Sunday: Planting Much, Harvesting Little

Read Haggai 1:1-11.

Image © Providence Collection from

Image © Providence Collection from

What was happening here and, more important, why was this happening? Even more important, how might this same principle be happening to us today? How might we be guilty of doing the same thing?

“For over a year the temple was neglected and well-nigh forsaken. The people dwelt in their homes and strove to attain temporal prosperity, but their situation was deplorable. Work as they might they did not prosper. The very elements of nature seemed to conspire against them. Because they had let the temple lie waste, the Lord sent upon their substance a wasting drought. God had bestowed upon them the fruits of field and garden, the corn and the wine and the oil, as a token of His favor; but because they had used these bountiful gifts so selfishly, the blessings were removed.”—Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, p. 573.

Haggai confronted the people with their current situation. Futility of labor was one of the curses that resulted from the breaking of God’s covenant (Lev. 26:1620). Until the people turned their attention to this priority, there would be no prosperity for them.

Haggai possessed great zeal for the Lord’s temple and wanted the people to complete its reconstruction right away. His ambition ran contrary to the complacency of those who did not care about the temple as much as they cared about their own comfort. While Haggai’s great concern was for the temple, the people were interested most in their own houses.

The Lord used Haggai to stir the people’s hearts toward God’s concerns. God could not be honored properly as long as His house sat in ruins. The temple in Jerusalem symbolized the divine presence among fallen humanity. It was a visible reminder to the whole world that the Sovereign Lord is God of heaven and earth. How could the children of Israel witness to the true God when the very symbol of that God (see John 2:19Matt. 26:61) and the entire plan of salvation, was in ruins? In many ways, their attitude toward the temple revealed a deeper spiritual problem: their loss of the sense of their divine mission as the remnant people of the Lord.

Do you see any warning here for us?



Sunday: Planting Much, Harvesting Little — 24 Comments

  1. [Moderator's note: Please add your surname when you comment]
    God wants us to fully surrensder to him and be committed to his work rather than focusing on ourselves.

  2. There is definitely a warning. We are so caught up with financial gain and stability on this earth, that we forget that our treasure should be stored in heaven. We forget that our stability is in having a relationship with Jesus Christ. Our homes and lives here on earth are temporary housing. If we remember this, we will concentrate more on working on our relationship with God's son, and preparing to move from our temporary housing to our heavenly homes.

  3. The book of Haggai shows us that we need to put God first in everything. I especially think of tithes and offerings. If we don't give God the first fruits of our labor and our love offerings, we are not only robbing God, we are missing out on many blessings.

    • I agree. However, I think this message may reach beyond that too. It may also be talking of the time that we may spend just for the sole purpose of God's work: rebuilding/building a temple, serving the church in some capacity, prayer, attending to the sick/poor/etc. . . We are so "busy" these days (paying mortgages, delivering children from one activity to next, etc. . .) that it is easier to provide financial support when the real blessing would come from rolling up sleeves and working for God.

      May we not only return God's tithe and offerings. May we be willing to say, "Here am I. Send Me!" (Isa 6:8, NLT)

  4. In reading Haggai alone I think we tend to get a distorted picture of what happened concerning the return to Jerusalem. His message is specifically to those people who decided to return to their home land and was proclaimed after more than 15 years since the first decree of Cyrus was given. There are two other books that we should also consult, Ezra and Nehemiah which give the historical background.

    First of all we need to understand that only a portion of the Jews living in Persia decided to go back (almost 43000, Ezra 2:64-65) and rebuild Jerusalem as the SDA Commentary states:

    Only a comparative minority of the exiles returned. Even many of the clans of Judah and Benjamin chose to remain in the land of their adoption. Many had come to honor and wealth in Babylonia, as cuneiform records reveal, and were unwilling to forsake all they had acquired by hard labor through the years in exchange for an uncertain future in desolate Judea. (The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 3 on Ezra 1:5)

    So only those that saw a benefit in going back to their home land actually went and probably for a variety of reasons. On top of that when they arrived only a percentage of the people were actually directly involved in the construction: "They also gave money to the masons and the carpenters, and food, drink, and oil to the people of Sidon and Tyre to bring cedar logs from Lebanon to the sea, to Joppa, according to the permission which they had from Cyrus king of Persia" (Ezr. 3:7 NKJV). I would say that most were in other pursuits supporting the building indirectly.
    Another thing we need to understand is that the opposition against their rebuilding the temple was constant and very determined and at one point secured a decree from the Persian ruler at the time, that shut down the work, known as the false Smerdis whose reign lasted only about six months before Darius did him in. As the SDA Commentary states:

