January 28-30, 2006
St. Paulâ€™s Ev. Lutheran Church â€“ New Ulm, MN
Pastor Don Sutton
â€œYour attention, pleaseâ€¦.!â€ We may hear it when a storeâ€™s service department is paging a customer who left a purse or a credit card at a check-out counter. We used to hear this at stadiums when someone was trying to get a hold of a doctor. â€œYour attention please, would doctor 395 please report to the information office.â€ We hear it in airports – â€œYour attention please. Alice Jones, please report to the Gate B-7.â€
As Haggai in the late 500â€™s B.C. ministered to the remnant of Jews who had returned to Judah after the Babylon Captivity, God spoke through him to the Jews saying â€œYOUR ATTENTION, PLEASE!â€ This command is contained in the opening words of our text, â€œNow give careful thought to this from this day onâ€¦â€ God was saying. â€œYour attention, please.â€
1. â€œYouâ€™re Not Paying Attentionâ€God said this to his people because they were not paying attention to God. Let me explain what I mean. After the Jews returned from exile in about 536, they began rebuilding their homes and the temple of God in Jerusalem. But some neighboring Samaritans wanted to share in the temple work. However, the Jews refused. So the Samaritans stirred up trouble. As a result of this trouble and the trouble the Jews had with putting themselves, not God, first in their lives, the temple rebuilding stopped for 10 years.
In the year 520 B.C., the second year of the reign of King Darius, God sent Haggai to his people with this word of the Lord, â€œ This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the LORD. â€˜You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?â€™ declares the LORD Almighty. â€˜Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house. Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the oil and whatever the ground produces, on men and cattle, and on the labor of your hands (1:6-11).â€™” But then God went told his people that he was with them. He promised he would send a Savior. As a result of Godâ€™s grace and presence the Jews resolved to get to work. They did, but only for a short while.
I suppose it would be like some of our New Yearâ€™s resolutions. After the Christmas holidays maybe we realized that our trousers were a bit tight or our comfy clothes werenâ€™t as comfy as we like. We had taken in too many cookies, candies, nuts, and Christmas drinks. So we resolved to eat less and exercise more. But after a month, the resolution to eat less and exercise more has changed to eat more and exercise less. We meant well, but we lost our momentum.
This is what happened to the Jews. God wanted them to put him first and reflect this in the use of the time he gave them, the talents with which he blessed them, and the material things he lent them. One of the ways the Jews were to show their love for God was in the re-building of the temple. For a while, the Jews did this. But it didnâ€™t last. They let other things attract their attention. So again God did a â€œYour attention, please!â€ This is referred to in our text. God said that when the Jews look for blocks for the temple, they found the pile to be small; when they checked the measures of wine, rather than they 50 they thought they had, there were 20; when they checked the barn, there was less grain than what they planned; when they looked for the crop on their trees, there was none. God caused the work of their hands to dwindle or become nothing to get their attention. But the Jews still didnâ€™t give it.
Sometimes God may do drastic things to get our attention. We may get our priorities goofed up and not put God first in respect to the use of our time, talents and material possessions, and end up sinning against God. So God through trials may say, â€œYour attention, please!â€ The time thought we gained by short-changing God in worship, Bible study, prayer, or serving God through the use of our gifts in ministry, God may take away in other ways. The spiritual gifts the Holy Spirit gave us to use in ministry, but which we fail to use for that purpose but try to use for other purposes, may end up being of no benefit. Or material things that God lends us to manage well, use wisely, and from which we are to take the first part and give back to the in thank offerings, when we fail to do Godâ€™s will, the Lord may take away from the resources in one way or another so in the end weâ€™re not ahead, but rather behind. All along God is saying, â€œYour attention, please.â€ Heâ€™s disciplining us. Heâ€™s doing it not to get even for our sins. If he did that right now our fannies would be frying in the fires of hell. God disciplines us when we err to get our attention and to get us to change so that we put him first, love him most, live for him every day, use our time and talents well, manage our material things well and use a portion of them to support the ministry of his church and help those in need.
