Getting Back on Track

Key Verse: “Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your ceiled houses, and this house lie waste?”
—Haggai 1:4

Lesson Scripture:
Haggai 1:2-14

HAGGAI THE PROPHET was a contemporary of Ezra, Jeshua and Zerubbabel, and was evidently one of those who returned to Jerusalem from Babylonian captivity. Shortly after the Jews rebuilt their altar and Temple foundation, their adversaries began to frustrate their work and discourage them from continuing, threatening dire consequences if the Temple was rebuilt. The Jews were affected so that as it is recorded in Ezra 4:24, “Then ceased the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem.”

Haggai was quick to see what had happened. He observed that the people were making excuses. They said, “The time is not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built.” (Hag. 1:2) He also saw that, although they had stopped work on the Lord’s house, they continued to work on their personal homes. In the Key Verse the prophet chides Israel because they were dwelling in ‘ceiled’ houses; that is, houses that were enclosed and roofed, yet the house of God lay waste. He told them that because of this, some of their temporal blessings—their crops, water, clothes, and wages—would be found to be lacking. (vss. 6,9-11) Twice Haggai says to the people, “Consider [Marginal Translation: set your heart on] your ways.”—vss. 5,7

Rather than continue to criticize the people, Haggai instead asked them to examine their hearts. He believed that if they really did this, they would realize the error of their way and quickly return to the rebuilding work. He reiterated to them that God would be pleased if they so responded. Speaking on behalf of God, he says, “Go 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.” (vs. 8) Haggai’s encouragement worked. 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.” (vs. 12) The prophet, again speaking on behalf of God, said, “I am with you, saith the Lord.” (vs. 13) The people’s spirits were once again stirred up in a positive manner, and they began to work on the house of God.—vs. 14

Sometimes we, like Israel, spend much time dwelling on the temporal needs of life and we begin to neglect the more important spiritual matters, the building of our characters after the example of Christ. We say, “I am too busy today to work for the Lord. Perhaps tomorrow it will be more convenient.” It is at these times that we especially need to heed the words of Apostle Paul, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.” (II Cor. 13:5) When we do this, we realize that the temporal things of life, though needful to the flesh, should not so preoccupy our time and efforts as to hinder us from seeking spiritual things. Jesus spoke of this in his sermon on the mount, “I say unto you, Take no [anxious] thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? … for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt. 6:25,32,33) If we follow our Lord’s advice, we will be able to give priority to the more important aspects of our lives, that of making our calling and election sure.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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