Read Haggai 2:10-23
Over the last few weeks, churches in many countries got together to sing a song of blessing, taking the words of Numbers 6:24-26 and pronouncing it over their respective nations. Undoubtedly, the effort was sincere and many believers found this inspiring. However, the video does raise the question: how do we get blessing? Is a song declaring that it is so, enough? Is it true that God is unreservedly “for you”? We will find some answers to these questions in the last section of Haggai.
So far, we’ve seen that God’s people have been distracted, and they have been disillusioned. They have not made God’s priorities their priorities, and they were wondering if it’s worth all the effort to seek God’s kingdom first. After all, their circumstances were certainly difficult, as they encountered opposition to rebuilding the temple. And each time, God encouraged them to persevere.
However, there is still one more issue Haggai has to deal with. Not only are the people distracted and disillusioned, they are also defiled. It is roughly two months since Haggai’s last recorded message to them. Work has begun on the temple. However, God now summons the priests through Haggai (v.10-11). He wants to ask them a few questions, but not because he wants to get updated information. His intention is actually to teach them a lesson.
The questions all revolve around a concept of transferability. Question 1: If someone were to carry meat which had been sacrificed, most probably through a fellowship/thanksgiving offering, and so it was now “holy meat”, how far would its attribute of holiness “spread”? According to Leviticus 6:27, the garment would also be rendered holy. However, whatever the “holy” garment subsequently touched did not become holy. (v.12) Question 2: What if someone had become unclean due to contact with a dead body? Would anything he touches become unclean? The priests answer: yes! Unlike the first case, it is so (v.13). And they appear to be right – Numbers 19:22 affirms their answer.
What’s the bottom line? Defilement is more contagious than holiness. To use a contemporary analogy, when a Covid-19 carrier comes into close contact with you and physically touches you, your wellness doesn’t transfer to him. However, his disease certainly could very well transmit to you! In the same way, being consecrated (holy, set apart) is not contagious, but defilement (uncleanness) is.
And in verse 14, God now applies this analogy to his people. The offerings and sacrifices they made didn’t make the people holy just like that, as if it was a magical spiritual disinfectant. Instead, if the people themselves were already defiled, that made their sacrifices unacceptable instead. How could they have been defiled? Not because they had close contact with foreign people groups. Verse 17 suggests the real reason is that their repentance was not quite genuine. They might have started turning to the Lord (1:12-14), but there was still something lacking in their response. And if they were defiled, they could very well defile the temple. And if the temple itself is defiled – well, the people are in a hopeless situation! How could true worship and sacrifices take place?
So God is correcting potential misconceptions amongst the people. We could very well make the same mistake. We might make the mistake of thinking if we are in the “house of the Lord”, or if we are fulfilling our duties, like reading the Bible 30 minutes a day (alongside a devotional like this one!), or if we have a pastor or some other “anointed person” pronounce blessing over us, we will be made pure and acceptable. Yet God says this is not the case. He calls the people now to reflect on their immediate past (v.15-17) to see what he says is true. There was no blessing!
However, in verses 18-19, he asks them to consider what makes a difference. The answer lies in verse 18: it was when they laid the foundation of the Lord’s temple. In other words, as they turned back to God and followed his ways (the definition of repentance), they enjoyed his blessing. They were no longer defiled, but divinely favoured.
But how does God undo their defiling? It certainly wasn’t the case that if God’s people completed the temple, only then would God pour out his blessing. The people couldn’t undo it themselves, completed temple or not. This divine favour was unmerited! The answer lies in God’s promises in 2:20-23. God is going to act to overthrow all other kingdoms so that the kingdom of his Son may be established. Zerubabbel was a grandson of Jehoiachin, a descendant of David. In Jeremiah 22:24, God had declared to Jehoiachin that he would tear off the signet ring from him. And yet Haggai ends with this amazing promise: God will make Zerubabbel like his signet ring! God will restore a king from the line of David! And as we read on into the New Testament, we discover this promise is fulfilled, as King Jesus becomes the Lord’s signet ring. All authority and power are given to him.
And Christ becomes the foundation, the cornerstone of the new temple – the church. All who trust in him are cleansed (Eph. 5:25-27), and are blessed (Eph 1:3-11). All who trust in him are by definition repentant ones, who are poor in spirit, mourn over their sin, and now ready to live the life of the kingdom (Matt. 5:3-12).
So we come back to the question at the beginning: how do we get blessed? Are we blessed? Is God unreservedly for us? The answer is yes, you enjoy every blessing, and you can be assured God is 100% for you, if you are resting and building on the foundation of Jesus Christ. However, if you are resting on some other foundation, no matter how many churches join in the song, no matter how loud we sing, no matter how many likes the Youtube video gets, there is no blessing. So today, give careful thought, whose foundation are you building on? If it is Jesus, take comfort. God’s divine favour is on you, and his kingdom will never be shaken.
As we’ve reached the end of Haggai, why not take some time to reflect:
- How has Haggai helped you not to be discouraged or disillusioned, but to persevere in seeking God’s kingdom first and building his church?
- How has Haggai helped you to appreciate God, Jesus and/or the Bible more?
(Feel free to leave an answer on the comments section of our Facebook post of this devotional!)
- Give thanks that in Christ, we know we are no longer defiled but have every spiritual blessing. Pray that we would be truly repentant people, and ask the Holy Spirit to show us where we have not always turned to God fully, or where we are building our lives on shaky foundations.
- Pray for wisdom for our federal and state governments, as well as all the relevant authorities, that they would be able to help navigate our way out of the MCO as best as they can. Pray for farsightedness, good judgment, courage, patience and astuteness in execution of plans.