Sermon title: OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO CARE FOR GOD’S HOUSE
Mark 12:41-13:1; Luke 21:5; 2 Kings 22:3-7
Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, October 6, 2019
Over the past couple weeks, we’ve been looking at
our Lord Jesus’ final public sermon.
He first addressed his disciples and the crowds
in the Temple courtyards in Jerusalem,
and warned them against acting like their religious leaders.
And then he turned his attention
to the scribes and Pharisees themselves
denouncing them as hypocrites.
Finally, he concluded by saying
that the punishment for rejecting and killing God’s prophets
would soon come upon Jerusalem
within that very generation.
Now the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 12, Verse 41
tells us what our Lord did next
after he finished that fiery sermon.
He was still there on the Temple grounds,
and he and his disciples were looking around
at the people and at the buildings.
Mark 12:41 says,
41 Jesus sat down opposite the place
where the offerings were put
and watched the crowd
putting their money into the temple treasury.
Those donations would be used
to support God’s worship at the temple.
The buildings needed to be maintained,
and the priests, and their helpers,
and the musicians and singers
all needed to be supported.
The fact that Jesus
“watched the crowd
putting their money into the temple treasury”
makes us realize
that he takes an interest in such things,
and so he likely watches us today,
as we donate to support the church
and Christian ministries.
Mark’s account goes on to say,
Many rich people threw in large amounts.
42 But a poor widow came
and put in two very small copper coins,
worth only a fraction of a penny.
43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said,
"I tell you the truth,
this poor widow has put more into the treasury
than all the others.
44 They all gave out of their wealth;
but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—
all she had to live on."
This shows that the Lord appreciates
even small things that people do
to promote and support his place of worship.
This poor widow’s tiny donation
was important to God,
and he appreciated her sacrifice in giving it.
Notice, too, that Christ said
this woman’s tiny donation
was worth more than the large sums of money
that the rich people
were putting into the treasury.
Jesus said they all “gave out of their wealth”
so their donations were not as much, relatively speaking.
A friend was telling Penni recently
about a man she knew
who regularly gave 10% of all his income
to support the Christian work.
This man had just had a very successful business dealing
and earned $35 million for himself,
and Penni’s friend remarked
about what a generous gift
10% of $35 million would be.
Of course, we saw in a recent sermon
that tithing 10% was God’s law to the Jewish nation,
and is not required of Christians.
The Scriptures tell Christians make their own decision
how much to give to the work of the Lord,
while promising that God will reward generous giving.
Well, Penni’s response to her friend was
that 10% of $35 million wasn’t generous at all,
considering that he would keep
90% of that money for himself.
“Couldn’t he give $30 million,
and keep $5 million for himself?”
Penni asked her friend.
“I could live on $5 million, couldn’t you?”
That millionaire’s donation helps us see why Jesus said
that "poor widow” “put more into the treasury”
than all the rich people who
“gave out of their wealth.”
They were just giving excess money
that they didn’t really need, anyway.
The poor widow was giving money
that really mattered to her.
Now, we don’t want to misapply that lesson, either.
This poor widow had only herself to care about.
When “she, out of her poverty,
put in everything—
all she had to live on,"
she must have been trusting in the Lord
to provide food for the next day.
And she could well do that, because she was alone.
But, I’ve heard of men with wives and children
mis-applying this passage
by short-changing their families
while giving their money, time and energy
to the church.
Jesus never meant for us to do that.
1 Timothy 5:8 says,
Anyone who does not provide for their relatives,
and especially for their own household,
has denied the faith
and is worse than an unbeliever.
So, God wants us to have a balanced view,
not neglecting our families,
while recognizing our responsibility
towards the house of God.
After our Lord commented on the poor widow
and the rich people,
he and his disciples moved on.
The next verse, Mark 13:1, tells us,
1 As he was leaving the temple,
one of his disciples said to him,
"Look, Teacher! What massive stones!
What magnificent buildings!"
The parallel passage at Luke 21:5 puts it this way:
5 Some of his disciples were remarking
about how the temple was adorned
with beautiful stones
and with gifts dedicated to God.
Yes, God’s holy temple in Jerusalem
was magnificently beautiful,
as was only fitting for the house of God.
It was a building that was awesomely beautiful—
enough to make the disciples
burst forth with admiration for its appearance.
But that temple wasn’t the first structure
dedicated to the worship of the true God.
