Haggai 2:1-9, NLT
“My Spirit remains among you, just as I promised when you came out of Egypt. So do not be afraid.” Haggai 2:5, NLT
In the autumn of life, I am attending more funerals than birthdays and weddings. But these are times when I witnessed the miracle of the triumphant crossing to eternal life – walking through the valley of the shadow of death with the blessed assurance that we are going home to our “mansions in glory.”
Last week, one of my cousins passed away peacefully after suffering from a stroke more than a year ago. At her funeral, one of her close friends played a number of beautiful hymns on a harp. As her body was cremated the truth dawned on me that our lives will bear fruit in the lives of those we leave behind in ways beyond imagination. In Christ we have the hope that our ashes will be transmuted into crowns of beauty:
“He has sent me, to provide for all those who grieve in Zion, to give them crowns instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of tears of grief, and clothes of praise instead of a spirit of weakness. They will be called Oaks of Righteousness, the Plantings of the Lord so that he might display his glory.”1
Grief can feel like a stone in our hearts.2 The good news is that our Heavenly Father is the God of all comfort. Jesus suffered and died on the cross so that we can experience the overflowing comfort of God through the sufferings of Christ. Our struggles and suffering in life are times to experience God’s comfort so that the power of Christ’s resurrection will overflow to others.3 The Holy Spirit turns our tears of grief into tears of joy and leads us to worship God with a garment of praise. We become stones alive who are overflowing with joy in God’s living sanctuary.
After the Jews rebuilt the Temple in Jerusalem, they were discouraged as the Temple appeared to be nothing compared to the former splendor of the Temple. They were given words of encouragement through the prophet Haggai:
“Be strong, Zerubbabel. Be strong, Jeshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people still left in the land. And now get to work, for I am with you, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. My Spirit remains among you, just as I promised when you came out of Egypt. So do not be afraid.”4
Times of sorrow are times to sow righteousness. The bad news is that we cannot be righteous when we have stony hearts. To sow seeds of righteousness, our stony hearts need to be broken before we can harvest a crop of steadfast love.5 Our calling is to be Oaks of Righteousness who are being led in the paths of righteousness by our Shepherd of Love.6
We are to be living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple as well as His holy priests.7 The future glory of this Temple will be far greater than its past glory.8 And the Temple will be called, “The Lord Is our Righteousness.9
I need to return to the heart of worship which is all about living and breathing God in my daily life.10 Jeremiah reminds us that the human mind is the most deceitful of all things and is incurable. We need God to search our minds and test our hearts.11 I need to practice the presence of God through prayer. I need to turn away from sin in repentance, and to turn back to God in surrender. Without repentance and surrender, I am at risk of losing my first love12 and become a lukewarm Christian13 or even a Christian atheist. It is only in returning to the Lord and resting in Him that we can rewire our deceitful minds.14 In quietness and confidence I can be a stone alive with God looking deep into my heart:
“I’ll bring You more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what You have required
You search much deeper within
Through the ways things appear
You’re looking into my heart
I’m comin’ back to the heart of worship
And it’s all about You
It’s all about You, Jesus14
Lord, help me to be a stone alive that is overflowing with Your Love.
- Why do our hearts need to be broken before we can be filled with the joy of the Lord?
- What does it mean to be a living stone?
- How can I live as a living stone?
Song of Praise
The Heart Of Worship
- Isaiah 61:3, GW
- Dorothy Day, The Reckless Way Of Love, page 49
- 2 Corinthians 1:5, NET
- Haggai 2:4-5, NLT
- Hosea 10:12, ESV
- Psalms 23:3
- 1 Peter 2:5, NLT
- Haggai 2:9, NLT
- Jeremiah 33:16, NLT
- Psalms 34:2, MSG
- Jeremiah 17:9-10, GW
- Revelations 2:4-5, NLT
- Revelations 3:15-16
- Isaiah 30:15-16, NKJV
- The Heart of Worship, Matt Redman