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“Trust God’s Promises”

Lesson Text:Haggai 1:12-2:9

Background Scripture:Haggai 1:12-2:9   

Devotional Reading:Psalm 27:7-14

 

Haggai 1:12-15 (KJV)

12 Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the LORD their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the LORD their God had sent him, and the people did fear before the LORD.

13 Then spake Haggai the LORD’S messenger in the LORD’S message unto the people, saying, I am with you, saith the LORD.

14 And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and did work in the house of the LORD of hosts, their God,

15 In the four and twentieth day of the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king.

Haggai 2:1-9

1 In the seventh month, in the one and twentieth day of the month, came the word of the LORD by the prophet Haggai, saying,

2 Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and to the residue of the people, saying,

3 Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?

4 Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the LORD; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the LORD, and work: for I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts:

5 According tothe word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not.

6 For thus saith the LORD of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land;

7 And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts.

8 The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the LORD of hosts.

9 The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the LORD of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the LORD of hosts.

 

OBJECTIVES

To understand the promises God gave to His people and their leaders as they began to rebuild the temple.

To explain why the new temple seemed “as nothing” when compared with Solomon’s and how, in spite of that, it would come to have “greater glory” than Solomon’s temple.                      

Daily Application: To stay encouraged and trust God’s promises.

 

INTRODUCTION

    The television program Extreme Makeover: Home Edition has had many devoted fans since it first aired in December 2003. The people selected for the makeovers have been living in much less than ideal conditions. Often they have seen their own homes deteriorate while they sacrificed in service to others. So the makeover team enters a deficient house and rebuilds, leaving the occupants stunned at the beauty of the new residence.

   Last week’s study introduced us to the Old Testament prophet Haggai, who challenged the people to finish rebuilding the temple. Today’s text features Haggai continuing his encouragement to the people, but with a different focus­—a focus to think in terms of an extreme makeover.

 

LESSON BACKGROUND

Time:520 B.C.

Place:Jerusalem

 

   Today’s lesson begins where last week’s ended, at Haggai 1:12, and the year is still 520 B.C. Since the background is the same, that information need not be repeated here. Even so, a bit more can be said about the larger historical context.

   The book of Haggai is set in the period of Persian dominance, which began with the rise of Cyrus in 539 B.C. Persian expansion to the west was eventually halted by defeats at the battles of Marathon (490 B.C.) and Salamis (480 B.C.). These battles occurred within the time gap between the last verse of Ezra 6 and the first verse of Ezra 7. The book of Esther is set within this time frame as well.

   Persia was overthrown by Alexander the Great of Greece in the 330s B.C. Thus the existence of Persia as a superpower in the ancient Near East lasted a bare 200 years. Her rise and collapse was foreseen some 30 years prior to the ministry of Haggai (Daniel 7:1, 5; 8:1-7, 20; 11:2). God was using these historical currents to protect his people.

 

Obedience Offered in Rebuilding the Temple (Haggai 1:12)

1. How did the people respond to Haggai, as well as his message from the Lord (Haggai 1:12)?

   We met the two leaders Zerubbabel and Joshua in last week’s lesson (compare Ezra 3:2, 8; 4:3; 5:2; Nehemiah 12:1). That study indicted the people for their failure to give God’s house the attention it deserved, but the prophecy was addressed to the people through these two leaders.

   At the center of Haggai’s message is his command to “consider [literally, ‘set the heart upon’] your ways” (Haggai 1:5, 7). These words are indeed taken to heart as the verse before us records the reactions of the leaders along with all the remnant of the people as they obey the voice of the Lord their God.

   The term remnant is an important one in Old Testament prophecy. In particular, Isaiah speaks of the significance of the remnant, which describes those who are left after an act of God’s judgment, such as the Babylonian captivity (Isaiah 10:20-23; 11:11, 16; 46:3). What characterizes the true remnant, however, is not just that they survive to return to the land but that they have returned to the Lord. That Haggai’s audience has done just that is clear from the language used in the verse before us: they have chosen to obey the Lord’s word. By so doing, they acknowledge that Haggai is indeed the Lord’s messenger.       

   When God speaks to us by His Word, there’s only one acceptable response, and that’s obedience. We don’t weigh the options, we don’t examine the alternatives, and we don’t negotiate the terms. We simply do what God tells us to do and leave the rest with Him. “Faith is not believing in spite of evidence,” said the British preacher Geoffrey Studdert-Kennedy; “it’s obeying in spite of consequence.”

What Do You Think?

