When have you invested resources into a cause or activity only to find out later that they were wasted? How did you feel?
The people of Israel had returned back to the land after Cyrus overtook the Babylonian Empire in 538 B.C. Haggai was sent almost two decades later (520 B.C.) to question the people’s priorities. Read Haggai 1:1-6. Over the course of those two decades, they had worked on their own houses and neglected to build the house of God. They paneled (finished and decorated) their houses but the temple was still ruins. The temple was the epicenter of God’s activity at the time, making their neglect a real barometer of their spiritual state. What reason did the people give for this neglect? How does God’s rhetorical question (v. 4) reveal the truth?
Clearly, God wants the people to stop and reflect on their tendency to pursue their own pleasure and glory first. How have you sought your pleasure and glory before God’s? How have you spent your time, money, energy, and talents on your own pursuits, leaving little—if anything—for the work of God’s kingdom?
In Haggai 1:6, God describes the results of neglecting God. How does he describe their experience of life? In what ways can you relate to their experience? How does their experience illustrate Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6:19-21 and 16:25-26?
After questioning their current priorities, God helps His people understand the reason why they are to invest in the temple, in His kingdom work. Read Haggai 1:7-12. What is God calling the people to do? Why does He want them to do it?
God wants His people to seek first His pleasure and glory. In the same vein, Jesus tells His disciples that He’s calling them to live in single-minded pursuit of God’s kingdom (see Matthew 6:33). Seeking something first means both that we go after it before (order) everything else and above (rank) everything else. How do we know if that’s how we are pursuing God? The investment of our resources will tell on us every time! Notice God’s description of Israel’s life: they “looked for” much and therefore “busied” themselves with their own houses. In other words, we always invest our first and best in what we most desire. According to that measure, what would other people say you desire most?
The people responded to Haggai’s message with obedience (Haggai 1:12). They feared the LORD—that is, they reoriented their lives around Him. How could we do the same?
The call to seek first God’s kingdom is not a call to self-salvation. The people got a crash-course in grace as they started building the temple. Read Haggai 2:1-12, 20-23. Why were the people discouraged as they worked to rebuild the temple? How does God encourage them?
God encourages the people not to fear and to keep working on the basis of His presence and work among them. He promises twice (v. 6 and v. 21) that He will “shake the heavens and the earth.” How are these promises ultimately fulfilled in Christ?
How does God’s work among us and in us motivate and empower us to put Him first? What specific discouragements or fears are you currently battling? How could God’s earth-shaking work in Christ give you courage to keep working?
How does God’s work for you in Christ help to assure you that investment in His kingdom is always worth it?
You can pray with us . . .
- Praise God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for His preeminence in all things. Worship Him as the One from whom, through whom and to whom all things exist (Romans 11:36).
- How have you sought your pleasure and glory before God’s? Confess the foolishness of this pursuit, asking God to forgive you and reorder your priorities.
- Give thanks to Jesus for His work to save you from the wreckage of your pursuit of your own pleasure and glory. Praise Him that through His life, death, and resurrection you are accepted by God and transformed into His likeness.
- Who do you know that needs to be encouraged in their service in God’s kingdom? Ask God to nourish their faith in His promise to “shake the heavens and the earth” so that no good work is done in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).
- Ask the Holy Spirit to stir in you a heart to seek first the kingdom of God. Pray that He would show you how you have failed to prioritize Him, and ask that He would create in you a hunger and thirst for His gracious rule in your life.