Monday, May 11, 2015

Seek Him First

My lesson for May 10, 2015 …

Be honest: do you have some books on your shelf that you started, but have not finished?

Are there half-complete craft projects on the work table in your garage?

Did you start a blog with the intention of updating it regularly, but forgot that it exists until this second?

Sometimes we start things with great zeal and then lose our enthusiasm. This is similar to Israel’s work on the temple when Haggai was first written.

"Every time you say yes to something, you’re saying no to something else. … Usually the first one to lose out on your crowded time is God." – Francis Chan

Thankfully, God finishes what He begins.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

*** Haggai [HAG -eye] prophecies in the period after 40,000 exiles returned from Babylon in 538 B.C, and faced troubles in rebuilding the temple that was destroyed in 586 by Nebuchadnezzar.

*** In 520 B.C. Haggai and Zechariah were commissioned by the Lord to stir up the people to not only rebuild the temple, but also to reorder their spiritual priorities. As a result, the temple was completed 4 years later.

*** Haggai is the second shortest book in the OT (Obadiah is the shortest). It takes place over just a four-month period.

REALITY DEFINED (HAG. 1:1-9)

1 In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the LORD came through Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, the governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest: 2 “The LORD of Hosts says this: These people say: The time has not come for the house of the LORD to be rebuilt.” 3 The word of the LORD came through Haggai the prophet: 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to live in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?” 5 Now, the LORD of Hosts says this: “Think carefully about your ways: 6 You have planted much but harvested little. You eat but never have enough to be satisfied. You drink but never have enough to become drunk. You put on clothes but never have enough to get warm. The wage earner puts his wages into a bag with a hole in it.” 7 The LORD of Hosts says this: “Think carefully about your ways. 8 Go up into the hills, bring down lumber, and build the house. Then I will be pleased with it and be glorified,” says the LORD. 9 “You expected much, but then it amounted to little. When you brought the harvest to your house, I ruined it. Why?” This is the declaration of the LORD of Hosts. “Because My house still lies in ruins, while each of you is busy with his own house.”

*** 1:1-2 - God asks Haggai to speak to leaders first.

--- Recall the context here. God used the kings of Persia to release the Israelites, but once they reached Jerusalem they found the city in ruins. When they began to rebuild the temple they faced opposition and stopped.

--- Haggai brought God’s direct message to two key Jewish leaders: Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah, and Joshua, the high priest.

--- The objections to rebuilding may have been economic, because their land was in trouble; or religious, because they thought the Messiah would rebuild the temple; or even timing, they thought they weren't supposed to build it yet. Such excuses showed that they were not pursuing God’s kingdom and righteousness.

--- QUESTION - What are some common ways we fail to put God first in our lives?

*** 1:3-9 - Now Haggai speaks to the people, giving them a message that God is not pleased.

--- QUESTION - What did the people choose to do instead of rebuilding the temple?

(Spent their time on their own desires like material things that never truly make them joyful; it's never enough. Verse 4 says they were living in paneled houses while God's house lay in ruins.)

--- Not rebuilding the temple was no little thing. The temple was the dwelling place of God’s special presence with His people.

--- 1 Kings 8:27-30: 27 “But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built! 28 Yet give attention to your servant’s prayer and his plea for mercy, LORD my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day. 29 May your eyes be open toward this temple night and day, this place of which you said, ‘My Name shall be there,’ so that you will hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place. 30 Hear the supplication of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.

--- As important as building God’s temple was, what God really wanted was a change of heart for His people. He wanted the people of Judah to reflect on what they thought was more important. Matthew 6:25-34 in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus speaks of the same issue: priorities. We the people get focused on the little things. We do not put God’s desires and the things of God first. It speaks to our spiritual health.

*** QUESTION - Consider the motives of the Israelites. Were they procrastinating or disobedient? What is the difference? How does the difference matter to God?

DISCIPLINE DEFINED (HAG. 1:10-11)

10 “So on your account, the skies have withheld the dew and the land its crops. 11 I have summoned a drought on the fields and the hills, on the grain, new wine, olive oil, and whatever the ground yields, on man and beast, and on all that your hands produce.”

