Thursday, January 26, 2017

Haggai 2:10-23 - Hope You Can Count On

Haggai (12thC AD), Saint Mark's Basilica, Venice
When we married, my wife and I made some promises to one another. Amanda promised me that she would never make me drive a minivan. Now we drive a church van. I promised her she would never be a pastor’s wife. Now we are going to Liberia as missionaries, not just to pastor, but to pastor pastors. Sometimes we make promises you can count on. Other times we don’t. Thankfully, today we will discuss a promise we can count on, a hope we can count on, and it comes from the book of Haggai.

Contextual Notes:
Haggai is the first of three prophets after the Exile who ministered to the small community of Jews who were permitted by the Persian Administration to return to their homeland. The messages we have in Scripture from Haggai’s ministry all happened between
the September and the middle of December in the year 520 B.C. His main message? “Build the house” (Hag. 1:8). We made a good start on rebuilding the Temple fifteen years ago, he encouraged the people, “when we built the foundation, but we haven’t done anything since. It is time to finish rebuilding the Temple.”
If you want more of the story, read the book of Ezra. Haggai is mentioned in Ezra 5:1; 6:14. Another prophet who spoke up about the same time was a younger man named Zechariah, the book after Haggai. He mentions Haggai in Zechariah 8:9. Haggai was a practical kind of man while Zechariah had sweeping visions of the people of Israel and the coming Messiah. We need both kinds of people – those like Zechariah who will give us the big picture, who will inspire us to greater and higher places, and we need those like Haggai, who practical and help us get the job done, who say, guys and gals, it is time to get to work. Now let’s get this Temple finished.
The passage before us includes two messages given on the same day, December 18, 520 B.C., and the people have been working almost three months on rebuilding the Temple. They also had their winter wheat planted and were hoping for the early rains. The very practical Haggai uses three illustrations to teach some very important lessons about our future hope.
Key Truth: Luke wrote Haggai 2:10-23 to teach believers that hope is reliable because it is built on a standard, has the reassurance of a blessing, and the reality of a King.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about Hope you can count on.
Pray and Read:  Haggai 2:10-23
Tip for the Trail: There is a hope you can count on. That hope is a Person.
Sermon Points:
1.   Hope you can count on has the reliability of a standard (Hag. 2:10-14)
2.   Hope you can count on has the reassurance of a blessing (Hag. 2:15-19)
3.   Hope you can count on has the reality of a King (Hag. 2:20-23)

Exposition:   Note well,

a.   Haggai delivered this sermon December 18, 520 B.C. Two months have passed since his last sermon.
b.   ILLUSTRATION: Are you old enough to remember what a telephone party line was? It was used in rural areas where there were a few customers on one telephone line. When the phone rang, all the phones at all the homes on the party line rang. Party line etiquette required that when you picked up, if the call had been picked up and was for someone else, you should hang up to give them privacy. One day when I was about 5 years old, I picked up the phone out of a kid’s curiosity and put it to my ear. Immediately I heard a gruff old man’s voice, “WHO’S ON HERE!? Get off this phone!”  It scared me, and I slammed the phone down. It was Mr. Roy up the road who was on our party line. He was the meanest man around, and I had accidentally listened in on his conversation.
c.   This passage before us is at first a conundrum in Haggai, because it seems we are listening in at the middle of someone else’s conversation on ritual purity, but don’t forget the context of Haggai’s prophecy. His message is that the people made a good start fifteen years earlier when they laid the foundation of the Temple, but now it is high-time to get it finished. Haggai illustrates here what he has been talking about. We can see Haggai’s stature and prophetic insight here stand out, and he poses two questions about Old Testament ritual law that teach a vital lesson about real hope.
d.   ILLUSTRATION: Get this picture. The altar and foundation have been built, but the temple was just getting construction underway. Leviticus 6:27 says that whoever touches the flesh of a sin offering would be consecrated, so the “holy meat” consecrates anything it touches (like the fold of a garment), but nothing that touches the fold of the garment would in turn be consecrated. Here’s the point. If a person is touched by a holy thing, he will not be made holy, but a holy thing can be defiled if touched by something unclean. Cleanness doesn’t transfer, but uncleanness does.
