Through the prophet Haggai, the Lord exhorted the Jews to rebuild the temple at Jerusalem and promised them great blessings if they obeyed Him. The prophet Zechariah had several visions about Judah, Jerusalem, and the last days.
Bring to class an empty container (such as a plastic bottle) with several small holes in the bottom, a pitcher of water, a sponge or rag, and a pan large enough to catch the water that will spill.
Invite a student to come to the front of the class and use the sponge or rag to transfer the water from the pitcher to the container with holes. (Make sure the student does this over the pan so it catches the water that spills.) After the student struggles to complete this task, ask the following question:
Why is it a challenge to fill a container that has holes?
Ask students to ponder how this activity could represent the experience of someone who is given the word of God but chooses to ignore God’s will and pursue his or her own desires instead.
Invite students to look for truths as they study the book of Haggai that illustrate the blessings of putting God and His will first in our lives.
Invite students to locate “Haggai” on the diagram “The Kingdoms of Israel and Judah at a Glance” (see lesson 102). Explain that after the Jews arrived in Jerusalem from their captivity in Babylon, they put great effort into rebuilding the temple, the city, their homes, and their lives. However, because of opposition from the Samaritans and their own apathy, they stopped working on the temple for several years (see Ezra 4:1–5, 24).
Invite a student to read Haggai 1:1–4 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the Lord’s message that Haggai delivered to Zerubbabel and Joshua, two of the Jewish leaders.
According to verse 2, what did the people say about rebuilding the temple?
What question did the Lord ask the people in verse 4?
Explain that the word ceiled means “paneled” (see verse 4, footnote a). “Ceiled houses” refers to the way many Jews furnished their homes with fine wood, and the phrase “this house” refers to the temple.
How had the people placed their will ahead of the Lord’s will?
Display the container with the holes in it, and invite a student to read Haggai 1:5–7 aloud. Ask students to follow along, looking for similarities between the Jews’ situation and the container.
How was the Jews’ situation similar to the container with holes?
According to verse 6, in what ways did the people not prosper?
Point out the phrase “consider your ways” in verses 5 and 7, and ask a student to express in his or her own words what this phrase means.
Why do you think the Jews needed to consider their ways?
Invite a student to read Haggai 1:8 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord instructed the people to do.
What did the Lord instruct the people to do?
Summarize Haggai 1:9–11 by explaining that the Lord told the Jews that the difficulties they were experiencing, including a drought and a famine, were the result of putting a higher priority on furnishing their own homes than on rebuilding His temple.
Invite a student to read Haggai 1:12–14 aloud. Ask students to follow along, looking for what Zerubbabel, Joshua, and the people decided to do.
What did the Jews decide to do?
According to verse 13, what was the Lord’s message to the people because of their decision to work on the temple?
Summarize Haggai 2:1–6 by explaining that after the Jews struggled for nearly a month to rebuild the temple, the Lord spoke words of encouragement to them through the prophet Haggai. Invite a student to read Haggai 2:4–5 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how the Lord encouraged the people.
Why could the people be strong and fearless as they rebuilt the temple?
Invite a student to read Haggai 2:7–9 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord said He would do to His temple. Point out that the title “the desire of all nations” (verse 7) refers to the Savior Jesus Christ.
According to verse 7, what will Jesus Christ do to His temple when He comes?
Explain that this prophecy could refer to the Savior’s visits to the temple during His mortal ministry. It could also refer to His visit to His temple in Jerusalem at the Second Coming, which may be what Haggai meant when he said, “The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former,” or Solomon’s temple (verse 9).
According to verse 9, what will the Lord give in His temple?
What principle we can learn from verse 9 that can help us understand an important purpose of temples? (Students may use different words, but they should identify the following principle: When we are in the house of the Lord, He can give us peace. You may want to suggest that students write this principle in the margin next to verse 9.)
To help students understand this principle, invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder David B. Haight of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“The moment we step into the house of the Lord, the atmosphere changes from the worldly to the heavenly, where respite from the normal activities of life is found, and where peace of mind and spirit is received. It is a refuge from the ills of life and a protection from the temptations that are contrary to our spiritual well-being” (“Temples and the Work Therein,” Ensign, Nov. 1990, 61).
Invite students to share an experience they have had when they felt peace in the temple. Encourage students to be worthy to be in the temple and to go to the temple as often as they can.
Summarize Haggai 2:10–17 by explaining that these verses refer to ordinances of the law of Moses related to holiness and cleanliness and again identify the Jews’ temporal problems as a result of not building the temple.
Display the container with holes again. Invite a student to read Haggai 2:18–19 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for blessings the Lord said would result from the people’s decision to work on the temple.
What did the Lord say He would do for Israel starting from the day they continued working on the temple?
What principle can we learn from these verses? (Students may use different words, but they should identify the following principle: If we put God and His will first in our lives, then He will be with us and bless all aspects of our lives. Write this principle on the board. You may want to suggest that students write it in the margin of their scriptures next to Haggai 2:18–19.)
To help students understand this principle, ask them to share situations in which we would need to decide whether to put God first (for example, accepting a well-paying job that requires working on the Sabbath instead of going to church).
How might God bless us in all aspects of our lives as we put Him first?
To help students understand how they will be blessed as they place God first in their lives, ask a student to read aloud the following statement by President Ezra Taft Benson:
“Men and women who turn their lives over to God will find out that he can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace” (“Jesus Christ—Gifts and Expectations,” New Era, May 1975, 20).
Invite students to ponder how putting God first in their lives has blessed them. Consider asking a few students to share their experiences with the class.
Ask students to ponder how well they are doing with putting God first in their lives. Encourage them to make any changes that would help them put God first in their lives.
Summarize Haggai 2:20–23 by explaining that the Lord, through Haggai, told of the great influence that Zerubbabel would have on Judah.
Explain that Zechariah prophesied in Jerusalem at about the same time as Haggai. At a time when the Jews felt that God had forgotten them and their struggles, Zechariah (whose name means “Jehovah remembers”) received eight different visions that restored the Jews’ hope and faith in God’s love for them (see Bible Dictionary, “Zechariah”). Invite students to look for a principle in Zechariah 1–2 that can help them have faith in God’s love for them.
Invite a student to read Zechariah 1:1–3 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for a truth that might have strengthened the Jews’ faith in God’s love.
How would you rephrase verse 3 as a principle using the words if and then? (Students may use different words but should identify the following principle: If we turn unto the Lord, then He will turn unto us.)
How do we turn to the Lord?
Explain that some people may mistakenly believe that when they turn away from God by committing sin, He also turns away from them. Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Ask students to listen for an explanation of God’s attitude toward those who sin.
“In the anguishing process of repentance, we may sometimes feel God has deserted us. The reality is that our behavior has isolated us from Him. Thus, while we are turning away from evil but have not yet turned fully to God, we are especially vulnerable. Yet we must not give up, but, instead, reach out to God’s awaiting arm of mercy, which is outstretched ‘all the day long.’ (Jacob 5:47; 6:4; 2 Ne. 28:32; Morm. 5:11.)” (“Repentance,” Ensign, Nov. 1991, 31).
Why might someone feel like God has turned away from them?
What does Elder Maxwell teach about God’s desires for those who sin?
Summarize the rest of Zechariah 1–2 by explaining that Zechariah prophesied that there would be peace in the land so that the temple could be rebuilt. He also prophesied that in the last days Judah would be gathered to Jerusalem and the Lord would dwell in the midst of His people.