One day a couple of years ago I was flying out of Minneapolis to someplace. I was sitting at gate C-something-or-another and wondering where all the people were who were flying to the same place I was going. Suddenly I heard, â€œYou attention, please. Would Mr. Donald Sutton please report to gate G-something-or-another. Your plane is leaving in 10 minutes.â€ â€œGate G?â€ I thought to myself. My boarding pass says C!â€ But as I looked closer I realized that the printer in the E-ticket check-in kiosk didnâ€™t print my boarding pass clearly. So the G came out a C. Now the G-gates are all the way on the other side of the Minneapolis airport from the C-gates. I didnâ€™t know that this middle-aged body could run so fast. If Hertz had been there, they may have signed me up for O.J.â€™s old job. I made it. That airport announcement got my attention and moved me to action.
What finally God the attention of the Jews? What moved them to action?
2. Godâ€™s Amazing Love Gets Attention & Moves to Action
It was Godâ€™s undeserved love. It was as if God decided, â€œIf you wonâ€™t pay attention to my loving discipline, maybe you will pay attention to my undeserved love.â€ In v. 19 God said, â€œFrom this day on I will bless you.â€ Isnâ€™t that absolutely amazing? The returning remnant had not put God first in their lives. They had not been good managers of their time, talents and treasures. They had not paid attention to Godâ€™s â€œYour attention, pleases.â€ Wouldnâ€™t it stand to reason that God would say, â€œI sick and tire of youâ€¦To hell with you?â€ Instead he said to his people, â€œIâ€™ll bless you.â€ That got their attention.
What gets your attention and moves you to godly action? Think about your life. Is there time wasted, talents unused for Godâ€™s glory, money misspent, resources used poorly, meager and miserly offerings flowing from the leftovers of the bounty the Lord bestows on us. What does the Lord do? â€œHe does not treat us as our sins deserve.â€ What does the Lord say? â€œI forgive you. I declare you innocent.â€ How can a holy God do this? He satisfied the justice that flows from his holiness by putting his Son in our place. Godâ€™s Son, was like us in every way, but was without sin. Yet Godâ€™s Son, Jesus, took our sin upon himself and suffered for it when he died upon the cross. So God took the death of Jesus and with it erased the sin and curse that was behind our names in the Book of Life. Then God took the sinlessness of Christ and credited it to you, to me, and to everyone. He promises us eternal life. Every day God is with us making sure we lack nothing. Every day, even though we donâ€™t deserve Godâ€™s gifts, God blesses us with them â€“ time, talents, treasures, family, friends, opportunities, faith fellowship, etc. Through these blessings, God is saying, â€œYour attention, please!â€
Give it to him. The Jews did. In the year 516 they finished building the temple? How can we not do the same considering the love and attention God gives us? In view of this I urge you to think about your values in life. If God and the guidance of his word are not at the top of your list of life, I urge you to put him there. The result might be, â€œ I value God and his word â€“1; My Faith and well-being â€“ 2; My family â€“ 3; My church family â€“ 4; My Friends and others around me â€“ 5; My Job â€“ 6. In view of Godâ€™s love and attention, I urge you to think about your objectives in life. Looking at things from Godâ€™s perspective your objectives might end up something like the following: â€œIn all things I want to worship and glorify God. I want trust in God above all else. I want to grow in the grace and knowledge of my Savior Jesus. I want to do things according to his will. I want to show love to people. I want to mange and use well the resources God gives me. I want to rejoice and be glad in the goodness of God. I want to share his love with others. In view of Godâ€™s love and attention set godly goals: My goal is to spend time every day privately and/or with my family in Godâ€™s word and prayer. My goal is weekly to gather with Christians to worship God. My goal is to plan my day out so that I have a balance of time for work or education, spiritual growth and meditation, family time, time for nutrition and relaxation, time to always use at least one my spiritual gifts to serve God. My goal is to use the money God has given me to first set aside an offering with which I can say, â€œThank you Lord for your love,â€ then to take care of the needs of my family and then the needs of others around me. My goal with Godâ€™s help is to daily find contentment in what God has given me and to not spend more than I make, to not run up debt I canâ€™t pay and to ay the debts I have. My goal every day is with my life to say, â€œGod, with your love and attention, youâ€™ve got my love and attention.â€ Amen.