e.   APPLICATION: Contact with someone who is in contact with God will not make a person holy. Only contact with Jesus the Holy Incarnate One Himself can do that. People still fall for this one. They think that because they sit in a church service sometimes and hear a sermon, if they drop a ten or a twenty in the offering, that makes them holy. Friend, that is just not true. If you ask people if they have a relationship with Jesus, many times I hear, “I walked the aisle when I was a child,” but they are living like the devil. They will tell me, “I was baptized when I was little,” but they are bound hand and foot, mind and spirit by sin. They are trusting more in an aisle or an act of baptism than in Jesus. There is only one way to be holy. It is by direct contact with a holy Jesus.[1] You can’t coast off of what Mama did for the Lord. You have to live your own holy life in Christ Jesus and you must demonstrate true repentance and obedience from your heart (1 Sam. 15:22; Psalm 66:18; Jer. 7:21-23). Holiness is not “catching,” but as we see next, defilement is.
f.    Hag. 2:13: transmission of impurity: Ritual uncleanness, though, was easy to pass on like a contagious disease.[2] In fact, contamination from touching a corpse was so bad that one couldn’t participate in worship (Lev. 22:4-6; Num. 5:2; 9:6; 19:11-12). Haggai’s object lesson is about the laziness and lack of moral purpose has made them unclean. He had already exhorted the people about in Hag. 1:4-11. His illustration of how ritual uncleanness can be transferred becomes a practical object lesson with deep moral principle. He teaches that falling morale and carelessness are contagious and deadly.  Haggai tells them that their sin will defile the Lord’s house! They must live committed lives, or it will dismantle their house of faith before it is even built.
g.   APPLICATION: Nothing undercuts progress and purpose more than laziness, spiritual indifference, apathy, and demoralization. Behind it is a spirit of death. It is there to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). It can be as debilitating to an individual as open sin. In fact, it is. It is called disobedience. That’s not all. It can suck the air out of a church, too. It only takes a couple of mouthy bad attitudes to corrupt the entire body. Just a few lazy, apathetic comments, and the whole tent can collapse. We can’t tolerate it. One rotten piece of fruit will spoil the entire box. You can surround a sick person with healthy people and expect all the healthiness to make the sick one better. No, the sick person will infect everyone else. This is a natural illustration of a spiritual principle. How do we avoid this situation? We must encourage each other to trust the Lord and join together as the Body of Christ (Heb. 10:24-25).
h.   APPLICATION: And there is something else here in Haggai’s illustration. Back of his point is that God has a certain order. He is not haphazard. To Haggai, life is about responsibility. It may not be politically correct, but Haggai is practical enough to say that each of us is answerable to a God whose prerogative is executing justice in the ordinary events and the commerce of life. Haggai would tell you that there still is such a thing as being morally right and morally wrong. Haggai says pretty strongly here that there is a direct link between your moral attitude and your life experience – that living a life with the Bible as its moral authority, following its teachings, choosing what is right, yields a better quality of life – and living in rebellion against the Bible’s authority as a standard for life, doing wrong, shirking what the Bible teaches to go one’s own way in the end yields in the least regret and at its worst eternal misery. There is a standard in the universe, Haggai says, and this Jewish prophet’s practical philosophy is that living responsibly, i.e., rightly, returns good fruit and irresponsible living, i.e., wrongly, returns rotten fruit.
i.     APPLICATION: But you can’t miss the rest of what Haggai is saying here. It runs just as parallel to the first insight as the rails of a railroad track. It is that God is also a God of mercy and compassion. He is ready to reward and comfort every unclean nation or person, even if it is unclean in every work of its hands and every offering it brings. If that nation or that person will only respond to God’s call, he will cleanse and make whole and restore and set free. Now what this means is that hope is a reality. It is not a wish, not a desperate grasping, not something we name and claim, not even something we can earn. Because of God’s personal character, hope is a solid, reliable reality because of the just and holy, merciful and compassionate character of God. So why don’t you give him your failures, your rebellions, your rotten fruit, and let his joyful compassion remake your life according to His standards.
