Scriptures

Haggai 2

Introduction

‘On the twenty-first day of the seventh month, the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: ‘Speak to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, to Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people. Ask them, ‘Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing? But now be strong, Zerubbabel,’ declares the LORD. ‘Be strong, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the LORD, ‘and work. For I am with you,’ declares the LORD Almighty. ‘This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.’ Haggai 2:1-5

His Second Message

Around a month later Haggai received and delivered his second message to the Jews and it seems that they have become discouraged in their work in rebuilding the temple.

We can imagine them thinking about how awesome Solomon’s temple was in all its grandeur, but now here it is laying in ruins because the Babylonians totally destroyed it in 586 B.C. It’s easy to understand how discouraged they would be when they thought about how the temple once was and what they are about to do.

There’s no way they could build a temple like Solomon’s temple, that took 7 ½ years to build, but that wasn’t God’s point, God isn’t interested in the physical structure because the time was coming where the true place of worship was going to be revealed, John 4:20-24 / Acts 17:24, and ultimately, the temple was going to be destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70, Matthew 24:1-25.

God was more concerned about His people identifying themselves as His people who lived in the land and to do that, they needed to get back to following God and obeying His commands.

The Samaritans had discouraged the people, to such an extent that they stopped working on the temple and so, God encourages them to ‘be strong and work’.

This was God’s way of declaring that He was with them and the work they should be getting on with, is actually God’s work. God again assures them that He is with them by telling them that the Holy Spirit was among them, He will give them the encouragement they need to get on with the building work. Just like He was with their ancestors when He delivered them out of Egypt, God is going to be with them in the rebuilding of His temple.

‘This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the LORD Almighty. ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘And in this place, I will grant peace,’ declares the LORD Almighty.’ Haggai 2:6-9

Just like when God shook Mount Sinai when He established His covenant with Israel and gave them the law, He would once again shake the heavens and the earth to establish a new covenant with His people in the future, Jeremiah 31:31-34.

All this shaking represents uproar which would affect all nations until the coming of the Messiah. After this God is going to reveal Himself to mankind through Jesus, His Son, it would be Jesus who will ascend to God’s right hand and rule over all the nations of this world, Daniel 2:44 / Daniel 7:13-14 / Philippians 2:5-11.

We must remember that when Haggai prophesied these words, he and the people at the time would have no idea what they meant, 1 Peter 1:10-12, and if they understood anything about his words, they would have understood that this was all a part of God’s plan, it was all about hope for their future.

They needed to trust God and realise that He was working through the remnant of Exiles, so that He could lay the foundation for the coming of the Messiah. This was more than just a bunch stones for a physical building, this was God preparing to build His spiritual house. God determines how it will be, not man.

The glory in this new temple will be greater than Solomon’s

There are three ideas about this.

1. It’s going to be when Herod builds parts to it and so it will resemble Solomon’s temple.

2. Jesus Himself would physically walk in Zerubbabel’s temple.

3. A prophecy of the Messianic temple, where individually we would be a temple of God, 1 Corinthians 3:16.

Whatever it is, it will happen after the earth and heavens are shaken in which God will change things, the kingdoms, rulers and powers.

The spiritual is always better than the physical, as Christians today, we have a kingdom and we are now in that kingdom that cannot be shaken, Hebrews 12:25-29. We too have peace in Christ, as Christ is the Prince of peace, Isaiah 9:6 / Ephesians 2:13-18.

Haggai’s second message teaches us to look past the physical and look forward at the spiritual.

‘On the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Haggai: ‘This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Ask the priests what the law says: If someone carries consecrated meat in the fold of their garment, and that fold touches some bread or stew, some wine, olive oil or other food, does it become consecrated?’ The priests answered, ‘No.’ Then Haggai said, ‘If a person defiled by contact with a dead body touches one of these things, does it become defiled?’ ‘Yes,’ the priests replied, ‘it becomes defiled.’ Then Haggai said, ‘So it is with this people and this nation in my sight,’ declares the LORD. ‘Whatever they do and whatever they offer there is defiled.’ Haggai 2:10-14

Haggai’s Third Message

It appears that Haggai’s words weren’t enough for the people to start building the temple again, because he has to speak to them again, two months later, Haggai 2:1 / Haggai 2:10.