Soon after Moses led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt,
the Lord gave Moses instructions
on how to build a portable tabernacle
where he would accept
the people’s offerings and sacrifices.
At Exodus 25:9, God told Moses,
9 Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings
exactly like the pattern I will show you.
And that pattern called for it to be exquisitely beautiful.
Now, God could have created a beautiful tabernacle himself,
and could have simply given it to Israel,
just as he gives us beautiful sunsets
and beautiful woodlands,
and just as he gave Adam and Eve
the beautiful Garden of Eden.
But, instead, the Lord gave that privilege
of creating the tabernacle
to the Jews themselves—
just as he gives us the privilege
of building and maintaining churches today.
But God’s Holy Spirit works through the men and women
who provide the materials
and who do that work.
Exodus, Chapter 31, tells us
how the Holy Spirit was involved
in guiding the hands of the workers.
We tend to think of the Holy Spirit
just in the context of empowering miraculous gifts
or in guiding the inspired prophets
to speak the word of God.
But the Holy Spirit is also intimately involved
in beautifying and maintaining
God’s place of worship.
We see that here, beginning at Exodus 31:1,
where the Lord named the individual
he was inspiring through the Holy Spirit
to lead the work on the tabernacle.
1 Then the LORD said to Moses,
2 “See, I have appointed by name Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah.
3 And I have filled him with the Spirit of God,
with skill, ability, and knowledge
in all kinds of craftsmanship,
4 to design artistic works
in gold, silver, and bronze,
5 to cut gemstones for settings, and to carve wood,
so that he may be a master of every craft.
So, God inspired that man Bezalel with his Holy Spirit.
God said he “filled him with the Spirit of God”
to do this work
of carpentry and metalwork,
just as he inspired Moses
to preach the word of God.
And that makes sense,
because the appearance of God’s place of worship
is a spiritual thing,
not just something mundane or ordinary.
God takes a personal interest in how his house of worship looks.
Centuries after Moses,
1 Chronicles, Chapter 28 tells us that
the Almighty gave to King David
the architectural plans
to build a stone temple in Jerusalem,
to replace that portable tabernacle.
And, again, God’s Holy Spirit
was involved in designing that building.
1 Chronicles 28:11 says,
11 Then David gave his son Solomon
the plans for the portico of the temple,
its buildings, its storerooms, its upper parts,
its inner rooms and the place of atonement.
12 He gave him the plans
of all that the Spirit had put in his mind
for the courts of the temple of the Lord
and all the surrounding rooms.
So, God’s Holy Spirit inspired
all these construction details.
And God’s Holy Spirit is involved
when we plan and execute plans
to build and maintain our church buildings today.
The Lord wants the work to be done
in ways that will honor him
and that will attract others to his house of worship.
His Holy Spirit works along with
those who prayerfully dedicate their time and abilities
here at this church
to do carpentry work,
to clean, to paint, to mow the lawn,
to fix and repair,
and whatever else needs to be done.
It is God’s house,
and he is intimately involved in maintaining it.
Centuries after King David
gave those Holy Spirit-inspired architectural plans
to his son King Solomon,
that temple was destroyed
by the invading armies of the Babylonian Empire.
After 70 years in captivity,
God’s people returned to Jerusalem
faced with the huge job
of rebuilding the city,rebuilding their homes,
and rebuilding God’s house of worship.
The Old Testament Book of Haggai
tells us how God spoke to them through his prophet
about the work of repairing the temple.
Haggai is the third book from the end of the Old Testament.
The Old Testament ends with Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi,
just before Matthew begins the New Testament.
Haggai is called one of the “minor prophets,”
because he gave us such a short book
of just a few pages,
but his message is an important one.
The people of Jerusalem were delaying the work
of repairing God’s house of worship,
even though they had finished their own homes
and were living comfortably in them.
At Haggai Chapter 1, beginning with Verse 2,
we read the prophet’s message from God:
2 This is what the Lord Almighty says:
“These people say,
‘The time has not yet come
to rebuild the Lord’s house.’ ”
3 Then the word of the Lord came
through the prophet Haggai:
4 “Is it a time for you yourselves
to be living in your paneled houses,
while this house remains a ruin?”
5 Now this is what the Lord Almighty says:
“Give careful thought to your ways.
6 You have planted much, but harvested little.
You eat, but never have enough.
You drink, but never have your fill.
You put on clothes, but are not warm.
You earn wages,
only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”
7 This is what the Lord Almighty says:
“Give careful thought to your ways.
