ezra 4-6 & Haggai
The Temple Was Rebuilt – Ezra 4 – 6; Haggai
The trip back home to Judah from the land of Babylon had started with such hope and so many miracles, but in this passage, troubles just seemed to come tumbling in, one after another. The people faced discouragement, frustrations and fear. Their enemies concocted lies about them, resulting in an edict, which forced them to stop work on the temple.
This reminds us of our own lives, doesn’t it? We have high hopes. We think, “God is in this,” and then, before we know it, we’re hitting brick walls. If we’re not careful, fear, discouragement and frustration can take over, and ultimately, we can lose sight of God’s plan.
What happened next is instructive to us. Haggai came on the scene. His message was directed to those at the top – the governor and the high priest, and it jolted them into action. Haggai identified that the focus of Israel’s leaders had turned inward. They were taking care of themselves and had neglected God’s priority of rebuilding the temple. “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” Hab. 1:3 The good news is that these leaders listened to God’s message, and God responded by stirring up their spirits! “So the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of the whole remnant of the people. They came and began to work on the house of the Lord Almighty, their God” Hab. 1:14. That means they were happy to obey and follow God; they believed Him. God even gave the people an abundance of blessings! (See the end of chapter 6)!
When we’re tempted to give in to our discouragement and fear, we need to turn our heads to God. We need to be reminded of truth, so we can reject the lies of Satan and fix our hearts and minds on God! So, practically, what can we do? We read the Bible to immerse ourselves in truth. We can get together each week at church, so our hearts and minds are recalibrated, our spirits are stirred up, and our focus turns to God. Then, we’re prepared to do the good works He has prepared for us to do. We all need encouragement, and we can all be encouragers!
Activity – Navigating Obstacles – create a simple obstacle course for kids to “run.” (For example, crawl over the table, under some chairs, through a gauntlet of “snowballs” being thrown, wade through a ball pit). For an extra challenge, time kids as they complete the obstacle course.
Discuss: kids can make encouragement cards as you talk
The Israelites returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple, but they encountered obstacles as they built. What were some of the obstacles they faced? Enemies who discouraged them and made them feel afraid. Enemies who told lies about them. Kings who commanded them to stop building. Obstacles from within (selfishness, materialism) that made them want to complete their own houses more than they wanted to obey God.
We also have obstacles to face as we try to serve God. What are some obstacles we might face? Temptations to lie, disobey parents, be selfish, get angry, cheat, etc; sickness, disappointment, etc.
Haggai encouraged the children of Israel to do the right thing. He told them to stop being selfish (taking care of themselves first). He encouraged them to do God’s work first, and reminded them that God would bless them when they obeyed. We can encourage others to keep going, to do the right thing. Who is someone you could encourage today? How can you encourage? Allow kids time to make cards for someone they want to encourage – a parent? A grandparent? A neighbor? A friend?