Worship: From Exile to Restoration

Scripture: Haggai 1:6, Ezekiel 8:1-18, Jeremiah 29:10-14
Date: 09/03/2011 
Lesson: 10
Adulterated worship led to the exile in Babylon, so Jewish leaders emphasized a return to true worship when Judah was restored.
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Good morning and Happy Sabbath. Welcome this morning as you worship with us at Sacramento Seventh-day Adventist Church right here in Sacramento, California. This morning I'd invite you wherever you're at this morning to take out your hymnals and join us as we sing hymn number 330, "take my life and let it be." And I know that you are grabbing hymnals from all over the world, however you're joining us this morning, live on the internet, through radio, television, welcome and sing along. Hymn 330, and we will sing the first, the second, and the last verse. We don't have any names to read this week.

We weren't able to get to the computers and get that taken care of. So you know who you are sitting out there and saying, "I love this song, and I have requested that." So that was for you, whoever you are. If you have a special song, a favorite hymn that you would like to sing with us on a coming Sabbath, I invite you to go to our website. And that is at saccentral.org. And there you can click on the "contact us" link.

And you can request any song in our hymnal that you would like to sing with us on a coming Sabbath, and we would love to sing that with you. Our next hymn this morning is hymn number 618, "stand up, stand up for Jesus." And I hope that is all of your prayer, whether you're sitting here in our sanctuary this morning, worshipping with us wherever you are across the world, that you are standing up for Jesus and what he has done for you and what he is going to do very soon and that is come back and take us home. Praise the Lord. Hymn number 618, we'll sing the first, the second and the last verse. Let's pray.

Our precious Heavenly Father, dear Jesus, we come before you this morning to honor and worship you, the creator of all things. We thank you so much that we have the opportunity to worship you and to just give back a little bit of how much we love you. And Lord, we ask you to fill our hearts this morning with love and courage to stand up for you no matter what the cost. Lord, we know you're coming soon. Please prepare our hearts and help us to do our work so that we can help finish the work and go home with you.

Please be with Pastor Doug this morning and bless His Words, that they can be an encouragement and light to us because they are truly Your Words. We pray these things in your precious name, Jesus. Amen. Our lesson study this morning will be brought to us by Pastor Doug Batchelor, senior pastor here at Sacramento central. I always wish they'd leave out the part about being the senior pastor.

Welcome friends. Happy Sabbath. Welcome to central Sabbath school. I want to welcome our extended class that are studying with us. It was very exciting this last week, when we had the national asi convention here in Sacramento, to meet so many people from around the country and the world.

And they said, "we're part of your Sabbath school class." And to get to see them and shake their hands and look them in the eye was a real pleasure. And we're glad that you're studying with us today. Now part of Sabbath school, at least it used to be part of Sabbath school, was talking about mission. Sometimes they have mission report, or we used to call it mission spotlight. Or we talk about what's happening locally with local mission.

But part of Sabbath school is also training for outreach and mission. You'll notice on the back of every Sabbath school quarterly it tells you where a 13th Sabbath mission offering is going. And Amazing Facts believes very much in mission, in mission training, mission work. And this week we've experienced industrial strength mission training here at Sacramento central. We have been hosting a couple of different aspects of our afcoe program.

Now for those of you who are watching, if you hear the word afcoe, you might be thinking is that an insurance company represented by a duck, or another one by a gecko. No, afcoe stands for the Amazing Facts college of evangelism. Sometimes it's called Amazing Facts center of evangelism. We'll accept either answer. But it's a program that is designed to train both pastors and laymen in personal evangelism, in doing mission work, in Bible studies and in public evangelism.

And so it's a special program. We've got a couple of facets of that. We have something called an afcoe-to-go sort of like the drive-thru program of afcoe. Some people don't have the regular 4 months for the afcoe full course. And so we try to concentrate some of the best of the programs and the teaching into like a 1-week program.

And right now we've got--we've got the overlap right at this moment of graduation of our afcoe-to-go class and the regular afcoe students. And they're all visiting central today. And I'd like to ask if pastor don mackintosh would come up. And he might say a word or two about what goes on at afcoe. And I think he may have brought one of our students with him.

Yes, I did. Good morning. Morning. Good morning everyone. How many of you, raise your hand, were here this last week for afcoe or afcoe-to-go? And we're delighted that you are with us.

And we're delighted for the program. And what's your name and where are you from? Good morning, Happy Sabbath. My name is andres lansugan and I'm from New Hampshire. New Hampshire. How in the world did you hear about the afcoe program in New Hampshire? Well, it's a long story, but it's by the word of mouth.