   How should fear (respect) of the Lord manifest itself in the various ministries of the church? What problems can arise if such fear is absent?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

   Evangelism | Worship | Teaching | Benevolence |Other

                                                  

Assurance Affirmed (Haggai 1:13)

2. How did Haggai’s message from God change in verse 13?

   The words of the prophet are no longer words of rebuke and chastisement from the Lord; now they have the tone of encouragement and support. No greater assurance can be offered to any individual or group than when the Lord says I am with you (also Haggai 2:4, below).

    Obedience always brings further truth (John 7:17), and the prophet assured them that God was with them in their endeavors (Hag. 1:13; see 2:4).

 

 

Spirits Stirred (Haggai 1:14-15)

3. How did God show that His presence was there (Haggai 1:14)?

   Evidence of the Lord’s presence is shown by His action in stirring up the spirit of the same people who are highlighted as obedient in verse 12. When God’s people respond in obedience to His Word, then He is ready to bless them and accomplish great things through them.

What Do You Think?

   How do we distinguish between times when God expects us to move forward vs. times when He wants us to wait for Him to do something?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

   The role of prayer | Open and closed doors of opportunity

   The relevance of biblical examples (Exodus 14:15; Acts 1:4; etc.) | Other

   “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

4. After Haggai’s message, how long did it take for the people to start rebuilding the temple (Haggai 1:15)?

   The date of the four and twentieth day of the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king computes to be September 21, B.C. Thus we see an elapse of less than a month between the times when Haggai begins speaking the word of the Lord and the people’s move to action.

 

The Temple’s Former Glory (Haggai 2:1-3)

5. When does God deliver His second message to Haggai for the people (Haggai 2:1-3)?

   This date computes to October 17, 520 B.C. Therefore Haggai receives a new word of the Lord less than a month after the restart of the building project noted in Haggai 1:14, 15.

   Those addressed are the same as before: the primary leaders (Zerubbabel and Joshua) and the residue (or remnant) of the people. Evidently, the people now needed encouragement to guard against despair. The message began with this question: “Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory?”(v. 3). Those who had firsthand knowledge of the previous temple might have felt as if the new sanctuary seemed “as nothing”when compared to what it replaced.

   Sixty-six years earlier, the Babylonians had destroyed Solomon’s temple and its entire splendor. The details of the sanctuary he built are recorded in 1 Kings 5-7 and 2 Chronicles 2:1-5:1. We learn that the general shape and floor plan of this temple followed those of the tabernacle, but the dimensions were doubled (1 Kings 6:2). 

   In the time of Haggai, some of the returnees from exile in Babylon were old enough to remember the grandeur of the Solomonic temple. Moreover, their younger peers had undoubtedly heard recollections of the magnificence of the earlier sanctuary. If Haggai was in his 70s during this time, he himself would have been an eyewitness to the destruction of Solomon’s temple. Earlier, when the foundation of the new temple was originally laid, many of the older priests and Levites had wept as they thought about the Solomonic temple (see Ezra 3:11-13). The builders in Haggai’s day could not help making that same comparison. They realized that with their limited resources, they could not match the wealth that Solomon had poured into the sanctuary he built. The Lord, through Haggai, spoke what the remnant was thinking so He could put an end to the discouraging sentiment.

   Perhaps these individuals are now tempted to give up the rebuilding effort yet again since realistic expectation must admit that the grandeur of the new structure will not match that of the old. The leaders, Zerubbabel and Joshua, may be feeling this pressure as well, since they are addressed in the next verse.

What Do You Think?

   What role, if any, should “realistic expectations” play in how the church is led?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

   In building programs | In attendance | In giving | In spiritual growth | Other

   The restored building had nothing of the splendor of Solomon’s temple, but it was still God’s house, built according to His plan and for His glory. The same ministry would be performed at its altars and the same worship presented to the Lord. Times change, but ministry goes on.

 

The Assurance of God’s Presence (Haggai 2:4-5)

6. What words did God use to encourage the people (Haggai 2:4, 5)?

   The Lord’s exhortation to both leaders and people is exactly the same: be strong for thework. Then the assurance of Haggai 1:13 is repeated: I am with you.

   The exhortation be strong may seem to be overly simple advice in a situation like this, but in truth it is precisely what the people need to hear. The lack of strength (both spiritual and physical) in the face of opposition had caused the initial attempt to rebuild the temple to slow down and eventually stop all together (Ezra 4; compare Nehemiah 4). The people must recognize that the strength they need is not that of their own; the Lord is indeed with them. He will continue to empower their efforts as they move forward together in faith and obedience.

