And actually, this isn’t all God has to say about his divine presence. He continues with that theme is chapter 2 verses 1 through 9. We’ll read that.
[2:1 In the seventh month, in the one and twentieth day of the month, came the word of the LORD by the prophet Haggai, saying, 2 Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and to the residue of the people, saying, 3 Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing? 4 Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the LORD; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the LORD, and work: for I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts: 5 According to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not. 6 For thus saith the LORD of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; 7 And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts. 8 The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the LORD of hosts. 9 The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the LORD of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the LORD of hosts.]
So it’s about one month after Haggai’s second prophecy. And God now wants to continue to encourage his people. Why did he need to encourage them? Well, some of them were alive to see the first Temple – Solomon’s Temple. Remember that glorious Temple? Now, this second Temple actually was larger than that first one according to measurements we find in the Scripture. But even though this second Temple was larger, it was a little less glorious looking. After all, we know that in Solomon’s time gold was so plentiful that silver really counted as nothing. That’s a lot of gold! And a good deal of that gold was used in his Temple. In addition to that, there were skilled craftsmen carving wood and fashioning metal. There were other precious adornments in that first Temple. And of course, there was the ark of the covenant in there as well. But this second Temple of Zerubbabel’s… well, it had wood in it. Did it have some gold? I think it probably did. But it certainly didn’t have as much as it had previously. Were there carvings in it? Maybe some. And they apparently didn’t have the ark. And so in these ways this second Temple seemed to be less glorious than the first. The people perhaps wondered if it was even worth working on this seemingly-inglorious project.
But God doesn’t view this as some inglorious task. This is of utmost importance to him. So he comes and tells his people through Haggai to “be strong!” He tells them to work. And he again reminds them of his presence – “I am with you!” That’s in the present.
He also looks back to the past. He reminds Israel of the promise he made with them when they left Egypt. I think this is referring to his covenant that he made with them at Mount Sinai. That’s the covenant that brought Israel into an official relationship as a nation with the Lord. His spirit – or probably something like his essence – was among them at that time and was still presently.
So with Lord’s presence with his people in the past and present in view, he turns also to the future. He says he’s going to shake the heavens, earth, sea, land, and all nations. I think this is looking back to his activity in delivering his people from Egypt. He shook that nation with plagues and judgments. And remember when Israel left Egypt, the Egyptians gave them gold and other valuable objects. Well, here God promises to shake not just one nation but all nations. And the result is that all the nations are going to bring what’s desirable among them to this Temple in latter days. Some have interpreted this to be a Messianic prophecy. I don’t think that’s the case. We need to ask ourselves – “What do the nations desire?” Currently judging by the way things are in this world I think that most of them aren’t desiring Messiah. Well, what s this talking about then? I believe the answer is in verse 8 – the silver and the gold belongs God. This second Temple is lacking these kind of things. But God is promising to make his Temple glorious with gold and silver and other precious materials in latter times.
The question we all have is – when is this going to happen? I mean, do you remember Pastor Fuller’s discussion of the glory of Herod’s Temple – the one that existed in the time of Christ? That Temple was glorious. And it came after Zerubbabel’s. Is that the fulfillment of this prophecy? I don’t think so. I don’t know of a shaking of all nations at that time or a shaking of all creation. And really, only the Romans were involved in bringing wealth to the Temple at that point. But God here promises that all the nations will bring their wealth.
I think the key to when this shaking will take place is the end of verse 9. God promises that when this shaking happens he’ll bring peace to “this place” which is probably referring to Jerusalem. When has there been peace in Jerusalem since Haggai issued this prophecy in about 520 BC? I can’t really think of a time. But I know a time will come when Messiah returns and will set up an earthly kingdom over which peace will reign. I know nations and their kings will stream to Jerusalem and bring their glory there. So for these reasons, I think this is speaking of a time yet to come in the future.
So this is the 3rd encouragement to do God’s will. Being reminded of God’s constant unending presence – in the present as it was in the past and as it will be in the future.
