These small group studies of Haggai contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, teaching points, and applications. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.
Haggai 1 – Inductive Bible Study for Small Groups With Discovery Questions
Haggai 1 – Consider Your Ways!
I. The people focus on themselves instead of God (1-4)
II. God curses the people because of their selfishness (5-11)
III. The people respond by serving the Lord again (12-15)
I. The people focus on themselves instead of God (1-4)
- What time period is this in Judah’s history?
- What other books record events in the same era?
- What famous people lived in Judah at this time?
- What is the main problem with the people that Haggai address in this book?
- Based on the cross-references in Ezra, why had the people stopped rebuilding the temple?
- What did the people say about their plan to rebuild the temple?
- What were they doing in the meantime?
- What common temptation from Satan can we see the people seduced by in verse 2?
- Can anyone give an example of a time when you were seduced by this same excuse?
- What kind of behavior reflects a similar attitude today?
- What service to God do we sometimes delay in the modern world?
- What kinds of things are comparable to “paneling” one’s house?
- What do we see about the people’s priorities?
Ezra 1 – The people return from the dispersion to repopulate and rebuild Judah.
Ezra 4:1-5, 24 – The people stop building the temple due to persecution and pressure.
Titus 2:7-8 – Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.
1 Corinthians 15:58 – So then, my dear friends, stand firm and steady. Keep busy always in your work for the Lord, since you know that nothing you do in the Lord’s service is ever useless.
1 Samuel 12:24 – Obey the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. Remember the great things he has done for you.
1. Background – This book falls into the same general time period as the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. The people of Israel had been in exile in Babylon for seventy years as punishment for their rebellion against God. When they returned under Zerubbabel they found the city of Jerusalem in ruins with no wall and no temple. While the books of Ezra and Nehemiah tell the overall story of the Jewish nation after the restoration from the Babylonian exile, the book of Haggai focuses on one specific message from God for His people after they had quit rebuilding the wall.
When the people originally returned to the land they were pumped up and excited to serve God. Although their own ancestral homes and farms were surely in disarray, they still gathered to Jerusalem as one man to build the temple. When the foundation had been laid, they were filled with joy. In addition, they celebrated festivals prescribed in the Mosaic law which had not been observed in centuries. But as is often the case, when God’s people reach a spiritual high, Satan attacks.
Enemies of God and Judah attempted to thwart the work. Day after day they pressured and discouraged the Jews from building the temple, even paying bribe money to hire counselors against them. What started off as a great success soon turned to failure. The people who had gathered as one man to do God’s work, quit. Instead of focusing on God’s kingdom, they each one returned home and pursued their own welfare. Thus the temple was left unfinished for sixteen years. It is near the end of this sixteen year gap that Haggai shares this message from the Lord and inspires the people to begin the project again (Ezra 6:14). At the same time Zachariah was also prophesying and encouraging the people to get back to it.
2. The recipients of the message – Haggai’s message from God was probably shared with the whole nation, but it was primarily given to Zerubbabel, the political leader, and Joshua, the spiritual leader. We see this in Haggai 1:1. Therefore we are reminded that although each person is responsible to God for his own choices, leaders face a higher level of accountability. It was Zerubbabel’s and Joshua’s failed leadership, which allowed the people to quit God’s work. God expected more from His leaders.
Application: A leader should lead. Even when the people don’t want to follow or go their own ways, leaders in the church must still do what God has called them to. Zerubbabel and Joshua should have been out there building the temple by themselves if that was what was necessary to inspire the people never to give up. Almost certainly their model of perseverance would have been strong motivation and many others would have joined them.
3. God interprets what the people are saying – God heard the Jewish people’s excuses. Probably they had many. Although He may have been silent, He was not blind. He was not deaf. All the time they were pursuing their own interests, God was in heaven watching and listening. He listened to their reasons. He listened to their justifications. And He did not accept them. He knew they were excuses for not finishing the job. Perhaps they were able to convince themselves, but they couldn’t convince God.
Jeremiah 17:9 – The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
Application: We may be able to deceive ourselves, but we cannot deceive God. Take care when you begin to offer justifications and excuses for not doing things which God has called you to. God is watching. He knows. Evaluate your hearts and be honest with yourselves.