I mean ever since I got baptized, my mentor always--actually the first lesson that he taught me is on Amazing Facts Bible study. And I saw a lot of Doug Batchelor's evangelistic series on tv as well. And I was like, "you know what? One day I'll go to afcoe." And that day is already now. I saw you at a couple conferences and you kept saying, "why don't you have a program out where I am?" But then you finally relented and came here. Was it worth it? It was really worth it.

I mean we have to fly all the way from New Hampshire here, but you know, it's worth it, every single, you know, effort. Any of the teachers especially stand out this week as a blessing to you? Amen. Pastor--elder wilson, Mark finley. I heard that, from pastor don, that this week was like one of the most powerful line up that we got by far, so praise the Lord for, you know, all the afcoe -to-go and the full program as well. And when you go back to New Hampshire, you going to tell anyone else about what happened here? Oh absolutely.

I can't wait to go back there. As a matter of fact, you know, I been calling some of my youths and like, "you guys got to come and check this out," because this is really beneficial for--especially for young people that really wants to serve the Lord, how can you be an effective, you know, evangelist, how can you be an effective missionary to others as well. Well, thank you so much. And thank you for coming to afcoe, afcoe-to-go. And I want to thank this church and also Pastor Doug for hosting this.

It was like a bunch of locusts coming on a very fertile plain. And man I tell you, you just made the afcoe class and staff feel so warm and welcome. And thank you for everything that means here at the central church. You really are a Christian family, and it's a delight to have been here with you. God bless you.

Amen. Thank you very much. Yeah, this really has been a wonderful week, a unique week, because we were able to capitalize on the national asi convention being here in town. And so we were able to have speakers like elder ted wilson, Mark finley, derrick morris, jerry page and others, some of our own evangelists. And just boy, we had a stellar line up this week.

And not only did we have people coming from New Hampshire. I think I've met a couple from australia. Is that right? We've got one here. I saw--i thought there were more. Oh yeah, I see in the back two.

And I know there's at least one other lady that is from australia. And people from all different parts of the country and the world have come for this program. There she is. And it just--it's been a thrill to meet these people. Anyway, the whole purpose of this is to train, mobilize, motivate, equip God's people and his church.

We have some pastors, but mostly they're laymen that are becoming involved in, "how do I use my gifts, whatever my job is, to work for souls?" And so we're very excited about the afcoe program and the mission work that it accomplishes. Alright, we're going to direct our attention to the lesson today. The lesson is in our book dealing with the subject of worship, one of the most important subjects that we study in a quarter. And today we're on lesson 10, and it's dealing with, "worship: from exile to restoration." And we do have a free offer, as we often do. It's called, "three steps to heaven.

" If you've not yet received that book and you'd like to read that to help enhance your study, we'll send it to you for free. And the book, "three steps to heaven." Phone number: 866-study-more, that's 866-788-3966. I think you can also find this by simply going to the Amazing Facts website. You can download it from there for free or read it online, or we'll send it to you. You've got all those options.

And take advantage of that. We have a memory verse for our lesson today, lesson number 10. The memory verse is in hagai 1:6, hagai, if you have your Bibles, I hope you'll all say this with me, hagai 1:6. And I believe this is from the King James version. Are you ready? Okay.

"Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but have not enough; ye drink, but you are not filled with drink; you clothe yourselves, but there is none warm; and he who earns wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes." Ha, you ever felt that way before? Talk about not getting ahead. You eat, but you're still hungry. You drink, but you're still thirsty. You work, but you're always tired. And the money you earn, as soon as you deposit it in the bank, it's gone to pay all the bills.

And you're just never getting ahead. And this was an experience that they had. Part of it was connected with neglecting the worship of God. We'll talk about that in a moment. Let's go to section number one, "son of man, have you seen?" Now we're dealing in this lesson with the subject of worship, specifically from just before the captivity, the Babylonian captivity, and through after it.

First thing I want you to notice is what brought on the Babylonian captivity. We're going to be looking in Ezekiel 8, several verses there. Who has the microphones today? Got--barry's got one there, and okay, pancho has one there. Who do we have lined up to read Ezekiel 8:6? I think we gave out a slip. Right here.

Let's bring--bring that mic. Get it lined up. Now in this chapter, giving you a little background as we get prepared for this verse. Because the children of Israel had become unfaithful in the way they were worshipping God, he withdrew his protection from them and they were ultimately conquered by a heathen nation. Now did the Lord warn them through Moses that if they turned away and served other Gods that he would withdraw his protection and this would happen? And so worshipping God, the way he designs from our hearts, true worship, is also something of a hedge and a shield for God's people.

And when they neglect that, bad things can happen. And it didn't happen overnight, but it crept in little by little until they had totally turned away. We talked last week, or maybe it's been a couple of weeks, about Solomon, how he started out building the temple of the Lord, and he was so true and pure in his worship of God, that God himself honored the temple with his presence. The shechinah glory came down. But before that when life was over, he compromised little by little through the influence of his wives until he brought idols into the sanctuary.

