Lesson 10

First Things First (Haggai)

(Haggai 1-2)
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Introduction: Does it seem like you have a hole in your pocket? You can never get ahead, never save? Whenever it seems like you are going to have additional money, it turns out that some new need arises that sets you back to where you were before! If you answered, "Yes, that describes my life," then carefully consider the book of Haggai. Our study this week is about a people who have been released from Babylonian captivity, but things are not going right in their lives. Let's dive into the Bible and find out why!

  1. A Message About Priorities


    1. Read Haggai 1:1. When God's people returned from Babylonian captivity they worked on rebuilding Jerusalem. They worked on the wall, on the temple, and on their homes. Their Samaritan neighbors didn't like this, so they persuaded Artaxerxes to stop the rebuilding of the temple. However, when King Darius came to power in Persia, he allowed the Jews to continue rebuilding the temple. How would you react if you lived in that time and King Darius had just given you permission to work on the temple?


    2. Read Haggai 1:2. What did the people of that time actually say? (The time has not yet come to rebuild the temple.)


      1. How can that be? (Read Jeremiah 25:11 and Daniel 9:2. Daniel prophesied that Jerusalem would be destroyed for seventy years. The Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary says that the seventy years had not yet expired, and so the people said, "We should wait." Barnes Notes says that the seventy years had long passed, and the people were playing with the dates to put off further rebuilding.)


    3. Read Haggai 1:3-4. What seems to be the real reason for putting off rebuilding the temple of God? (The people were working on their own homes.)


      1. Does God get into a discussion of when the seventy-year prophecy actually expired? (No.)


      2. What is God's point? (The people lacked concern about what matters to God.)


        1. What is the answer to God's question? (No! The people thought the time had come to rebuild their homes, why was the time not right for the temple.)


      3. How is that question applicable to our lives today?


    4. Read Haggai 1:5-6. Will God cause us to have financial problems if we are not generous towards His work?


      1. Read 2 Corinthians 9:7. How does this fit into our discussion? What if these people considered the temple, and decided the time was not right. Would that fit the "each man should decide language?"


        1. If so, why are these people being punished?


      2. Is God giving payback to the people who have neglected His temple? If not, what do you think that God is doing?


      3. Look again at Haggai 1:5-7. Notice that twice God says, "Give careful thought to your ways." What does that suggest about God's motive? (God is trying to get the attention of the people. He sends Haggai with a message, and He frustrates the prosperity of the people. Notice that 2 Corinthians 9:7 also starts out with an instruction to consider your situation: "each man should give what he has decided in his heart...")


    5. Read Haggai 1:8. When we build nice churches, when we advance God's work, how does God react? (He takes pleasure in us honoring Him.)


    6. Read Haggai 1:9-11. God previously said, "Think about why you are not prospering." We discussed what we thought that God was doing. God now gives His answer about what He is doing. What is it? (God clearly states that He is actively frustrating their effort to be prosperous because they have not paid attention to God's needs.)


  2. Message Received


    1. Read Haggai 1:12-15. How do the people react to God's message? (They start working on God's house.)


      1. When the verses say that God "stirred up the spirit" of the leaders, what does that mean? (The Holy Spirit brought conviction to their spirit.)


        1. What does "their spirit" mean? Is this something other than the Holy Spirit? (Read John 14:15-17 and Romans 8:9. God's Holy Spirit will live in us and direct our ways. Having a better understanding of the Holy Spirit is a new area of interest for me. I don't completely understand, but I am sure that our brain is not just a bunch of meat. We intuitively know that we have an identity (Hebrew: "ruwach"), and these texts suggest that we can somehow "merge" our spirit with the Holy Spirit to live a Spirit-led life. 1 Corinthians 6:19 says, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God.")


    2. Read Haggai 2:1-3. What is the good news here? (That the people completed the work of rebuilding God's temple.)


      1. What is the bad news? (It is "nothing" compared to the glory of the former temple.)


      2. Stop a minute and consider this. Were the people challenged to rebuild the temple to its former glory? (No. They were challenged to rebuild it, and not leave it as a ruin.)


  3. God's Reaction


    1. Read Haggai 2:4-5. Is God unhappy that His house is not as nice as it used to be? (No! God just wanted them to consider their attitude towards God's temple. He now encourages them when they are discouraged because the rebuilt temple lacks the glory of the former temple.)


      1. How is God with them? ("My Spirit remains among you.")


    2. Read Haggai 2:6-9. When the people were discouraged about the looks of the new temple, what was it lacking? (It lacked silver and gold.)


      1. What does God say about silver and gold? (He owns it all.)


        1. What is God's point? (If we partner with God, He will bring the "silver and gold" for His work.)


      2. Is silver and gold the focus of what God wants for His glory? (No! "The desired of all nations will come." The true glory of the rebuilt temple is that Jesus will stand in it!)


        1. What lesson is there in this for us today? (If you want to use your church to bring glory to God, it is not how fancy it is, but whether the Holy Spirit fills it.)


  4. A Prosperity Parable


    1. Read Haggai 2:10-12. Do you agree with the priests? (Yes.)


    2. Read Haggai 2:13. Do you agree with the priests' answer? (Yes.)


    3. Read Haggai 2:14. What does this mean? (When a person or a people are "defiled" (meaning out of favor with God) they defile whatever they touch. Bumping into good people does not make them good.)


    4. Exactly what that means is less than clear, so let's read on to get God's fuller insight. Read Haggai 2:15. Notice that God says we need to think about this a little bit, so that shows us that we do not completely understand this parable yet.)


    5. Read Haggai 2:16-19. God says three times, "give careful thought." What is it that makes us good, that blesses us? (When the people left God's house in ruins, God interfered with their blessings. When the people laid the foundation to rebuild God's house, God blessed them.)


      1. What is the source of blessings, being in contact with other good people? (That is good, but the true source is God.)


    6. Read Haggai 2:20-23. What does it mean to be blessed by God? (He defeats your enemies!)


    7. Haggai teaches us that if we obey we prosper. Deuteronomy 28 teaches us exactly the same thing. Even the story of Job teaches us that obedience brings prosperity. How do you explain Jesus' poverty? The poverty of His disciples? (Re-read Haggai 2:7-9. True riches, true glory is to have the Holy Spirit dwell in you. If you are faithful, will God bless you materially? I think the answer is "yes," but the real blessing is being filled with God's Spirit!)


    8. Friend, have you "given careful thought" to the priorities of your life? Are you careful to promote God's Kingdom, and not just your kingdom? Why not determine right now to make advancing the Kingdom of God a priority in your life?


  5. Next week: Visions of Hope (Zechariah).

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