe and offerings and all that is from old covenant. It's from the Old Testament, under the law.” Well, the law came with Moses, but grace and truth came with Jesus it says. So, law came with Moses. But we find first fruits and tithe and all of this in the book of Genesis. We read about Abel that he brought the first and the best. Even before that, in the Garden of Eden God said to Adam and Eve, “You may eat of all the fruit of the tree, but of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil you shall not eat.” Why that one tree they cannot eat? He said, “That’s Mine. Don't eat out of that. If you eat out of this then you will have nothing to eat because that tree and the fruit in it represents My authority and lordship over you. Don't eat out of that. Think of it as dedicated to Me. You cannot eat it.” God started way back in the Garden of Eden then Abel follows it, brings the first and the best, and then throughout the Old Testament you see this concept. The first fruit is what grows in tithes so that in 14th chapter Abraham goes after four kings who had taken his nephew Lot and his family as captives from Sodom, chases after them because they've taken them as captive, fights against four kings with 318 household servants and wins the battle and brings everyone back. And brings everything that they've looted, all the gold and silver they’ve looted from Sodom and Gomorrah and everything that belonged to the four kings and their nations. The wealth of these four nations he brings, and it is heaped before Abraham. Now he has earned it. Through a war he has earned it. It was all heaped. And there comes and meets him a man named the King of Salem, a strange character in the Bible. Melchizedek is his name. He meets him and the Bible says strangely in 14th chapter of Genesis, long before Moses came and the law came, that Abraham gave a tenth of everything that he had to that man.

Then you have the story of Jacob. As he runs away from his home having cheated his brother of his inheritance, running for his life. Life is in danger, future is at risk, he doesn't know whether he's going to make it or not. Great crisis point in his life. And he sleeps at a place called Bethel. And there he sees a vision of angels coming down and going up through a ladder. And God speaks to him there. And there, Jacob says to God, “If You will bring me back safely to my father's house, bless the work of my hands, provide my needs, meet my needs...” He is uncertain of what future holds, he’s running from his family, somebody may kill him. He says, “If You will provide for me, if You will protect me, if You will be with me and bring me back safely, I will give a tenth of everything that I have.” The concept of the tenth was derived from the first fruits because that is the way it looks like. In Deuteronomy chapter 26 and verse 2 it says, bring all your first fruits, and in the same chapter down in verse 13 it says, after you have brought all the tithes. So, it is first fruits and then the same thing is called tithes. That's the way the Bible refers to it. So, this concept is something that has to do with how God must be first in our life, that is what first fruit represents. And it's a concept that started long before the law came. Therefore, it does not end with the law. If it came with the law it will end with the law. It came long before the law and even Jesus teaches it.

Where do you find this in the teaching of Jesus? Please open to Matthew's Gospel chapter 6. We'll go from there. Matthew's Gospel chapter 6 verse 33, a verse that is known to everybody. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. Now everybody thinks they know this verse. Let's listen carefully. Seek first the kingdom of God. A lot of people will quote this verse, they’ll say, “Seek the kingdom of God all these things shall be added to you.” No. It does not say, seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness. It says seek first. Everybody say, “Seek first.” In the whole verse the word first is the most important. You may circle it, put a star next to it, do something. Don't miss that verse because that is the point that He's making. Seek first. God must be first. Jesus is teaching the same principle. The words are a little different but the principle is the same. Seek first the kingdom of God. Before that verse, starting from verse 25 He says, “Don't worry about what you will eat, what you will drink and what you'll be clothed with.” The people that don't know God they can run after these things, they are worried about these things. You don't worry about this. Your heavenly Father knows that you have need of these things.

Then He says, “But seek first the kingdom of God.” Don't run after these things, don't pursue these things but seek first, pursue first the kingdom of God. A lot of people are pursuing this and that. He says, “Pursue the kingdom of God.” What to eat, what to drink, what to be clothed, that's what a lot of people are pursuing. Every waking moment of their lives they're calculating how to go and how to make the money, how to meet the needs, how to pay the bills. That's the kind of life a lot of people have. Jesus says, “That's not the way you live. Your pursuit must be not a pursuit after these things. You seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and these things shall be added to you. The source is God. So, you seek God and His kingdom first, and all these things shall be added unto you,” He says.