Several times during the course of Israel's history that happened. And they'd have a purging, and they'd cleanse the sanctuary. And then they would creep back in again. Alright, so read for us now Ezekiel 8:6. "He said furthermore unto me, son of man, seest thou what they do? Even the great abominations that the house of Israel committeth here, that I should go far off from my sanctuary? But turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations.

" You know, as you read through this chapter, and we're invited in the lesson to read all of Ezekiel 8. And we won't have time to read it all, but I want you to notice something. If you go to verse 3, first it tells us in the first few verses of this chapter, he's taken in vision again. He sees the one who appeared earlier in the book, which is--he sees God in his glory, as described in other prophecies. And he's brought to the temple.

Now Ezekiel has his vision. Well first, a little history. About 605 b.c., The Babylonians came, they conquered Egypt, and on their way home from Egypt they subdued Jerusalem. But they didn't destroy the temple in the city, they got a covenant from one of The Sons of king josiah who had died that he would be faithful, to zedekiah, to serve them. They carried off young king jehoiachin, who had been the King.

They figured if they kept one of the King's family alive in captivity, it was more motive. When you've got a hostage, you know? And you got a royal hostage it's supposed to motivate the people to honor this covenant to pay taxes and to serve the King of Babylon. During that time, Daniel was carried off. About 3,000 of the royalty of Babylon were carried off--of Jerusalem were carried off to Babylon. Ezekiel, a young man probably when he was first carried off was part of that first captivity.

He eventually reached the age of a priest and probably had his first vision at the age of 30 while he was in Babylon. Then there was a second war when Nebuchadnezzar finally destroyed the city. Ezekiel is prophesying between those two times. Ezekiel is prophesying from mesopotamia. He was living actually where they had placed the children of Israel 200 miles north of Babylon.

There was a settlement of jews. He's meeting with the elders there. He's saying, "do not say that we're only going to be in Babylon a little time and then we're going home. We're going to be here 70 years as Jeremiah has foretold because of our unfaithfulness." And he was telling the local jews, "prepare." And why is God going to do this? Look at what they're doing in the temple. The temple's going to be destroyed.

Look at what they're doing. And he says, "behold these abominations." And he says, "keep watching. Turn again. He takes them in vision and you will see greater abominations." Now notice in verse 3, he takes them to the inner court, "the door of the north, where there was a seat of the image of jealousy." What's an image of jealousy? What does that look like? First of all, what color is it? Green. I don't know, you've all heard about green and jealousy, must be a jade image.

Right? You know--no, I won't tell you that. I was going to tell you that some of the best jade in North America in the world is actually found in covelo, up where I lived. I wasn't going to tell you that, because I know where it is. And I don't want word to get out. Anyway, so what does it mean, an image of jealousy? Is it talking about a green jade image, a suspicion? In the commandment dealing with idolatry--matter of fact, let's read that.

Exodus 20:4, "thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in the heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of The Fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me." And don't forget the good part here, "showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments." By the way, that is the one time in the Ten Commandments you find the phrase, "love me, and keep my commandments." The secret to keeping the commandments is right there in this commandment: "love me, and keep my commandments." But you notice the word "jealousy" connected with idolatry in that commandment. The idea that they would bring an idol of another God right into--you know, it's an awful thing if there's unfaithfulness in a marriage. If a man or a woman violates their relationship, and they rendezvous with some stranger in a hotel room, it'll break their spouse's heart. But you know what's worse, is when they come home early from work and find their spouse in their bedroom with someone else, wearing their negligee.

Can you see how that would just really exacerbate the problem? It's one thing if the people were to go into another country and worship another idol when they say that they love the Lord, but to bring that image of jealousy into God's house dedicated to his name, can you see why the Lord would really be hurt by that? And so he's using that kind of terminology, this image of jealousy. But he says, "that's not the half of it." I'm paraphrasing. Exodus 8:12, "then he said to me, 'son of man, have you seen what the elders in the house of Israel, do in the dark, every man in the room of his idols? For they say, the Lord does not see us; the Lord has forsaken the land.'" Oh, because some of us have been carried off to Babylon and we got to pay taxes to the Babylonians, it looks like God has forsaken us. Jesus said, "look, render unto caesar that which is caesar's, but you can still serve God." This same thing happened during the time of Christ. They were occupied by the Romans, they were paying taxes to the Romans.