Haggai 2:1-9 Illustration
Isn’t it an encouragement (to keep following the Lord) to remember all that he’s brought you through? Do you remember his presence with you back then? And isn’t it amazing to know that he’s still with you? And then we’re reminded that the Lord will never leave or forsake us. He will be with us always. To the end of the world and then even after that. We can’t flee from his presence. He won’t let us go.
Haggai 2:1-9 Application
Are you allowing this blessed truth that God is with you now as he has been in times past and will be into the future – are you allowing it to be the catalyst to continue doing his will? Don’t give up, brethren. He’s with you if you’re his.
But while we think of the past, we can certainly see God’s presence with us. But if you’re like me – and actually like Israel – you can call to mind not only God’s presence but actually your own failures in the past. Let’s read about that in Haggai’s 4th message from the Lord in verses 10-19.
[2:10 ¶ In the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying, 11 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Ask now the priests concerning the law, saying, 12 If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy? And the priests answered and said, No. 13 Then said Haggai, If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, It shall be unclean. 14 Then answered Haggai, and said, So is this people, and so is this nation before me, saith the LORD; and so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean. 15 And now, I pray you, consider from this day and upward, from before a stone was laid upon a stone in the temple of the LORD: 16 Since those days were, when one came to an heap of twenty measures, there were but ten: when one came to the pressfat for to draw out fifty vessels out of the press, there were but twenty. 17 I smote you with blasting and with mildew and with hail in all the labours of your hands; yet ye turned not to me, saith the LORD. 18 Consider now from this day and upward, from the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, even from the day that the foundation of the LORD’S temple was laid, consider it. 19 Is the seed yet in the barn? yea, as yet the vine, and the fig tree, and the pomegranate, and the olive tree, hath not brought forth: from this day will I bless you.]
This prophecy happens about 2 months after the last one Haggai delivered. And it starts out seemingly not so happy again. Haggai asks some priests about the law. In particular, what does God say about a piece of meat that had been sanctified – if it touches something else, does whatever it touched become holy? The answer, as any priest would have known, was “no”. That wasn’t part of the law. But what about this? If something that’s holy touches these things and they’re not made holy… then if any of these things touched something unclean, what would happen? The answer? Those things would be made unclean. So touching a holy thing doesn’t make it holy. But touching something unclean does make it unclean. And then God uses that as a picture of how he viewed this nation of Israel. Anything unclean that touched them in any way made them unclean. They were so easily swayed by the paganism around them. And unfortunately they had no positive influence on those around them. And yet even all the holy things they knew and practiced didn’t ultimately make them holy as God wanted them to be.
So with that stated, then God again calls his people to consider some of the realities he already reminded them of in Haggai’s first prophecy. “Remember before you started building the Temple and I made life so difficult for you? And you didn’t turn to me – that’s what I truly desired. Well, remember that time and now be aware of this reality. From this day onward I will bless you.” What a beautiful statement. What a relief. “I will bless you.” And this was a bold promise to make from the prophet Haggai. Haggai had started his ministry only about 3 months ago from the time of this most recent prophecy. And before that time Israel had apparently experienced difficulty after difficulty directly from the Lord for their disobedience. And now Haggai pronounces blessing from the time that the Temple started to be rebuilt. This is a rather startling claim. How could they be sure he was telling the truth? That’s what verse 19 is getting at. The seed is still in the barn. Nothing has born fruit yet this season. It’s not as if Haggai could look around at the produce of the land and kind of gather that this year was just going to be a better year for planting. No, this was a word from the all-knowing Lord. And thus it would certainly happen.
So what we have in this 4th prophecy is this. It’s a reminder of past failures because of disobedience, coupled with promises of present and future blessings for doing God’s will. This is yet one more encouragement to obey God.
Haggai 2:10-19 Illustration
Have you been saved? We’re talking about doing God’s will. What in this day is more the will of God than you trusting his son to be saved? Have you trusted Christ – that he suffered for your sins so that you could be forgiven and be a child of God? If you have, then you can certainly identify with this prophecy. Remember the old things you got in to before you knew Christ? Remember the shame? Remember the years of wandering? Of fruitlessness? Your vain life? But now that you know Christ you’re experiencing blessing. No, everything isn’t just easy. But relationships perhaps are being mended. You have a peace that totally eluded you before. You have confidence of your eternal destiny. The Lord is using you to advance his kingdom in ways small or large. Things have changed for the better generally. This is all from God. And what can we do but humbly give him thanks for these wonderful blessings? Blessings instead of the curses we deserve.