a.   Hag. 2:15-19: God had destroyed Solomon’s Temple seventy years ago and carried everybody who was somebody off to Babylon. God will bless His people now, but this time it is because they have put Him first, not because there is a temple in Jerusalem again.
b.   Hag. 2:17 – blight, mildew, hail as divine punishment: Blight is a scorching east wind that dries up and destroys grain crops. Mildew is a fungus in the grain. Hail damages and destroys grain. All three are seen in ancient Israel as divine judgement (Amos 4:9; Josh. 10:11).
c.   Hag. 2:18 – the day when the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid: (Ezra 3:10; 4:24). Haggai is preaching on the anniversary of the laying of the Temple’s foundation. This date is significant for Haggai.
d.   APPLICATION: Refusing to repent is the worst of all, because it eliminates all hope of forgiveness and salvation. What a difference repentance makes! It means you turn from sin to the Lord. When we put God first, he provides for all our physical, spiritual, and material needs (Matt. 6:33). God wants to bless us, but our sin and disobedience get in the way. Sometimes we have pain in our lives to remind us that he must be first in our lives.
e.   Hag. 2:19 – Is there yet any seed left in the barn? This is where the date that Haggai spoke this message is important. It is mid-December, and in Israel there is no seed left in their barns because they have finished winter planting. All their seed is in the ground, and they are hoping for winter rains. This is Haggai’s illustration: Their seed is in the ground, and they are waiting on the promise of harvest from God. He parallels that with the next question asking if the fruit trees are still without fruit. Yes, they are because it is the beginning of the season. Haggai connects the economic depression with their failure to give God the priority. Now their obedience would be rewarded, that He would bless those who honor Him.
f.    ILLUSTRATION: God provided our van at a time we could not afford a van. We had test driven one, but we could not buy it. While my wife and I sat in the dealer’s office and I was saying we could not buy this vehicle, my cell phone rang. A man on the other end said, “Gene, I feel like I am supposed to help you put a down payment on a new vehicle, and I cannot get it off my mind.” The Lord provided the van.
g.   APPLICATION: You can’t outgive God. Those who put God first and give Him their best will find God’s blessing in their lives.
a.   December 18, 520 B.C. – The fifth prophecy happened the same day as the fourth. It was addressed directly to Zerubbabel the governor of Judah, a prince of the house of David, and it points directly to the future and reminds those returning from exile that a Messiah is coming, that God has not forgotten His promises to David.
b.   Hag. 2:21 – I will shake: These are typical words that He will establish a new era in the purposes of God connected directly to the construction of the new temple.[3] The nations may shake and the whole existing world order may fall apart, but God’s chosen servant will be unshaken, secure as the signet ring on the hand of God Himself. He will be the visible embodiment of the truth that judgement originates in God. He is in charge. He is capable. He is unshaken, a sure foundation, and secure place for your faith and trust even if the whole world is collapsing.[4] Haggai points to One Man, the ultimate Chosen of God, Himself God manifested in the flesh, as the only hope that counts.
c.   ILLUSTRATION: The word for overturn is the one used to describe the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah (Deut. 29:23; Isaiah 13:19; Jer. 20:16; Amos 4:11). Overthrow of chariots and drivers, horses and riders points back to the defeat of Pharaoh’s army at the Red Sea (Exod. 15:1, 4-5). God’s enemies will turn on each other like the Midianites with Gideon (Judg. 7:22; 2 Chron. 20:23-24). Note the shades of Psalm 2.
d.   APPLICATION: The behavior of the nations illustrates the self-destructiveness of sin. Those who oppose God end up destroying themselves. Only those who have trusted in and obeyed Christ will escape this final judgment and inherit the Messiah’s enduring kingdom (Dan 2:44).
e.   Hag. 2:23 – “On that day” – Use of this phrase is a sure sign that Haggai is talking about the end and the Messiah, not just Zerubbabel.