And some people were--some of the religious leaders were even compromising with the hEllenistic or Greek theology, because they said, "oh well, you know, we've been conquered by the Greeks and now the Romans. God's forsaken us." Does God still have knees that haven't bowed to baal? Even though jezebel and ahab were on the throne, God told Elijah, "I have a lot of knees that have not bowed to baal." God is still with his people. And--but because they thought God doesn't see; he's forsaken us. We may as well just start serving idols. And they said, "the Lord doesn't see.

" So that's how they justified it. Look in chapter 8. I just underlined a few things here. We read already there in verse 6, "greater abominations." You go to verse 9, "go in, and see the wicked abominations that they're doing there; and I saw every sort of creeping thing, and abominable beast, and idols of the house of Israel, portrayed all around the walls." And go to verse 13, he said, "turn again, and you'll see greater abominations that they are doing. So he brought me to the north gate, and to my dismay there women were weeping for tammuz.

" Tammuz was a Babylonian fertility God, and well actually there's some dispute about that. Some believe that tammuz was adonis, who was this God that had been killed by a boar. He was a man-God that had been killed by a boar. And his mother would weep for him and all the women were weeping with this mother for her son that had been killed by a boar. And it's just, it's all this Greek mythology or--it wasn't Greek actually, it hadn't happened yet--Babylonian mythology, later adopted by the Greeks.

And bottom line is that they were just fully sold out on these Babylonian and pagan myths and worshipping other Gods in the house of the Lord. Now do we do that today? "Oh we can't do that, Pastor Doug, the temple's gone." Is it? Don't you know that you are the temple of God? And in our homes, do we sometimes have altars and idols to other Gods? "Oh no, I'd never have an image of buddha in my house, or anything like that." Some of us, it's a television screen or it's a computer screen. And we think God does not know, God does not see. But we come to church and we worship the Lord, and we praise the Lord, and we sing The Songs, and we go home and we bring in American idols or whatever the despicable things are that--there is very little good on television. I mean, you know, of course you've got Amazing Facts.

But I mean the bulk of typical television is pagan, isn't it? And we worship God and sing his songs in church, and then we leave church and we're worshipping idols in our homes or other places. There are really three screens that people have in their lives right now. They've got the television screen--well, there's four screens--television screen, computer screen, now people have a phone screen, they're taking information with them, more and more people have got smartphones where they've got--you can watch television, you can surf the web, and you can do Facebook and all this stuff on that screen. The fourth screen is your life. It's a screen that people are looking at.

And they're supposed to see Jesus in you. A lot of people have brought idols into the temple. It might be--you know, we can bring things into the church that would be inappropriate, paganism that sometimes sneaks into the church. But a lot of it's just in our hearts and in our minds and in our homes. And we're worshipping at another altar in that sense.

That's a good way to transition to the next section. Someone look up for me Revelation 14:11-12, talking about worshipping idols. And who did we give that to? I think we gave a slip to somebody on that one, Revelation 14:11-12. "And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the Mark of his name. Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.

" Notice the contrast that we see for the last days. And does that sound familiar? Whoever doesn't worship the beast in his image can't buy or sell. Ultimately they will be killed. There's a death penalty for not worshipping this image. We've got to know what that image is in the last days, because the whole thing is going to be about worshipping correctly, true worship contrasted with false worship.

Don't miss the part in Revelation 14. It says, "the ones who worship the beast in his image have no rest, no rest." Jesus said, "come unto me and I'll give you rest." And part of the seal of God has to do with worship and rest. The Sabbath blessed rest, doesn't it? So you've got those who keep the commandments of God, and those who worship the beast in his image. And there's a big contrast there, between the two. Alright, I read for you--alright, somebody look up for me 1 John 5:21, 1 John 5:21.

Got a hand back here. "Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen." He punctuates his whole letter, and by the way the letters of John are some of the last new testament writings by saying, "keep yourself from idols." Why did he need to tell them that there to the early church? What were they surrounded by in the greco-roman religions? Somebody estimated that by the time of Paul, there were a million idols in rome alone. I mean they just--they had like ten idols for every person. You remember Paul when he went into athens, he said, "I believe you're very superstitious.

You got an idol to everything. And a matter of fact, just in case you might miss something, you made an idol to the unknown God in case you forgot him." So if there's some God that you forgot, and you say, "oh no, that one's for you." And so they were so afraid that they might anger the Gods by not having an idol to every God that they just had millions of idols. And here you have Christians now living in the midst of this, and God said, "do not be distracted by false worship and idols. Keep yourself from these things." And they were just absolutely surrounded with it. So for a jew to live during that time, can you understand why the Romans were very happy to annihilate the jews? It wasn't just because of their religion.