4. “The time has not yet come.” – Here is one of the oldest excuses for not doing what God has called us to. Satan is very clever. He could have tempted the people with something like the following: “You should never build a temple. Building a temple is a waste of time. Worship this idol instead.”
However, this is not an effective temptation. Most of the people would see right through that and would forsake the person who dared to say those words. Satan is far more subtle. His temptation is much more often a simple: “You should build the temple. That is good. Just do it…later.”
Perhaps the people would mention the hot weather of the summer or the cold weather of winter as reasons to wait. Perhaps they mentioned the disarray of their own homes and farms and said that to effectively build the temple they should take care of these first so that they could properly devote the time and energy to the temple. Perhaps they thought that at the moment they were very poor and the materials were too big a sacrifice so planned to buy the materials after a few good harvests. The list of possible reasons to wait can go on and on.
Application: Sometimes we too procrastinate and put off things we should do for God. Reading our Bibles, praying, sharing the gospel, beginning service or ministry, writing a book, scheduling a meeting to encourage a friend, or quitting our job that takes up too much time are just some examples. Is there anything God has called you to do that you need to do ASAP? What is one service which you have had in your mind which you should do for God, which you would like to commit to starting this week?
5. Is it time for you to dwell in your paneled houses while this house lies desolate? Here is the key of God’s message to the Israelites. They had clearly demonstrated that their priority was themselves rather than God. The question is not even one of building one’s own house versus building God’s house. The people already had their own houses to live in. The question was instead renovating and adding luxurious (and unnecessary) additions to their own houses while God’s house, the temple, lay in ruins.
Here we see the depth of the people’s selfishness. Jesus said that “where you treasure is, there your heart is.” Their heart was focused on their own comfort and pleasure.
You can tell what a person’s priority is by examining three things: what he talks about, what he spends his time on, and what he spends his money on. The Jews were spending their time and money on themselves rather than God.
Application: What do you spend most of your time talking about? What do you spend most of your time thinking about? What do you spend your time and money on? These things can give a strong clue as to where the treasure of your heart is. Are we spending more and more time and energy on our own pleasure while ignoring the most foundational aspects of our relationship with God?
II. God curses the people because of their selfishness (5-11)
- Why is it important to “give careful thought to your ways?”
- What was the result of all of their money-making and material focused activities?
- Was this by chance? Why did they get less and less the harder they worked?
- Who was opposing them?
- What lessons can we learn from their struggles?
- Do you think God may also lay the same kind of “curse” against people today? What kind of forms might this take? How can you avoid it?
- What areas do we see God exercising His sovereign power over in these verses (for example: nature)?
- So what did God command them to do (verse 8)?
- What lessons can you learn from this passage?
- What are some important things which we should be doing to serve God?
- What are some materialistic/worldly/selfish pursuits which we sometimes follow instead?
- Can anyone give an example of a time when you felt God’s blessing after deciding to put Him first?
Galatians 6:7-8 – Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 9:6 – The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
Proverbs 14:14 – The faithless will be fully repaid for their ways, and the good rewarded for theirs.
Proverbs 11:24-25 – One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.
1. Consider your ways! – God wants them to step back from their busy, hectic lives and spend some time to evaluate both the direction of their lives and the consequences of the decisions they have made.
Application: Sometimes we get very busy and our lives are mostly spent reacting to various demands or needs around us. We react to our bosses requests and our children’s schedules. We accept invitations or requests easily. Our kids want to join soccer practice so we let them. They want to go to swimming lessons so we take them. Then there is music practice. Our neighborhood community asks for help with a bake sale so we oblige. Our company wants to send us on a business trip to join a convention so we say “yes.” The list goes on.
God’s message to you today is “Consider your ways!” Maybe what you are spending your time and energy on is not God’s best plan for you. Perhaps it is something that in an of itself is not sinful (renovating one’s house is not a sin generally), but it might not be best. The more busy you are with pursuits in this world, the less time you have for God. The lesson for you today might be that you will need to cut something out of your schedule. You might need to say “no.” At the very least you need to prayerfully evaluate your ways and make sure they are in line with God’s will.
2. The more they invested the less they received in return – In verses 6 and 9-11 we see something amazing occurring in their lives. It is this which God wants them to step back and consider and recognize a profound truth. The truth God wanted them to recognize is that absent His blessing on their lives hard work resulted in nothing. Several examples are given:
- They sowed much but harvested little.