    However, after such a promising start, work on the Second Temple gradually slowed down until it virtually ceased, owing mainly to the continued opposition and hindrance of the Samaritans (see Ezra 4:1–5). The discouraged exiles turned to working their own plots of land and to erecting living quarters for themselves. (The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 4, Introduction to Haggai (Historical Setting)

    Like Jonah who had problems understanding God and His working they needed some prodding and a lot of encouragement which is what Haggai gives them. When discouragement comes from both inside the camp by those who saw the temple before the captivity and outside from the surrounding Samaritans with little visible evidence of Gods direction except the hardship in even living as though God had left them as Haggai states in Hag 1:5-11 then there is no wonder that in despair they stopped working on the temple.

    God was not angry with them but knew that they needed a lot of reinforcing under the circumstances. They needed to know through a prophet that God was with them and on their side and that He expected them to continue with the work. That is what they saw in the message of Haggai which is the reason they started building the temple again.

    Then Haggai, the LORD'S messenger, spoke the LORD'S message to the people, saying, "I am with you, says the LORD." So the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and worked on the house of the LORD of hosts, their God (Hag 1:13-14 NKJV).

    • Well written. Thanks for the background make more sense. God is a great God will never leave us.

  5. We have little faith that can't even be compared to a mustard seed. We look up to our friends for help in spiritual matters instead of asking God. Remember that the desciples in the boat asked Jesus for help when the storms arose on the sea (Luke 8:22). Let's reflect on Jesus for He is more that ready to help us

  6. The situation described at the beginning of the book of Haggai can apply to us when we decide to look after our needs first, instead of putting the Kingdom of God first.

    When we decide to pay all our bills before returning the Lord's tithe and giving offerings, there will seldom be enough money for tithes and offerings.

    The system of tithes and offerings was designed to remind us of our total dependence on God, and when we do not follow His plan, we are demonstrating our dependence on self.

    On the other hand, when we put God first, we can never outgive the Lord, as I know from personal experience.

    • I understand what you are saying, Inge, and there are many things in the Bible that support that idea. Haggai is just one of them; there is also the problem of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. Furthermore Jesus told the rich young ruler to give all that he had to the poor and join Him. We also see total giving in the widow's two mites and again with the widow at Zarephath that God directed Elijah to go to. Some also spontaneously gave all they had such as Nicodemus as tradition tells us.

      While all of that is true there is also the business of being good stewards of what God gives us and that generally doesn't mean reducing ourselves to poverty. God will indeed provide what we need and even some of our wants but He expects us to use a little common sense and good judgment in handling those things. For instance in the parable of the talents no one gave their talents away. What they were supposed to do was to invest them in order to gain an increase which goes way beyond money so that it includes all of our talents whatever they may be. That doesn't mean that we are to invest what we have in land and spend our time at the stock broker but it does mean for us to use what we have wisely.

      Unless God requires a person to give everything away doing so is unwise because it puts a burden on other people including church members. We are not called to be fanatics but to practice planned giving which includes tithes and offering first. When we do that then the church will have enough to do what it needs to do and can also plan with some assurance. The problem is that a lot of church people take care of number one first and the church usually comes last. For that reason God has a controversy with those people over their use of what He has given them which usually results in loss of blessing.

      • I am so thankful, Tyler, that God gives us a chance to contribute the tithe and offerings as we reasonably can do so. I know I have so much for which to be thankful!! He is so gracious to me!! In Malachi 3:10 He even promises so many blessings after we give and contribute that we could not possibly hold them all. I picture being able to give so much more because of the blessings He gives that overflow just because I do my small little part.

        For instance when I have given to individuals who were going on mission trips that I could not personally go on, the very amount has been more than repaid back to me monetarily and even much more than those gifts!!

        • Yes, I agree, Jackie, but I do think a word of caution is in order here. God requires 10% tithe, all the other offerings are free will. If we give because we think that God is going to bless us beyond what we give or even to give us back what we gave then to me we will have missed the real blessing because our gift really wasn't a gift at all but instead became a contractual arrangement.

          The act of giving because we want to or because of principle stabs selfishness to death. The real blessing is in a converted life that gets closer to the character of God. I doubt that we will really understand that until we get to Heaven and realize that we are there because we are actually safe to save and that our pattern of giving was a definite part of our sanctification.

