Obey the Lord
Sunday school lesson for the week of June 1, 2014
By Beth Barnwell
Lesson Scripture: Haggai 1:1-11
Purpose: To recognize that genuine worship of God makes claims on our time, energy, and resources.
This quarter’s lessons are all about “community” – what is means to be a community, how we’re supposed to act as a community, and most importantly, how we’re supposed to encourage each other as a community to keep the worship of God as the number one priority in everything we do.
Jan Turrentine with Adult Bible Studies states: Centuries of shared wisdom tell us that families, neighborhoods, churches, and societies – all forms of community – function best when we consciously seek the good of others and choose to do the right thing, even when it is inconvenient. Community, we understand, is not so much about place or space. Community is about people. Healthy faith communities share values and set priorities guided by God’s Spirit. We understand that our welfare is closely connected to our faithfulness to God’s priorities.
The Book of Haggai is a perfect example of “less is more.” It’s the shortest book in the Old Testament, but it speaks very clearly and boldly about the fact that God’s presence is abundant. There is not much known about the prophet, Haggai. Some people believe this lack of knowledge was a deliberate attempt on Haggai’s part to direct the focus of his teachings on what he was saying, his message and his divine authority, rather than to focus on himself. He wanted people to know that what he had to say was not about him, but rather about Him and what He wanted from His people. Haggai’s message of hope was grounded in the hard reality of the restoration of the temple. He message was straightforward: rebuild the temple and there give witness and glory to God. He reminds us that the work of God’s people, as a community, points beyond the present moment to the fulfillment of God’s purposes in the future. Haggai believed that by rebuilding the temple, the people were showing God that they needed Him.
His teachings seemed contradictory to the prophets who came before him. Rather than giving assurance that God took pleasure in the poor in spirit, he encouraged people to “take your ways to heart” and start building a place for worship as it (worship) was paramount in leading a life of obedience to God. He believed that people needed a particular location or building which would act as a symbol in order to worship God. The temple was that building. It was also a symbol of their yearning for God and of God’s yearning for them.
What symbols can you think of today that express our yearning for God and His yearning for us? Which of those symbols have meaning for you? Why?
In Verse 11, God declares a drought on the earth. Does God cause draught? People of the Old Testament thought so. Do you believe this today? Do you believe that God causes harm to His people? God only wants what’s best for us, and He only asks that we give our best efforts to please Him. We matter to Him. Our actions matter; our thoughts matter; our ability to work together in a community AS a community matters. Whether it’s building a new temple to show our love for and faith in Him or simply reaching out to extend His love to someone in need.
Society today differs slightly from the belief that we need a building in order to worship God. Today, we strive to create new places of worship for new people. We realize that where people worship and how people worship can be very different, but still acceptable to God. We understand that we can not bring God to the people. He is already there. No matter what “there” looks like, our challenge is to bring the people to God.
Thanks be to God.
How might committing ourselves to genuine worship of God affect our existing set of priorities? What might need a change? What should or could remain intact?
Beth Barnwell is a staff member of the North Georgia Conference, serving as administrative assistant to the director of Congregational Development. She is a long-time Sunday school teacher. Contact Beth at firstname.lastname@example.org.