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Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 41 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 10: First Things First (Haggai) *
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!
- A Message About Priorities
- 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?
- Read Haggai 1:2. What did the people of that time
actually say? (The time has not yet come to rebuild the
- 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.)
- 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.)
- Does God get into a discussion of when the seventy-year prophecy actually expired? (No.)
- What is God's point? (The people lacked concern about
what matters to God.)
- 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
- How is that question applicable to our lives today?
- Read Haggai 1:5-6. Will God cause us to have financial
problems if we are not generous towards His work?
- 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?"
- If so, why are these people being punished?
- Is God giving payback to the people who have
neglected His temple? If not, what do you think that
God is doing?
- 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...")
- 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.)
- 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.)
- Message Received
- Read Haggai 1:12-15. How do the people react to God's
message? (They start working on God's house.)
- 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.)
- 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.")
- Read Haggai 2:1-3. What is the good news here? (That the
people completed the work of rebuilding God's temple.)
- What is the bad news? (It is "nothing" compared to
the glory of the former temple.)
- 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.)
- God's Reaction
- 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.)
- How is God with them? ("My Spirit remains among
- 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.)
- What does God say about silver and gold? (He owns it
- What is God's point? (If we partner with God,
He will bring the "silver and gold" for His
- 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!)
- 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.)
- A Prosperity Parable
- Read Haggai 2:10-12. Do you agree with the priests? (Yes.)
- Read Haggai 2:13. Do you agree with the priests' answer?
- 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.)
- 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
- 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.)
- What is the source of blessings, being in contact
with other good people? (That is good, but the true
source is God.)
- Read Haggai 2:20-23. What does it mean to be blessed by
God? (He defeats your enemies!)
- 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!)
- 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?
- Next week: Visions of Hope (Zechariah).
* Copr. 2013, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.