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Posts Tagged ‘God’s will’

For an updated version of this teaching: The difference between faith and presumption

 

 

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We are looking at the final verses of Haggai today. We have already looked at Haggai’s first message: Instead of building up your own houses, get to work on rebuilding the temple – God’s house. And we have looked at Haggai’s second message: Even though the temple doesn’t seem glorious, God will give it glory; in fact, more glory than the previous temple.

In our verses today there are actually two messages that Haggai gives on the same day – December 18th 520 BC. (And so we will have two messages on the same day). In the first of these, or Haggai’s third message overall, he encourages the people by telling them that-

The  blessings are coming

The blessings are on the way.

Now this third message is connected to Haggai’s first message in chapter one, in that both of them note that they were going through hard times because of their disobedience. In other words, God was disciplining them. But the background to this third message is that they had been obedient now for some three months and things were still hard.

To address this, the Lord has Haggai ask two questions. v. 11 – “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Ask the priests about the law.” He is asking for an official ruling from the priests, as a way of making a point.

In v. 12 we have the first question, “’If someone carries holy meat in the fold of his garment and touches with his fold bread or stew or wine or oil or any kind of food, does it become holy?’ The priests answered and said, ‘No.’” After certain sacrifices, you would carry the leftover meat in the fold of your garment. The meat was considered holy, and the garment as well (Leviticus 6). But the holiness of the meat and the garment doesn’t make anything else it touches holy. And this is the point. As a general rule, holiness isn’t contagious.

In v. 13 we have the second question. “Then Haggai said, ‘If someone who is unclean by contact with a dead body touches any of these, does it become unclean?’ The priests answered and said, ‘It does become unclean.’” So if holiness isn’t contagious, uncleanness is contagious. We are dealing with the rotten apple principle here. A good apple can’t make a rotten apple good, but a rotten apple can make a good apple bad.

Next, Haggai makes the application, which is that the people of Judah were unclean. v. 14 – “Then Haggai answered and said, ‘So is it with this people, and with this nation before me, declares the Lord, and so with every work of their hands. And what they offer there is unclean.’” They were unclean due to their disobedience in that they put themselves first and didn’t work on the temple. And this uncleanness infected all that they did and had. More specifically it is the “work of their hands” that is unclean; that is, their harvests and their animals – all that they brought before God as sacrifices.

They thought that, even though they were walking in disobedience, their sacrifices would make them acceptable; that they would cover over their disobedience and make them holy. But the message of Haggai is that their disobedience made their sacrifices unclean and unacceptable.

The holiness of their sacrifices didn’t make their actions holy. But the uncleanness of their actions made their sacrifices unclean.

Next Haggai reminds them that because of their prior disobedience God disciplined them. vs. 15-17 – “Now then, consider from this day onward. Before stone was placed upon stone in the temple of the Lord, how did you fare?” He is asking, ‘how were you doing before you started working on the temple?’

And then, in words similar to what we find in chapter 1, he says, “When one came to a heap of twenty measures, there were but ten. When one came to the wine vat to draw fifty measures, there were but twenty. I struck you and all the products of your toil with blight and with mildew and with hail, yet you did not turn to me, declares the Lord.”

And then Haggai points toward the future. Since they began work on the temple; since they began to be obedient, God will now bless them. v. 18-19 – “Consider from this day onward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month. Since the day that the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid, consider: Is the seed yet in the barn? Indeed, the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have yielded nothing. But from this day on I will bless you.” [The time reference here is unclear. Is it looking back three months to when they began work on the temple and they are now, on December 18th supposed to start looking for the blessing? Or is it saying that the foundation was laid or finished on December 18th  and because of this the blessings will start on this day?]

This is a bold prediction. At this time of year (December) the seed would have just been planted after the late fall rains, and the orchards would not have been bearing fruit. And so without any outward indication of the kind of harvest the seed will bear, and without any indication of the kind of harvest the orchards will bear next season, the Lord says, “from this day on I will bless you” – v. 18.

The problem that they had complained about – hard economic times, would be dealt with. God’s discipline would be lifted, and God would bless them.

What Haggai is really doing in these verses is presenting a before and after picture. Before, they were disciplined because of their disobedience. But now, after, they will be blessed because of their obedience.