There is a wonderful example in the Bible that illustrates this verse. Maybe you never thought of it. It's found in the book of Haggai. You know where Haggai is? Don't be afraid. If you're in Matthew chapter 6, just back up a few pages you'll find a white page which says New Testament. And back up a little more to Malachi. I'm not joking. A lot of people are new to the Bible. And there's nothing wrong. Nothing to be ashamed of. If you're not familiar with the Bible, this is a good place to get familiar with the Bible. So, don't feel bad just because you don't know where Haggai is, and you never heard of the guy. A lot of good Christians haven't heard of this guy. And there’re pages in the book that part of the Bible is sticking together because it has never been opened. And even if they have read it occasionally, they've never understood it. So, back off and go to Malachi, the last book in the Old Testament and then before that there is Zechariah, and right before that is Haggai. A very small book, just 2 chapters, 38 verses only but it's a very powerful book. Now because it's a small book if you keep reading it again and again, try to get a sense of what it's saying, you will find the message is exactly the same as Matthew 6:33. The essence of message in in Haggai is Matthew 6:33. Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness all these things shall be added unto you. I’ll illustrate it to you. This is probably the best illustration that you can have. We saw the widow of Zarephath and illustrated and how when you give to God first, then all your needs are met. We saw the city of Jericho, how you give to God first, then you'll have great victories in life. But here, is a wonderful example, Haggai. Have you got Haggai now? All right, don't let Haggai go.

Now little bit about the Old Testament in case you're new to the Bible. The Old Testament has 39 books. The first 17 books are called historical books, from Genesis to Esther and from Job to the Song of Solomon are five books that are called poetical books written in a poetic form. And then from Isaiah onwards, another 17 books called the prophetic books, and out of the 17 prophetic books, 5 are called major prophets and 12 are called minor prophets. All right. Just for your information. Why they're called minor prophets? This is the most important information. They're not called minor prophet because they're not important. They're called minor prophets because their prophecy is very brief and short. Look at Isaiah. He goes on and on and on more than 60 chapters. Look at Haggai, only 2 chapters, 38 verses. Very short. A lot of these minor prophets are like that. Very small portions. That is why they're called minor prophets.

Now in the books of the prophets, the last three, there is Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi are called post exilic prophets. They are post Babylonian captivity prophets. That means that 70 years the people of God went into exile, taken to Babylon. Some of the choicest people from among the people of God like Daniel, Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego, very talented people. They didn't want to take good for nothing people and feed them there. They wanted to take the best and use them there for their country and develop their country. So, when they took people as captives, they took the best talented people. 70 years they were in captivity. You remember when we talked about work. We were teaching about work. I read to you Jeremiah chapter 29, a prophet who wrote a letter to those captives who are camping out of the outside of the city of Babylon, and said to them, “Build your houses, marry wives for your sons and husbands for your daughters, settle down there, do the work, live a very productive life,” those people were thinking of, “When will I be allowed to return?” Jeremiah says, “Settle down there, get married, build your houses, go to work,” and Daniel and Shadrack and Meshack and Abednego were part of the crowd that was there. They heard the message.

They took it as a message from God. They went to work, they began to shine among the Babylonians. They became great officials. Daniel was like a governor in second or third position in the whole empire, which is number one superpower of the world at that time. So, these people believed that it's God's mission that He has given the Gentile world, that God has brought them here for a purpose. So, they got to work and went and worked among them. Until then, they were thinking, “How can I work among this sinful, rotten people that have brought us as captives? Why should we serve them? Why should we work and put all our talents to work for them? But now they took it as God's message and began to work and they settle down.

So, after they settle down, 70 years later, there was a king named Cyrus who had some mercy upon these captives that had come from their native land. He saw that some of them were longing to go back to their native land and worried about their native land and Jerusalem and how the city has been ruined and the temple has been demolished and the walls of Jerusalem are in ruin. Their ancestral properties are there and these people are in great distress. They want to go back. Their heart is there in Jerusalem. So, he gave an opportunity for people to return. But a lot of people stayed there itself because by this time in 70 years they got settled down there. They were making good money. They were quite successful, they had good trades and professions, they settled down there. But 50,000 people were ready to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple and live there in Jerusalem. And the king was ready to supply the money, the gold and silver and the protection on the way so that no danger will happen. With the king’s support and patronage these people left and came back to Jerusalem. Nearly 50,000 people they returned.

Among them was this guy named Haggai and another guy named Zechariah. They both were contemporaries. And Haggai was the first to prophesy among them. That is why the Old Testament books are ordered in that way. Haggai was a very successful prophet among them. So, 70 years later they have returned and Haggai was one of them. In 536 BC, they returned to Jerusalem. And as soon as they returned... now, one more information, when you're reading Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi you want a historical background for it. You need to go to Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, those three books. They relate to this time. Those books come from post-exilic period and these prophets spoke during that time. So, when you read those three historical books they relate to these prophetic books. The first six chapters give you the historic background in Ezra. The first six chapters give the historic background of Haggai. That's for your information.

