Haggai and Motivating God's People to Action
by Mark Trodd
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Haggai was a prophet called by God to give a series of messages over a three month period to Zerubbabel (Governor, descendant of David, and ancestor of Jesus) and the returned exiles (remnant people) from Babylon, after the rebuilding of the temple had been delayed for nearly 20 years. Political opposition and local conditions lead to the returned exiles becoming preoccupied with building and establishing their own houses and lifestyles. All the early hopes had been dropped and replaced with short term gains. Haggai and Zechariah were called to get them back on track. The leaders and people were firstly rebuked and told to get their priorities right, and secondly, promised that the Lord would bless them and be with them if they would put His house first. They had forgotten that the Promised Land and the city of Jerusalem meant nothing if God was not in their midst and the ruler of their hearts. Zechariah would continue what Haggai started. Read the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, along with Haggai and Zechariah, to get a more complete picture of the times.
Consider your ways
God asks them why His house has been neglected and allowed to remain in ruins, while they dwelt in paneled houses.
God asked them why they were seeing little fruit from their many labors, and linked it to their poor priorities.
By implication, the Lord was explaining to them that His hands were tied when it came to really blessing them while they pursued the things that matter to them more than what matter to Him.
Through the prophet, the Lord was stirring them up to consider their ways and to re-align themselves with what mattered most to the Lord. As soon as the leaders and the people heard the message and began to make changes a promise came to them, “I AM WITH YOU.”
In the NT, the church is the house of God, the temple, the kingdom and the Body of Christ, rather than some building. All the rituals and the objects of the Old Covenant have a deeper meanings and point to Jesus and His Body the Church. As His people, we are called to spread the good news and use our gifts to build His church. His church is not restricted to one denomination, or one local church.
1.Has God been asking you to consider your ways about anything recently?
2.How important is the church to God? What is the church?
3.What is the focus of the Great Commission in Matt 28:18-20?
4.How did the leaders and the people show their faith?
5.Are you committed to building God’s church, or do you concentrate all your time and resources on your own homes or your own group. What are you doing for God’s church in the poor parts of the world?
A: The Latter Glory of this House will be Greater than the Former
As Zerubbabel, Joshua the high priest and all the remnant people started to work on the house of the Lord, Haggai came with words of encouragement to help them keep up the momentum. “But now take courage…and work; for I am with you”, says the Lord of hosts.
Then, as if to anticipated the skeptics (especially the accountants), the Lord uses Haggai to build on the first promise (I am with you) with “…I will shake all the nations and they will come with the wealth…I will fill this house with glory…The silver is Mine and the gold is Mine,” declares the Lord; and finally “The latter glory of this house will be greater that the former.” In other words, if they will put the Lord first, He will look after the rest.
While the issue of wealth and money remains relevant in the NT, the wealth mentioned here points to the Church which is the treasure chest for Jesus. Also, the church as the people of God is made up of people of every nation, not just one. When we are faithful to God’s purposes, He will bring blessing and growth to the church. Maintenance is what dying churches do. Be generous with the blessings of God, and He will be able to trust you with more. Be faithful in the work God has assigned you to do, and He will trust you with more opportunities.
1.Is God asking you to do something that will require courage to leave your comfort zone?
2.Jesus warns us that we cannot serve God and mammon. How do we keep our priorities right in this area?
3.What promises does God make to the leaders and the people when they made the right priority adjustments? What insecurities were been addressed?
4.Are you being generous with God’s blessings, and faithful with the gifts and works given to you?
B: Do consider from this day onward
Two months later, Haggai reminds them that serving the Lord means being single-minded in their devotion, and warns them that He cannot bless the work of hands that have been defiled by a mixed commitment. Mixed commitments have mixed results, because our poor priorities cannot be cancelled out by our good ones
But Haggai finishes with more good news. Now that you have indeed shown your faith by getting back on track, you can now expect a future of fruitfulness at all levels. Out of discouragement, the people had been hoarding seed in the barn rather than risk another poor harvest by planting it. Before this, the Lord could not abundantly bless the other things in their lives without aiding and abetting them in their backsliding. Now that they were giving His house the proper attention it deserved, they could now plan and plant with confidence.
Finally, Haggai has a message for Zerubbabel the leader of God’s people. He had been chosen and given the authority (signet ring) to lead His people forward.
Difficult times were ahead but while the enemies (surrounding kingdoms) of God’s people will falter and turn on each other, His people will thrive.
1.Why is a mixed commitment such a serious problem for the people? James 4 calls an impure heart double-mindedness, and identifies it as a serious hindrance to our drawing near to God and He to us. Comment.
2.How important is the role of leaders in this whole area of priorities?
God’s priority is to build His Church through the spreading of the gospel. The Churches priority is to know Him and His indwelling presence (for without Him we can do nothing), and to do what pleases Him. Hebrews 11 tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God, and then shows us that faith is about obedience, courage and action. It may mean building an ark, leaving home without a clear destination, or sacrificing our comforts – even our very lives – for the cause; but whatever it means for us as individuals or for our fellowships, it is not about us. Satan has many strongholds, and he will not be moved without a fight. Only a totally committed and united Church will be a threat to his program and be taken seriously by the wider community (Rev 12:10).
As we celebrate another Christmas, let us remind ourselves as to why Jesus came, and what matters most to God. BUT be warned, it may require you to give your priorities a major overhaul.
Buy my new book HIPPO IN THE STABLE (Faithwriters e-bookstore), and then email me, and I will send you the sequel HIPPO IN THE GARDEN for free.
This offer ends on Friday, Dec 7th.
Have a great Christmas.
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