His third message is presented as a series of two questions. By asking these questions, God is getting them to see that cleanliness and healthiness are not contagious but uncleanliness and unhealthiness are. All food was ceremonially unclean, Leviticus 23:19-23 and so they are told, it’s unclean, because there is no temple.

The first question is asking, if a garment that was being used to carry holy meat, would that in turn make anything it touched holy? The obvious answer to this question is no, it wouldn’t.

The second question is asking, if anything which is made unclean by touching a dead body, could that defile the thing it touched? The priests answer by saying, that anything which was defiled and unclean touched something else, it would make whatever it touched defiled and unclean.

The reason for these questions was simply to show the priests that it was easier to become defiled than it was to become clean. Anything which was ceremonially holy, couldn’t make anything it touched holy but anything which was unclean, would make the person who touched it unclean, and whoever the person touched would become unclean, Numbers 19:11-22.

The Jews had apparently built an altar, but the problem was they thought that their past sins would be forgiven if they ceremonially performed offerings on the altar.

God is saying that their lazy attitude towards building the temple had defiled them to the point that God wouldn’t accept their sacrifices on the altar. This is part of the reason why they were being punished through a famine and drought, Haggai 1:3-6 / Haggai 1:7-11.

Haggai’s questions were simple enough for the priests to understand, can holiness be transferred through casual contact? No. Can defilement be transferred through casual contact? Yes. God is saying the people are unclean, and what they therefore offer is unclean. Unclean people can’t build a holy temple; therefore, their offering is unclean.

‘Now give careful thought to this from this day on—consider how things were before one stone was laid on another in the LORD’s temple. When anyone came to a heap of twenty measures, there were only ten. When anyone went to a wine vat to draw fifty measures, there were only twenty. I struck all the work of your hands with blight, mildew and hail, yet you did not return to me,’ declares the LORD. ‘From this day on, from this twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, give careful thought to the day when the foundation of the LORD’s temple was laid. Give careful thought: Is there yet any seed left in the barn? Until now, the vine and the fig tree, the pomegranate and the olive tree have not borne fruit. ‘From this day on I will bless you.’ Haggai 2:15-19

God asked His people to seriously think about the questions Haggai asked, the hardship they were going through was the consequences of their own actions and so, the answers to those questions may be easy for them to answer but changing their ways would be the challenge.

Haggai encourages them to be patient for the blessings that would come as a result of their repentance. Up until now they’ve worked hard for nothing, they’ve worked hard to please themselves, Deuteronomy 28:22, but now, since they’re going to concentrate on building God’s house, they simply needed to be patient for the blessings which would follow.

They must be patient for the blessings, when they start the building work, God would start to bless them in giving increase to their crops. This was to be an act of faith, they had to do something first and trust that God would bless them, just believing wasn’t enough, they had to act in faith, James 2:14-26.

Before the stone was laid in the temple, the Jews toiled and scraped to get by, God even brought ‘blight, mildew and hail’ to irritate their efforts, but they didn’t obey Him.

God goes on to ask them, what’s happened since the temple’s foundations was laid? He asks, is there seed in the barn? To which the answer is no, not even has the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate and the olive tree, produced any fruit. 

God says, ‘be patient, trust Me, I will bless you’, and although the promises are material blessings, they will be blessed even more spiritually. He says, this is what I’ll give you, but you must stop looking back and start looking forward to the future.

‘The word of the LORD came to Haggai a second time on the twenty-fourth day of the month: ‘Tell Zerubbabel governor of Judah that I am going to shake the heavens and the earth. I will overturn royal thrones and shatter the power of the foreign kingdoms. I will overthrow chariots and their drivers; horses and their riders will fall, each by the sword of his brother. ‘On that day,’ declares the LORD Almighty, ‘I will take you, my servant Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will make you like my signet ring, for I have chosen you,’ declares the LORD Almighty.’ Haggai 2:20-23

Haggai’s Fourth Message

Haggai’s fourth and final message was addressed directly to Zerubbabel who was the grandson of Jehoiachin and who was a member of the royal family of David.