It was because their religion said idols are wrong and the roman and Greek religion was all about idols. You remember how they wanted to kill Paul because this girl that had been a soothsayer, that had been really--these idol makers had been pimping her prophecies. It's what it amounted to. And she was delivered from her demons, and they were afraid that it was going to hurt the sales of their idols in ephesus, of diana. And it was a multi-billion dollar business.

And if you should preach against that, I mean it's one thing you want to believe what you want, fine, but if it hurts our pocketbook. So could there be analogy for that, that would apply to us in our day? For a Christian to talk about living a holy life. You know, just before I came to church this morning I was watching pastor dwight nelson preaching in his church, probably a few weeks ago. I think it was a rerun. He was talking about how deadly fast food is.

Wow, that probably doesn't make you very popular with one of the biggest industries in North America, when you start preaching against the dangers of fast food. If I should ask for a show of hands of anyone that has eaten fast food in the last week, I think there'd be a lot of hands. But I won't--i won't ask you to hold up your hands. Boy, you're striking at the heart of our lives when you do that. Or if you talk about tossing out your televisions, well you're just striking right at the very heart of things.

We get different kinds of idols. Some idols come through a little window by the drive-up. And they're round, fried balls of dough with a hole in the middle, dipped in sugar. It's an unusual idol to the unknown God, so it's got a big zero. You strike at those Gods and you don't make too many friends.

And then he tells us, "consider your ways." Now our memory verse came from this passage. But if you look in Daniel 9--we gave someone that verse to look up. Daniel 9:1-2, who has that? "In the first year of darius The Son of ahasuerus, of the lineage of the medes, who was made king over the realm of the chaldeans; in the first year of his reign I Daniel understood the by--" excuse me-- "understood by the books the Numbers of the years specified , by the words of the Lord through Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish 70 years in the desolations of Jerusalem." Alright, let me see if I can take you a step back. I'm not doing what I ought to be doing during this lesson. I'm kind of bouncing around.

I'm not pulling it together. Why were the children of Israel carried off to captivity? Why were they ever occupied by another nation during the time of the Judges? Worship. When they began to worship other Gods, the enemy came in and they were oppressed. That would often lead to repentance. That would lead to revival.

That would lead to deliverance from their captivity or their being displaced. We just looked in Ezekiel. What was one of the things they were doing that was leading to their captivity, even after they had been punished by the Babylonians occupying them and taxing them? Did they repent, or were they still worshipping idols, even in the temple, and in their homes and the priests and the elders? God said, "look, I'm giving you opportunity, but you're not repenting." He then withdrew his blessing and there was a brutal destruction of the city, burnt with fire, temple was destroyed. That was just the center of their worship. Now we don't understand this quite the same way, because we've all got little churches.

And you know, the new testament model is you can have an upper room. You can meet under a tree, you can meet in a goat shack, and you're the church. But in the minds of the jews because they brought their sacrifices by the command of God to this specific place, and because God's glory had come down, and they had sacred fire on the altar, and just all of the format and the layout of the temple, it was all focused on the temple; and that the Word of God, the ark of the covenant, with the Ten Commandments written by the finger of God was at the core, the words of God written by his fingers, spoken by his voice, that record was right there, a covenant he made with them in this building, that so much of their worship and the protection of God and the evidence of God was around this. For that to be destroyed, for all those sacred articles to be carried away, for the ark of the covenant to be hidden and no one know where it is, really felt to them like they had been forsaken. Because they had failed to worship God, it happened.

So now what does God do to try to get their attention during their captivity? Well, Nebuchadnezzar has this dream. Daniel and his three friends are brought in, they translate the dream, they are promoted to a position of influence. Then Nebuchadnezzar makes a golden image. Everyone's told to bow down and worship this image. And there on the plain of dura that day, when those three young Hebrews stood up and refused to engage in idolatry at the cost of their lives, in a foreign land, they witnessed for the commandments of God.

They accomplished for God there what the Lord had been trying to accomplish through the nation for over 1,000 years. He wanted the nations to see who the true God was because they worshipped God the way he said; they would not bow down. All the leaders from throughout the Babylonian realm were there and witnessed this. And they took that back to their kingdom. And at the end of shadrach, meshach, and abednego standing up, surviving the fiery furnace, Jesus appeared to them.

He honored them so much because they stood up for him. Then Nebuchadnezzar makes a declaration, "don't anybody wag their tongue against the God of Israel." They took that declaration back, because they stood up and they wouldn't worship falsely. The rest of the jews in the empire said, "oh, that's what we're supposed to be doing," 'cause there were some knees that would not bow. And then later with Daniel, make a law that everybody's supposed to worship the King. Daniel says, "sorry, can't do that.

I'm going to keep worshipping God." And he opens his windows, gets on his knees, prays according to the word, towards Jerusalem, and thrown in the lions' den, comes out alive, king darius issues a decree: "Daniel put the worship of his God ahead of me. That's what he was supposed to do. Don't anyone speak against the God of Daniel. He is the real God. Worship him.

