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The Minor Prophets: conclusion

All summer we’ve been going through some of the minor prophets, in a bible study I wrote two years ago (learn more about the background of this study in the introduction). We’re going to close the series with some of the conclusion I wrote for the original study guide.

Here’s a brief look at some of the topics we’ve covered while studying these six books:

Obadiah

  • Pride deceives
  • The good  you DON’T do is sin
  • Deeds return on your head (the Boomerang Effect)

Joel

  • Crying out to God
  • Turning your heart toward God
  • God’s gifts satisfy fully –and more!
  • God is both Judge and Protector
  • God is present with us

Zephaniah

  • Seek God
  • Seek God together
  • Trust God to deal with injustice
  • God is faithful when we are not
  • Serving shoulder-to-shoulder

Habakkuk

  • When sin goes unpunished
  • Trusting God when life doesn’t go to plan
  • Watching for God’s answers
  • God’s heart for the exploited
  • Lament worship

Haggai

  • Serve God first – trust Him to take care of the rest
  • Obeying (not procrastinating)
  • God’s presence makes the temple great
  • Offerings of faith
  • Tools chosen by God

Malachi

  • What would your life be like without God?
  • Priest offering sacrifices
  • Breaking faith/keeping faith
  • Trusting God’s timing
  • Robbing God
  • Unity affects God

There’s a LOT packed into these six short books. One thing I love about reading the Bible is that no matter how many times I read the same book, there’s always SO MUCH MORE to learn. I discover new treasures every time as I turn my heart to God.

  1. These lists reflect some of the things that are special to me in each of these books. I encourage you to make your own list, of the things that spoke to you from each book.

I hope that you have enjoyed taking a brief look at some of the minor prophets. I pray that you have a deeper understanding of the character of God, and his passionate love you his people – his passionate love for YOU.

I also hope that you have been recording your thoughts, your insights, your questions. These are the things we need to share with each other! This is how we strengthen our faith – gathering together, sharing together.

I’m going to close with a beautiful prayer from Ephesians 3:20-21:

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

God is truly beyond comprehension, beyond imagination.

He is greater than all our wildest dreams.

I pray he will be glorified through me, through you – through us, as we continue to seek him together.


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Posted by on September 5, 2011 in Bible Resources

 

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The Minor Prophets: Haggai, part 2

This is part of an on-going series on the Minor Prophets; a bible study I wrote two years ago. For more information on this study, including permission to use it for your own group, please read the introduction.

Click here to read the first part of the Haggai study

We re-start with section 3 – Haggai 2:1-9

Read Haggai 2 in the NIV

Read Haggai 2 in the NIRV

KEY VERSE: “be strong…for I am with you” (verse 4)

The first temple was destroyed 65 years before these words we spoken to the people, so very few people in Jerusalem had any memory of the original temple. For those who did, however, the contrast was stark. (The first temple, built by Solomon, is described in I Kings 6-7, and Ezra 2:10-13 describes the sadness of the people when the foundations are laid for the new temple). God, however, is not worried but the difference in appearance. In fact, he says that this smaller, simpler temple will be greater than the first! He is WITH his people, bringing his glory and his peace. His presence is far more important that the building he is present in.

In I Corinthians 6:19 Paul says we as believers are all temples of the Holy Spirit, because he dwells in us, just like God dwelled in the temple.

  1. In Haggai God says his presence in the temple is more important than how fancy the building is. What does that tell you about YOU?
Section 4 – Haggai 2:10-19

KEY VERSE: “ask the priests what the law says” (verse 11)

The Law God gave Moses for the people of Israel was so much more than a list of rules to follow – as if to please God with ritual alone, like the gods of other nations. The Law is full of pictures, a way to understand a deep truth through a ritual practice. Here God himself draws the picture. Through the laws of defilement, God explains to the people what he really desires to receive from them.

Offerings by themselves didn’t make a person acceptable, but a person could make an offering unacceptable.  Bringing an offering did not make a faithless person acceptable in God’s sight. Instead, the offering brought by a faithful person made acceptable BECAUSE of their faith. It was their FAITH God responded to. He looked at WHY they brought an offering, rather than WHAT they brought.