But now, in 536 they returned by the help of Cyrus the great king. And as soon as they returned, they built the altar where the house of the Lord was and started to observe certain sacrifices and offer certain sacrifices which they used to when the temple was in place. They kept the Feast of the Tabernacle. It’s a very important feast of that time. So, there was some restoration of the religious life back in Jerusalem. They've come back after a long time, they were missing all of this, they’ve built the altar, daily sacrifices were going on. Feast of Tabernacle, a feast that went on for a whole week, was observed. They were really excited. And in the fall of that year, towards the end of the year, they laid the foundation again for the temple. They got to work immediately. I’m trying to get you to the context so you can think with me. They laid the foundation for the temple. And after they laid the foundation to the temple, they celebrated the completion of the foundation work even before the temple was built. Just the completion of the foundation work brought such joy to them. The young people rejoiced to see that the temple of God, God's house, which they've heard so much about, never seen, has come into being now. The older people, maybe the some of them have seen the old temple and the glory of that temple which Solomon had built with much gold and silver, amazing temple. They were weeping thinking because of their memory of that old temple. They had a great celebration as they finish the foundation work.

Now, early in the following year, that is, within few months after that laying of the foundation of the temple, in 535 BC, early in the year, the Samaritans wrote a letter to the new king that has now come. Cyrus by the time has died. They wrote a letter to the new king that was in the place of Cyrus saying, “Be very careful about these guys. You're supporting these guys giving them money, giving them all the support, but I'll tell you these fellows will turn against you one day. Don't support them.” So, these kinds of letters were going on. They wanted to spoil the show. The Samaritans were against these people of Jerusalem and wanted to write and spoil everything. They were jealous of these people succeeding in their work and getting back their properties and reestablishing their life there in Jerusalem. So, they wrote this letter.

There was another king that came after this king. Again, letters were sent. This time this new king immediately wrote back and ordered the work to stop, he believed these guys. He said, “Stop the work,” because he was threatened by this letter that these people may work against him because everything came under their powers, these regents. So, the letter was saying that, “These people may not pay tribute to you. They may get another king’s support and come against you. They're very thankless people, they'll do all this,” and the king listened to it and canceled it. Now, during that time they got very discouraged. They quit working because by the order of the king they cannot build. So, they quit. Very discouraged. And soon they began to forget the mission for which they came. 50,000 people packed all their bags and traveled this distance by the grace of God and came back because God wanted to restore back to them their life in Jerusalem. They forgot the mission, this mission that God had for them. And then they looked around their houses and their lands and some of them were encroached upon by the locals that lived there. I think it must be like our country. When you're not there somebody will get into your house and live there. And their fields were used by other people. So, they had to go and reclaim and repossess and drive out those people and work on those things. So, they became very embroiled in that kind of work. And then when they got them out and possessed their houses and their ancestral properties which was given to them in the promised land when God divided this land to the people of Israel, they were so happy that they wanted to make sure that their houses were rebuilt and redone and refurbished. So, they began to work on it.

What happened in the end, instead of putting God and His mission first, they started putting them and their projects first. Instead of putting God first they put themselves first. That's the issue here. As I read it you will see it. In chapter 1, let me read to you from verse 2. “Thus speaks the Lord of hosts, saying: ‘The people says, “The time has not come, the time that the Lord's house should be built.”’” Now they begin to give excuse. They came for the purpose of restoring Jerusalem to the old glory, now they're saying the time has not come. Now this is a very famous philosophy in India. For everything the time must come. So, that's a wonderful excuse that we give for some things that we don't do. It's not the time yet, that's why it's not. When the right time comes, everything will come. So, they said, “Well, the time has not come that's why it's not happening. Let's forget about this. The king himself has ordered the time has not come.” But they feel that the time has come to do up their houses nicely. It’s amazing how we can justify our own mission and our own purposes very easily and justify against God's purpose and following God's plan very easily saying, “Oh! the time has not come.” But for us always the time is now, do it.