" So in Babylon, there was more done to witness to the nations of the world about worshipping jehovah than what the children of Israel had managed to accomplish in their homeland. Did you get that? Finally God lets them go home. He says, "alright, you guys understand what your job is now. You are supposed to introduce the Messiah to the world in true worship. So I'm going to let you go back home.

I'll let you rebuild the temple. Be good." But it was after they got the lesson about true worship that he still was able to accomplish in a foreign land. And then even when the jews were scattered during the time of Christ, they still had an opportunity to take the news about the true worship with them. Alright, you remember when they came to Jerusalem? There were certain devout jews out of every nation under heaven that came to Jerusalem to worship for pentecost. Those devout jews then found out about Jesus, when the Holy Spirit was poured out, and they took it back to their countries around the roman empire, what is true worship.

Alright, we read Daniel 9. He said he was studying the Bible. Daniel was reading the prophecies of Jeremiah that after 70 years they should go home. And he began to pray and to worship God. It's one of the greatest prayers in the Bible.

And here is that prophecy that Daniel read, Jeremiah 29:10, and this is 10-14, "for thus says the Lord: that after 70 years be accomplished at Babylon, I will visit you and perform my good word towards you, in causing you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, says the Lord." Now when did Jeremiah write this? Before they went to Babylon, or after they came back? Do you know? Before they went to Babylon, Jeremiah made this prophecy. And he said, "you're going to have some rough days. Matter of fact, you're going to have 70 years of rough time. Don't forget, I've got your best interest in mind.

It's 'cause I still love you. I've not forsaken you. Don't forget this." "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you an expected end. That you shall call upon me and you shall go and pray to me, and I will hearken to you. And you will seek me and find me, when you search for me with all of your heart.

And I will be found of you, says the Lord, and I will turn away your captivity; I will gather you from all nations, and from all places where I have driven you, says the Lord; and I will bring you again into the place whence I cause you to be carried away captive." That's a promise for us today. If we repent of our sins, and we seek after God, and we search for him, he will be heard of us, and he will deliver us from our captivity. What captivity is he talking about? The captivity of sin. Sometimes we're oppressed and we're bogged down by the devil. And he says, "if you search for me with all your heart, I'll be found of you.

" We've got to worship him by seeking after him. Now God lets them go back. The declaration is made. Daniel prays. the Kings of persia allow the children of Israel to go back.

There were three or four different decrees that were given, allowing them to go back. They kind of went in stages. Decrees to return. Decrees to rebuild the city, rebuild the wall, rebuild the temple. And he's restoring them.

Now there is no nation like Israel in the world. I mean if there is no other--if you talk to an atheist, you talk to someone who doesn't believe the Bible, and you want to tell them, "the greatest evidence for the validity of the Bible, I would say it's a three-letter word called jew." What nation is there in the world that you can point to that has been conquered, scattered, carried off? They didn't lose their identity through intermarriage. They did not lose their language, their culture, their faith. They somehow came out from other nations, came back to a territory God specifically promised to this people, and then carried off again when they became unfaithful, prayed, repented, generations go by, they come back again, carried off again when they became unfaithful, temple destroyed twice, brought back again in this last century. What nation? Name one.

Did God foretell that would happen in His Word? Several times. I mean weren't they in Egypt, and God said--Joseph said, "the Lord will visit you, and he's gonna bring you back." And they came back after a couple hundred years there. Then they carried off to Babylon, and assyria. Brought back again. Scattered by the Romans, 2,000 years later united nations gets together and gives them their land again.

And I know, some people are going to be talking about replacement theology and all that, but you can't deny the jews are still a distinct people. That you can't get past. They still have their language. They still have the old testament. I think God still has a special work for them.

There's just no way to account for that other than supernatural providence that could look over any people, over 5,000 years like that, it's just--or 4,000 years--just absolutely marvelous. So after the Babylonian captivity, they come back to Jerusalem. But they become so preoccupied with their own lives again, they forget about why they're there and what their mission is. That was our memory verse. Word of the Lord, book of Haggai, Haggai 1:3-11, "it 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?' Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: 'consider your ways! You have sown much, but you bring in little; you eat, but you do not have enough; you drink, but you are not filled with drink; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he who earns wages, earns wages to put it in a bag with holes.

' Thus says the Lord of hosts: 'consider your ways! Go up to the mountain,'" meaning lebanon where the mountain was, "bring wood, build the temple, that I might take pleasure in it and be glorified," says the Lord. "You looked for much, and indeed it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away." Ha! Can you picture that? I blew upon it. "Because my house is in ruins, while every one of you runs to his own house." What house are you building up with your life? This applies to us today. Now you realize back when they came back from the captivity, they were to build the house of God so it would be--by the way, Jesus was going to go to that temple that they were rebuilding. When they first laid the foundation for that second temple, or really the third temple.

