Haggai Part V, 2:20-23

Haggai 2:20-23 Zerubbabel: The Chosen Servant

Haggai preached his last sermon on the same day he preached his third sermon. In the third sermon he used an example from the priesthood to illustrate God’s coming blessing. Now he turns his attention to throne. Zerubbabel was the governor of Judah. At this time they could not have kings because of their servitude to the Persians. In this section Haggai begins to sound like Isaiah and some of the other pre-exilic prophets. God tells Zerubbabel that the day is coming when he will shake the nations. (2:21-22) Like Sodom and Gomorrah they will be overthrown. Like Pharaoh and his army in Exodus 14 their chariots and riders will “come down.” Haggai sees a great and mighty day of the Lord. Other prophets saw similar visions of God’s coming Kingdom. (Isaiah 13, Joel 1:15, 2:1, Zephaniah 1:7) Haggai himself has already mentioned this shaking in his second sermon. (2:7) Then Haggai goes on to tell Zerubbabel that he is God’s servant and his chosen one. (2:23) The term servant is seen primarily in the prophecies of Isaiah. Isaiah also puts “servant” and “chosen one” side by side several times. (Isaiah 41:8, 42:1, and 44:1-2).

Obviously, Zerubbabel was not the promised servant from Isaiah. He did not usher in the Kingdom, but instead like David and Hezekiah and Josiah before him he pointed to the coming King who would rule over the nations with a rod of iron. As Calvin says, “There is no doubt but he[Haggai] points to Christ in the person of Zerubbabel.”

What is also interesting is that in Jeremiah 22:24 the Lord says that he rejects Coniah, Zerubbabel’s grandfather, and that even if he was a signet ring on God’s own hand, he would tear him off. Here the sentence is reversed. Zerubbabel, the rejected one’s grandson, becomes a signet ring

The purpose of this sermon was the same as the previous sermons; strengthening the hands of those who were working in the land and rebuilding the temple. Zerubbabel was nothing like King David. His kingdom was nothing like Solomon’s kingdom. Though they were still allowed to return to the land, Israel was not their own people or nation. They were subjects of Persia. Yet God gives them this astounding promise. His Kingdom is coming. He will put all nations under His feet. For those who returned to the land this must have been a source of great encouragement and hope. Five years later they finished the temple.

• We must remember that we live in the midst of the promised Kingdom. We so easily take for granted what God has given to us in Christ. All the prophets spoke of Him and pointed to Him. All the sacrifices gave us Christ in shadow. All of the kings gave us glimpses of the coming Messiah. All of the Law unfolds the character of the One who would fulfill it. All these things we have and more. Yet we yawn and fall into our easy chairs. Oh, how Zerubbabel would have delighted to see Christ’s rule in China and America and Brazil! How he would have loved to see the Roman Empire in the dust, but the Empire of Christ marching on! Let us rejoice that what the prophets saw from afar, we see close up. And “let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” (Heb. 12:28-29)

• When God wanted to strengthen and encourage his people what did he do? He did not send a miracle worker. He did not do great and mighty signs from heaven. He did not send angels. He sent them preachers. Haggai was a not a great man in the eyes of the world. He was not preaching to a great and mighty people. Anyone who stumbled upon Israel when she returned to the land would not have been impressed by her outward glory. But Haggai had God’s Word and he gave it to the people. These people believed God’s Word and finished the work he had for them. Let us not despise the word preached. Let us not look down upon the humble outward appearance of those ministers who appear in pulpits across the land. When a minister opens up Scripture he is speaking for the King of heaven and earth. Let us hear that word and believe and finish the work God has for us.

Haggai Part IV, 2:10-19

Here is short commentary on Haggai’s third sermon

Haggai 2:10-19 An Unclean People Blessed

Haggai’s third sermon contains an object lesson taken from the priesthood. (2:10-13) Haggai begins by asking, “What is transferable, holiness or uncleanness?” The priests answer that holiness cannot be transferred. If one is holy and touches something unclean, the unclean does not become holy. However, such is not the case with defilement. A defiled person transfers defilement to everything he touches. You can look at Leviticus 11:27-28 and 22:4-7 for the background to this passage. Haggai then drives home the point in verse 14. Israel was defiled. She could not be blessed by God because she was unholy. Her uncleanness was specifically seen in her refusal to build the temple. (c.f. 1:2-11)

Haggai then illustrates this more clearly by pointing to how God cursed Israel’s crops over the years when they refused to begin working on the temple. (2:15-17) He notes that while they procrastinated on building God’s house their crops were dismal. God made all their work futile. Yet they still refused to turn from their sin.