So, they said, “The time has not come to build the Lord's house.” Then the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet... Now, by that time another king has come named Darius. Now the new king Darius was favorable to the Jews. He wanted them to continue and build. He has sent the order, “All right, go ahead and build. I will support you. Build it.” Now, it's a wonderful situation that God has created. The previous king ordered not to build, now this king says, “Build.” Wonderful opportunity. Haggai begins to prophesy. Right at that time God raises up a man so that the work can be done. Haggai begins to prophesy. Then the word of the Lord came by Haggai, the prophet saying, “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?” He says, “Is it alright for you to live in such beautiful houses, with all the nice interiors and everything but the house of the Lord is in shambles. Is it right for you to do this?” In other words, he's accusing them saying, “You have lived for yourself, you have made your projects number one, and what God sent you for as last in priority. Your priorities have changed. You have experienced God's miracles, God's favor, even the king financed you to come here. God has given you a wonderful opportunity to restore the life of people in Jerusalem. But you have forgotten God and God's great purposes.”

Now, as we live in this world, we get married, we have children, we suddenly have to buy a house, and build a house. And when we build a house, we want to beautify it. There's nothing wrong with it. Some people take these verses, “Is it right for you to live in paneled houses?” And preach against living in houses that have been interior decorated. And I come from a background where these kinds of preaching went on. “You’re building one floor after the other, you wait, God will destroy it so that they will not be one stone upon the other. It will all crumble and fall one day.” We cursed it. We thought all these people are just concentrating on themselves and bettering themselves but are not doing anything for the work of the Lord so we cursed them when they built big houses and beautiful places and so on. Because we thought God never wanted us to have good houses, good anything.

But I'll show you here that's not the point at all. God is the one that gave them good houses. When He took them to the promised land He said, “You’ll live in houses that you've never built, drink out of wells that you have never dug, eat out of the gardens which you have never planted.” He took them to not a slum. He took them to a land flowing with milk and honey. That's God's vision for the people. God's vision originally was Garden of Eden and then it was vision for the promised land, land flowing with milk and honey, the future vision for a heaven where even the streets are gold. That's God's vision, my friend. God is not just a beggarly God. He's got a great vision for us. He doesn't want us to not have anything. It's wrong to take this verse, especially the minor prophets are famous for scolding people that are wealthy and all that, living in good houses and so on, Amos is another one.

And these are favorite verses for old-time preachers. They will take this and talk about the bed you sleep in and curse it, and the kind of house you live in and curse it, because you're living in such comfortable houses and so on. Everyone that spoke like that are sleeping in good beds now and living very comfortably now. That's the irony of the whole situation. Everybody that said, “Jesus went on a donkey, these preachers these days go in a car,” are going in a car only. Nobody, I can guarantee you, no preacher is going in a donkey. That was only some preaching that went on. They really don't believe in going in a donkey. Even back then they didn't believe in it. They just wanted to condemn everybody that had anything because according to them living a good life is against God's will, that God hates it and deplores it and despises it, which is wrong. I will show you here that God is not cursing them out just because they had paneled houses. He is saying, “You have put me last and put you first. You are running after your interests and concentrating on your interest but you totally neglect Mine.”

But life doesn't work like that. Life works this way, like Matthew 6:33 says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.” Life doesn't work the other way around. It's not, seek everything and put God last. If you seek everything else and you pursue everything else in life and put God last in your priority then nothing is going to work. That's the message here. If you put God first everything is going to work wonderfully. So, he says, “You're living in paneled houses. Is it right when God's work is in shambles?” And then read on. Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: “Consider your ways!” What to consider? Why he says, “Consider your ways?” He says, “You have sown much, and bring in little.” He says, “Look at yourself. You are running pursuing your interests, you’re living for yourself, working and working and working. God is lost in your life. God's plan and purpose is gone to the last place, last priority. Everything that you think about is your house, your children, your family, your thing and that's all you think about. God is last.” He says, “Look at the way life has turned out for you.” He says, “Consider your ways. You have sown much and bring in little.” That means you work so much earn so little. How true it is. That’s the problem with a lot of people today. “You eat, but do not have enough; you drink, but you're not filled with drink; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm.” Isn’t that a shame that you have clothes but it doesn’t make you warm? “And he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes.” Wow.

I remember my grandmother used to say when I was growing up as a little boy, that if you don't put God first then everything you earn will go into a bag with holes. You’ll have nothing at the end of your life to show. You have earned a lot but have nothing. That's the plight of a lot of people. They work for years and years and years, have nothing to show because all the money went into a bag with holes. Whatever you put in there disappeared. In my house as I was growing up this verse was a famous verse. I used to shudder thinking about it. What kind of life will that be? Put it in a bag of holes where you end up finding there is nothing. And then he says again in verse 7, Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Consider your ways!” In verse five He said, “Consider your ways,” and then said, “You’ve sown much bring in little. You eat but don't have enough. You drink but you're not filled with drink. Clothe yourselves but no one is warm. And he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes.” And then again, He repeats it, “Consider your ways.”