First temple was the tabernacle in the wilderness, second temple was Moses, third temple was the one build by Ezra, Nehemiah, later refurbished by herod the great. But they said that that third temple, even though it was smaller than Solomon's temple, didn't have as much gold and as much glory, they said, "the glory of this temple is going to be greater than the glory of the former temple, because the desire of all nations would come himself to this temple." The Messiah would teach in its courts. Did that happen? Jesus came into that temple. Jesus daily taught in the temple, the Bible says. And he said, "and you're not making the worship of God a priority and thinking about building up his house.

You're preoccupied with building your own houses and so I can't bless you." There are a couple of houses, I mean you've all got houses that you live in, apartments, homes, teepee, something you all have. Wigwam, I don't know what you're living in, but I mean most of us are not homeless. But if we're preoccupied with building up our houses, and we're working to panel our houses. And boy, has there ever been a generation in the world that is more inspired with all these total overhauls and remakes and programs they've got on television, do-it-yourself. And how you can upgrade your house and you can buy a house overseas and you can have your second-vacation dream home.

And I mean there's just so much that people have. And frankly, I've enjoyed watching some of those programs that talk about, "oh, you mean, you can do this with your kitchen, or you can do that with your garage?" And you're going, "oh, that's pretty interesting," you know. And it can get we're so interested in fixing up our houses, because you'd like to have a comfortable house, that we think that's the purpose of life. For a Christian, the first thing is building up his house. Didn't Jesus say, "seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness"? And he said if we make building his house the priority, it doesn't mean you don't take care of your house.

It doesn't mean you never renovate your house. But if we make building up the house of God a priority, he says, "I will bless your house." But if we make our house a priority, he says, "you're going to bring home your granola, and I'll blow upon it and there'll be nothing left. And you are going to put your money in pockets with holes," all the bills will consume. He says, "I can't bless you if you're just going to make your house the priority. Make my house the priority.

And then I'll bless your house." It's a real simple principle. Now someone read Haggai 2:18-19. When they did what God said, they listened to the prophecy of Haggai--go ahead. Get her the microphone. They listened to the prophecy of Haggai.

This is one of the few times when the people said, "you know, he's right. We got into a lot of trouble because we didn't listen to Jeremiah and Isaiah. Maybe we ought to listen to this prophet so we don't go back to Babylon and see what God does." And this is a verse that tells us what the result was, Haggai 2:18-19. "Consider now from this day forward, from the 24th day of the 9th month, from the day that the foundation of the Lord's temple was laid, consider it: is the seed still in the barn? As yet the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have not yielded fruit. But from this day I will bless you.

" God says, "mark it on your calendar. When you decided to listen, and you made the building of the house of God your priority, watch and see if I don't bless you." And you know, I think sometimes the Lord wants us to make a note of things. I haven't been able to pay my tithe, or give my offering Lord. I've been struggling, I just--" and God says, "well, you know, I can't open the windows of heaven and bless you. Instead you're going to have the devourer consuming your substance.

" And you might say, "alright Lord, today's the day. I'm going to be faithful." He says, "okay. Mark that on your calendar. You be faithful and see if I don't open for you the windows of heaven from this time forward." He says, "prove me." Doesn't he? I mean aren't these the words of God? This isn't Pastor Doug making these things up. He will bless you when you seek first his kingdom.

With what measure you meet, it will be measured to you again. This is a Bible principle. Alright, your fathers, where are they? Ezra 5:1-2, "then the prophets, Haggai the prophet and Zechariah The Son of iddo, they prophesied unto the jews that were in judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel, even unto them. Then rose up zerubbabel The Son of shealtiel and jeshua The Son of jozadak, and they began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem; and with them were the prophets of God helping them." This is one of the few times in the Bible where they said, "look, we're not gonna-- we're not going to neglect or persecute the prophets. We're going to listen to them.

" And then God blessed them. Now, were they still occupied by the persians? Yes they were. But was God blessing them? Sometimes the Lord said, "you know I need to keep you in check." And he said, "I'm going to bless you. And I'll take care of the Kings that are over you, but I will prosper you and I'll give you the freedom you need to build up the work of God." There's a lot of places in the world where, you know, the church maybe doesn't run the government. But God is blessing the church in those countries where they're growing and the house of God is being built up.

