First Things First! (Haggai) – Lesson 10

JFL Curtis Hall2Standing before a room full of sales agents, my former manager would often use the phrase “constant course correction”. It was an acknowledgment on his part that it was easy to get off tract and lose focus of the important things while spending time on things that mattered much less. We needed reminders to make the first things first. Our study this week of the Book of Haggai reveals that this is not a new phenomenon.

Let’s do a quick history lesson leading up to Haggai’s writings. Through just plain foolishness, stubbornness and apostasy the Children of Israel had lost everything. Here’s a snippet of this history as recorded in 2 Chronicles 36:17-20:

“Therefore he brought upon them the king of the Chaldees, who slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion upon young man or maiden, old man, or him that stooped for age: he gave them all into his hand. And all the vessels of the house of God, great and small, and the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king, and of his princes; all these he brought to Babylon. And they burnt the house of God, and brake down the wall of Jerusalem, and burnt all the palaces thereof with fire, and destroyed all the goodly vessels thereof. And them that had escaped from the sword carried he away to Babylon”.

Miraculously (but according to prophecy) after 70 years the then reigning ruler, King Cyrus, issues a decree to allow the captives to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple of God. It’s hard to imagine how huge this must have been. I am confident it is all that was talked about by these captives in a foreign land. Tears of joy must have flowed from all eyes. Dancing, shouting and praising was definitely in order now. They were free to go and return to Jerusalem! Not only free, but going with tangible gifts for the erection of the temple. This could have been nothing but the hand of God. A miracle of miracles.

But how long does it take for miracles to be forgotten?

As with any endeavor directed by God and for the glory of God, there will be opposition. Remember the story of the children of Israel after fleeing Egypt standing before the Red Sea? Remember the story of the twelve spies on the border of Canaan? Moving forward always encounters opposition.  The same was true as Haggai now stands on the fields of history.

Years have gone by since the people had returned for the singular purpose to rebuild the temple. Yet, we find that the temple, so precious to their history, so meaningful to their future, was still lying in ruins and unbuilt. What was going on?

“Thus speaks the Lord of hosts, saying: ‘This people says, “The time has not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built.”’” Then the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet, saying, Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?” Haggai 1:2-4 NKJV. What happened to the miracle?

Opposition happened. Everyone was not happy about the undertaking of God’s chosen people. Everyone didn’t celebrate their purpose nor did everyone wish them to succeed. As a matter of fact, many went out of their way to make it as difficult as possible to accomplish their goal. And sadly, the opposition won.

I must pause in the story to ask, what happened to your miracle? I know you’ve had one. I know God opened a way for you out of no way. He made a bridge over troubled waters for you and it was as clear as anything you’ve ever known that “This is the way, walk ye in it”. Isaiah 30:21. So what happened to your miracle?

Haggai reveals to the people that the distinct failures they were having in the personal lives was as a result of neglecting their true purpose in life; rebuilding God’s temple. “Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Consider your ways! Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified,” says the Lord. “You looked for much, but indeed it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why?” says the Lord of hosts. “Because of My house that is in ruins, while every one of you runs to his own house.” Haggai 1:7-9

I’m so glad this story has a happy ending. This bit of course correction, along with the efforts of other men of God, rallied the people to complete the tasks they originally set out to do. Opposition could not override the miracle. They got it done.

Let’s keep our miracles alive, use the course-correction God sends us and get our missions done.

Here are a few Hit the Mark questions for this week’s lesson discussion:

What does “your purpose” mean to you?

What does the word “priority” mean to you?

Is there a difference between purpose and priority?

Why do you answer yes or no?

Isn’t it true that if one is having a lot of difficulties in their life, that is an indication that they must have their priorities out of order?

Why do you answer yes or no?

Isn’t it true that if things are going very well in a person’s life, they must have their priorities in the proper order?

Why do you answer yes or no?

Jesus, in Matthew 10:16 says, “be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves”. Please explain how this principle should be used in dealing with opposition.

We close this week with the words of Jesus to his disciples after a crushing and embarrassing defeat. It contains both instruction and hope to provide us constant course correction. Just as importantly it speaks to the opposition faced by all in fulfilling their purpose in life: And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.”  Matthew 17:20 

Until next week, let’s all continue to Hit the Mark in Sabbath School!

Teachers, check out my YouTube videos covering my preparation for my Sabbath School Lesson at the South Atlantic Conference Camp Meeting June 8th

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