A Call To Build the House of the LORD (Haggai 1)

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Haggai 1

Historical Background: Welcome to the book of Haggai. In just 38 verses, Haggai is able to show the differing consequences of disobedience vs obedience, as well as point to the coming of the Messiah. He was practical and straight-to-the-point. No other prophet had results as direct, immediate and identifiable. His ministry lasted 4 months and the temple was completed and dedicated within 4 years.

As we saw in Ezra 5:1, it was the prophets Haggai and Zechariah who had initiated the renewal of the work which led to Tattenai’s letter and Darius’ decree. It has been 20 years since the exiles returned from Babylon. But the people seemed to have forgotten the point of returning . . .

1. As a child, what did you enjoy building? Train sets? Tinker toys? Lego’s? Model cars? Tree houses? Igloos? Who were you teammates in this?

2. As a child, where did you store your allowance? Today, are you a big spender or a big saver?

3. Why do you think Haggai chose to speak to both the civil and religious leaders? And why on the first day of that particular month and year (August 29, 520 BC)?

4. After years of starting and stopping in the rebuilding the temple, “this house remains a ruin” (verse 4)? Why? To what are the people to give careful thought (verses 5 – 8)?

5. How did the Lord force their consideration of Haggai’s alternative (verses 9ff)?

6. How did they respond to Haggai’s call (verse 12)? Who led their response? How soon did they begin (verse 15)?

7. How did God enable this (verses 12 – 14)?

8. When have you been part of a communal building project? Church? Village? Barn raising? What part did you play? How was the community itself built up at the same time? How did God move during the project?

9. How has God spoken to you about your financial priorities and spending habits? Have you seen “famine” or fruitfulness in your personal finances?

10. When have you put your wages into a “purse with holes in it”? How did that feel? What will you do about that hole?

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The Decree of King Darius (Ezra 6:1 – 12)

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Ezra 6:1 – 12

 

1. What might be the oldest document in your family archives? Your birth certificate? Grandpa’s journal? Someone’s high school yearbook? Why has it been kept so long?

2. What court order, parents’ ruling or umpire’s decision recently went your way in some contested case? How did you feel about that?

3. Compare this Aramaic memo of Cyrus’ decree with the Hebrew version in chapter 1:2 – 4. What additional details do you see here? Why would they have been added?

4. How does Darius’ decree (verses 6 – 12) expand on that earlier memo? What is his “punch line”? Why might this rub Tattenai the wrong way?

5. When have you invoked God’s authority as your own? Where do you draw the line and dare someone to cross over or defy your authority? What defiance (by your children, partners or subordinates) would trip your trigger and bring them into conflict with you?

6.What sacrifices and prayers are you offering on behalf of those in authority over you (verse 10; see 1 Timothy 2:1ff)?

7. Persian kings made a policy of restoring the religious institutions of native peoples (chapter 6:1 – 12). If this policy were practiced where you live, what native religions might flourish?

8. What restoration projects are you, like Darius, supporting with your money, as well as your mouth?

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Tattenai’s Letter To Darius (Ezra 5)

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Ezra 5

1. Are you a “pack-rat” selective saver or a toss-it-all person? How far back do you keep letters? Christmas cards? Email? Bills? Taxes?

2. In what way do the events of verses 1 and 2 represent a new start (see chapter 4:24; Haggai 1:1; Zechariah 1:1)?

3. Why does the author retrace the rebuilding effort to Shealtiel (verse 2; see 1 Chronicles 3:17 – 19)?

4. “At that time” (verse 3) can be dated to the period from August 29 to December 18, 520 BC, one year after the Babylonians failed in their revolt against Persia (November, 521 BC). How does that help account for what’s going on in verses 3 – 5?

5. What about this episode is seen as a blessing from God? Why?

6. How is God’s hand of blessing evident in Tattenai’s letter to Darius (verses 6 – 17)? What human instruments has God evidently been using to bless and discipline His people?

7. What is the status of this re-building project to date? Who is to be credited (or blamed) for the “rapid progress” (verse 8)? How about for the “unfinished task” (verse 16)?

8. In 536 BC Sheshbezzar presided over laying the temple foundation (verses 14 – 16), and in 520 BC Zerubbabel presided over laying a second foundation (see Haggai 1:14, 15). How do you account for that 16-year delay (see Zechariah 4:6 – 10)? Explain your answer. (Note: Some believe Sheshbezzar [verse 14] was the Babylonian name for Zerubbabel, meaning the two were the same person.)

  • Israel suffers from strong opposition?
  • From lack of legal authority?
  • From lack of spiritual power?
  • From internal lethargy?
  • Good things, done right, take time?

9. In your life, what has taken many years to get right? How do you account for the delay?

10. In the work God has given you to do, when is His hand of blessing obvious to you?

  • In warding off opponents, as in chapter 5:5?
  • In “making rapid progress,” as in chapter 5:8?
  • Often in construction delays?
  • Only in the project’s completion, as in chapter 6:15 – 17?