Postal Sunday School - Lesson 3
Let us now apply what we learned about reading the Bible to the Old Testament book of Haggai. We shall read it through at a sitting first. It did not take very long did it? There were only two chapters with a total of 38 verses. When you start Bible study it is wise to choose short books for your first efforts.
Now no doubt you know that when Haggai wrote his messages there were neither chapter nor verse divisions in it. It looked in layout very much like an ordinary letter. Read it as a direct message from God. Do not pause at the end of each verse but read it more flowingly by following the sentences. In this way we begin to find the drift of the message and the connections of the various parts. For instance, in John 7 the closing verse reads “And every man went unto his own house”. The first verse of John 8 goes on to say “Jesus went unto the mount of Olives”. How much we would have lost if we had stopped reading at the end of chapter 7! By reading over the chapter division we find a beautiful contrast suggested. Whilst men went to their homes, Jesus had no home to go to, He had not where to lay His head! Do not be bound then in your reading by the chapter and verse divisions. Look out for the natural paragraphs of the message.
Did you notice the references to years, days and months in your reading of Haggai? This little book refers us to dates and times no less than six times. Look them up: 1. 1, 15; 2. 1, 10, 18, 20. From these verses we gather that the messages of our book Haggai were all given in the space of four months. Instead of the two chapter divisions we might consider the prophet’s message in three parts, i.e., 1. 1-15 delivered in the 6th month, 2. 1-9 delivered in the 7th month and 2. 10-23 delivered in the 9th month. Looking more carefully at the book however we can see that the prophet speaks to the people of his day five times. His messages are as follows:
- 1. 1-11. Call to repent and work; speaking to the conscience.
- 1. 12-14. Call to diligence; speaking to the will.
- 2. 1-9. Call to continuance; speaking to the spirit.
- 2. 10-19. Call to think; speaking to the mind.
- 2. 20-23. Call to assurance and hope; speaking to the heart.
Now read the book of Haggai through once again pausing at the end of each of these divisions. Be sure that you concentrate! Very often we do not see the book as a whole until we read it a number of times.
We noted earlier that there are a number of references to dates in the book. In your readings of Haggai did you notice anything? There are only six references to dates. There are 21 verses which refer to the Lord speaking. Time after time Haggai says “The word of the Lord came”, “saith the Lord” and “saith the Lord of hosts”. By these phrases the prophet emphasizes that the people were not listening to his ideas and his words but that he was bringing the Lord’s message to the people. He refers to himself as “the Lord’s messenger in the Lord’s message”, 1. 13. From this we learn at least two things. Firstly that the Bible is the Word of God and is not a book full of man’s ideas. Secondly we learn something about the Lord’s servant Haggai. He was satisfied to be nothing. He gave God all the glory in the messages he delivered. He was indeed a humble man, glad to tell others those things that the Lord had first given to him. Are you going to be like that as you serve the Lord?
As we continue to read Haggai we find more ideas that run through it. This is one of the best ways of learning the outstanding things (or keynotes) of the various books of the Bible. Something even more obvious than noticing “ideas” is to take note of words that are being constantly repeated. For instance, in Haggai the word “consider” occurs 5 times. Had you noticed it at all? This word means “ponder earnestly, give attention to, set your hearts on”. You see, with all our other interests we can easily overlook God’s claims upon us. Haggai found this true of his generation. They were caught up in an almost frantic attempt to get the best out of life, to increase their crops, to make their homes more comfortable. So they neglected their duty to God and His house. This brought its own tragedy and loss. Even the money they earned seemed to vanish; they put it into bags with holes and never seemed to have enough, 1. 6. In all this God was trying to “get through to them”. At last, He sent His messenger who told them what their troubles meant and challenged them to “consider”. We all need to stop from time to time and honestly “take stock”. Are we so caught up with hobbies or other things that we are neglecting our duty to God who is the Giver of life? Stop! says Haggai, take time to ponder!
Now look at those references to “consider” again. You can jot them down and as you do, try to summarize the message of each reference. You might end with something like this:
- Looking back over the past, 1. 5. Putting self first, a. God is displeased; b. God is dishonoured.
- Looking forward to the future, 1. 7. Putting God first, a. God’s pleasure in it; b. God glorified.
- Looking back over the past, 2. 15. What God did to the disobedient. After the ingathering of harvest - Poverty.
- Looking forward to the future, 2. 18 (2). What God would do when they were obedient. Before the ingathering of harvest - He promises Plenty.
We have found certain benefits from reading a book through at a sitting. We get to understand its message as a whole. We notice certain ideas which are prominent. Word themes help us grasp the dominant features of the book.
Below we print a typical outline from a 41 page booklet written by W. G. Henderson entitled “Divine Principles of Biblical Interpretation”. Copies of the booklet may be purchased direct from the author at 35 Middleton Park Rd., Leeds 10.
“To him give all the prophets witness”, Acts 10. 43. Christ, the fulfiller of Old Testament types:
- As the Promised One, typified by Isaac, Gen. 18. 10.
- As the Beloved Son, typified by Isaac, Gen. 22. 2; Joseph, Gen. 37. 3.
- As the Prophet, typified by Moses, Deut. 18. 18; Acts 7. 37.
- As Priest, typified by Melchisedec, Heb. 5. 6; Aaron, Heb. 9. 11.
- As King, typified by Melchisedec, Gen. 14. 18; David, Luke 1. 32, 33.
- As Saviour, typified by Joseph, Gen. 45. 7; Brazen serpent, John 3. 14, 15.
- As Lawgiver and Mediator, typified by Moses, Exod. 24. 6-18; Aaron, Num. 16. 47, 48.
- As Leader and Commander, typified by Joshua, Josh. 1. 2, 5; cf. Heb. 4. 8, 9.
- As Shepherd, typified by David, 1 Sam. 16. n.
- As Sin-Bearer, typified by the Scape-goat, Lev. 16. 21.
- As Sacrifice, typified by Isaac, Gen. 22. 7-10; Paschal Lamb, Exod. 12; 1 Cor. 5. 7; Daily Sacrifices, Heb. 10. 11, 12.
- In His Resurrection, typified by Isaac, Heb. 11. 19; Jonah, Matt. 12. 40.
- In His humiliation and exaltation, typified by Joseph, Gen. 41. 41-44.