Writer: Patrick McDonald
Big idea: Nothing is pleasant about Israel’s exile. God warned His people where their greed and the desire to be like the other nations would literally consume them. Zerubbabel is not a common story for Christmas. After the destruction of the heart of the Jewish faith, God’s people are carried off into exile in Babylon where they are robbed of their identity, future and hope. Finally, under King Darius of Persia, Zerubbabel becomes the first to lead the Jews home from exile where he would lay the foundation of the second temple. The prophet Haggai tells us that once the Jews returned home, their disappointment and disillusionment led them to abandon God and the rebuilding of the Temple. God commissions Zerubbabel to be courageous and rebuild the temple, looking forward to the day when God’s dwelling would no longer be confined to a place, but personally with His people in Jesus. Unlike hope and faith which points to a future reality, joy is a present reality. At Christmas, we remind each other of the great gift of Jesus, which is not about presents, but God’s very own presence with us through His Spirit. The presence of God’s Spirit in us builds up joy under all circumstances and on all occasions.
Key Passages: Haggai 1-2, Zechariah 1:1-6; Psalm 137; Galatians 5:22; Romans 12:12; 15:13
God gave Zerubbabel the overwhelming task of leading God’s people by laying the foundation for the temple to be rebuilt one day. In Haggai 1:7-2:9, God instructs His people to be strong, to obey, and to trust Him. He anchors this request with the promise to be with His people and fill His house with ever more glory and peace than before. From a New Testament perspective, Haggai is also foreshadowing the first and second coming of Jesus.
For us, this means we can live with joy, hope, and peace, because we can trust in God’s promises. We can see how God has fulfilled His promises to His people in scripture and look back to remember how God has promised to be with us in our own lives.
The culture of our day equates joy with happiness and pleasure. Life is about feeling good physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. And we want to feel happy as often as possible. If we base our joy on factors that we can’t control, we are bound to be frustrated, disappointed, and depressed.
As Christians, our joy is anchored in the death and resurrection of Jesus. We live with an unending and unshakable joy, because we trust God and His promises. We know that God is always with us, and we know that our ultimate destiny is to spend eternity with Jesus where we will experience a joy and peace that is greater than anything we can even imagine.
In what ways has God showed up in your life this past year? What promises has He fulfilled?
Read Haggai 1:7-2:9, Romans 15:13, Galatians 5:22
- How do you view joy and happiness? What makes them similar? What makes them different?
- When in life has it been easiest to have joy?
- When has it been the hardest to have joy?
- Have can you practice having a joyful approach to life this week?
Prayer: Take a moment to share prayer requests and pray for each other.