Now, if you put other things first and put God somewhere down the line, your life will be a life of failure, is something that is stated again and again in the scriptures, I don't have the time to go into all of that but I will read you one verse. I will read you one particular verse for you that is Ecclesiastes chapter 7 verse 14. The Bible everywhere talking about curses of lack and want and insufficiency and all of that and how it's related to not honoring God, not putting God first, not obeying the voice of the Lord your God. Now Ecclesiastes 7:14 says, in the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: Let me read to you from Eugene Peterson's Message Bible. How many of you heard of Eugene Peterson? The Presbyterian pastor who wrote the Message Bible, a very wonderful translation. He recently passed away about a month ago, I think. Amazing, amazing translation. He just takes these verses and simply states what it means really so that you get a little more out of that verse. You understand the real thing that it's saying. A very wonderful translation. Everybody appreciates that.

I'll read it to you from Message translation. You need to get one of these translations. It’s very good. On a good day, enjoy yourself. Look at how he writes. On a good day, enjoy yourself; on a bad day, examine your conscience. What a way to say it. On a good day, enjoy yourself; on a bad day, examine your conscience. What does it mean? When things don't go right, when you sow much and reap very little, when you eat and are not satisfied, when you drink and never filled with drink, when you clothe and you are not covered properly and you're still cold and when your money feels like going into a bag of holes nothing is retained, He says, “Consider your ways.” But some Christian preachers are saying that’s a sign of spirituality. That all these years you never made any money, had nothing. That's a wonderful thing. You earned so much of it you have nothing. No, God says, “Consider your ways.” If you've been working and working and working and working too much, every waking moment you are work or thinking about how to work, thinking about how to make more, to meet the demands and the obligations of your life, and in the end of the day you have nothing. He says, “You better examine your conscience. Something is wrong.” See, this is not like some Christian preachers that say, “That means that you are a wonderful person. You’re spiritual.” No, no, no, the Bible doesn't say that. The Bible says, if you are a total failure like that, that you work and work and earn so little and you have nothing left, you have nothing to show and your life is going like this, consider your ways because God does not want you to be like that. That's the conclusion. Consider your ways.

Now let's go on. Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Consider your ways!” Verse 7, 8, “Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified,” says the Lord. He says, “Come on, get in to that big project.” See, we all have this big thing that's going on and we are part of it and our family and our work and our profession and our house in building the house and renovating the house, all of that is part of that but we must never lose sight of the big program that God has, the master plan that God has. We are living towards that. We're not living for our own goals. Our life is not about getting married, having couple of children and building a house. Some people feel like if they got married and had a couple of children and built a house, “I've done everything, brother. Done everything a man is supposed to do.” No, you have not done everything that a man is supposed to do. You have done everything a man is supposed to do when you've done what God has appointed you to do. If you have no awareness of God's mission for your life, where God wants to take you or what He wants to do through you, what's God's plan and purposes and you don't function accordingly and orient your life and all your interests based on that, that is your primary interests and these things are necessary also, but that is your primary interest. When you put that first, God blesses all these other things. Blesses your family, your children, your house, your assets, your everything. God blesses it. God is not against it. God is not a cheap guy.

“He's angry because you built a beautiful house.” That's the feeling I got when some preachers dedicated houses back in those days. Some of the people hid their house. They never invited the preacher. Now in those days, you have to hide everything, you have to hide the TV from the preacher. If you brought some new stereo or something, you hide it because he's going to preach against it, you can bet on it. If he comes and sees your new stereo he’s going to, “How much did that cost?” He’s going to ask you, “How much did the fridge cost? How much did this cost and that cost?” Then the preaching is going to be about that. Some people are doing all these things, this will go dust to dust one day. All that matters is that we are saved and go to heaven. Why did God put us here then? Why does God give a promised land flowing with milk and honey? Why does God give houses? Why does God give wells with water? Why does God give planted gardens and all that? Why? Why a garden of Eden? Why heaven with such facilities? Why? God's intention for man is for him to live well. Just like your intention for your child will be to live well. Some people think they're better than God. That God is some cruel figure that is angry as soon as you build a house but you can rejoice in your son building a house or daughter building a house. I'll tell you God is thousand times better. He rejoices when you build a house, when you own a house, when you're coming up in life, when you are experiencing success and victory and when your needs are met. When you have more than enough God is happy.