God wanted their HEARTS – not their sheep (their resources).

God still wants our HEARTS – not our money (our resources).

When I offer God something because I love him and want to honour him, he is blessed by my offering – no matter what it is. Jesus teaches this same principle (the HEART of an offering) to his disciples in Mark 12:41-44.

KEY VERSE: “from this day on I will bless you” (verse 19)

In chapter 1 God told the people to “give careful thought” to how they were experiencing material lack, and connected it to their failure to rebuild the temple. Here in chapter 2, God says that he will return material blessing to them, because they have noticed and obeyed. (Remember how I wrote back there that God wasn’t saying material comfort was wrong?) What I really love, however, is that God returns his blessings to them when they START rebuilding – not when they finish. God really wants our HEARTS above all else.

  1. Think of a time you offered God something because you WANTED to, even if it wasn’t easy.
  2. How do you think God felt about your offering?
  3. Think of a time you offered God something because you felt you were supposed to.
  4. How do you think God felt about your offering?
  5. What is an offering you can bring God this week that will bless him?

Section 5 – Haggai 2:20-23

KEY VERSE: “on that day…I will make you like my signet ring, for I have chosen you” (verse 23)

Zerubbabel is ALERADY chosen by God – but not yet in place. At some point in the future, God will take Zerubbabel, and make him into the tool he has already been chosen as. Joseph and Jeremiah experienced similar delays between being chosen and being put in the actual position (Genesis 37-47 and Jeremiah 1:4-5).

Sometimes we have to wait a while before God puts us in a position he has already chosen us for. It might be a small thing, but this really speaks to me. I can’t earn God’s grace, and I can’t earn a “high” position in his kingdom. Instead of trying to force my way to the place I think I should be in, I need to be faithful wherever he calls me, wherever I’m at, even if I know I won’t be here forever. I need to be faithful even if I feel un-useful, or overlooked. God has a plan. He will make me into the RIGHT TOOL for the RIGHT TASK at the RIGHT TIME.

  1. What is your first reaction to the idea of being a tool chosen by God? Do you want to be a tool? Why/why not?
  2. Is there a place in your life God might be asking you to be faith in NOW, rather than waiting for something new to happen?
 
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Posted by on August 8, 2011 in Bible Resources

 

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The Minor Prophets: Haggai, part 1

This is part of an on-going series on the Minor Prophets; a bible study I wrote two years ago. For more information on this study, including permission to use it for your own group, please read the introduction.

WHO IS HAGGAI?

Haggai was a contemporary of Zechariah (they are even seen ministering together in Ezra 5:1-2). The Greek version of the Old Testament credits Haggai with writing some of the later Psalms (146-149) although this is not universally accepted. Haggai was probably born in Babylon during the exile, a child who returned to Judea with his parents in 536 BC. He was the first prophet to minister in Jerusalem after Judah’s return from captivity in Babylon.

WHEN WAS HAGGAI WRITTEN?

Haggai dates his prophecies very clearly. The book is a group of four prophecies Haggai received from God between the 29th of August and the 19th of November,  520 BC.

HISTORICAL CONTEXT

Haggai was written 15 years after the first group of exiles returned to Jerusalem from captivity in Babylon.

  • 586 BC –Jerusalem and the temple are destroyed by the Babylonians. Many of the Jews are killed or taken to Babylon as captives. Those left behind to live in the ruins intermarry with other nations; these people become the Samaritans. (II Kings 25; II Chronicles 36:15-23 – the history books end here).
  • 562 BC – King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon dies; followed by a series of weak kings
  • 559 BC – Cyrus becomes king of Persia (seen by historians now as a benevolent ruler with some progressive decrees)
  • 549 BC – Persia under Cyrus defeats the Median king, and the Medes/Persians are united
  • 539 BC – Cyrus overthrows Babylon on October 13th; makes Darius the Mede king.
  • 538 BC – Cyrus issues a decree allowing captive Jews to return to Judea (Ezra 1:1-4)
  • 536 BC – 1st group of 50,000 Jews return to Jerusalem under Zerubbabel and Joshua the priest (Ezra 2); work is begun on the temple – altar for sacrifices rebuilt (Ezra 3:1-2) and the foundation for the temple laid (Ezra 3:8-13)
  • 529 BC – Cyrus died; succeeded by his son, Cambyses
  • 522 BC – Cambyses succeeded by Darius
  • 520 BC – Haggai gives God’s message; work starts on the temple 3 weeks later on September 7th (Haggai 1:14-15)
  • 516 BC – Temple is finished on February 25th (Ezra 6:15)