   The Lord adds to the exhortation of the previous verse a reminder of a promise He made to their ancestors who had emerged from bondage in Egypt (see Haggai 2:5). He had promised to be with them, and the power of His Spirit has been manifested at different times (examples: Exodus 31:1-5; Judges 6:34, 35; 15:14, 15).

   The promise of God’s presence was also an encouragement to both Joshua (Josh. 1:5, 9; 3:7) and Solomon (1 Chron. 28:20). Believers today can claim the same promise as they serve the Lord, “for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Heb. 13:5, and see Deut. 31:6, 8).

  The Prophet Zechariah, who ministered with Haggai, also emphasized the importance of trusting the Holy Spirit for the enablement needed to do God’s will: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts” (Zech. 4:6).

 

The Promise of God’s Glory (Haggai 2:6-9)

7. What future “shaking” is God referring to (Haggai 2:6-9)?

   If the people are becoming discouraged because of the apparent inferiority of the second temple, then the Lord now offers a glimpse of what He has in store for this structure. His announcement of His intention to “shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land” may bring to mind Exodus 19:18, where Mount Sinai “quaked greatly” when the Lord descended upon it. Now, however, Haggai pictures a coming shaking that will be worldwide in its impact.

   In Haggai 2:7, the phrase “desired of all nations” has been interpreted in numerous ways. For instance, some think it refers to treasures the Gentile nations would bring to adorn the Jerusalem temple. The view of Jewish tradition and of the majority of early Christian thought is that this phrase refers to the Messiah. Based on the quotes appearing in Hebrews 12:26-27, many still think Haggai 2:7 ultimately refers to the Messiah and the glory to be displayed at His second coming. In any case, the all-powerful Lord promised that once the temple was rebuilt, He would fill His house of worship with His “glory.”

   God knew that the returnees to Judah from exile in Babylon were living in poverty and that they did not have extensive material resources to build a magnificent sanctuary rivaling what Solomon constructed centuries earlier. In response, the Lord declared that because He ruled over the earth, He ultimately owned and controlled its precious resources, including the planet’s “silver” and “gold” (v. 8). Consequently, He would ensure that the remnant had what they needed to succeed in rebuilding the temple.

   In Haggai 2:9, the sovereign Lord also promised that in the rebuilt temple He would “give peace.” Centuries later, the sanctuary under construction would be the place where the Messiah and His followers would proclaim a message of peace. From a New Testament perspective, this “peace” is the spiritual reconciliation given to believers now (see Rom. 5:1, 10; Col. 1:20). Additionally, some think that what is spoken of in Haggai 2:9 refers to ultimate world peace in the future at the second coming of the Messiah (see Isa. 9:6, 7). Some believers wonder how God could use their limited talents and resources. Yet, as we see in Haggai, God is able to add to what we offer in ways we cannot imagine. We may not even see the result of what He does with what we give Him, but we can be confident that He will use our efforts and reward our service. 

POINTS TO PONDER

   God wants us to trust Him in all things – even during a very tough rebuilding process.  We may become distracted or discouraged, but the finished product is always worth it in the end. “The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts” (Haggai 2:9).

 

CONCLUSION

Surviving the Shaking

   The houses that the makeover team constructs on the television show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition are exceptionally beautiful. They also show a high quality workmanship. A viewer can see the work being done by people who know what they’re doing and that they are building something that will last.

   Of course, those houses won’t last. No matter how structurally sound a house or any other building may be at completion, it cannot last forever. No earthquake has to occur—any structure will deteriorate as time passes, and various parts will need to be repaired or replaced. This is bound to occur with whatever belongs to the category of “things that are shaken” (Hebrews 12:27).

   By contrast, Christians are “receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved” (Hebrews 12:28). Those who belong to that kingdom know the peace promised at the conclusion of today’s text. Although the world around us may shake and the world’s treasures and valuables age and decay, we remain firm and unmoved.

   We trust in the promises of the God who does not change. As David expressed it so well, “Truly my soul waiteth upon God: from him cometh my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation; he is my defence; I shall not be greatly moved” (Psalm 62:1, 2).

 

PRAYER

   Heavenly Father, may our attitude today echo that of H. F. Lyte: “Change and decay in all around I see; O Thou who changest not, abide in me!” In Jesus’ name, amen.

 

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER

   God’s promises are unshakable.

 


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