Life in Israel was hard. Things weren’t going well. No matter how hard the Israelites tried, they couldn’t seem to go forward.
Is life increasingly joyless for you, your friends, and your family? Is it what you expected or dreamed of? Perhaps you thought you’d go somewhere. Achieve your goal. But instead, you feel defeated. You’re waiting for life to happen.
This is why I believe the Lord laid it upon my heart to study the Book of Haggai with you. You may wonder, Haggai? Do people read this book other than when they’re reading through their Bible?
When you read it you’ll understand why God in His sovereignty wrote it through His prophet Haggai and preserved it all these many centuries for us.
If you’ve done previous studies with me, you know their purpose is to help you discover truth for yourself—by looking at Scripture, seeing what it says, understanding what it means, then applying it to your life and, through the process, being transformed more and more into the image of Jesus Christ.
Read Haggai 1:1-11, and use orange to color code every reference to the people Haggai is speaking to. Mark the reference to time with a green circle, or color the entire reference to time green. Then, color every reference to the Lord speaking: the word of the Lord came, thus says the Lord, declares the Lord. (I highlight every reference to God/the Lord in yellow.)
1 In the second year of Darius the king, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the Lord came by the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, saying,
2 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘This people says, “The time has not come, even the time for the house of the Lord to be rebuilt.”’”
3 Then the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet, saying,
4 “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses while this house lies desolate?”
5 Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts, “Consider your ways!
6 “You have sown much, but harvest little; you eat, but there is not enough to be satisfied; you drink, but there is not enough to become drunk; you put on clothing, but no one is warm enough; and he who earns, earns wages to put into a purse with hoes.”
7 thus says the Lord of hosts, “Consider your ways!
8 “Go up to the mountains, bring wood and rebuild the temple, that I may be pleased with it and be glorified.” Says the Lord.
9 “You look for much, but behold, it comes to little; when you bring it home, I blow it away. Why?” declares the Lord of hosts, “Because of My house which lies desolate, while each of you runs to his own house.
10 “Therefore, because of you the sky has withheld its dew and the earth has withheld its produce.
11 “I called for a drought on the land, on the mountains, on the grain, on the new wine, on the oil, on what the ground produces, on men, on cattle, and on all the labor of your hands.”
List what you learn from marking the references to the people. What are they saying? Doing? Experiencing? What is happening to them? Why is it happening? List what the Lord says.
Now, let’s put the Book of Haggai into its historical context. Judah and Jerusalem were destroyed by the Babylonians (present day Iraq) in 586 B.C. God’s wrath came on the southern kingdom of Israel because of their idolatry and sin. With every warning of judgment (although Judah did not listen), there was a promise of restoration. About 150 years before it ever happened, God (through Isaiah) named Cyrus, a Medo-Persian, king. A king who would permit the Jews to return to Israel and rebuild their holy temple. Did you get that? Before Judah was ever besieged, and before the temple was ever destroyed, God tells His people what is going to happen. Judgment? Yes. Hope? Absolutely. This is a God who keeps His covenant. Read Isaiah 44:24-45:13. Think about it and savor it. Color the references to Cyrus and to God, and see what you discover about God. If you have truly believed in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, this is your Father in action! True to character. Are you evaluating all of life according to who He is? Then, beloved of God, no matter how difficult, dull or discouraging life is, there is hope!
In 539 B.C., just like God said, Babylon fell to Cyrus and, in 536 B.C., Zerubbabel (whom you just read about in Haggai), along with others, returned to Israel and began to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. Two years later, the work stopped (Ezra 4:24). For the next six years nothing happened until the word of the Lord came through Haggai the prophet—and the people listened. Are you listening?
What was the message? “Consider your ways!” (Color these words red in the text.) What were their ways? You saw them when you made your list beginning at verse 2 when the people said, “It’s not time to build God’s house!” Their reasoning didn’t hold. Read Haggai 1:1-11 again and color the references to God’s house blue. Make a list of what you observe, and you’ll see that God wasn’t first. Their house came before God’s house. They had wood to build their houses but not the Lord’s!
What about us?
According to statistics, American evangelical Christians gave only a little more than 3 percent of their income to the church and charity in 2006. In 2005, they gave 2.3 percent.
What was God doing to get the attention of the Israelites? What is He doing to get ours? Read Haggai 1:6, 9, 10, 11. Compare this with Job 37:10-13, 38:22-23. Could it be that we are in the state we’re in because we have left God out of our lives, doing as Israel did—simply giving lip service rather than loving and seeking Him with all our heart, soul, mind, body and strength? Think on it, child of God. Ask God to search your heart. Examine every area of your life—and listen.
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