*** "Acts of God" get the Hebrews' attention.

--- In Deuteronomy 7:13 God promised that as the people followed Him that He would bless them and increase their numbers: He will bless the fruit of your womb, the crops of your land—your grain, new wine and olive oil—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks in the land he swore to your ancestors to give you.

--- Just as He could use nature to bless them, God used drought and other natural disasters to discipline the Hebrews because they arrogantly stopped rebuilding the temple and instead began to restore their own houses and land.

--- Today, as then, not all natural disasters are God’s discipline (see Luke 13:4-5). In the case Haggai described, however, God revealed that He was using the people’s difficulties to prompt their thinking about priorities.

GLORY TO COME (HAG. 2:5-9)

5 “This is the promise I made to you when you came out of Egypt, and My Spirit is present among you; don’t be afraid.” 6 For the LORD of Hosts says this: “Once more, in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. 7 I will shake all the nations so that the treasures of all the nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,” says the LORD of Hosts. 8 “The silver and gold belong to Me”—this is the declaration of the LORD of Hosts. 9 “The final glory of this house will be greater than the first,” says the LORD of Hosts. “I will provide peace in this place”—this is the declaration of the LORD of Hosts.

*** A call to spiritual restoration.

--- Haggai’s initial speech to God’s people brought results (see Hag. 1:14-15). The Lord stirred up Zerubbabel’s spirit, along with Joshua’s spirit, and all the people joined in to work on God’s house.

--- God promised that because the Hebrew people finally got their priorities back in order and returned to rebuilding the temple, He would fill the temple with His glory.

*** The power of God’s help.

---Verse 5, God reminds the people that He is just as much with them as when He brought the Israelites out of Egypt 900 years earlier: Exodus 29:45-46 - 45 I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. 46 And they will know that I am Yahweh their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt, so that I might dwell among them. I am Yahweh their God.

*** The provision of God’s assets.

--- Verses 6-9 promise that God will provide the things they desire now that their priorities are in order. He affirms that He alone has sovereign control of all the nations and the ability to “shake all the nations so that the treasures will come.”

--- All we have comes from God. There should be no sense of entitlement that God has to meet our wants. We are stewards of His resources.

*** The promise of God’s affirmation.

--- Verse 9, what the people really want, peace. This is more than the absence of war, but also shows that the people will feel completeness, wholeness, life as it was meant to be. ((Isn’t that what we all really want?))

--- What ultimately gives us that peace? In the new covenant we can look to Jesus Christ, the greatest manifestation of God’s presence and glory.

As Christians, we must rise above the mere pursuit of happiness in this world and live for an even higher purpose, loving God and using the things He has given us to seek His kingdom. This is the real secret to satisfaction, fullness, and lasting joy.

TAKE-AWAY POINTS

Today we talked about Haggai’s message to the people about their choosing to focus on self-centered pursuits and not work on the rebuilding of God’s temple.

Think about these if/then statements:

If the Hebrew people had their priorities in order in the first place, then _____.

So, if my to-do list was organized by God, then I would do ______ more.

We have a tendency to become confused about the things that really matter. A recent news story illustrates this well: in January 2014, a 26-year old man dropped his cell phone into the frigid waters of the Chicago River. He climbed over a fence to retrieve it and fell into the icy water. His two friends climbed over the fence to help, but they fell into the water as well. By the time authorities arrived, the first man was dead, and one of his friends, a woman, had disappeared into the water. Her body was found two days later. Only the third friend survived. Speaking to the media, one passerby made a profound comment: “I guess I can understand the impulse. You cell phone is sort of part of you, [and] we are kind of tied to it. But it’s only a cell phone. To risk your life is incredible.”

Life is too short and too fragile to spend it chasing after the wrong priorities. This is why Jesus encouraged his followers to make God’s kingdom our greatest priority.

*** Think about your priorities. How high is God on your list?

*** Is what you believe displayed in how you live?

*** What difference would quick obedience to God make in your spiritual life?

No comments: