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Sunday, March 22, 2020

From the Book of Haggai

I urge you to open your Bible and read the scriptures for yourself.  Pray for guidance in His word and let the Holy Spirit lead you.  If you would like to share, add your thoughts on this passage of scripture in the comments.

Background Info:

Haggai is the second shortest book in the Old Testament. He prophesied around 520BC during the reign of Darius the 1st.  Verse 1 of Chapter 1 gives us a time frame for this book. This time in Israel’s history is also the period of Esther, Nehemiah, & Ezra.  Haggai is mentioned in Chapters 5&6 of Ezra.  His ministry is persuading Israel to get back to rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem after a 10 – year hiatus. A remnant had been given permission to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple.  At first, they had done so with great zeal and had quickly completed the foundation. Then, they threw a party. The party was okay, but they didn’t get back to work later.  Between their own desires and the “encouragement” of the neighbors to stop work on the temple, they did indeed cease to work on the temple.

The name Haggai means something along the lines of “festive one.”

Haggai Chapter 2

Verse 1:

In Chapter 1, God had sent a message by Haggai to call the remnant to repent and return to obedience of His will.  As the background information says, they had gotten distracted and needed to be guided back into God’s will of rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem.  This verse in chapter 2 lets us the reader know that roughly a month and a half had passed from chapter 1.

Verses 2-3:

Who is left that saw the temple in its first glory? The temple Solomon had built was not like anything seen before.  David had collected many supplies for building and filling the temple. Solomon had made sure that it was a physical picture of perfection. You might remember that the Bible says the temple was filled with the glory of the Lord – the shekinah glory.

Compared to the first temple, Solomon’s temple, this temple was nothing. There was no glory in its appearance. The glory of God was not there either. Haggai is one of the few that had seen the former temple in all of its glory. This is around 520 BC. The temple had been destroyed in 586 BC. Anyone who would have seen the first temple would have to be around 75 or older to really remember it.  Other books of the Old Testament recount men saying they were sad at the sight of the new temple because they remembered the first temple and the new one did not compare.

The Lord asked who remembered and said, “is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?” His purpose was to guide them to identify their problem.  Sin. Lack of obedience had led them to this point. God’s words were convicting to the older generations, the ones who needed to lead the younger generations.  Leaders have a strong responsibility to follow the will of the Lord.  Again, lack of strong, spiritual leadership within homes and communities led them to disobey.

Just a side note:

Possibly one of the saddest moments in Ezekiel’s life was watching the glory depart from the temple in Ezekiel Chapter 10.  I bring this up because some have asked how Nebuchadnezzar’s military was able to destroy the temple.  If the glory of God occupied the temple, then surely no man could destroy it.  After sending prophet after prophet to warn Israel and Judah that they needed to consider their ways and repent, the Lord allowed them to be conquered by other empires.  The destruction of the temple was allowed by God.  He removed His glory from the temple to allow its destruction.  Ezekiel watched as the shekinah glory slowly exited the temple.  He described it lingering before finally leaving – an example of God’s longsuffering mercy toward us.  We serve a merciful God; one that does not wish for His children to suffer.

Verses 4&5:

Even though they had fallen into sin again, God said, “Yet now be strong … and work.” He said even though you have fallen in your past, do the right thing now.  He gave the remnant hope. They still had the chance to repent. They still had the chance to do the work that God had required of them. God said to work. “I am with you.” God would be among the people if they followed His will.

How does this apply to us today?  We aren’t being asked to rebuild a broken-down temple; or are we?  If we have accepted Jesus as our Savior and are backslidden, the Lord does call us to rebuild a broken-down temple.  He calls all of His children to come back to Him with a repentant heart.  Even if we sit in every single church service, sing in the choir every week, attend every meeting, cut the grass, weed the church flower beds, do our daily Bible reading faithfully, we-can-still-be-backslidden.  Being in a backslidden state isn’t always evident on the outside.  It will eventually show up on the outside, but it begins on the inside – in the heart and mind.  We must work to rebuild our spiritual temple by following the will of God. He will be among us if we do.

The Lord reminds them in verse 5 that He had promised the children of Israel that He would be with them when He brought them up out of Egypt.  He calls them to stop fearing.  In the books of Nehemiah and Ezra, we can read that the neighbors had attempted to halt the temple work. They had gone as far as to threaten the people.  That fear persisted in their hearts and minds. Again, how does this apply to us today?  We too allow fear to control our decisions.  We serve the same God that set the stars in the sky and intricately made the planets to circle the sun without colliding. We serve the same God that parted the Red Sea. We serve the same God that held the sun in place while the children of Israel battled their enemies.  Yet, we allow little things to set fear in our hearts.  We need to remember: He goes before us and He stands behind us.  The remnant in Jerusalem needed to be reminded of that. How encouraging to know that despite our sin and disobedience, God is still with us! It is His presence that brings us the hope and the joy.

Verses 6-9:

“I will shake all nations.” The Lord, my Lord and your Lord said, “I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land.” I can’t say the words enough. We serve a mighty God! He proclaimed He would fill the house with glory. He said the silver and gold belonged to Him. Everything belongs to HIM. He has the power to get the attention of not only His children, but the entire world.  I think we can say He has done that many times including the events we are facing right now.  But here in Haggai, the Lord was saying that He would provide the necessary things to do the work He was calling this people to do. He was telling them that one day, glory would fill this place. This glory He talks about is himself.  God told them it would be a little while before he came, but he would physically fill it with himself.  The glory of the Lord did not come back into the temple until Jesus physically set foot in the temple after his incarnation. His glory would be greater than the former because it would be the physical presence of the Lord through Jesus Christ.  Our God keeps promises. We may not see it immediately, but He keeps promises.  The remnant never saw the temple once again filled with glory, but a future generation did.  Jesus entered the very temple this remnant was called to work on.  Jesus is greater than any temple.

Verses 10-13:

Verse 10 begins another message from the Lord through Haggai. This message is around another two months from the second one.  Therefore, the book of Haggai covers a period of close to four months.

Thus saith the Lord – ask now.  The Lord instructed the people to inquire of the priests.  This was meant to be a message of affirmation. Holiness, is something holy just because holiness touched it? The answer is no. Unholiness is. If something touches something unholy, it becomes unholy.  In Numbers, the ceremonial cleansing is not transferrable, but uncleanness is transferrable. You can’t transfer your wellness to someone who is ill, but you can touch someone and give them your cold.

God wanted the remnant of people living in Jerusalem to realize that just because you touch something holy, does not make you holy. I can’t rely on the works of my grandfather to get me to heaven. I had to do my own repenting, my own confessing the Lord as my Savior.  Likewise, God wanted them to affirm that they needed to each repent individually in their own hearts. They could not rely on a leader to repent for the entire community.

However, if we look at verse 13 we will see that the opposite is true for sin.  Sin transfers like a bad cold.  If the leader is sinning, the community tends to follow in sinfulness. If a parent is submerged in sin, children tend to follow.  I have heard people say that they can hang out with the lost and not be affected. According to verse 13, that is not true.  No, sin doesn’t take away our salvation, but it doesn’t help our testimony.  Unless you are consistently controlling the conversation and decisions while hanging around with the lost and wayward Christians, you will likely be influenced whether you notice or not.

Verses 14-19:

So is this people. That which they offer is unclean. This was a reminder that they had sinned and that all the good works in the world would not cover their sin.  Only repentance could help them.  A lot of false religions and even some churches who bare the same label as our own make the mistake of teaching that salvation in the Old Testament had come by works.  But over and over, God called unrepentant works unclean beginning back in Genesis with Cain.

Consider – there’s that word again. God calls us to consider our ways.  He called the remnant to consider again. In verse 15 and 16, He reminded them that they had sought a large portion; but had only found a fraction of their desire.  He was reminding them what He had taken away when they were out of His will. He told them to remember that He had sent the mildew and the hail but to no avail.

Then He tells them to consider the time that they began work again on the temple and how they had received blessings from then forward.  No, this is not a prosperity gospel. Yes, God does bless the fruit of our labor when we work with a repentant heart. It is out of God’s grace that He blesses.  He blesses because of where our heart is, not because of where our work is.  Some people perform good works simply as an attempt to receive a reward for themselves.  God rewards us when we perform good works to glorify Him alone. If you notice, when God took away physical things from the children of Israel as punishment, they were needs.

When we read of riches in the Bible, we with our modernized thinking assume those riches were equivalent to huge houses, yachts, numerous sports cars, and an overflowing bank account.  The riches God blessed His people with were necessities that could sustain them, their families, and their entire society.  Sure, He blessed them with gold and silver; but remember that in verse 8 of Haggai, God reminded them that it belonged to Him.  Before we assess our own lives and how we serve and compare the blessings we feel we have received, we need to take stock in what we do have.  We have shelter. It may not look like a celebrity mansion, but it is shelter nonetheless. We have food. None of us are malnourished in our church family.  Trust me when I say there are women who would be packing food to your house if they even suspected you were without.  We have some who believe in keeping people fed!  We all have at least one vehicle available to get us to where we need to go.  Our riches are many. Its our perception that tends to be off.

Verses 20-23:

The same day, God gave them something to expect or anticipate.  He told them they would see restoration.  This restoration did not come by their own hands. It came by the divine intervention of the Lord using the enemies of Israel against one another.  The signet was a ring that was often used to sign or seal important proclamations during that day.  Haggai told Zerubbabel that he would represent the Lord and the Lord would be with him.

Throughout the book of Haggai, I personally see forgiveness, redemption, restoration, and blessings.  I am grateful to serve the one true God who offers all those things despite me being so undeserving.