Our scripture this morning was written for people who were lost. We’re starting a series on the book of Haggai and the book of Haggai was written to the Israelites who had returned from exile in Babylon. For a generation, the Israelites had been captives, slaves, refugees in Babylon, but now the Babylonian had been conquered by the Perisans, and the Persian kings, first Cyrus and then Darius, had allowed the Jews to return to their homeland of Israel. 


It had been 70 or 80 years since Israel had been conquered, Jerusalem had been sacked, and most of the Jew had been carried off to Babylon. So when the prophet Haggai lived, the people found themselves in a ruined land, in the home of their ancestors but a home they had never known; they were subjects of the great king of Persia, but also free to rule themselves to a degree. They were in an unfamiliar place and unsure of what to do. They were lost. 


And many people today feel lost; maybe you feel lost. Many people are unsure of what to do. Many older people are unsure how to respond to the world around them which has changed so much. Younger people are unsure of what to do with their lives in a world that seems so uncertain. Parents are unsure of how to best bring up their kids in our world. Many people are lost. And the book of Haggai is for lost people. 


This morning we’ll be looking at just the first verse of Haggai which you’ll find on page 768 of your Bible and I’d encourage you to turn there. This verse gives us the context for the rest of the book; it sets up everything else to come. And so this one verse is worth paying close attention so that we can understand the book’s message. Listen to Haggai chapter 1, verse 1. 

In the second year of King Darius, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest:


In this verse, God speaks, the word of the Lord came by the prophet Haggai. The book of Haggai makes clear from the beginning that these are not just the words of man, not just somebody's thoughts and opinions, but the word of the Lord, a message from God himself. And the rest of the book of Haggai, is that message from God, but this first verse tells us three important things about the message. And those are three things we are going to look at this morning: When does God speak? How does God speak? And to whom does God speak? 


Let’s start with what Haggai starts with, when does God speak? In the second year of King Darius, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the prophet Haggai. That’s the exact date that this message came from God, but that date’s not written the way we would write it today, nowadays we don’t measure our years in terms of our government, nobody calls 2023 the third year of President Biden. We call it 2023 AD and AD stands for anno domini which is latin for year of the Lord. We no longer count the years by how long our king has been in power but by how long Jesus has been in power since he came to earth. 


But back then the years were measured by kings, and it was the second year of King Dairus reign, and if we were to convert that system of years to our years, and convert the ancient Jewish calendar of months to our calendar of months, then the second year of King Darius, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month turn out to be  August 29, 520 B.C.

On August 29, 520 B.C. the word of the Lord came by the prophet Haggai. What’s so special about that date, August 29th, 520 B.C.? In the Jewish calendar it had some significance as the first day of the month. Numbers 28 tells us that there were to be sacrifices on the first of the month; Numbers says: At the beginnings of your months you shall offer a burnt offering to the LORD. And then it lists out what exactly is to be offered with some bulls and a ram and some lambs and some grain and some oil and a goat and so on. 


But the beginning of the month wasn’t a big holiday. There are some big holidays and feasts and fasts in the Jewish calendar. Yom Kippur the day of Atonement, Pesach the Passover,  Rosh Hashanah the New Year, Sukkot the Feast of Booths. The new month, it’s not a big holiday. It’s like Arbor Day. It’s very low on the hierarchy of holidays. Nobody is counting down the days to Arbor Day.


But it was on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the prophet Haggai. What does that show us? That God speaks whenever he wants. Think about all the other times God could have spoken to Haggai. 


God could have chosen the holiest day of year, the day of atonement, Yom Kippur; that would make a lot of sense, for God to speak on the holiest day. But he didn’t. God could have spoken on the first day the Jews returned to Jerusalem from their exile. But he didn’t. God could have spoken on the anniversary of the destruction of Jerusalem. But he didn’t. God could have spoken on a day when Haggai prayed for an answer. But that’s not what the text says. God could have spoken when the whole Jewish people humbled themselves and begged him for help. But that’s not what the text says. God could have spoken when there was an eclipse of the sun or an earthquake. But he didn’t.

Elsewhere in the Bible we see God speaking when people pray, God speaking on the holiest days of the year, God speaking on days of great battles, God speaking during natural disasters and before natural disasters and after natural disasters, God speaking when he is worshipped in his temple. But here God speaks on In the second year of King Darius, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month. God speaks on August 29, 520 B.C. God speaks whenever he wants. 