This message is a repetition of the prophecy given earlier in Haggai 2:6. God would shake the nations so that He could bring about His purposes of bringing the Messiah into the world.

First it was the Assyrians, then the Babylonians, then the Medo-Persians, then the Greeks and then the Romans, all of them would come and go, Daniel 2 / Daniel 7, but Jesus would have the right to rule. Jesus was called the Lion of Judah, Revelation 5:8-10 / Revelation 6:12-17, King of Judah; He was the only one who could be king.

Please note that Zerubbabel is here being used as the type of Jesus as a King that would eventually come, 1 Timothy 6:15 / Revelation 1:5 / Revelation 17:14 / Revelation 19:11-16.

The signet ring which symbolised the right to rule usually was engraved with the sign of the owner, and the ring was used as a signature of authority when the engraved sign was pressed on a document. God chose Him as His servant, Isaiah 52:13 / Isaiah 53:11.

What’s important to understand here is that Zerubbabel was made the leadership symbol of the nation in expectation of the Messiah whom Zerubbabel would symbolise.

Just as Zerubbabel led the exiles when they returned from their Babylonian captivity, so Jesus, our King, would lead and deliver us from the captivity of our sins and give us freedom, Mark 11:9.

Jesus spiritual kingdom would be established far above all the other kingdoms of this world, Daniel 2:44 / Daniel 7:13-14. It would be Jesus who would sit at God’s right hand, Revelation 1:5 / Revelation 2:26-27 / Revelation 3:21 / Revelation 17:14.

It would be Jesus who would rule as King over all things from heaven, Ephesians 1:20-23. It would be Jesus who asks everyone to walk by faith in humble obedience to Him as their King, Romans 10:17. God is going to overthrow the kingdoms of the Gentiles, just like He did before, He used the Assyrians to punish Israel, He used the Babylonians to punish the Assyrians, He used the Medo-Persia to punish the Babylonians.

Haggai’s fourth and final message is simply saying that the kingdom of God will be restored.

Application

I always like to ask the question, who encourages the encourager? God always encourages us to keep going and promises to be with us forever, Matthew 28:20.

In most congregations, you will always find the faithful few who are always trying their best to reach out to the lost and encourage those who are struggling, but who encourages them?

Who encourages them when they are struggling? Why not go out your way today, to encourage the encourager? Give them a call, visit them, ask if they need help, 1 Thessalonians 5:11 / Hebrews 3:13 / Hebrews 10:24-25.

As the Jews discovered, procrastination can be a serious sin, putting things off can be unproductive and unacceptable to God.

I would be a rich person if I had received five pounds every time, I heard someone say,

‘yes, I’ll think about becoming a Christian, but not just now, I have things to sort out first!’

What many people don’t understand is that none of us have got the promise of a tomorrow, we take tomorrow for granted and believe we can just put things off to a later date because we’re too busy building our own little empire, Luke 12:13-21. The truth is, that later date may not come, and it’ll be too late for salvation, James 4:13-15.

Conclusion

Haggai’s message was simple enough to understand, the Jews needed to finish building God’s temple but do it in a way which pleases Him and brings Him glory. To do this they needed to forget about the past and look to the future. As Christians God must always be first in our lives, but we must learn the lesson from Haggai’s message, Romans 15:4.

It was going to take more than Zerubbabel and Joshua to build this temple, everyone needed to be involved and if we as God’s holy temple, Ephesians 2:19-22 / 1 Peter 2:5, are to continue to build upon the Lord’s temple today, then everyone needs to be involved in that building work because God has work prepared for us to do.

‘For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.’ Ephesians 2:10

Back To Haggai 1

 

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

John 16:33

MENU