Haggai 2:10-19 Application
So have you taken note of the blessings that God has used to replace the curses he sent on you previously? Remember those curses, but don’t focus on them. Focus on God’s promise of blessing both now and into the future – really forevermore.
Haggai 2:20-23 Explanation
And really these blessings for those who obey the Gospel and the curses for those who disobey and disbelieve continue on – into eternity. And we see some parallels to this in the next and last prophecy of this book. Let’s read verses 20 through 23.
[2:20 ¶ And again the word of the LORD came unto Haggai in the four and twentieth day of the month, saying, 21 Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I will shake the heavens and the earth; 22 And I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen; and I will overthrow the chariots, and those that ride in them; and the horses and their riders shall come down, every one by the sword of his brother. 23 In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, will I take thee, O Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel, saith the LORD, and will make thee as a signet: for I have chosen thee, saith the LORD of hosts.]
This prophecy comes out the same day as the last one. And it’s addressed to only Zerubbabel. Some of the content is familiar. We’ve already seen God’s promise to shake the heavens and the earth. But this time Zerubbabel is told that God will totally overthrow the pagan kings of this world. And when God does that he’s going to take Zerubbabel and make him as a signet ring. What does that mean? Well, there are a few things to say about this. First, a signet ring was something very precious to a king. So precious in fact that he would keep it on his person constantly. So that act of giving someone this ring would have been an act of supreme trust. The signet ring was used to give the king’s authority to something like a document—like we saw in the book of Esther with Haman’s edict and then Mordecai’s as well. So that’s what a signet ring is. But why does God mention a signet ring anyway? And why does he say he’ll make Zerubbabel like one of those to him? In the book of Jeremiah in chapter 22, God has a message for Zerubbabel’s Grandfather Jeconiah. The message is that even if Jeconiah was a signet ring – something precious to him – yet God would cast him away. And then God goes on to curse Jeconiah’s line and say that none of his descendants will prosper sitting on David’s throne. So it sounded like Jeconiah and all his lineage were cast off from the Lord. But here in the book of Haggai, God reverses this curse in a way. Picturing the signet ring as Jeconiah, you can imagine then God coming and picking up the ring which is now Zerubbabel and putting it on. When God goes to topple all the nations and their kings, he will prefer Zerubbabel because God had chosen him.
But this toppling of nations hasn’t happened yet as far as I can tell. And Zerubbabel is dead now. So what I – and I think just about all the commentators – see happening here is God using Zerubbabel to symbolize the Davidic line – and ultimately Christ, the son of David. When God overthrows all nations and sets up his Millenial kingdom, Christ will reign on the throne.
So what do we have in this 5th and final prophecy? Really what we have is a promise of future judgment for those who refuse to do God’s will. And along with that we have the assurance that God will favor those who are doing his will – even their descendants.
Haggai 2:20-23 Application
The kings of the pagan nations had no concern for doing God’s will. And they will be overthrown some day along with everyone else who refuses to love and obey God. Zerubbabel on the other hand was following the Lord. And as a result both he and his family to future generations would be blessed… Would you submit to God and do his will? In our context, for any one here who doesn’t know the Lord, would you obey him by believing his son? If you do this you and your family after you for perhaps a long time will reap the rewards. And really for the rest of us who know Christ, this last prophecy wasn’t so much a challenge or commandment to Zerubbabel as it was a promise. No strings attached. Just a promise from God of future blessings and an assurance of God’s favor.
We’ve seen throughout this book that God wants to get your attention if you’re putting off doing his will. He wants you to get to work. And he may make life difficult until you do. But once you do, he’ll promise you his presence. He’ll stir you to be able to do his will. His presence will be with you always. You will remember past failures from your life of disobedience. But the blessings you receive will far outweigh those memories. And when judgment comes in the future, God will still have a plan for you, while he’ll need to punish those who have no interest in doing his will.