Maybe you’ve been waiting for God to give you a message. Maybe you’ve been praying about something, wondering about something, asking for something, and so far God seems silent. Maybe you thought God was going to answer you right away when you prayed or God was going to answer you when things reached a crisis, a breaking point, or when Christmas came around, or New Year’s. And you still haven’t heard from God. God speaks whenever he wants. God has his own plan and his own timing. 


There’s no way for us to know why God chose August 29, 520 B.C. out of all the days of Israel’s return to send this message. From our human perspective we can’t understand why God did that. But we do know this. That God is all-knowing and God is loving. God knows exactly what he is doing and God does whatever he does out of love. So if God chose August 29, 520 B.C. to send his word by the prophet Haggai that must have been exactly the right time. 

And when we’re waiting to hear from God, when we’re trying to make sense of God’s behavior toward us. When we’re askig why? Why haven’t I heard from God? We need to remember that God speaks whenever he wants and whenever he chooses is best. 


Our second point. How does God speak? This verse tells us that the word of the Lord came by the prophet Haggai. Who was Haggai? 

Many prophets in the Old Testament are introduced with some family background, like Jonah the son of Amittai. Other prophets are intrduced with their hometown like Elijah the Tishbite. Other prophets tell us some of their background, like Amos telling his audience how before his ministry he was just a herdsman and a tender of sycamore trees. Other prophets have their whole lives described. We hear how the prophet Samuel was an answer to his barren mother’s prayer, how Samuel anointed Saul king and then condemned Saul for his disobedience. We hear that Samuel died and was mourned and was buried in his hometown of Ramah.


What do we hear about Haggai? Almost nothing. He’s a nobody. No hometown mentioned. No family mentioned. No fun anecdotes shared. No miracles recorded. Just Haggai. Just Haggai said this and Haggai said. He gets mentioned a couple times in the book of Ezra, but all it says is that he prophesied about rebuilding the temple, which is exactly what we read in the book of Haggai; no new information. 


Have you ever been introduced? Maybe for something at work, or you were getting an award. Whoever introduced you probably said something nice about you. He’s been a dedicated employee for over ten years. She has a master’s degree from UMass. He’s one of our best engineers. Or just think about when you’re being introduced in conversation. This is my wife Marci. This is my friend from college Thomas. This is my co-worker Matt.


How would you feel if all you got was your name? This is Greg. What does it say when someone introduces you that way? Probably that they don’t know much about you. 

So who was Haggai? Haggai was nobody. He was a prophet, but he was nobody. There’s nothing there that says he was especially wise or eloquent or pious or popular. It just says that God used him. So how does God speak? God speaks through whomever he wants. 

God is not obligated to use who we would expect to send his message. There are three people in this verse. There’s Zerubabbel, the governor of Judah. Now if I wanted to get a message out to all the people of Judah and I wanted all the people of Judah to obey that message, who better to tell than the governor? Than the person in charge? But God doesn’t send his word through Zerubabbel the governor of Judah. 

And then there’s Joshua the high priest. If God was going to send a message, wouldn’t it make sense for the message to come from the high priest? Then everyone could tell the message was from God, who would know more about God, who would be more trustworthy than the high priest. But God doesn’t send his word through Joshua the high priest. 

No. The word of the Lord came by the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest. The word of the Lord came by the prophet Haggai. Who was Haggai? Haggai was nobody, but God chose him. God speaks through whoever he wants. And God often chooses unlikely messengers. Think about it. 


This morning in order to become better people, in order to obey God and to worship God, we are reading a two thousand four hundred year old document. We’re reading one sentence written in a foreing language, in Hebrew, written long ago, written halfway around the world in Jerusalem, in what was then a small city, perhaps tens of thousands of people in and around Jerusalem. We’re seeking guidance and meaning from a pretty ridiculous source. 

Can you imagine meeting someone going through a hard time in life, maybe they lost their job, maybe someone they love died, and you ask them how they’re coping with it, how they’re dealing with the problem. And they say to you ‘well I found this translation of an ancient Babylonian tablet and it’s really helping me.’ That doesn’t happen. Something so different, so foreign, so insignificant, so irrelevant, should have no impact on our lives. 

The book of Haggai, like most of the Bible, should be strange, incomprehensible, unimportant, irrelevant. And yet ask anyone who has spent time in the Bible, reading it, studying it, and they will tell you: this book changed my life. How is that? 

