Put God First

Put God first

Waiting on God


We saw in last week’s lesson how approximately 50 exiles responded to the decree of Cyrus, returned to Jerusalem, and laid the foundation of the Temple with great rejoicing.

Unfortunately, their rejoicing was short-lived. The opposition they dreaded came up on them. The mixed population of Samaria opposed them with extreme bitterness and persistence. As a result, the people became discouraged and ceased rebuilding.

Sixteen years passed. It looked as though the people had forgotten their purpose: to rebuild the Temple. The foundation was still there. The joy was gone. Laziness and slothfulness now characterized the people.

But God had a man. The Spirit moved the prophet Haggai. Through the preaching Haggai, the Holy Spirit brought the people out of their lethargy and fear. Soon, with faith inspired, they moved out again, and began to rebuild.

Every believer needs the same kind of inspiration. We must, by the Spirit and the Word, become aware of our responsibility: to serve in God’s house and help build His Kingdom. Opposition and difficulty may be excuses for not doing God’s work, but never reasons. God always tests our faith.

It was now nearly sixty-seven years since Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed Solomon’s Temple.

Haggai 1:1-12
1In the second year of Darius the king the sixth month, in the first day of the month, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet unto Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, saying, 2Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the LORD’S house should be built. 3Then came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying, 4It is time for you, O ye, to dwell in your ceiled houses, and this house lie waste? 5Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, Consider your ways. 6Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink: ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes. 7Thus saith the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways. 8Go up to the mountain and bring wood and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it and I will be glorified, saith the LORD. 9Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of Mine house that is waste; and ye run every man unto his own house. 10Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit. 11And I called for a drought upon the land, and upon the mountains and upon the corn, and upon the new wine, and upon the oil and upon that which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men, and upon cattle, and upon all the labor of the hands. 12Then 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.
Haggai 2:4-8
4It is time for you, O ye, to dwell in your ceiled houses, and this house lie waste? 5Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, Consider your ways. 6Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink: ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes. 7Thus saith the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways. 8Go up to the mountain and bring wood and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it and I will be glorified, saith the LORD.
Haggai 2:9-12
9Ye looked for much, and,lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of Mine house that is waste; and ye run every man unto his own house. 10Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit. 11And I called for a drought upon the land, and upon the mountains and upon the corn, and upon the new wine, and upon the oil and upon that which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men, and upon cattle, and upon all the labor of the hands. 12Then 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.

Sixteen years had passed since the return from captivity. The captivity of the Jews in Babylon had cured them of worshiping idol gods. However, after they returned to their native land, they were not diligent about giving the LORD first place in their lives.

To begin with, the first thought and concern of the people was the rebuilding of the altar and the Temple; however, difficulties developed, and eventually political problems stopped the work, and the zeal and enthusiasm of the people died away in the face of difficulties.

Although the storm passed, the workers failed to return to the task. Then came a period of distress: the harvest failed; there was drought, trouble and sorrow. Haggai was sent to explain the calamity and urge them to get rid of their sinful laziness and despondency.

Very little is known of the prophet Haggai’s personal history. He began to prophesy two months before Zechariah, but while Zechariah prophesied for three years, Haggai prophesied only three months and twenty-four days. Haggai, along with Zechariah and Malachi, was one of the three Old Testament prophets to minister to the Jews following the captivity.

Some people seem to be gifted of God or seeing what needs to be done and then motivating others to help get it done. Haggai was such a person. The two chapters of this little book are about one project: the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem.

As a consequence of the sins of Israel, God allowed the Babylonians to invade and destroy the land of Judah, the city of Jerusalem, and the Temple. Many of the people of Judah were taken as captives to Babylon, but after seventy years, the Persian King Cyrus allowed significant numbers of Jews to return to Judah and Jerusalem.

Life was difficult for the Jews who returned to their native land, but God enabled Haggai to see that since the Jews had built houses for themselves, they should also rebuild the house of the Lord, the Temple in Jerusalem.

God sent Haggai to the people to stir up their former zeal to rebuild the Temple that Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed.

When the work was first halted it could be attributed to the opposition of enemies, but now the people’s lethargy was the real hindrance. The enemies were gone. A year and a half into Darius’ reign the Jews had made no more progress toward rebuilding the Temple.

They had settled comfortably in their homeland again and had more interest in their personal well- being than the LORD’s work. In verse two there seems to be a rebuke in God’s reference to the Jews as “this people’ rather than “my people”. It indicated they were out of touch with His purpose and desires.

While no one was saying they would never rebuild the temple, they kept repeating that it wasn’t the right time yet (See Haggai 1: 2, above).