  7. A complete sermon to me. Please help me pray about me being faithful to God and do according to his will. Please touch on my weakest points; TITHE AND OFFERINGS.

  8. Tyler, I believe "the business of being good stewards" is a matter of listening to the Master and carrying out His wishes. If He says to give all we possess, it would be not only foolish but dangerous to our eternal destiny to refuse. I believe that's one thing the story of the rich young ruler teaches.

    As a matter of fact, I believe that God always asks us to give all we possess to Him, as well as all our talents. Then He usually gives these back to us to manage. And in my 60 years of being a Christian I have not yet seen anyone come to poverty as a result of returning tithes an giving offerings. (On the other hand, we have personally met people who try to live off others in the name of the Lord. That's a totally different matter. I would be suspicious of their claims that they had given "all to the Lord." )

    Quite the contrary -- there are testimonies after testimonies how God has blessed the faithful return of tithes and giving of offerings, both materially and spiritually.

    I did not suggest that all should give up the stewardship of their possessions to anyone else. I would not dare suggest such a thing. But the Lord may ask some to give away all they possess at His pleasure. After all, it is His to give.

    In my own life I have proven the Lord and found that He, indeed, blesses abundantly above all I could ask or think. I have found that the 90% with the Lord's blessings goes much farther than 100% without - as I observe others who try to hang on to "their" 100%.

    As a matter of fact, we have found that 80% goes farther with God than 100% goes for most others. When we were still in college, we started returning a second tithe and have continued that for most of the time since then.

    The way I see it, when finances are most difficult, it is most important to put the Lord first, because we need the Lord's blessing so much!

    • Inge, I appreciate what you are saying but apparently you understand me to be suggesting that we really don't need to give an honest tithe and to support the work beyond that. Normally what God requires is for us to give in proportional to what we have. Even though Ellen White will back you up all the way she is also very well balanced in how she applies things so to clarify what I am saying here is a quote from her where she gives the other side of the issue:

      God has been robbed in tithes and offerings. It is a fearful thing to be guilty of withholding from the treasury or of robbing God. Ministers who preach the word at our large gatherings feel the sinfulness of neglecting to render to God the things that are His. They know that God will not bless His people while they are disregarding His plan of benevolence. They seek to arouse the people to their duty by pointed, practical discourses, showing the danger and sinfulness of selfishness and covetousness. Conviction fastens upon minds, and the icy chill of selfishness is broken. And when the call is made for donations to the cause of God, some, under the stirring influence of the meetings, are aroused to give who otherwise would do nothing. As far as this class is concerned, good results have been realized. But under pressing calls many feel the deepest who have not had their hearts frozen up with selfishness. They have conscientiously kept their means flowing out to advance the cause of God. Their whole being is stirred by the earnest appeals made, and the very ones respond who may have given all that their circumstances in life would justify.
      But these liberal, wholehearted believers, prompted by a zealous love for the cause and a desire to act promptly, judge themselves capable of doing more than God requires them to do, for their usefulness is crippled in other directions. These willing ones sometimes pledge to raise money when they know not from what source it is coming, and some are placed in distressing circumstances to meet their pledges. Some are obliged to sell their produce at great disadvantage, and some have actually suffered for the conveniences and necessities of life in order to meet their pledges.
      There was a time at the commencement of our work when such sacrifice would have been justified, when God would have blessed all who thus ventured out to do for His cause. The friends of truth were few and their means very limited. But the work has been widening and strengthening until there is means enough in the hands of believers to amply sustain the work in all its departments without embarrassing any, if all would bear their proportional part. The cause of God need not be crippled in the slightest degree. The precious truth has been made so plain that many have taken hold of it who have in their hands means which God has entrusted to them to use in advancing the interests of the truth. If these men of means do their duty, there need not be a pressure brought upon the poorer brethren.
      We are in a world of plenty. If the gifts and offerings were proportionate to the means which each has received of God, there would be no need of urgent calls for means at our large gatherings. I am fully convinced that it is not the best plan to bring a pressure upon the point of means at our camp meetings. Men and women who love the cause of God as they do their lives will pledge upon these occasions, when their families must suffer for the very means that they have promised to give to advance the cause. Our God is not a taskmaster and does not require the poor man to give means to the cause that belongs to his family and that should be used to keep them in comfort and above pinching want. (Testimonies for the Church Volume 3, p 409.2 - 410.3)

  9. This lesson on has reminded me again that I need to be proactive. It one thing to say its another to do. Talk about earning and putting it into bag full of holes! That has been my experience lately, I crave your prayers to help me to claim his promises and he will use what we all have, even this blog to bless us.

