October 1985 – Vol.1 – No.1
The book of Haggai tells of the rebuilding of God’s temple in Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile in 536 B.C. The first temple had been built by skilled craftsmen richly supplied from the inexhaustible treasures of King Solomon. This new temple, however, was being built by a motley crew of returned exiles who had no special training and little to work with. So we see in Ezra 3:12 that the laying of the foundation was a time of both rejoicing and weeping. Rejoicing, because of what God had done in making it possible for them to rebuild the temple. But weeping, because those who remembered the grandeur of the former temple were dismayed at the painful homeliness of the new one.
But as the people worked, God encouraged them with the promise found in Haggai 2:6-9:
For thus says the Lord of hosts, “Once more, in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land. And I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations; and I will fill this house with glory,” says the Lord of hosts. “The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,” declares the Lord of hosts. “The latter glory of this house will be greater thin the former,” says the Lord of hosts.
This must have seemed an impossible dream to impoverished, unskilled laborers. Certainly it would have been impossible if the fulfillment of it depended upon them. But they served a wealthy heavenly Father who owned all the beasts of the forest and the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10). In fulfillment of His promise, God soon caused King Darius to send forth a decree that all the nations around Jerusalem (their enemies, no less!) should provide whatever the Jews needed in rebuilding the temple (Ezra 6:1-12). Indeed, the Lord does own the silver and the gold, the beasts of the forest, and the cattle on a thousand hills! And, one might add, all the clothes at Edwards AFB as well!
The problem the Jews faced was how to build a glorious temple out of the little they had at hand. What recently happened here was their problem in reverse. It all started when a friend wanted to know what he could do with some old clothes he wanted to give to someone who would distribute them with a Christian witness to people who truly needed them. Knowing of the great need in Mozambique where people have been unable to buy clothes for years, it was suggested he send them to some Christians there. He could put the clothes in a little box, about one cubic foot in size, and mail them for $22.00.
Another friend who was present overheard the discussion and the next day stopped by the hospital and asked if she could put some of her clothes in the box. We were standing in the hallway outside the pharmacy and did not realize our conversation was being heard by one of the technicians inside. He stopped on the ward the following day to ask if he could put some of his clothes in the box too. There were a couple of nurses and three technicians sitting at the nurses’ station who overheard and they wanted to put clothes in too. Then they decided to make it a hospital-wide endeavor. Then they decided to purchase an ad in the base newspaper so everyone could know about it. However, when they found out how much it would cost, they quickly decided that was too ambitious. But now that the newspaper knew about it, they wanted to run a regular story with pictures and a notice they would draft themselves. Things kept happening, seemingly of their own volition, until in the end, the little box was magnified over 400 times as loads of clothing were deposited by people whom God had burdened to help the families in Mozambique!
Nearly five thousand pounds of clothing has since been sorted, packed, and is now on its way to Africa Evangelical Fellowship in New Jersey, a nondenominational mission organization working closely with the church in Mozambique that will distribute the clothes. But the snowball hasn’t stopped rolling. After the base newspaper ran its article, the local paper provided more coverage, and there was even a fellow from People magazine who called wanting to find out what was happening. It has provided good publicity for Mozambique, and assurance for the believers there that God does know their needs and is able to provide.
But the Mozambicans are not the only ones to benefit from all of this. As I and my friends stood, mouths agape, beholding all that was taking place in response to a simple question asked by one who wanted to be a good steward of a few old clothes, God was teaching an important lesson for any prospective missionary – a lesson in His sufficiency. There are times when God clearly indicates His will for us, but human resources seem lacking. Certainly this was the case for the builders of the temple. One can imagine the flagging spirits as they contemplated the work of their hands. “Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? Does it not seem to you like nothing in comparison?” (Haggai 2:3).
Yet the one who has his eyes on the Lord and truly comprehends His greatness need not panic. How often do you receive desperation letters from Christian organizations pleading for your money, as if the world were caving in and only you could stop it? We should realize that letters written in such a tone betray a lack of confidence in our God’s ability to undergird the ministries that are pleasing to Him. As Hudson Taylor said, “God’s work, done God’s way, will never lack God’s supply.”
David understood the sufficiency of his God, and it prompted his glorious benediction upon the undertaking of the first temple:
Thine, Oh Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is Thine; Thine is the kingdom, Oh Lord, and Thou art exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come of Thee, and Thou reignest over all, and in Thine hand is power and might, and in Thine hand it is to make great and to give strength unto all. Now therefore, our God, we thank Thee, and praise Thy glorious name.
Yes, we serve a sovereign God who reigns over all. Thus He is not merely a God who would like to provide, but a God who can provide all our need to the glory of His name!