Won’t you be happy when your children have more than enough? If you're not happy something wrong with you. You need to examine that head. We’re thinking wrongly, we got wrong kind of religion in us. God is a good God. Now look at this. Now, in verse 9 onwards he tells why their plight is like this, why they work so much and earn so little, why they eat and never satisfied, why they drink and not filled with drink, why they cloth and never really clothe, why their money goes into a bag of holes. Why? Reason. “You looked for much, but indeed it came to little.” How true. Like some people would say, “Well, I'm expecting a big thing, brother, but it came to little.” “And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why?” says the Lord of hosts. “Because of My house that is in ruins, while every one of you runs to his own house.” Everyone runs through his own house. Have you ever seen in a workplace there'll be some people that will disappear just like that? They’ve run to their own house. All they wanted to do is just take care of things and do eye wash business here. Make sure that you saw them. “Yeah, I was there only, brother.” Just show their face and then run home and get their things done. They think that they’re very wise and smart. When you're engaged with God in His mission, you can never do that. You must be fully engaged. He says, “you run your own houses. Therefore the heavens above you withhold the dew, and the earth withholds its fruit. For I called for a drought on the land and the mountains, on the grain and the new wine and the oil, on whatever the ground brings forth, on men and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands.” “I call for a drought upon everything, upon all the work of your hands, upon whatever the ground brings forth, upon your land, the mountains, the grain, the new wine, everything I’ve called a drought,” He says. Why? “Because everyone is only after your interest. Nobody cares about God's interest and God's plan and God's purpose,” He says,

Now, look at the response from verse 12. The response is a very positive response. Usually the people of Israel are not very good in this kind of response. They're very slow and very stiff-necked usually. But look at the way they respond. Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel. Zerubbabel is the governor that was sent with the 50,000 people. Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Joshua is the high priest. He was also sent with the group that came. 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 has sent him; and people feared the presence of the Lord. So, they feared God, they obeyed God, they listened to the man of God. They considered their ways, they examined their conscience, they looked at themselves and said, “Why are we like this? We are God's people, covenant people. We are supposed to be blessed. We are supposed to be prosperous, we are supposed to have victory. Why are we like this?”

Verse 13. Then Haggai, the Lord's messenger, spoke the Lord's message to the people, saying, “I am with you, says the Lord.” Now since they are repenting and they're listening and they're fearing the Lord and they are obeying, God is telling Haggai to tell them, “I'm with you. Now things are going to change for you.” So, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, the governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of people; and they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God. Now they started working. Their priorities are rearranged now. They considered their ways. They've understood why they live a cursed life. Why it's not working out, why so much of their effort brings very little results. They’ve understood, they've considered their ways and understood what's happening. The fact is that they have not put God first. They’ve understood this. They've turned around. They’ve decided to put God first, God's vision first, for the restoration of Jerusalem. That God has a lasting plan and a purpose for Jerusalem and they decide to go ahead with God's plan.

Does it mean that you don't pay attention to your house, your land, your agriculture, your whatever business you're doing, and all that? No, it means that you live for God and have God's priorities as your priorities and put everything else in life in the right place in life. That's what it means. It doesn't mean don't do business. Martin Luther said, “Christian people are like people who are riding a horse. They either fall on this side or that side constantly.” They never reach the destination because constantly falling and getting up. One extreme or the other. So, that you will find in Christian circles... I've been raised in this thing for a long time so I’ve had some lot of experience, not wonderful experiences, but a lot of experiences. As soon as a Christian gets saved, suppose he’s a businessman doing wonderful business, immediately some very superior or senior Christians who think they are superior, and some preachers, will say to that businessman, “Brother, now that you are saved, you put God first. Forget about the business. Forget about your work. Work is nothing. You're earning so many lakhs, nothing now, because you are a believer, you seek God first.” That is not what it is saying. This is not saying that when you put God first it is always to the detriment of your profession and your efforts in the other direction. It doesn't mean that you neglect your family life, that you neglect whatever you're supposed to do otherwise in the world. It doesn't mean that it's detriment of all those things, that those things are affected negatively. In fact, if you put God first those things become even better.

That's what it’s saying. If you put God first, all these things will work out better. That's what he's saying.

So, they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts. Reformation started. Heart change started. They've considered their ways, considered their conscience, examined their conscience. They've made a decision, “Hereafter only God first. I'm going to put God first. “Yeah, building a house. Yeah, I'm having a land and I'm fixing it up and all that all that is happening.” But I'm always going to have in mind God's plan and God's purpose and work toward that because life is about that and all these other things, family and all these other things, come into that. And when I concentrate on that all these things work very well. It becomes very successful. That's the approach they took.