  10. You can't deny it Tyler, we recieve a blessing from giving of tithe and offering. Paul says in Romans 10: 32-39 that one of the reasons we hang in there is even though someone may come in and take some of our prize possessions, we don't let it bother us because we know where our real treasure is.
    What if the Lord said love me serve me, but in the end there is no eternal life. Will you obey? Well 1st that obviously will never happen. And second that is only a thought question, we need never answer, because we can't. He doesn't ask us to.
    Sure we get a blessing from giving, sure we get eternal life from serving, loving, and giving. Both are promised us if only we Ask, Believe, and Claim the promises.
    The lady in Florida that won the over 600 million dollars did not receive anything until she came forward and claimed it.
    If we give, asking, believing, and claiming the promise,
    that all the store houses of heaven will be opened to us.
    It will happen.

  11. Maranatha,God whom we serve is a jealous God. He loveps though we forbid to obey Him,its my prayer that we may learn to let Him first in our lives without scepticism. Let Him increase and me decrease always.

  12. Even though these texts are not included in the lesson for this week, I was thrilled to discover in Haggai 2:18-19, the promise that "From this day on I will bless you." Thus I believe that from the day we turn to Him in faith and put Him first in the handling of our material means as well as our time and affections, He will bless us. It provides hope for all who have neglected to put God first. He notes the very day we turn around and make Him truly Lord of our lives.

    Haggai isn't the only place we find promises of blessings. The Lord has challenged us to "try" Him to see if He will pour out a blessing on us, figuratively opening the windows of heaven. (Mal 3:10)

    And when Christ walked this planet, He repeated the promise when He said, "Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well." (Matt. 6:33)

    While this is sort of a "ground rule" in the service of God, His people are not always spared difficulties. The story of Job provides a glimpse behind the scenes that demonstrates that Satan is at the root of trials. From this story it is evident that God allows such trials to come to His good friends to demonstrate their character before the universe. Other times God allows trials to teach us things we could not otherwise learn. And sometimes it's just that "an enemy" does this for no discernible good reason. But even then we can know that Christ is with us in the trial.

    We can go through the list of Bible heroes who suffered: Joseph, Daniel, Jeremiah, Stephen and Paul come to mind. Dare we say that they did not experience blessings in spite of suffering?

    I believe God is good all the time, even when things aren't going well for me.

    • I have problem with issue: when you give to the Lord He will bless you abundantly.
      We see in Psalms and when Jesus said: that Sun is for every one, for bad and good the same, that blessings are apart from "giving" one self to God (not in eternal sense).
      Bad peoples are often blessed by life in all worldy sense. Psalmist have big problem with God because of that. On the end conclusion is that pay is coming in the Day of Judgement.

  13. The subject of giving and stewardship has often been a cause for concern and there are a number of issues that typically rise to the surface.

    There are three points that need to be emphasized:

    1) The tithe is the Lords

    2) Offerings are free-will and it is in our's and the Lord's interest that we be generous.

    3) We should know our limits and should not feel guilty about not giving more free-will offerings when it will cause us hardship.

    Regarding the third point, I have had occasion recently to recall a couple of cases of over-giving. Some folk have been persuaded by enthusiastic promotion at regional meetings to pledge amounts of money which they do not have any hope of providing. The money is simply not theirs to give. I remember to a relative, who left his farm to the church with little consideration for the son who was working the farm and for whom it was his only source of income. Such giving is misguided and should not be encouraged.

    There is a case for giving generously but such giving should be carefully thought through and not given on an impulse.

    The other side of the coin (forgive the figure of speech) is that there are indicators that we are not as generous now as in the past. This is a complex issue and a full discussion of those issues would take considerable time. (This is not just a church issue)

    However, we do need to be reminded that we are involved in the work of God. Our generosity, be it time, money, or other resources, can be used by God to further his work. We are partners with God and that deserves our commitment. it is not just a case of giving because we have to. We have a vested interest in the enterprise.

    • Maurice, I think I am hearing a lot of wisdom from God here. I believe it was James White who once said, "make all you can, save all you can, give all you can." Thank you for giving wise counsel.


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