International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday June 8, 2014
Purpose: To know that God promises to be present with those who strive to do God’s will
Background Scripture: Haggai 1:12-2:9
Haggai 1:12 (CEB)
(12) Zerubbabel, Shealtiel’s son, and the high priest Joshua, Jehozadak’s son, along with all who remained among the people, listened to the voice of the Lord God and to the words of Haggai the prophet because the Lord their God sent him. Then the people feared the Lord.
Haggai 2:1-9 (CEB)
(1) On the twenty-first day of the seventh month, the Lord’s word came through Haggai the prophet: (2) Say to Judah’s governor Zerubbabel, Shealtiel’s son, and to the chief priest Joshua, Jehozadak’s son, and to the rest of the people: (3) Who among you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Doesn’t it appear as nothing to you? (4) So now, be strong, Zerubbabel, says the Lord. Be strong, High Priest Joshua, Jehozadak’s son, and be strong, all you people of the land, says the Lord. Work, for I am with you, says the Lord of heavenly forces. (5) As with our agreement when you came out of Egypt, my spirit stands in your midst. Don’t fear. (6) This is what the Lord of heavenly forces says: In just a little while, I will make the heavens, the earth, the sea, and the dry land quake. (7) I will make all the nations quake. The wealth of all the nations will come. I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of heavenly forces. (8)The silver and the gold belong to me, says the Lord of heavenly forces. (9)This house will be more glorious than its predecessor, says the Lord of heavenly forces. I will provide prosperity in this place, says the Lord of heavenly forces.
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
Growing up in rural northern Indiana and attending a small country church, my favorite hymn, as a boy, was #126 in our hymnal “Standing on the Promises.” Today after almost 60 years have passed, “Standing on the Promises” remains one of my favorite hymns. I think that old familiar hymn reflects what the prophet Haggai was saying to the rag tag group of Jews that had returned to Jerusalem after the exile.
Those that were in exile of Babylon were released by Cyrus to return to Judah and Jerusalem. Descendants of the former King, and the former High Priest were appointed by Cyrus to serve as caretaker rulers. Haggai was a recognized prophet or voice of God during this time.
Our lesson text takes place during one of the holy day celebrations called the “Festival or Feast of Booths.” The festival was a celebration of the harvest, and also a reminder of the coming out of Egypt when families lived in booths and had no permanent housing.
The question Haggai ask of the community is, “Who is old enough to remember Solomon’s Temple?” The problem we have today maybe similar in that we always seem to look back at our “glory days” and wonder why we cannot recapture that excitement.
The Lord of heavenly forces tells Haggai to remind first of all the leaders, and then the congregation, “to be strong.” God then reminds all of them how he was with them when they came out of Egypt. God was with them in spirit, and he gave them a cloud, by day, and pillar of fire by night.
God’s power is not frozen in the past, Haggai insisted, but God can manifest anew in ways yet unknown. God is fully capable of creating a future worth living that exceeds all our feeble expectations.
Do not worry about how things look. God’s promise is that he will be with us. God’s spirit stands in our midst, and he wants us to get to work. We don’t work because God needs the help, we work in cooperation with God, so that we might see God’s glory. God wants to bless us, but he also wants us to be obedient, and that means work when we can. God always meets us where we are, not where we wish we could be. God’s spirit stands in our midst, he will bless us as we trust in his promises.