Now go the 2nd chapter. Now they realized their selfishness, they realized that they have gone wrong. Now in 2nd chapter when you go in verse 4. ‘Yet now be strong, Zerubbabel,’ says the Lord. He’s telling the governor, “Be strong.” ‘And be strong, Joshua, the son of Jehozadak, the high priest; and be strong, all you people of the land,’ says the Lord, ‘and work; for I am with you,’ says the Lord of hosts. God is assuring them. Tells them, “Be strong. Live for Me. Be strong. Put me first in your life. Live for My vision, push in this direction, fulfill My vision.” ‘According to the word that I covenanted with when you came out of Egypt, so My Spirit remains among you; do not fear!’ Look at Him referring to the covenant. In other words, He's saying, “Remember the covenant I have with you. I brought you out of Egypt. And when you came out of Egypt, I made a covenant with you. Covenant is not an ordinary thing. I never forget My covenant. I am a covenant-keeping God. I'll be with you. Don't worry, you will not fail, you will not go to nothing. You put me first see what happens,” He says.

Listen to the next verse. “For thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Once more (it is a little while) I will shake the heaven and earth, the sea and the dry land;” and so on. Then in verse 8 He says, ‘The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,’ says the Lord. This is exactly what Matthew 6:33 says. “Don't worry about what you will eat, what you will drink, what you'll be clothed with. Only the Gentiles seek after these things. They don't have any knowledge of God, they seek after these things. But you seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, all these things shall be added unto you.” See, the people that don't know God are always concerned about gold and silver and about how money comes and how they will meet their needs, how they're going to meet their obligations, what they're going to do about their problems. He says, “The gold and silver is Mine,” says the Lord. In other words, “Don't worry. Don't worry, I will take care of you. All of these things belong to Me. I'm the creator of gold and silver, so don't go searching after gold and silver. Don't go hunting for a gold rush. Seek first the kingdom of God and I'm the maker of gold and silver. I own gold and silver. Don't worry about what you will eat, what you will drink. Don't worry about your financial needs. Don't be worried and burdened about your financial difficulties and problems. Make a heart change. Examine your conscience and make a heart change. Put God first.”

Everybody say, “God first.” Now I don't have the time to read the rest of the verses, you may read it. But look at verse 18 and 19. I want to finish here. ‘Consider now from this day forward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, from the day that the foundation of the Lord's temple was laid—consider it.’ In other words, He says, “Just watch what happens from this day forward.” Powerful verse, this verse, and 19th verse. God says, “All right, you made up your mind to put Me first, now you watch. See what will happen to your life from now onwards. Consider this day. Consider now from this day forward. See what happens from now on. Watch. See what I'll do,” He says. And then He says, which day of which month and so on. “Consider from this day,” and then He mentions a day and month. From the 24th day of the 9th month. That is the day the foundation of the large temple was laid again the second time. “Consider it,” He says. He says, “Don't forget this date. Keep this date on your calendar. That you came and re-did the foundation of the temple. First time you did it, and ignored it and went on your own way in your own pursuits. But consider this day, remember this day, 24th day of the 9th month,” He says. “Write it down in your diary. Keep it there. See what will happen from this day.”

And then He says, ‘Is the seed is still in the barn? As yet the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have not yielded fruit.’ In other words, He says, “There's no seed in the barn even now. Now if you look at the barn it's empty, now there is no pomegranate, now there is no vine and there is no fig in the fig tree. There's no pomegranate. There is nothing in the olive tree. They've not yielded a fruit. Look at that. Nothing is there, nothing has changed. But mark the date. There is nothing there today. But mark the date,” because this is the day they started working. And then God says, ‘But from this day I will bless you.’ Hello. From this day I will bless you. Mark the day when you made the change in your heart to live a new kind of life, to put God first, to make God the first priority of your life. Mark that day. That is what a true Christian is all about. A true Christian does not claim that he has faith but his works don't show his faith. A true Christian is like Abel. He has faith and that faith is shown in his actions. “Consider this day,” He says, “From this day, I will bless you.” Everybody say, “From this day I will bless you.” From which day? From the day that anyone makes a decision to put God first. God says, “I'll bless you.” If you will make a bold decision to set your priorities right and put God first.

