The feeling of discouragement is familiar to all of us. Whether we face discouragement at school, at work, or even in our relationships, it is easy to lose confidence in the face of obstacles that inevitably come our way when we set out on a task.
As the Jews began rebuilding the temple in 536 BC, they soon faced enemies, who not only sought to actively frustrate them on site, but also wrote to the reigning king Artaxerxes to successfully stop their efforts altogether (Ezra 4:4-24)! After the rebuilding was put on hold, God spoke through Haggai to encourage the Jews to persevere.
In Part 1 of Disrupted But, Haggai 1 taught us not to be distracted in the face of disruption. As we continue exploring Haggai 2, let us listen to what else the Holy Spirit has to say.
a. What does God say to encourage the Jews to continue rebuilding the temple? How do you think this provides reassurance for the people who heard this?
b. Recall what you shared in Part 1(a). Is God speaking to you in your time of discouragement? How are you responding? If you are not presently discouraged, how did you respond to Him the last time He spoke to you in crisis?
a. In verse 9, God declares that the temple that was to come will far exceed what was lost. He also specifically highlights His gift of peace, or shalom, that will be given to His people, in addition to the material glories that He mentions in verses 7 and 8. Refer to the Think About It section below for a greater understanding of what shalom is.
What is shalom? Why do you think God stressed this gift, instead of something else?
b. Recall the discouragement that your LifeGroup shared earlier in the session. Take the time to pray for one another. Seek God’s shalom for one another and ask God how you can look forward to the “latter glories” of His house in the midst of your discouragement.
THINK ABOUT IT
Shalom with God
Most fundamentally, shalom means reconciliation with God. God can give us peace with Himself or remove it (Psalm 85:8; Jeremiah 16:5). One of the offerings under the Mosaic covenant is the shelamim offering — the peace, or fellowship, offering — the only one of the Levitical sacrifices in which the offerer receives back some of the meal to eat. Sin disrupts shalom. When anything heals the rupture and closes the gap between us and God, there should be a celebration, a joyful meal in God’s presence.
Shalom with Others
Shalom also means peace with others, peace between parties. It means the end of hostilities and war (Deuteronomy 20:12; Judges 21:13). But shalom does not mean only reconciliation between warring factions or nations (1 Kings 5:12). It also refers to socially just relationships between individuals and classes. Jeremiah insists that unless there is an end to oppression, greed, and violence in social relationships, there can be no shalom, however much the false prophets say the word (Jeremiah 6:1–9,14; compare Jeremiah 8:11).
Shalom with(in) Oneself
Shalom consists of not only outward peacefulness — peace between parties — but also peace within. Those who trust in the Lord have inner security; therefore, they can sleep well (Psalm 4:8). God gives “perfect peace” (or shalom-shalom) — i.e., profound psychological and emotional peace – to those who steadfastly set their minds on Him (Isaiah 26:3).
The Price of Shalom: Jesus
a. Shalom Prophesied
Shalom becomes an especially prominent theme in the prophetic literature. The prophets explain the invasions and exile as the loss of shalom, but they also point to a coming time of complete shalom, not only for Israel but also for the whole world (Isaiah 11:1–9; Isaiah 45:7). This gift would come through the work of the Messiah (Isaiah 9:6–7). Therefore, shalom is perhaps the most basic characteristic of the future kingdom of God, a time when the Lord himself comes to heal all that is wrong with the world.
b. Shalom Accomplished and Experienced
Jesus is the Prince of shalom who will bring in God’s kingdom of peace that the prophets foretold (Romans 14:17; 1 Corinthians 14:33). God is reconciling all things to Himself through His Son (Colossians 1:20), and although He has not yet put everything right (Romans 8:19–23), those who believe the gospel enter into and experience this reconciliation.
This peace is first of all peace with God through justification by faith (Romans 5:1–2). Jesus also brings us the peace of God — peace within (Philippians 4:4-13). The peace of Christ is so closely related to joy (John 15:11; Romans 15:13) that we might say that joy is God’s peace and reconciliation lived out. The God of peace sanctifies us, growing us into Christlike character and maturity (1 Thessalonians 5:23; compare Galatians 5:22).
Finally, Jesus brings us peace with other human beings. Our peace with and from God gives us the resources to maintain unity and love with others through continual forgiveness and patience (Colossians 3:13–15). Christ is our peace, and by His death on the cross He removes even the high racial and cultural barriers that divide us (Ephesians 2:11–22).
WHAT WOULD YOU DO
When faced with difficulty, it is far easier to compare our current state to what we had before, instead of focussing on what God has prepared for us in the future. As we’ve learnt, there are three steps we can take instead of yearning for the “good old days”:
i. Don’t compare
ii. Don’t belittle
iii. Don’t disconnect.
What things, situations or circumstances of the past have left you discouraged in your current season?
How can you make use of your current environments to continue “working” for God? Have you sought the Holy Spirit for shalom amid your difficulties?
In our time here on Earth, we will face obstacles and difficulties of all sorts. Will you trust that God, the Author of your past, present, and future, is with you?
“Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” – Zechariah 4:6