Haggai Bible Study (Renew the Vision)

Haggai 1, Consider Your Ways


We have been studying through the book of Ezra as we are trying to encourage our hearts to rebuild, renew, and restore the work God has given us to do. But in Ezra 4 we see the work stops because of the discouragement, the fear, and the threats that are being leveled against the people. Ezra 5 opens that God sends Haggai and Zechariah to be prophets to these people. But the book of Ezra does not record what these prophets said. So I want to take a quick three lesson detour and come to the book of Haggai to see what Haggai was saying to the people. We will look at what Zechariah said to the people later this spring. But we will look at what the prophet Haggai had to say. The message that we are going to see Haggai repeat to these people is to consider their ways (Haggai 1:5, 7).

This is an idea that God wants us to do regularly. God wants us to stop and think about our own lives. God wants us to stop and consider our ways. We need to stop and give careful thought to how we are living our lives. Think about not only the decisions you are making but how you are coming to make those decisions. The problem is that things just get going in life and a lot of time can go by before we stop and think about how we got to where we are in life. This is the message of Haggai in this first chapter. Think about where you are in life and how you got there. Let’s look at why Haggai had to say this to these people and then we will consider what this message means for us.

The Problem (1:1-4)

The prophecy opens with the Lord revealing what the people in Jerusalem are saying. They are saying, “The time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord.” It is not the right time yet to rebuild. We will build the house of the Lord, but not yet. Now because we have been studying Ezra we know why the people are saying this. We know in Ezra 4:4-5 that the resistance has risen against them. It was smooth sailing in the beginning when they came back laid the foundation to the temple. But now the work is getting hard. The people are against them. The people are discouraging them. The people are making them afraid to do the work. The book of Ezra tells us that officials were being bribed to work against them. So the people of Jerusalem have their reasons for why they are not working of the temple. They are dealing with an active resistance to building the temple and so the work has stopped.

So God has a question that he wants the people to think about. Look at verse 4. “Is it time for you yourselves to live in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?” Notice that God does not answer this question immediately. He just allows the question to hang there. Should God’s work remain incomplete while your own houses are complete? Should you be enjoying the ease and comforts of your own house when God’s house still has work to be done? It becomes apparent that the issue is that complacency has taken over the people. They have the comforts of their own homes, their own families, and their own lives so that they have become complacent and are neglecting God’s work.

In short, you have your priorities wrong. You have put the wrong thing first. You are concerned about your paneled houses but do not have a concern for the work of the Lord. You made sure your own house was in order but you did not make sure that God’s house was in order. What a powerful punch that God makes with this question! You have put your physical concerns ahead of God’s concerns. You have put your desires ahead of your spiritual needs. It is amazing how God sits in the quiet waiting for us to put him first in our lives. We have so many things that clamor for our attention so that God can be left sitting quietly in the corner waiting to see if we will even consider our ways or remember him at all. God sat quietly in the corner for 16 years while these people gave their time and attention to the daily affairs of life. Please notice that they did not reject God. They just said that they would get back to God later. Now is not the time for God’s work. The time for God’s work will be later. So God sits quietly in our lives as we go about our lives, our jobs, our families, our homes, and our schedules.

The Awakening (1:5-11)

Now God says he wants the people to think. You planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but your are not satisfied. You drink, but you are not filled. You have clothes, but you are not warm. You earn money, but you never seem to have enough (1:6). God is asking his people to stop and consider what is going on in their lives. God is saying to think about the outcomes of your decisions. Look at verse 9. “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little.” You put all of this time and effort into your desires, your ways, your comfort, and your way of life. You thought that by doing this you would have something to show for it. You thought by doing this you would be filled, happy, and satisfied. But God says it did not happen. You are putting yourself first. How is that working for you? Why did these choices lead to pain and emptiness? Why did it not work? I planted much, I ate, I drank, I got a bunch of stuff, and I made a lot of money. But I still do not have anything to show for it. I am still not blessed or satisfied. What happened?

Look at verse 9. “What you brought home, I blew it away.” Look at verse 10. Because of you, the heavens are not producing. God says that he blew it away. Look at verse 11. God says that he called for the drought. But notice what God called a drought on because he wanted you to see that it was just some scientific explanation. God called for a drought on the fields, mountains, grain, new wine, olive oil, and everything else the ground produces. But keep reading. God called for a drought on people, livestock, and on all the labor of their hands. God did not only make the economy go bad for the people. God also made the drought on the people and the animals and on the work they do. God is saying that you can work as hard as you want but he can make it where nothing comes from it. The only reason you are blessed and have anything is because God gave it to you and allowed you to enjoy it. As Job said, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).

So here is what God is saying. If your life continues to feel empty, consider your ways. If you are working hard in this world and you still have an emptiness, consider your ways. God was not allowing these people to have rest or satisfaction in their lives so that they would stop and consider their ways. Stop and think about your life. God is trying to wake us up when we are not putting first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.

Refocus (1:5-11)

So God wants his people to refocus. Consider your ways and refocus. Go back to verse 9. God says he blew away all their hard work. Why? “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house.” You are not busy with God. You are busy with your own life and that is why your life is not satisfying. Consider your ways and refocus. Look at verse 8. “Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored.” God wants them to change their priorities. What should be my new priority? If I am not to be working for myself and my life, then what am I to be working for? Work for God’s pleasure and God’s honor. We are to consider our ways and think if we are making decisions that are for God’s pleasure and God’s honor. Friends, this is how Jesus lived his life. Listen to his own words:

“And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him” (John 8:29). What is Jesus saying? Jesus is saying that he did not live for himself but for God. Jesus is saying that he made his life decisions based on what was pleasing to God. Jesus made his decisions so that God was honored. In John 12:28 Jesus said, “Father, glorify your name.” This is what the people in Haggai’s day are failing to do. They are not working on the temple because they have the wrong priority.

Work Restarts (1:12-15)

Please notice what happens next. In verse 12 we read that the whole remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the Lord and the message from Haggai the prophet. Haggai encouraged the people, telling them that the Lord is with them (1:13). God had not abandoned them but was with them for this work. So the people were stirred by the Lord to do the work on God’s house (1:14). They considered their ways, they refocused their priorities, and immediately began to work on God’s house.

We must not tell God that his work and his priority can wait. We cannot deal with God eventually. We must not put off our spiritual commitments. We have been called to work in his kingdom and give him the glory. We are called to make his priority our priority. God will not wait for us to come around to him eventually. It is never an opportune time to do God’s work. Do not put him off in your life any longer. Consider your ways. Consider where you are. Is God showing you that you need to turn back to him because there is great emptiness in your life? We hold ourselves back from lasting joy and true satisfaction because we do not consider our ways, refocus our lives, and restart on our spiritual work for the Lord. Is it time for us to be living in our paneled houses while the work of the Lord remains desolate?

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