International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday June 15, 2014
Purpose: To understand that God expects us to live faithfully and wants to bless our efforts
Scripture Text: Haggai 2:10-19
Haggai 2:10-19 (CEB)
(10) On the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month in the second year of Darius, the Lord’s word came to Haggai the prophet: (11) This is what the Lord of heavenly forces says: Go ahead and ask the priests for a ruling: (12) "If someone lifts holy meat into the hem of one’s garment and that hem touches bread, stew, wine, oil, or any kind of food, will it be made holy?" And the priests responded, "No." (13) Haggai said, "If an unclean person touches any of these things, will it become unclean?" And the priests responded, "It will be unclean." (14) Then Haggai responded: Thus has this people and this nation become to me, says the Lord, and everything that they do with their hands. Whatever they offer is unclean. (15) So now, take it to heart from this day forward. Before stone was placed on stone in the Lord’s temple, (16) when one came to the granary for twenty measures, there were only ten; and when one came to the wine vat for fifty measures, there were only twenty. (17) I struck you—everything you do with your hands— with blight and mildew and hail; but you didn’t return to me. (18) So take it to heart from this day forward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month. Take it to heart from the day when the foundation for the Lord’s temple was laid. (19) Is the seed yet in the granary—or the vine, the fig tree, or the pomegranate—or has the olive tree not borne fruit? From this day forward, I will bless you.
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
If you look back at our first lesson this quarter, you will see that it was set as August 29, 520 B. C. Today’s lesson takes place on December 18, of the same year. So about 3 ½ months have passed. God’s word (Lord of heavenly forces) comes to Haggai again this time it is about the construction that was starting on the Temple.
The original temple was destroyed by the Babylonian army in 587 B.C. So 67 years have passed, the first exiles returned about 17 years ago and still the temple has not been rebuilt.
The question Haggai put to the priest is basically this; if something that is holy touches unholy things do those things become holy? The second question is similar; if something unclean touches any of the same things will they become unclean. The priest responded to question 1 as “no.” And to question 2 as “it will be unclean.”
Obviously the altar and other parts of the original temple had been made unclean by the Babylonian army. In spite of that, those returning to Jerusalem had continued to make their offerings and sacrifices in the same place that had been desecrated by the Babylonian army. Even though it was just a burned out shell with little form, God obviously was disappointed.
Maybe another way for us, as Christians, to think about Haggai’s question is: Does our association with the things of God’s church (Scripture, sacraments, and doctrine, for example) automatically make us pure and righteous Christians? Of course the answer is no. There is no automatic way to holiness in our lives. Our relationship with God does not depend on a building or attending church. Our holiness comes from our heart, and our relationship with God.
Haggai’s second question when applied to our lives as Christians is: Does knowing what God wants us to do, and not doing it interfere with our relationship with God? Can we disregard God’s direction for our lives and still expect God to be pleased? Paul says in Romans 12:1 “So, brothers and sisters, because of God’s mercies, I encourage you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God. This is your appropriate priestly service.” Living according to our best understanding of what God requires, remains our best chance to have a meaningful relationship with Him.
God is always anxious to forgive and respond with his grace when he sees us making a sincere effort to please him. God’s promises seem to come slowly to us, but if we lay the proper foundation and include God in our work, the harvest will come. There is a great old hymn called “Jesus is the Cornerstone” and Peter in 1 Peter 2:6-8 says this (6)“Thus it is written in scripture, Look! I am laying a cornerstone in Zion, chosen, valuable. The person who believes in him will never be shamed. (7) So God honors you who believe. For those who refuse to believe, though, the stone the builders tossed aside has become the capstone. (8) This is a stone that makes people stumble and a rock that makes them fall. Because they refuse to believe in the word, they stumble. Indeed, this is the end to which they were appointed.”
“Jesus is the Cornerstone.”