But now, under the preaching of Haggai, they have returned to the Lord. What is the evidence of this? They are now laying the stones to build the temple. (2:18) Therefore, now God will bless them. No longer will their crops be a failure, but now the vines, the figs and the pomegranates will be fruitful again. God will bless his people. What is striking about Haggai’s prophesy here is that the crops had not even been planted yet. The “seed was still in the barn.” (2:19)

• In order to be blessed by God we must be a holy people. (C.f. Hebrews 12:14) If we are unclean then it does not matter what good work we attempt it will be stained by our defilement. This holiness begins with the shed blood of Christ. Unlike the sacrifices of old, which were repeated because they did not permanently take away sin, Christ’s sacrifice is a once for all work, which totally removes our defilement. However, this does not mean we may go on sinning. Even in the new covenant, sin removes the blessing of God. The New Testament makes this clear. We must continue to confess our sins and mortify the sin in our life so that we might see God’s blessing upon us.

• One way we know we are growing in holiness is concern for God’s people. The physical temple from the Old Testament has been replaced by the people of God. (c.f. I Cor. 3:16-17 and 6:19) Haggai was telling Israel their concern for building God’s house was a sign of their repentance. True repentance is always followed by good works. (Luke 19:8) A person’s love for Christ and zeal for his glory is seen in how committed they are to his people. ( I John 4:20) How is your love for the people of God? Have you neglected the saints, like Israel neglected building the temple? Do you serve the people of God with joy? Do you lift them up in prayer regularly?

Haggai Part III, 2:1-9

Here is a brief commentary on Haggai’s second sermon. The phrase “Take Heart and Work” is taken from Joyce Baldwins commentary on Haggai in the Tyndale Old Testament Commentary Series.

Haggai 2:1-9 Take Heart and Work

So Israel heard Haggai and began working on the Temple again around September 17th, 520 B.C. Haggai then comes a month later and preaches another sermon. However, there would not have been much work done during this month. Why? Because the seventh month in Israel’s calendar was a month filled with festivals. The seventh month stretched from the middle of September to the middle of October. The first day of this month was the Feast of Trumpets. The tenth day of this month was the Day of Atonement. The fifteenth day of this began the Feast of Booths, which ran for an entire week. Haggai’s second sermon came on the last day of the Feast of Booths. By this time the people were six weeks away from Haggai’s first sermon. Much of these six weeks they would have been forbidden by law to work because of the festivals. Their zeal was probably dampened by the time delay and the amount of work that lay before them. Also they had begun to realize that there was no way their temple would come close to Solomon’s Temple. (2:3) The glory of Solomon’s temple was nothing but a memory now and that is the way it would stay.

The Lord sends Haggai with a message of hope to encourage Israel to keep building. God says two things. First, he tells Israel that He is with them. Despite the smallness of their operation, the lack of outward glory of their work, God was among them. (2:4) When Israel returned to the land under Zerubbabel there was only thirty to forty thousand people who made the trip. (Ezra 2) Compared with the number coming out Egypt and the population of Israel under David and Solomon this must have seemed awfully small. But God’s power is not held back by lack of numbers. He reminds Israel that they have His Spirit and therefore they should not fear. (2:5)
Second, God tells them that He shall come and fill the temple with glory and the glory of this latter temple will exceed the glory of Solomon’s temple. These words must have stunned that ragged group of men standing around staring at a half-built temple that was only a shadow of its former glory.

What is interesting is that in the Old Testament there is no description of God’s glory filling the temple after the exile. When was this prophecy fulfilled? There is no doubt that this is ultimately fulfilled when Christ came into the temple. He is the Desire of the nations. (2:7) Christ came to the temple numerous times in his life, but two are worth noting. First, when he was presented by his parents Simeon knew this was the Savior of the world (Luke 2:21-32) and second, when he came with a whip to cleanse the Temple of the money changers. Both of these are probably fulfillments of Haggai 2:7. The writer of Hebrews notes that the preaching of the Gospel and the Kingdom of Christ are signs of this shaking of heaven and earth that Haggai mentions. (Hebrews 12:25-29)

• The presence of God should be our great aim and our great glory. Haggai reminds Israel that God is in their midst despite their size. Too often we are content with outward glory without the presence of God. Too often we are discontent with God’s presence if it does not come with outward glory. Let us rejoice in God’s presence. For when he is in our midst all is well.

• We must not despise the small works God does among us. Human hearts are easily tricked into believing that if God is going to work then the work will be dramatic, big, consisting of thousands upon thousands of people. Sometimes God does this, but usually his eye drifts towards the small people, like Abraham, David and Mary. Size is rarely an indicator of God’s hand. All around us God is working in the most surprising ways and among the most surprising people. Children are great example of this. We often look at them as a nuisance, a sideshow in God’s Kingdom. The elderly are often treated this way as well. But God dwells among his people, no matter what age they are or what size the congregation is. And where God is, He is working.

Haggai Part II, 1:1-15

Haggai’s first Sermon

Haggai 1:1-15 Build God’s House

Haggai begins by rebuking Israel for refusing to rebuild the temple. The people had been in the land almost twenty years (538-520 B.C.). They had begun rebuilding, but the work had stalled. In 1:2 the people state that the time has not yet come to build God’s house. Haggai rebukes the people by pointing out that they had plenty of time and money to build their own homes. (1:4) Haggai also tells them that they are laboring in vain because they are refusing to work on the temple. (1:6-11) What is most surprising is that Israel repents and turns. (1:12-15) In the pre-exilic prophets God constantly sent Israel prophets and Israel rejected them and refused to repent. Here are the first fruits of that great repentance, which would occur at Pentecost several hundred years later. Though only a small group, they turn back to God.