It’s the word of God. And God has chosen an unlikely source, an unlikely method, has chosen some two thousand year old scraps of papyrus about some returning refugees and a little city in the Middle East to speak to us. That way, when we do hear from God, when this unlikely piece of paper changes our life, we know it was God who did it. 

And God knows what he’s doing. God chooses weak means to show his strength. God chooses to speak through nobodies like Haggai to show his strength. Anybody could get a message across through the governor Zerubabbel or the high priest Joshua. But why would anyone listen to Haggai? Haggai’s message is only effective because it’s really God’s message. God loves to work through nobodies because then we know it’s God doing the work. 

We see this throughout the Bible. God loves to choose the younger rather than the older, Jacob rather than Esau, David rather than any of Jesse’s other sons. Of all the warriors in Israel, God chose a young boy with a sling, David, to beat the giant Goliath. God spoke through Moses a man with no eloquence, slow of speech and tongue. Isaiah said he had unclean lips, but God spoke through him. Jeremiah said he was too young, but God spoke through him. 

God chooses to work through weak people, unimportant people, broken people, nobody people, Haggai sort of people, because when those weak people succeed, we know it was God who did. 

And the greatest example of this is Jesus Christ. God became man, but not as a worldly king. Worldly kings seem like God on earth, they have the might and the glory, they administer justice and they judge, they reward the good and punish the evil, they have power over life and death. Many kings in many places have claimed to be gods, from Egypts Pharoah to the Caesars of Rome to the Emperors of China. Many kings claim to be gods. It makes sense for a king to be a god and for a god to take on flesh as a king. But that’s not how God did it. 

God took on flesh as a carpenter. He was born poor. There was no room for him at the inn. He was born in a shed for cattle and sheep. He was laid in a manger. He was not raised alongside princes or educated by the best teachers. His family was not famous or important or wealthy. Jesus began as a nobody. So when Jesus taught as one having authority, when Jesus healed the sick, when Jesus cast out demons, when Jesus forgave sins, it had to be the power of God that did it.

Jesus seemed weak. He seemed so weak his enemies thought they could defeat him. They made false accusations against him. He was tried and beaten and insulted and whipped and spat on and crucified. And Jesus did nothing to stop them. Jesus was buried in the tomb. He was dead, just as dead as the two thieves who were crucified with him. Jesus had all the physical weaknesses of a man and his enemies took full advantage of those weaknesses. 

But on the third day, Jesus rose again to life and when a man that disrespected, that defeated, that debilitated, when a man so utterly destroyed by his enemies, rose again to life; it had to be the work of God. So how does God speak? God speaks through whomever he wants. God even speaks through nobodies like Haggai so that we know it’s God that’s speaking. 

And our third point: to whom does God speak? The word of the Lord came by the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest. 

Zerubbabel and Joshua were two of the most powerful men in Judah. Zerubbabel was the secular authority, the governor of the region and Joshua was the religious authority, the high priest of the temple. They were powerful men.

But they were also in trouble. Zerubbabel was not king over Judah like his predecessors, but a governor, a subordinate to a foreign dictator, to Darius. And Joshua was a high priest to a ruined temple, a temple that had laid in ruins for a generation, a temple which the Israelites had briefly begun to rebuild and then quickly abandoned. These were Israel’s leaders, but they weren’t doing much leading. They didn’t know what they were doing or where they were going. They needed direction. They were lost. 

God speaks to the lost. People who are lost are exactly who God wants to speak to because they are the ones who need to hear from him the most. Jesus said that he came to seek out and to save the lost. That is God’s mission, God’s purpose, that’s what drives God to do things in our world: he’s trying to save the lost. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. God desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

And when God speaks he speaks to the lost, showing them what to do, how to live, leading them on the right path. Zerubbabel and Joshua and the people they led were lost so God spoke to them through Haggai. 

And the God of the book of Haggai is the same God we worship here today. God speaks to those who are lost. He will speak whenever he wants and he will speak through whomever he wants to get his message across. The time and the means are secondary to his main purpose: to speak to the lost and to lead them to salvation. 

