Passage: Haggai 1:1-15
Guide for Group Discussion or Personal Reflection
This pandemic season has been a “reality check” for many of us, as it’s challenged us to consider what we’ve been building our lives upon. Now that we’re (hopefully) emerging from the worst part of the pandemic, we need to consider our priorities freshly.
Through the prophet Haggai, God first challenges the priorities of the Jewish exiles who had returned to Jerusalem from Babylon. Though the people had started to rebuild the fallen temple, things had stalled for over 18 years, and the temple laid in disrepair—a not so subtle sign that they undervalued God’s presence in their midst, even as they worked hard on building their own “paneled houses” (1:4). Like the people in Haggai’s day, we too need to thoughtfully assess our own priorities, digging beneath the surface of our lives and asking what we’re really giving ourselves to first.
Likewise, the Lord also addresses the consequences of the people’s priorities—they had “sown much, but harvested little”, and “never had their fill” (1:5-6). By frustrating their plans, God wants Israel—and us today—to grasp that life apart from him will always leave us empty and unsatisfied, longing for more.
Finally, by the power of his Spirit, God changes Israel’s priorities. The people fear the Lord freshly and obey his command to “go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house” (1:8). Even at the very outset of their repentance, they receive God’s assurance that “I am with you” (1:13)—a picture of his unfailing love and commitment to us, even in our wavering commitment to him. A thousand years later, God would demonstrate this same commitment to us by “templing” with us in the person of his Son, who came to rescue us and build us into a people who honor him.
- God Challenges Our Priorities (1:1-4)
- God Addresses the Consequences of Our Priorities (1:5-11)
- God Changes Our Priorities (1:12-15)
Group Discussion & Personal Reflection Guide
Re-read the passage (Haggai 1:1-15)
God Challenges Our Priorities (1:1-4)
Q) Re-read Haggai 1:1-4, and meditate on the details together:
- Why do you think the people said, “the time has not yet come to build the house of the Lord”? (vs. 2)
- What is the significance of the people’s living in “paneled houses”? (vs. 4)
- What does the contrast between the state of the people’s houses and the state of the Lord’s house reveal about the peoples’ heart, and about their priorities?
Q) In verse 2, the people reason, “the time has not yet come to build the house of the Lord”. How do you think they rationalized this lack of obedience? Can you give an example of a time when you delayed obedience to God, and were able to rationalize it away?
Q) It is typically easier to observe other people’s lives and get a sense for what their “first priorities” are, and harder to discern our own priorities. Why do you think it’s often hard to see our own priorities clearly? What are some ways that we can begin to more honestly and clearly discern our own priorities? How can we invite others into this process?
Q) What might somebody conclude about your priorities if they were only able to see:
- Your/your family’s finances?
- Your/your family’s schedule?
- How you spend your free time?
God Addresses the Consequences of Our Priorities (1:5-11)
Q) Re-read Haggai 1:5-11. What is God inviting Israel to realize about the life that is not built on him? How does God himself get involved in frustrating Israel’s faulty priorities—what images and phrases communicate God’s personal involvement in the process?
Q) Describe a time or area in your life where you felt the frustration and dissatisfaction of not putting God first. What was it like? What kind of frustration did you experience and what did you learn? How did God seem “personally involved”?
Q) Re-read Haggai 1:8. What would repentance look like for Israel? How did God promise to respond to their repentance?
God Changes Our Priorities (1:12-15)
Q) Re-read Haggai 1:12-15. How did the Lord respond to the people’s repentance and obedience? What message did he assure them with? How did he empower them?
Q) How can the Lord’s consistent presence with us empower us to change our own priorities?
Q) What is one practical step you want to take this month, to give God “first place” in an area of your life? How might your church community support you in this?
Additional Application Questions
Q) How else would you like to engage with God this week?
Q) How can you tangibly care for those in your community this week, both inside and outside of the church?
Spend time praying for yourselves, our church community, the North Shore community, and our nation and world—particularly those most vulnerable.