- They eat and drink, but there is not enough to be filled.
- They put on clothing, but still feel cold.
- They earn money, but the place they store it rots away.
- They try to hoard and gather, but God blows it away.
- The sky withholds dew.
- The earth withholds produce.
- God has called for a drought.
It is an amazing picture God draws out for them. Working harder and harder to satisfy their own desires, there is less and less tangible result. You can see it is very low efficiency. It is almost like a person rowing a boat. But the harder he rows, the stronger the wind God sends against the boat. So the harder he rows the further he gets from shore!
Basically, this is a curse from God and virtually the opposite of Deuteronomy 28. God has cursed the fruit of their hands because they are working with their own strength to satisfy their own desires. Their priority is in the wrong place. It is the opposite of providence. Providence is when God supernaturally influences circumstances, people, and even nature itself to bless His people who are living in obedience to Him. Here the exact opposite is happening. God is supernaturally influencing circumstances, people, and nature itself to oppose His people who are living in disobedience.
Application: Which would you prefer, providence or reverse-providence? The same thing may happen to us. When we try to work in our own strength, we may find ourselves working harder but accomplishing less. God can cause so many things to pop up which can drain away our time and energy. Bad health, division with other believers, complaints, conflict, policies, paperwork, medical emergencies, accidents, etc.
If you find that your money is inexplicably drying up every month due to unexpected expenses, you should “consider your ways!” Are you tithing? Are you putting God first. It may be that you are living in complete obedience and those are trials from God to test and refine you. But it may also be that you are struggling against God’s current and feeling the effects. You must step back and prayerfully evaluate and ask God to reveal the cause to you.
3. God’s will revealed – In verses 7-8 God makes it clear what He expects of them. He wants them to immediately begin rebuilding the temple. Their priorities need an adjustment and it is not something to do later in the future.
Is there something God wants you to do which you have put off? Don’t wait. Do it and begin pleasing Him today.
III. The people respond by serving the Lord again (12-15)
- Who is Zerubbabel? How about Joshua?
- How did they and the people react to Haggai’s message?
- Why did they listen? What lesson can we learn from the phrase that “the people obeyed… because the Lord their God had sent him?”
- After they decided to obey God, what differences can we see in God’s relationship to, and care toward, them?
- How long after Haggai shared this message with them did the people start to build the temple (1:1, 15)?
- What motivated the people?
- Has God stirred up your spirit to serve Him in some way? What will you do to obey this calling?
- How can you diligently build God’s kingdom this week?
Ephesians 4:1 – Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.
1 Timothy 6:12 – Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
Hebrews 3:1 – Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession.
1. The people respond with obedience – Awesome! It is awesome when God’s people hear God’s Word, confess their sins, and set their heart to obey it.
Application: There will be times in our lives when we, like the Jews in Haggai, have lost our way. God may remind you from Scripture or send someone into your life to remind you to get back on the path. At that point you have two choices. You can harden your heart and defend yourself and justify your actions, or you can repent and obey. Let us all be humble enough to be teachable.
2. The leaders lead the way – Zerubbabel and Joshua lead the way in this revival. When leaders lead, people follow!
3. “I am with you,” declares the Lord – Before the Lord was against His people working to oppose them because of their disobedience. Now after they obey He promises to be with them. What a great comfort! They did not need to worry about their fields, their crops, and their animals. God would see to it that these were taken care of. In Haggai 2:19 we see that God would bless their harvest because of their obedience. Where the wind was against them before, it would be with them from this point. Imagine the joy and peace that filled their hearts instead of the stress and worry and struggle from before.
4. It was only 23 days since Haggai preached this message – Compare 1:1 and 1:15 to see that only twenty three days had elapsed. God’s message brought about an immediate reversal of the direction of their lives. His Word is powerful. It will not return void. Contrary to some people’s thinking, a long time is not necessary for growth and maturity. The most important ingredient is a willing heart.
Application: Consider your ways! What is God calling you to build for Him? Is there somewhere your priorities need to change? Are you struggling against God’s current with your own strength and energy? Write down an application of what you believe God is leading you to do in the next week.
E-book: If this study is helpful for you, get the complete Haggai study in one convenient e-book.
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