8 Go up into the mountains and bring down timber
and build my house,
so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,”
says the Lord.
9 “You expected much, but see,
it turned out to be little.
What you brought home, I blew away.
Why?” declares the Lord Almighty.
“Because of my house,
which remains a ruin,
while each of you is busy with your own house.
10 Therefore, because of you
the heavens have withheld their dew
and the earth its crops.
11 I called for a drought on the fields
and the mountains, on the grain,
the new wine, the olive oil
and everything else the ground produces,
on people and livestock,
and on all the labor of your hands.”
So, we see that the Lord was withholding his blessing
from that whole worship community
because they were neglecting his house of worship.
How did the people react
when they heard that message from God
spoken through the prophet?
Beginning with the man who was their governor,
it goes on to say,
12 Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel,
Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest,
and the whole remnant of the people
obeyed the voice of the Lord their God
and the message of the prophet Haggai,
because the Lord their God had sent him.
And the people feared the Lord.
13 Then Haggai, the Lord’s messenger,
gave this message of the Lord to the people:
“I am with you,” declares the Lord.
14 So the Lord stirred up the spirit
of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah,
and the spirit of Joshua son of Jozadak,
the high priest,
and the spirit of the whole remnant of the people.
They came and began to work
on the house of the Lord Almighty, their God,
15 on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month.
So, God’s people listened
and responded to the prophet’s inspired message,
and they went right to work repairing God’s house.
And the Lord was pleased with their repair work:
that he had the date they started their work
recorded in the Bible.
What a blessing it is
that this church family
has been working on this church building
for several months, now.
We’ve raised money through wonderful Saturday night dinners,
and we’ve dipped into the $100,000.00 we had in the bank
to undertake needed repairs.
The roof has been replaced with a new roof.
Cracks in the interior sanctuary walls have been re-plastered,
and the sanctuary beautifully repainted.
In the kitchen downstairs
we have new flooring under foot,
the ceiling repaired overhead,
lovely new cabinets,
a better refrigerator,
more fixes than I can keep track of,
and everything has been neatly put in order.
Other work has been completed on the stairway
and in the towers
and in places I’ve failed to mention.
Those involved in getting this work done
can rejoice at how beautiful everything is.
And they can also rejoice
in knowing that God’s Holy Spirit
has been working along with them.
Just as the Holy Spirit is involved
in preaching and teaching the Word of God,
the Holy Spirit also works through those
who maintain God’s house of worship.
What a wonderful privilege and blessing that is!—
to be fellow-workers with the Holy Spirit.
When I read the passages in the Gospels
that we read earlier this morning
about the disciples admiring the Jerusalem temple’s
“massive stones . . . magnificent buildings . . .
and beautiful stones
I can’t help but think of the first time I saw
our church building here at 195 Whitman Street.
I thought, “Oh, no! It’s stucco.
That’s going to be hard to maintain.”
I used to be under the impression
that repairs to a stucco building
are best done with the newer fiberglass synthetic materials.
But I recently researched it on the web.
And what I found out was that,
while the synthetic fiberglass materials
may be the best way to go
in the dry climate of Arizona and New Mexico,
here in our wetter climate along the coast,
we’re better off doing our repairs
using the old-fashioned, traditional stucco.
I found this on the website “HomeAdvisor.com”
under the heading “Benefits to Traditional Stucco Siding.”
“The benefits of traditional stucco
come in wetter conditions,
as it is less likely to absorb water
(and be damaged by it)
than synthetic stucco siding.”
And then it adds,
“Traditional stucco siding will hold up better
to dings, hail, and woodpeckers.”
So, that’s good news for us,
because it means that the gray patches
on the outside of our church building
can safely be painted to match the rest of the building.
Without any huge expense,
we can do that needed painting
to make our church’s appearance
pleasing to the Lord
and more inviting to visitors.
And we have the joy of knowing
that the Holy Spirit will continue to work with us
in making God’s house beautiful
and a suitable place
for his worship.
Just as the Spirit of the Lord gave Moses the plans
and empowered Bezalel
to work on that Tabernacle in the wilderness,
and just as God’s Spirit gave King David
the architectural plans for Jerusalem’s temple,
and just as the Lord spoke through Haggai
and stirred up the governor and the high priest
to re-build the temple,
so God’s Holy Spirit works hand-in-hand with us
as we maintain and beautify the house of the Lord.