• We must not become weary of doing good. Israel came into the land with good intentions to rebuild the house of God, but somewhere along the line they lost sight of their goal and began to pursue personal gain. In our Christian lives this is easy to do. We begin with zeal, but stall along the way. Let us put our hands to the plow and not turn back. (Luke 9:62)

• Our central goal must be the building of God’s Kingdom. For Israel that meant the Temple, the place where God promised to meet them. For us that means the Church and the people who worship God. We must keep this target in our cross hairs at all times. Jesus makes this exact point in Matthew 6:33. Are you investing in what will last? Have you become sidetracked by the world or personal pleasure? What is your role in the building the Kingdom? Do you see your daily work in light of the Kingdom of Christ?

• Let us remember to hear God’s word and turn from our sins. We do not often consider laziness concerning the things of God as a great sin, but a lack of zeal for God and his house is blight on the Bride of Christ. When the Lord is kind enough to rebuke, either through the word written or preached, let us bend the knee, as Israel did, and turn back to following after God.

Haggai : Part I, Background

I finished preaching through the first nine minor prophets (Hosea-Zephaniah) in November. I did not preach the final three prophets (Haggai-Malachi) who prophesied to Israel after their return to the land following the exile. However, I did want to give my people a short introduction to these three post-exilic prophets. Here is the first part of that introduction. It has two parts; a general introduction to Israel’s history following the conquering of the Northern Kingdom by Assyria in 722 B.C. and then a short introduction to Haggai.

General Background to the Minor Prophets
You may have noticed that there are twelve Minor Prophets. You may also have noticed that I only preached through the first nine. These first nine are referred to as pre-exilic prophets. All of them were written prior to Israel going into exile in 587/586 B.C. The last of these nine written was probably Habakkuk. The last three of the twelve Minor Prophets, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, are called the post-exilic prophets. These three prophesied following Israel’s return to the land. Here is the first of three short outlines on these final three Minor Prophets. The timeline below visualizes the chronology of Israel’s exile into Babylon, return to the Promise land, the rebuilding of the Temple and the rebuilding of Jerusalem.

722 B.C. The Northern Kingdom is conquered by Assyria
715 B.C. Hezekiah’s reformation
622 B.C. Josiah’s reformation (Zephaniah’s Prophecy)
612 B.C. Nineveh, the Assyrian capital, falls to Babylon
609-605 B.C. Habakkuk’s prophecy
605 B.C. Final assault by Egypt/Assyria against Babylon fails. Babylon gains total supremacy. The first deportation of Israelites to Babylon takes place. Daniel and his friends were probably in this first deportation.
597 B.C. First major invasion of Israel by Babylon
586 B.C. Final destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians occurs.
539 B.C. Persians conquer Babylon
538 B.C. Cyrus, King of Persia, issues a decree allowing Israel to return to the land. (II Chron. 36:22-23, Ezra 1)
538 B.C. First return to Israel takes place under Zerubbabel. (Ezra 1-6)
536 B.C. Restoration of the Temple begins, but stalls
520 B.C. Haggai and Zechariah are sent by God to encourage Israel to finish building the Temple. (Ezra 5:1-2)
515 B.C. The Temple is finished.
460 B.C. God sends Malachi to prepare the people for the ministry of Ezra and Nehemiah.
458 B.C. Ezra returns to the land. (Ezra 7-10)
445 B.C. Nehemiah returns to help rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.

The chronology here, as it is throughout the Scriptures, is important. The prophets are almost always placed in a very specific situation in history. They did not usually prophesy to the air. They prophesied to specific people in specific places who are concerned about specific things in their lives. We cannot understand or apply what is written if we do not first understand when and to whom it was written. Knowing the history of Israel is invaluable in understanding God’s Word.

Background to Haggai
Haggai consists of four sermon summaries that Haggai preached on three days in 520 B.C. These sermons were designed to push Israel to finish rebuilding the temple and to grow in holiness. Haggai is one of the most precisely dated books in the entire Bible. We cannot just date it to a general time period or even to a specific year. We can date Haggai to probably the day the sermons were preached. Here are the probable dates for the sermons that Haggai preached.

1st Sermon: Haggai 1:1-15, preached on August 29th, 520 B.C.
2nd Sermon: Haggai 2:1-9, preached on October 17th, 520 B.C.
3rd Sermon: Haggai 2:10-19 preached on December 18th, 520 B.C.
4th Sermon: Haggai 2:20-23 preached on December 18th, 520 B.C.

There is one other important date, September 17th. On this day, a short time after the first sermon, the people began to work on the temple again. Thus the last three sermons were preached while the temple was being worked on. The temple was not finished until March, 515 B.C.