A Bible Study by Jack Kelley
In part one of our study of the Book of Haggai, we learned that before the Israelites could live an abundant life upon returning from Babylon, they had to first complete the Lord’s Temple. As New Testament believers, we’re told that we’re the Temple of God. Does the same principle hold true for us concerning our abundant life? Let’s find out.
Chapter 2. The Promised Glory of the New House
On the twenty-first day of the seventh month (Oct 17, 520 BC), the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: “Speak to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, to Joshua son of Jehozadak, 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, O Zerubbabel,’ declares the LORD. ‘Be strong, O Joshua son of Jehozadak, 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)
This was Haggai’s second message to the people. (Altogether there were four.) Aside from the dimensions of the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, the Second Temple was nothing like the first, with none of its many courtyards and plazas, no gold covered ceilings, finely woven tapestries, or intricately carved panels. They were returning from 70 years of captivity, destitute and barely surviving.
According to tradition, those who remembered the first Temple wept when they saw the modest foundations for the second. After King Herod remodeled the second Temple just before the Lord Jesus was born, it was said that so little of the original structure was left that it was all but unrecognizable in the beauty of the finished project. Looking at that foundation, who would have predicted that the Lord would one day inspire someone who wasn’t even Jewish to undertake a 40-year expansion and renovation project that would make this humble temple into an architectural marvel, just so the Lord’s house would be ready for its most distinguished visitor?
“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 the desired of 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)
This passage points to both the first and second comings. The phrase “desired of all nations” refers to the Messiah. Although He never entered the second Temple (He could have set up shop in the Holy of Holies had He chosen to) His death did bring peace between God and man, (Colossians 2:19-20) and at His second coming the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. (Matt 24:30) Who could imagine a greater glory than that?
Blessings For A Defiled People
On the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius (Dec. 18, 520 BC) 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 a person carries consecrated meat in the fold of his garment, and that fold touches some bread or stew, some wine, 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)
According to the Law, consecrated meat in the fold of someone’s garment made the garment holy, but that holiness would not automatically transfer to anything else the garment touched. On the other hand, anything that was unclean would immediately make whatever it touched unclean too. Defilement was much more easily transferred than Holiness. Here’s the point. God made the Holy Land Holy. But just being back in the Land couldn’t make the people holy. To become holy they had to be obedient. In the meantime, since they were defiled, everything they touched became defiled. Hence, no abundance.
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 turn 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. (Hagai 2: 15-19)
This concludes message number three. Their disobedience had caused the fruits of their labors to be diminished during the time they had ignored the Temple, but they hadn’t figured this out. Haggai had to explain it to them. Now that they’ve heard his message and begun to obey, the blessings that had been available all along, and that the Lord longed to provide, would flow. Notice they didn’t have to finish the job to begin receiving their blessings, only to start it.
Zerubbabel, The LORD’s Signet Ring
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 will 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 final message. A King or other high official would press his signet ring into soft wax to create an image of his seal, testifying to the authenticity of the written order or decree to which the wax had been applied. This seal both guaranteed payment of any expenses his subordinates incurred in carrying out his order and gave them full authority to act on the official’s behalf in all matters regarding the order. In our parlance, it was a company credit card and power of attorney all rolled up into one. By calling Zerubbabel His signet ring, the Lord publicly guaranteed both the unhindered completion of the Temple and the promised blessings to His now obedient people.
Along with other blessings, the Lord would put a stop to the interference Israel’s neighbors were causing. Persian King Darius let it be known that he favored Israel’s re-building project and was helping with it. Darius being superior to all the other kings (he was a king of kings), this was enough to end the interference and the Temple was completed less than four years later.
What’s External And Physical In The Old Becomes Internal And Spiritual In The New
The key word in the Old Testament is “obey”, whereas in the New Testament it’s “believe”. To achieve holiness they had to obey God’s Law. We have to believe in the One He has sent. (John 6:29) The Greek word translated “believe” in that verse is also translated “faith”. The two meanings can be used interchangeably. (Interestingly, its antonym (a word with the opposite meaning) is disobedience. The Lord has provided so much proof of His existence that He views unbelief as disobedience.)
Being in the Holy Land didn’t necessarily make the Israelites holy. Being saved doesn’t necessarily make us holy either. That’s why the writer to the Hebrews could say, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (Hebrews 10:14) In other words, while our salvation (made perfect forever) is a once for all time event, our sanctification (being made holy) is an ongoing process. It progresses as we yield more and more of our lives to the Lord, and is only really complete when we’re transformed from corruptible into incorruptible. Notice we can’t make our selves holy by our own work, but we can be made holy by allowing the Lord to work through us.
As we first believe that His death purchased a pardon for our sins, our faith saves us. Then as we come to believe that He has a plan and purpose for us, and in faith make more and more of our lives His to manage, we are being sanctified. This is doing the work He requires of us. This is how we build His Temple and make our selves a living sacrifice. And this is how we qualify for the blessings that have always been available and that He longs to shower down upon us.
At the moment of our first belief, He places His seal within us, the promised Holy Spirit. (Ephes. 1:13) That’s His signet ring for us just as Zerubbabel was for the Israelites. In our case, it guarantees that the full price was paid for our salvation and authorizes the Holy Spirit to complete the good work begun in us. (Phil. 1:6) Then as we initiate the sanctification process, the real King of kings sees to it that the interference our enemy has been causing ceases to impede us. (Romans 8:32) Like the Israelites, we don’t have to complete the job to begin receiving our blessings, only to start it.
If your life isn’t all you think it could be, and no matter how much you’ve acquired you don’t feel like you’re getting ahead, ask Him if it’s time to go back to building His Temple. Ask Him if you’ve been foregoing some of the blessings He has for you in your headlong effort to get all you can on your own. Remember, seek first His Kingdom and His Righteousness and all these things will be given you as well. (Matt. 6:33)