That's what Abel’s offering speaks about. That's what God testified about Abel’s offering. Is a rich truth. God is saying, “Look at this guy. I am first in his life. He loves Me. He honors Me. Look at the kind of offering that he has brought. He’s brought the first and the best. That's the way you relate to Me. That's the way you live a Christian life. That's faith. That's living by faith. From this day, I will bless you.” I challenge you today. For them it was the 24th day of the 9th month. What is the date today? 25th of the 11th month. Slight difference. May 25th of the 11th month be marked in your diaries. If you're going to make a decision today, if you can say, “I'm going to put God first in my life, never again I'm not going to live for myself, I'm going to stop my extreme pursuit of all these other things. I'm going to put God first in my life and make God the priority of my life.”

What does it mean? It means that when it comes to time, God is number one in your life. Just look at the inventory of your time, how your time is spent. Does God have a first place there? Is the best and the first of the time given to God? Is God the top priority when it comes to time or you have time for everything else and if you have any time left, you'll give some time to God? That's not the way you approach God at all. That’s not the way to live a life of faith at all. Life of faith means first and the best is always God's. The best time, the choicest time and the first priority is given to God. When it comes to time you make a decision today that God will be number one. When you tomorrow, take an inventory of how your time is spent, that God will be number one, that God will have number one priority in your time. He's always preferred. He’s always the first. And I'll tell you, you will never fail. This is the fountain of success. When you put God first like that.

Secondly, when it comes to your pursuits, what are you pursuing? What are you running after. In the things that you run after and pursue make sure that God is first. That you are truly running after God, desiring God, running after God, seeking God, hungering for God and living for God in that way. That God has number one place in your pursuits. That you have no greater pursuits in this life other than God. You may pursue a lot of interests, but God is number one. God has number one place. Not wrong to have other interests. But God must have number one place. First God then everything else.

Thirdly, your possessions, what God has given to you, how it is used, it must be God number one there in the use of your possessions, in the wealth, in the possessions that God has given to you, God must be number one. Your book must represent the fact that God is number one there, that you give to God more than to anything else. That your money and the possessions that you have, that God has richly blessed you with, God has number one place in that. And then when it comes to obedience, make sure that God is number one. That you obey God more than man. You obey God more than anything else. That your obedience and the loyalty belong to God first. You owe Him first obedience. And if you follow this, I'll tell you mark this day, 25th of the 11th month. This is going to be the day which is going to make a difference. You have to accept it by faith because right now the shelf is empty. There is no seed there, there is no olive, there is no wine, there is no figs in the fig tree. There is no pomegranate in the pomegranate trees. There is nothing, it’s still empty. But heart has changed. Nothing in the pocket but heart has changed. Needs don't seem to have been met but heart has changed. The quality decision has been made. And I bet you, what God is saying is, “Wait till the next harvest man, then you will see.” God says, “Wait for another four months when your next harvest comes. Heavens will be opened, rains will fall, dew will fall, your crops will grow like anything, your trees will yield like never before, you will reap such a harvest that you will have no place to contain.”

And I tell you, God wants to bless every one of us like that. And I tell you, it's a wonderful opportunity today to really give ourselves to God and make up our mind before we go out of this place. That God will be first in our time, in our pursuits, in our possessions, and in our obedience that God will have the first place. And that is the best decision you can make for your bright future. Bright future is in that. Shall we all stand together? Amen.

Well, how many of you say, “I'm going to make a decision like that,” today? Even if you have made a decision before like this, you still have to again and again reinforce that. “Yeah, God is first I must never forget it.” Because in the world there is always a distraction. Other things cut in and try to become first. You got to always remember, God is first, God comes first. Young people I say, if God comes first in your life today, your tomorrow will be very bright. You'll have a great and a grand future. No man in the world can give you such a future. No power in this world can stop you from having such a future. God will cause it to happen. Like He raised up Daniel and Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego, like He raised up Joseph, He will raise you up. I challenge you today. Make God first.

Let's lift up our hands and just thank God today and pray this prayer to God. Everybody say, “Lord, I give myself to you. This day, 25th day of the 11th month of 2018, I make this quality decision to put God first in every area of my life. Lord, you will be number one with my time, number one with my pursuits, number one with regard to my possessions, number one when it comes to obedience. You are first always and I will keep on this track. And I will remember this day and the future harvests of my life will be abundant and plenty. That God's word will come true in my life, that from this day the blessings start, from this day a new future begins. From this day, a bright hope begins. Thank you, Lord. Thank you for a new day dawning. Thank you for a new life, for a new future. Thank you, Jesus. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

I hope that you will remember November 25th, 2018 forever. A day that altered your complete destiny. So many young people are here and even the old people like me. Doesn't matter. Never too late to turn things around.

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