Haggai • When Ministry "Things" Overshadow Our Ministry
Haggai is composed of 5 messages from God to the Jews who have returned from Babylon to rebuild the temple. Work was halted on the temple by order of King Artaxerxes due to a letter sent by Samaritans. The Jews had rejected the Samaritans request to join the project and entered this complaint against the Jews out of malice. However, it’s important to note that the Samaritans’ complaint (Ezra 4) and the response from King Artaxerxes specifically entailed the CITY, not the TEMPLE . So God’s tone through Haggai may seem harsh on the surface, but in reality the Jews have used the issue of rebuilding Jerusalem as an excuse to halt work on the temple; they really don’t have a justifiable reason for not continuing His work.
Q: What is the people’s point of view as stated in v.2?
A: They don’t believe the time is right for the rebuilding of the temple.
Q: What is God’s response to this as stated in v.3?
A: They seem to have all the time they need for their own houses but not God’s house/temple.
Q: What’s the implication of God describing their dwellings as “paneled houses”?
A: Having returned from exile they’ve gone far beyond just re-inhabiting their homes and making them “livable”; they’re spending their time and resources decorating and making them “fancy” to the eye. They’ve placed their personal priorities over those of God.
Q: Why don’t the people’s efforts seem to be producing results as intimated in v.6?
A: Not living according to God’s ways is being revealed in their physical difficulties. God is sending them a message about their spiritual condition through physical circumstances.
Q: What needs to be done to correct the situation according to v.8 & 9?
A: Return to God’s work of building the temple.
Q: What are some of the applications of this principle/situation in our life?
A: Deciding to trim back commitments to God in order to deal with other issues may lead to a spiraling situation that makes us worse off than when we started.
A: Answers are always found when running TO the Lord, not FROM Him.
A: The daily struggle of pride and self vs. God and His sovereignty.
Q: What was the first response of the remnant in v.12?
A: Obedience; a change of their heart.
Q: What was the next response?
A: Reverence; a change in attitude.
Q: When their outlook and attitude changed, what did God follow up with in v.13 & 14?
A: Encouragement and empowerment.
Q: According to v.13 what is, in reality, the only thing the remnant really needs to know and be strengthened by?
A: “I am with you.” Once you have God, everything else will fall into place.
Q: Were the right results obtained simply by working on a building?
A: No. This was a spiritual issue. The physical results of our ministry are produced through our obedience and reverence to Him.
Q: Are churches or organizations “rewarded” or “satisfied” with a building?
A: Only if through our desire to change our heart and attitude now so that we can take possession of His ministry, not His building.
Q: What is it that the people are feeling in v.3?
A: The work of the current temple is inadequate, not adhering to the physical splendor of the first temple.
Q: What is God trying to re-focus the people on in His encouragement in v.4 & 5?
A: Having His Spirit is more important and more “secure” than having a building, no matter how splendid its earthly design.
Q: Neither the Ark of the Covenant nor the Shekinah glory will ever reside in this temple. What “glory” is God talking about?
A: The glory of the Word wrapped in flesh (instead of the cloud) in the Messiah.
Q: What is God’s point in v.8 regarding gold and silver?
A: He owns all the gold and silver in the world whether it’s plastered all over this building or not. It’s not about physical decoration but spiritual content. A classic case of “substance” over “form.”
Q: What are some applications of this situation to our own lives today?
A: It’s more important to have Christ in one’s ministry than “things” that merely dress up a ministry.
A: Having “Christ” as the central enticement is more important than the features of the earthly facilities we build.
Note: This is the year when, according to Ezra 5, work on the temple resumed.
Q: What is the point God is trying to get across in the examples of v.11-13?
A: There is no middle ground between holiness and wickedness, between God’s definition of “clean” and “unclean”. And “holy” things will not make “unclean” things holy just by touching them.
Q: What has God continually taught throughout the Old Testament as the “cure” for uncleanness?
A: Obedience. (Psalm 51, for example.)
Q: Therefore, why has the remnant yet to experience God’s physical blessings?
A: They first had to prove their obedience not simply by word but by their actions.
Do we wait for God to answer our prayer and needs BEFORE we begin to obey Him in our walk?
Not just giving to a building fund in advance of the building being built as a sign of our obedience, we need to “…present our bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship…” (Romans 12:1)
Q: What is a signet ring?
A: Simplest answer – a ring with the seal of the king’s authority.
Q: Is God speaking literally of Zerubbabel, that Zerubbabel will wear Gods’ signet ring? Who is God speaking of?
A: The Messiah through Whom the seed line comes through Zerubbabel who is in the direct line between David and Jesus.
Q: But in the example of Zerubbabel specifically, what is the word God uses to describe him in v.23 now that Zerubbabel has become obedient to God?
A: “My servant”.
Application: God’s power and authority are born and transmitted in the course of ministry by those that are obedient to Him and beyond mere “things”, extending to the Spirit and working of God through the “things”.
Message 1: Answers are found running TO the Lord, not FROM Him.
Message 2: Our ministry begins with changing our heart and attitude NOW as we prepare to assume the whole calling of God.
Message 3: Our greatest ministry resource is Christ Himself.
Message 4: We must make the first move in showing obedience through our actions.
Message 5: These combine to form us into His servant Whose power and authority manifest themselves in the execution of our work for Him.
Remember: In the inventory of God’s gifts that He gave to provide all the various functions of the body of Christ, none of them actually needs a building or a single physical resource to accomplish His ministry. They can all accomplish His work through obedience alone. We don’t need the building to begin equipping and carrying out His work now because WE ARE His building. (Homework: Look up the New Testament verse that supports this statement.)