WHAT IS HAGGAI ABOUT?

When the Babylonians conquer Israel, the temple of the Lord was left in ruins (as is Jerusalem itself). 50 years later, the first of the Jews returned from exile in Babylon and began to rebuild the temple. After their excitement over the initial rebuilding, however, their attention turned elsewhere – to their own living conditions. This is only natural – survival is rather important! They rebuilt their homes, businesses, and farms. 15 years later, however, the temple has still not been rebuilt. God sends Haggai with a message that the people need to get back to work on the temple. Three weeks later work recommences, and in 5 years the temple is complete.


STRUCTURE

Haggai is the 2nd shortest book in the Old Testament (after Obadiah). There are five sections:

  1. First message, August (Haggai 1:1-11)
  2. Response from the people (Haggai 1:1-12-15)
  3. Second message, October (Haggai 2:1-9)
  4. Third message, November  (Haggai 2:10-19)
  5. Fourth message, November  (Haggai 2:20-23)
Section 1 – Haggai 1:1-11

KEY VERSE: “give careful though to your ways” (verse 5)

There are two facts God wants to bring to his people’s attention:

  1. You have put off rebuilding the temple
  2. You are experiencing material difficulties

These two facts are connected. God has withdrawn material blessing in order to capture their attention, so they will get back to work on the temple.

It’s important to understand the significance of the temple. This was the ONE place on the face of the planet where God’s presence dwelled – where God came to earth and was PRESENT WITH MAN. Every time the people put off rebuilding the temple, they showed their lack of desire for God. They were not eager to meet with God; his presence was not a priority for them. They’d been back in Jerusalem long enough to have built beautiful houses for themselves, but still they kept saying “the time has not yet come for the LORD’s house to be built” (verse 2). The people put their own material comfort ahead of their desire for God – so God took this “idol” of material wealth away from them, to get their attention. He doesn’t say material comfort is wrong, just that at the moment it is getting in the way.

Jesus told his disciples not to worry so much about their material needs, but to seek God first and allow HIM to take care of the rest (Matthew 6:25-34). It’s really the same principle. When we get wrapped up in our cares and concerns, trying to make our lives more comfortable, our eyes drop from God, from following him.

  1. What would it look like, practically, if you REALLY trusted God to take care of your needs? (Your need for food, shelter, friendship, education…)
  2. How would your life change if you made following God your FIRST priority in every part of your life?
  3. What is a small step in this direction you can take this week?
Section 2 – Haggai 1:12-15

KEY VERSE: “the whole remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the LORD their God” (verse 12)

Wow. It is such a beautiful thing when a person, and especially a large group of people, take God’s word to heart and OBEY. It is such an expression of love for and trust in God when we choose to obey him (John 14:15).

KEY VERSE: “God stirred up the spirit…of the whole remnant of the people” (verse 14)

God doesn’t yell at people to do what he says and then watch from afar. When the people responded in obedience, believing God, he got intimately involved. He stirred them up – gave them passion and enthusiasm for the task he had put before them.

All too often when God asks me to do something I drag my feet. I whinge and I complain and I procrastinate. Yet when I obey, when I take a step and ACT, I often find myself excited and enjoying it. God does not want us to be miserable! Following him is the most exciting thing you’ll ever do.

  1. Think of an area of your life where you are procrastinating instead of obeying.
  2. How can you start acting in obedience there?
 
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Posted by on August 1, 2011 in Bible Resources

 

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