Lessons

Let’s see what we can take away from Haggai’s third message. First of all, obedience brings God’s blessing. They were under God’s corrective discipline because of their sin. God was trying to get their attention; to wake them up.

And God does the same with us. As Hebrews 12:6 says, “The Lord disciplines the one he loves.” When we allow sin in our life, we get discipline, not blessing.

But like them, if we submit ourselves to God and obey the Lord, we can know the fullness of God’s blessings for us.

I guess it’s just human nature that everyone thinks they will find happiness by doing their own thing; making their own choices apart from God. But it only comes by doing God’s will. This is how we find peace and happiness.

Second, you can’t cover over sin with good or religious practices. Or to say it another way, you can’t cancel out a life of disobedience to God by doing other good things, so that you say I have done some bad things, but I have also done some good things and they balance each other out.

They thought that since they offered up sacrifices, their disobedience could be overlooked. Sometimes we do the same. We think, ‘I will pray to God,’ or ‘I will come to church,’ or ‘I will help in the soup kitchen’ even though we are willfully choosing to sin. We think, ‘It will be OK. God will accept me. Things will be alright.’

But our unrepented sin contaminates all that we do, just as their sin contaminated their sacrifices. The only remedy is repentance – as Haggai 2:17 says, to turn to the Lord.

Haggai’s fourth message, given on the same day is brief. It has to do with a –

A promise concerning the house of David

By way of background, in Jeremiah 22 King Jehoiachin, or Coniah, as he was also known, a descendent of David, is rejected. v. 24 says, “As I live, declares the Lord, though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, were the signet ring on my right hand, yet I would tear you off . . ..” And in v. 30 the Lord says, “none of his offspring shall succeed in sitting on the throne of David and ruling again in Judah.”

Why is this relevant? Zerubbabel was the grandson of Jehoiachin, and this pronouncement would certainly put a cloud over him and the line of David.

And so Haggai speaks to Zerubbabel, personally, but also as a representative of the Davidic line. vs. 21-22 – “Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I am about to shake the heavens and the earth, and to overthrow the throne of kingdoms. I am about to destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations, and overthrow the chariots and their riders. And the horses and their riders shall go down, every one by the sword of his brother.”

This shaking of the nations is also referred to in Haggai’s second message. Although here it seems more uniformly to point to the end of all things.

v. 23 – “On that day, declares the Lord of hosts, I will take you, O Zerubbabel my servant, the son of Shealtiel, declares the Lord, and make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you, declares the Lord of hosts.” A signet ring is the seal of a king. It functioned like a signature. It was an instrument of authority and a symbol of a most prized possession, usually kept on the possession of the king. And so Haggai is saying – if Jehoiachin is rejected, Zerubbabel is accepted. He is precious, like a signet ring that is not cast off, but kept near. He is God’s servant. He is chosen.

But God is also speaking to him as a representative of the Davidic line. And he is saying that when all other kingdoms have run their course and are judged – the line of David will continue on.

This is similar to the second message about the temple. Even though it seemed paltry, there was a glorious future for it. So also here, even though Zerubbabel is a mere governor in the Persian empire, what will come from him will be great and beloved by God.

The fulfillment can be seen in that:

  • God preserved the line of David through Zerubbabel
  • Jesus comes from this ancestry, from Zerubbabel, through Joseph – Matthew 1:12.
  • When Jesus returns all kingdoms will be judged and he will reign as King of kings and Lord of lords.

Lesson

From this last message of Haggai we learn something about God that we need to remember. And that is that God is in control. Certainly the nations seemed all powerful to small and insignificant Judah. But God can shake them and judge them when he chooses. And even though they sin and rebel, ultimately, they are under his control.

And God has a plan for the world which he will fulfill in the proper time. God is in control of the outcome of history, and this will include the line of David.

But God also has concern for individuals, as we see with Zerubbabel. And so in the midst of our confusion, our inability to control things and our inability to see into the future – we can trust the God who does see into the future, who is in control and who cares for each of us. And we can know that if God can make all of history turn out like it should, he can certainly do the same with our lives – as we seek to follow him.

William Higgins

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