Tuesday, June 4, 2013

"First Things First! (Haggai)"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
Major Lessons From Minor Prophets
Lesson 10: "First Things First! (Haggai)"

"In the night season I was in my dreams in a large meeting, with ministers, their wives, and their children. I wondered that the company present was mostly made up of ministers and their families. The prophecy of Malachi was brought before them in connection with Daniel, Zephaniah, Haggai, and Zechariah. The teaching of these books was carefully investigated. The building of the temple, and the temple service, were considered. There was close searching of the Scriptures in regard to the sacred character of all that appertained to the temple service. Through the prophets, God has given a delineation of what will come to pass in the last days of this earth's history; and the Jewish economy is full of instruction for us" (Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, Feb. 4, 1902).
Throughout this lesson, questions are asked, such as: "Do you see any warning here for us?" "How can we learn to better appreciate the importance of the sanctuary message in the plan of salvation?" "Why is [Old Testament prophecy] so relevant for Christians even today?" Ellen White's statement provides the answers. The Lord showed her the important relevance of the messages He gave to these Old Testament prophets for His last days' Laodicean church. Is God trying to wake us up?
There is no way, as a denomination or as individuals, we can ignore the message God gave to Haggai. Is the message about building literal "temples," church buildings, or could His message for us concern another "temple"--the heart, corporately and individually. Our author says that the "Lord used Haggai to stir the people's hearts toward God's concerns." In his book, "Made Like ... His Brethren", Elder Donald K. Short writes with keen perception: "Learning from Israel's experience will cause God's people to see their assignment to construct a temple of truth that withstands the final fires of purification. That 'temple' will not be destroyed as was the one in old Jerusalem." He goes on:
"In 457 B.C., construction finally began amidst delays and disappointments. As Nehemiah's workers swept back the rubble and debris, a group of ancient ones began to wail and lament. As they gazed upon the foundations of Solomon's temple, a terrible realization smote their hearts. The beauty and majesty of that first temple could never be matched. The wealth of Israel in its greatest glory had been lavished upon the former edifice. When Israel flourished at the economic crossroads of her peers, the temple was one of the notable structures of the ancient world. But while despair and heartache absorbed the ancient ones as they drew comparisons, an amazing message of hope came from the Lord through the prophet Haggai. 'The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts' (Haggai 2:9). ... for Christ will dwell in that body as surely as He walked in the temple at Jerusalem. The glory of that latter day 'temple' will amaze the universe as the earth is lightened by God's people who have experienced in their lives the practical work of cleansing the sanctuary. This will be a display of 'glory' never seen before.
"And so was the 'glory' in the days of ancient Israel. The prophecy of Haggai was lost upon them. They needed a radical change in the way they understood 'glory.' Their idea of 'glory' was connected with power and prestige among the nations. But 'glory' by God's definition could not be lowered to this carnal concept. The glory that would elevate the latter temple above the former would be in the realm of truth. The Word 'made flesh' would walk in the courts of this temple. The Seed of Abraham would show forth the 'glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth,' and from His lips would come words like no man ever spake before.
"That 'glory' was to foreshadow the early rain. But it is the latter rain that brings the harvest to fruition. All the types and shadows of the Hebrew nation were but a launching pad from which would rocket the revelation of Jesus Christ. Tragically, they saw only the launching pad and it became an end in itself. Because they were enamored with the routine of their organization they failed to see what it was ordained to accomplish. In their blindness they set about to crucify the truths that had in them the power to put the revelation into orbit.
"The countdown has begun. But everything depends upon correctly reading and understanding the launching directions. These directions are all contained in the message we have been given!" (pp. 112-114).
The "message we have been given" is the "most precious message" the Lord sent to the remnant church well over a century ago in 1888. The 1888 idea of the cleansing of the sanctuary is not that God's people do the work. The High Priest does it; and His people stop resisting Him "in His office work" (to borrow Ellen White's expression).
The Sanctuary truth leads directly to the Bride of Christ making herself ready. That "oneness" is something that has never happened in all past history--"the marriage of the Lamb is come, for His wife hath made herself ready." Something special is ready for those who are invited to "the marriage supper of the Lamb" (Rev. 19:6-9). As individuals, all (including those of the last days) are "guests at the wedding." But as a corporate body, the church of the great Day of Atonement becomes the Bride of Christ.
The relation between God and His people, in their perfect union, is typified by the relation of the bridegroom and the bride. These are one flesh, yet each can see the other as a separate person. In a perfect marriage there is perfect union so that both lives are merged in one. This was the truth which God spake to the Jews through Haggai, if they had had ears for it. "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" (Haggai 2:5).
Because God has formed every man for His own dwelling place, and implanted in every soul desires that can only be satisfied by the fullness of God dwelling within, Christ is truly "the Desire of all nations" (Haggai 2:7).
There are comparatively few of the people in the world who know Him, and who recognize Him as the object of their desire; but it is a fact that all the very longings of the human heart can be satisfied in Christ, and in Him alone. God has implanted desires in every soul, which can be satisfied only by the possession of Christ, in order that when He is lifted up before them, they may see in Him the object of their desires, and be drawn to Him. The devil's work is to deceive people with the thought that their desires may be satisfied in some other way than by the possession of Christ.
"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" (vs. 7). When the Holy Spirit outpouring of the latter rain comes, it will sweep like a tidal wave throughout the church.
The Sanctuary message that "the Lord in His great mercy sent" to us must yet lighten the earth with glory. Thank God, it will. And that, soon.
--Principle contributors: Mary Chun & Paul E. Penno

"Sabbath School Today" and Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson are on the Internet at: http://1888mpm.org
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