It may be right now on a Sunday morning or it may be in the middle of night, it may be me talking to you or it may be what your Bible says when you pick it up tomorrow morning, but sometime and someway, God is going to speak to you. We are all lost and we are all in need of direction and purpose and meaning in life and God wants to give it to us. And God is going to speak to us and we need to listen or else we will stay lost, lost in this life and lost eternally. And God has many ways to speak to us, many ways to give us direction, to lead us, to get us back on the right path. 

My wife Marci and I were in Nebraska just before Christmas visiting some of her extended family and we stayed with Marci’s grandmother and her grandmother’s husband Evart. Evart. One night as we were talking, Evart reflected on his life as a Christian, he had been a Christian a long time. He had gone to the United Methodist Church of Blue Hill Nebraska for a long time, for decades. But then one day there was a change and he got serious about his faith and started telling other people about Jesus. 

It wasn’t a great sermon that changed him. It wasn’t reading the Bible. It wasn’t a weekend spiritual retreat or spending time in nature. It wasn’t a caring friend or a pious coworker. And it certainly wasn’t knowing that God spoke to Haggai on exactly August 29th 520 B.C. that changed him. No. What changed Evart was a heart attack. The man nearly died of a heart attack in his 60s. And coming close to death, close to the end of life, made him realize what was truly important in life: God. 

God sent Evart a message in that heart attack. God sent him a message about what really matters in our short lives.

Don’t wait for God to send you a heart attack to get your life in order. There are many stories in the Bible and in our everyday lives of people brought to rock bottom before they hear what God is saying to them. 

We read about Paul who had to be struck blind and shoved to the ground by God before he would listen. We hear about people getting addicted to drugs, losing all their money gambling, losing their families over their alcoholism, before they finally turned and listened to what God said. Don’t wait that long! God can speak to us through tragedy and suffering and grief and near death experience, but it doesn’t have to be that way. 

God has spoken to us first and foremost through his son. Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son. Jesus is God’s message, he is the word of God. And God sent Jesus to speak to the lost, to seek and to save the lost. And Jesus through his death on the cross has taken the punishment for our sins so that if we believe in him as the Son of God we will no longer be lost, our sins will be forgiven, all our mistakes and selfishness and confusion will be forgotten, God will set us on the right path, living for him and with him now and forever. 

God has sent us his word by the prophets and now by his son; don’t wait for God to send a heart attack as well. 

We read one verse from Haggai this morning, a bland verse, a throwaway introductory throat clearing sort of verse, but a verse with a powerful truth: God speaks to the lost, whenever and however he wills. God is not constrained or dependent on our actions. God is free and active and God desires to save all men so God speaks to the lost, whenever and however he wills. 

What does that mean for us today? Here are three applications of how we should live since God speaks to the lost. 

First, we listen to God. God speaks to the lost and that includes us. We were all lost at one point of our lives and even now none of us are perfect, all of us go astray one way or another and are lost. And if we are lost, God will speak to us and we should listen. 

It’s an old cliche joke, but it’s been around for a long time because it’s true: no one likes to ask for directions. No one likes to be told what to do or how to live or what their problem is. But the Christian life is a life of constantly asking for directions. It is a life of every day turning to God and repenting and saying I’m lost, I can’t do it alone, I don’t know what to do, and asking God to show us what to do, asking God to speak to us. And then, and this is the hard part, we have to listen. We can listen by reading our Bibles, by coming to worship, through prayer. 

Second, we lead others to God. God speaks through whomever he wants and speaks whenever he wants and that means you. Christians are called to tell other people about Jesus. You may think to yourself, I’m not a good speaker or I wouldn’t know what to say or I don’t have anybody to tell. All the better! God loves to use imperfect people because their weaknesses show his strength. Although it seems like it won’t work and by human calculations it shouldn’t work and won’t work, tell someone about Jesus, God may use you to lead others to him, and whatever God does works. 

Third, we labor for God. God’s message for us is not simply one of forgiveness but a call to action. As we will soon see in the book of Haggai, God doesn’t just speak to the lost, he tells them what to do, what actions they should take. The Christian life is a life of laboring for God, of building up his kingdom. This church needs volunteers. We need people to help with the building. We need people to serve on committees. We need people to help with Food & Friends. We should all be laboring for God, just as Zerubbabel and Joshua did once they heard from God. 


And that may be hard, laboring for God may involve suffering, we may mess up, we may get lost along the way. But God loves the lost. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. The Holy Spirit is with us when we are lost. And God speaks to the lost, whenever and however he wills. Let’s pray.