And so he gave them enough freedom to accomplish their mission. Even when the Romans occupied the world during the time of Christ, did the Gospel go everywhere, when they were building up the church of God? Yes. Alright, now Zechariah 1:1-6. I'm kind of racing along 'cause I want to at least touch on Nehemiah before we're done. Zechariah 1:1-6, "in the eighth month in the second year of darius, came the word of the Lord unto Zechariah The Son of berechiah, The Son of iddo the prophet, saying, 'the Lord has been sore displeased with your fathers.

Therefore say thou unto them, thus says the Lord of hosts: 'turn unto me,' says the Lord of hosts, 'and I will turn unto you.'" Boy, I don't want to rush past that. That's something that you can underline. It's a principle of revival. "Draw near unto me," God says, "and I will draw near unto you." God will not force you to love him, and he will not force himself upon you. But when you use your free will and say, "I am going to turn and start drawing near to God--" when the prodigal son who had run from home began the journey home, as soon as The Father saw him coming, what did The Father do? Now the vision of that old man watching for his son, he did not have eagle eyes.

He did not have satellite binoculars watching as soon as his son began coming home. But as soon as with his old eyes he saw the silhouette of his son coming over the crest of the hill, he ran to meet him. What kind of vision does God your father have? He's got perfect vision. No matter where you are, as soon as you turn to him, he will turn to you. Jonah was at the bottom of the mountain in a dark fish, and he turned to God.

Did God draw near to him as soon as he did? That's a wonderful promise. "I will turn to you." God loves us more than any earthly parent. You know, you can't force your kids once they're adults to do what you want them to do, but boy, if they'll draw near, you'll draw near. "Be not as your fathers, unto whom the former prophets have cried, saying, the Lord of hosts: 'turn now from your evil ways and from all your evil doings.' But they did not hear nor hearken unto me,' saith the Lord. 'Your fathers, where are they?'" In other words, they've been consumed.

Many of them buried in foreign lands. "And the prophets, do they live forever? But my words and my statutes, which I command my servants the prophets, did they not take hold of your fathers?" All the words that the prophets spoke came to pass. They do live forever. "And they returned and said: 'like as the Lord of hosts thought to do unto us, according to our ways and according to our doings, so he has dealt with us.'" Everything that God foretold is true. And he's saying, "and it's also true if you turn to me, I will turn to you and bless you.

" Now you see when they came back during the time of Nehemiah, first group of Israelites had come home. Temple was rubble. Gates were burnt. Wall was just blackened stones. Nehemiah got word from some of the captives that went home, and it didn't--you notice, it didn't all happen at once.

He prayed. And he fasted. And he prayed for Israel. And then God heard his prayer. Somebody read James 5:16.

Part of his prayer--microphone right here--part of the prayer of Nehemiah was a prayer of confession. Part of Daniel's prayer--have you read Daniel 9? Before gabriel appeared, it says, "while I was confessing my sin and the sin of my people." It's kind of like Isaiah said, "I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips." Nehemiah was also praying the same prayer, repenting and confessing. And then God acted. Alright, I think we might be ready. Read James 5:16.

"Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." Here you've got Nehemiah who is a--the butler, he's kind of the winebearer for the King. And his prayer, not only the prayer of this one man, fasted, prayed effectual prayer. He then took that prayer to action. He interceded.

Because of his intercession and his prayer, not only was he allowed to go back to Jerusalem, the King then gave him authority, he gave him resources, and the whole city was built up because of the prayer of this man. There's no limit to what the Lord can do through one person who has laid self aside and made room in their heart for the working of the Holy Spirit to bring about revival and restoration of true worship. And that's what happened. Boy, you read the book of Nehemiah, he was pretty jealous for doing it by the book, wasn't he? For having true worship and God blessed his people. We are out of time I want to remind our friends, if you didn't hear already, we do have a free offer.

And that free offer is, "three steps to heaven," and we'll send that to you. Just call the number on the screen, 866-788-3966, or visit amazingfacts.org. And you can read it or download it there. God bless you. Virtually everyone on the earth, regardless of religion or nationality recognize that there is some form of battle raging in the world around us between the forces of good and evil; a colossal struggle between light and darkness; truth and error; oppression and freedom; right and wrong; and ultimately life and death.

Journey back through time to the center of the universe. Discover how a perfect angel transformed into satan the archvillain. The birth of evil, a rebellion in heaven, a mutiny that moved to earth, the hole, the creation of a beautiful new planet and the first humans. Witness the temptation in eden. Discover God's amazing plan to save his children.

This is a story that involves every life on earth, every life. The cosmic conflict. If God is good, if God is all-powerful, if God is love, then what went wrong? If you've missed any of our Amazing Facts programs, visit our website at amazingfacts.org. There you'll find an archive of all our television and radio programs, including "Amazing Facts presents." One location, so many possibilities, amazingfacts.org.

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