He reminded the Jews that even though they thought the time had not come to resume work on the Temple, they had found plenty of time to build their own houses. Their houses were paneled and luxuriously fitted. The people had no problem finding money to provide themselves with every possible comfort, while making no effort to gather the finances needed for work on the Temple.

Haggai 1:4-5
4Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your ceiled houses and this house lie waste? 5Now therefore thus saith the LORD of host, Consider your ways.

It was a sad commentary on the people’s spiritual condition to have the empty foundations of the Temple surrounded by attractive homes.

The LORD was not implying that it as wrong for the people to live in comfortable houses. What displeased Him was the kind of priorities they had adopted. They were devoting all their efforts to personal comfort while neglecting God’s work.

As Christians, we have to be careful to maintain the proper balance between our duty to God and our own interest. Seeking first the kingdom of God is a permanent obligation.

We do well to continually consider our ways, whether we are pleasing to God. Like the Jews after their captivity, we might never consider bowing to the image of a false god, but does this mean that God has first place in our lives? Materialism and self-indulgence are very subtle forms of idolatry, but idolatry, none the less, for they push God out of first place in our lives and hinder us from really serving Him.

The Jews were supposed to be witnesses of the true God to the Gentile nations. But their failure to rebuild the Temple of the LORD, while they pursued their own interest, did not reflect well on their God, in the eyes of their pagan neighbors. Through His prophet, the LORD instructed the Jews to go to the hill country surrounding Jerusalem and cut trees for the wood to rebuild the Temple. Only wood is mentioned because the stone foundation of the Temple had been laid some fifteen years before.

The LORD did not ask for money. Instead, He asked the men of Judah to invest their time and labor to give of themselves.

Haggai 1:7-8
7Thus saith the LORD of hosts; consider your ways. 8Go up to the mountain and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified.

There are countless ways to glorify God, and one of the most obvious is by building houses of worship. Of course, God does not dwell in buildings made with the hands of men, for we, His redeemed creatures, are His temple, but houses of worship are visible symbols of the fact that many people do believe in the true God.

Haggai 1:9-11
9Ye looked for much and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house. 10Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit. 11And I called for a drought upon the land, and upon the mountains, and upon the corn, and upon the new wine, and upon the oil, and upon that which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men, and upon cattle, and upon all the labour of the hands.

Haggai had already mentioned the weather-related disasters which had come upon Judah as a sign of God’s displeasure at His house not being rebuilt. This passage is a review in greater detail of these weather-related calamities but God had called for a drought over the whole land of Judah for this neglect. Even in the mountains where ordinarily the up-sloping winds from the Mediterranean Sea could be depended upon to produce rain, there had been no rain.

During the summer months when there was no rain, heavy dew normally supplied the necessary moisture for crops, but God had caused the dew to stop. This drought that prevailed everywhere was part of His discipline.

On numerous occasions in Israel’s history the people resisted a prophetic message, but that was not the response to Haggai’s ministry. The Governor and High Priest took immediate action that inspired the people to rededicate themselves to God. The people recognized that the LORD had sent Haggai and the fear of the LORD was manifested among them again.

When the people responded, God also responded. His first words were, “I am with you.” They would need such encouragement as they began their work.

Haggai 1:12-13
12Then Zerubbabel the son of Sheatiel, 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. 13Then spake Haggai the LORD’S messenger in the LORD’S message unto the people, saying, I am with you, saith the LORD.

After 23 days after Haggai’s first message, they began their work. Debris had to be cleared away and workmen had to organize the cutting of the timber and the gathering of other materials. When God’s people respond in obedience to Him, He responds in blessings to them.

In Haggai Chapter 2 there is a beautiful ending. Older Jews in Haggai’s day remembered Solomon’s Temple and its lavish furnishings of gold, silver and other precious materials. God saw their discouragement as they realized their limited resources could not build a temple to compare in grandeur with the first one. The LORD assured the people He was with them as He was with the people of Solomon’s day. He was bound to them by His covenant as He was when He led their ancestors out of Egypt.

Haggai 2:4-5
4Yet 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: 5According to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so My Spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not.

God’s presence—not silver and gold--was what made the Temple His house. It was the people, God dwelling in them.

Haggai 2:7-9 looks past the Temple about to be built, to the Millennial Temple whose glory will exceed anything ever seen before.

Haggai 2:7-9
7And 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. 8The silver is Mine and the gold is Mine saith the LORD of hosts. 97The 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 Host.
Author: Nannie Mae Jordan   (Transcribed by Joyce Carter   Transcribed and Formatted by Jerry Knight)

 

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