f.     Hag. 2:23 – signet ring: The signet ring is a person’s signature, a symbol of authority.[5] This symbol of executive power whose wearer carries the authority of the One Whom He represents. Zerubbabel stands for the Messiah to come from the same Davidic family line (Matt. 1:12-13; Luke 3:27). There is a real connection here to God’s covenant with David (2 Sam 7:1-16). David planned to build the Lord a House (2 Sam 7:1-3), but the Lord said that instead He would build David a house, i.e., an eternal royal family line (2 Sam 7:8-11). Here, Zerubbabel is building the Lord’s House (Hag. 1:1-4, 8), and the Lord repeats that He is building David’s house.
g.   Zerubbabel is called the son of Shealtiel, his legal father descended through Solomon,[6] however, his actual father was Pedaiah, a descendant of King David’s son Nathan (1 Chron. 3:19). Jesus also had a legal father through Joseph, descended through Solomon but his real lineage was through King David’s son Nathan (Matt. 1; Luke 3). The Lord here reverses the judgement curse on Zerubbabel’s grandfather Jeconiah (Jer. 22:24), or Jehoiachin. He was specifically rejected as God’s signet ring, but the Lord restores that honor to Zerubbabel, a sign that the Messiah’s authority and honor will come from him (Matt. 28:18; John 5:22-23). God confirms it by calling Zerubbabel “my servant,” linking him with “Abraham my servant,” “Moses my servant,” “Joshua my servant,” and “David my servant.” Each time they point to a title of the Messiah, the ultimate Servant (Isaiah 41:8; 42:1; 49:5-6; 50:10; 52:13; 53:11; Ezek. 43:23; 37:24).
h.   APPLICATION: The meaning of this illustration is that one day the Messiah will exercise God’s authority on earth, shattering the power of every other kingdom and establishing the chosen people of God. If you are believer in Jesus Christ, you have every reason to be encouraged in this solidly reliable Hope, a Hope you can count on. That Hope is a Person. Jesus Christ will ultimately, literally reign on His father David’s royal throne as King of kings and Lord of lords over all who trust in Him. Our task is to be faithfully obedient, confident in Hope, taking His Name and Fame to the nations until He returns.
If you are not a believer in Jesus Christ, I am sorry to tell you that you have no Hope. You have wishes. You have desires. You don’t have anything solid to hang your hat on, nothing reliable that can assure you of the future. It is time to change that. Repent of your sin and ask Jesus to save you right now so that you can be saved.
F. Roy Coad, “Haggai,” International Bible Commentary, F.F. Bruce, gen. ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986), 959-963.
Larry Richards, Every Covenant and Promise in the Bible (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 160-1.
Lawrence O. Richards, The Bible Reader’s Companion (Wheaton: Victor, 1991), 571.
John Walton, et. al., eds., The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament (Downers Grove: Intervarsity, 2000), 796-8.
Yoilah Yilpet, “Haggai,” Africa Bible Commentary, Tokunboh Adeyemo, gen. ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), 1075-6.

[1]        The priests were the experts on the details of the law (Hag. 2:11; Lev. 10:10-11; Deut. 33:10; Ezek. 44:23; Mal. 2:7). Holiness comes through direct contact (Exod. 29:37; Ezek. 44:19; Matt. 23:19).
[2]        Cf. Leviticus11:8; 22:3-9.
[3]        The word for overturn is the one used to describe the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah (Deut. 29:23; Isaiah 13:19; Jer. 20:16; Amos 4:11). Overthrow of chariots and drivers, horses and riders points back to the defeat of Pharaoh’s army at the Red Sea (Exod. 15:1, 4-5). God’s enemies will turn on each other like the Midianites with Gideon (Judg. 7:22; 2 Chron 20:23-24)
[4]        Habakkuk closes his prophecy on the same note: Hab. 3:17-19.
[5]        Signet ring cf. (1 Kings 21:8; Esther 8:8; Dan. 6:17)
[6]        Possibly because of a levirate marriage (Deut. 25:5-10).