HAGGAI – CHAPTER 2
A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
Copyright 2000 James Melough
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,"
Since it was on the first day of the sixth month that the prophet had first spoken to them (1:1), and it was on the twenty-first day of the seventh month that he delivered his second message - this time, of encouragement - it is clear that the reformation had come quickly, within one month and three weeks.
Since six is the number of man, weakness, and sin, and since seven is the number of perfection and completeness, the difference between the spiritual state of the people in the sixth month and the seventh is confirmed by the significance of the numbers of the months themselves. Repentance and obedience had brought them from a state of weakness and failure, to one of strength and victory.
But the twenty-one days of the seventh month have also something to teach us, for the factors of twenty-one are three and seven, and in the numerology of Scripture three is the number of resurrection and manifestation, while, as noted above, seven is the number of perfection and completeness. Their repentant obedience had resulted in their being "resurrected," as it were, from the old state of disobedience, which must ultimately have ended in death, to a new one which guaranteed them life and blessing. The great truth being declared in all of this is one professing Christendom has long since lost sight of: disobedience and death are as inseparable as are obedience and life.
2:2. "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,"
2:3. "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?"
Having exposed their disobedience, and rebuked it, having shown them what to do, having explained the lack of blessing, having brought them to repentance and willing obedience, God now begins to encourage His people. And He begins that encouragement by dealing immediately with what must have been to many of them a cause of great discouragement, The few remaining older ones among them, surveying this small foundation, and remembering the size and magnificence of Solomon's temple, couldn't help but weep. What would stand on this small foundation would indeed be as nothing compared with the temple destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar almost a century before.
History repeats itself. We have noted already that we stand spiritually in the same place today, for we survey the condition of the Church as left to us by the last generation (the foundation upon which God requires us to build), and older believers can't help but weep as they see everywhere coldness, worldliness, indifference, ignorance of sound doctrine, and abandonment of Scriptural principles.
But we look back farther, to the Apostolic age, surveying the original foundation upon which succeeding generations have built, and there is still greater cause for weeping. In Ezra 3:10-13 we read in connection with the laying of the foundation of this second temple that, "Many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house... wept with a loud voice... so that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping...." The sound of joy mingled with that of weeping is heard also today. The young, the immature, the untaught, and the carnal, shout for joy at what seems to them a great revival, a great work; but older, mature, instructed, spiritual believers weep at the havoc being wrought in the Church, at the inferiority of what is being built, as they see "wood, hay, and stubble" being substituted for "gold, silver, and precious stones" (1 Co 3:12). The warning of the Apostle was never more needed than today, "...as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon" (1 Co 3:10).
2:4. "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:"
Having acknowledged that this second temple would be inferior to that of Solomon, God goes on to encourage them to build nevertheless. Their concern was to be, not with the past, but with the present. The departed glory would not be recovered in their day, nor will that of the Apostolic age be in ours. But they were to build, and so are we.
"Yet now be strong" was the first command, and its application is to us as much as to them. But how may we be strong? God Himself supplies the answer, "My strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Co 12:9), an assurance that led Paul to declare, "...when I am weak, then am I strong" verse 10. What did he mean? Simply that all the power of God would come in to work through him when his own acknowledgement of weakness made him an empty, yielded vessel through which the Holy Spirit could work unhindered.
It is to be noted also that this command was given, not just to the leaders, but to all the people. Every believer has a spiritual gift, and that gift is to be used for the edification of the Church, see e.g., 1 Co 14. The youngest believer, no less than the most mature, has something to contribute towards the upbuilding of the Church.
"...and work...." There is a crying need today for workers, believers willing to give themselves unreservedly to the building of God's house - a work that begins with obedience to the Lord's commission, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mk 16:15). This is emphasized by the Lord Himself, "The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest" (Mt 9:37-38, an exhortation to which is added also His encouragement, "Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together" (Jn 4:35-36).
"For I am with you, saith the Lord of hosts." With the long years of disobedience - and consequent loss of blessing - ended, they were given the assurance of having with them the presence of the Lord of hosts. They needed nothing more, nor do we.
2:5. "According to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not."
God goes back to the night of their deliverance from Egyptian bondage, and assures them that His Spirit is with them now as then. It is the same with us. The moment of our deliverance from the bondage of sin was the moment when the Holy Spirit took up His residence in our bodies. No matter how unfaithful Israel proved to be during their forty years in the desert, His Spirit, in the form of the pillar of cloud and fire, never left them. God kept His word no matter how often they broke theirs. He is equally faithful in His dealings with us, even though our delinquency is as great as theirs.
There is a tendency to relegate the Holy Spirit to a place of less importance than the other two Persons of the Godhead, but we must never forget that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are coequal. The Holy Spirit indwelling every believer is God. If we were more conscious of this, surely there would be not only a greater fear of grieving and quenching Him, but also a far greater reliance on His power, and less on our own. There would in fact be total abandonment of any reliance on our own power, and an absolute dependence upon Him.
It is sadly apparent however that this truth is but little known among professing Christians, for in practically every sphere of Christian activity the Holy Spirit's working has been replaced with human schemes. Failing to realize that finite minds are incapable of comprehending the Infinite, failing to understand that the Lord's words apply today as in the Apostolic age, "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power" (Ac 1:7), failing to grasp that man's place is not to know, but to obey, men professing to be the Lord's servants, have usurped the Holy Spirit's prerogative, and have formulated human schemes, and formed organizations, to direct the activities of the churches, and of their fellow servants, in spite of the fact that the NT is void of any authorization for anyone to do so.
A demonstration of the Spirit's perfect working is furnished in Acts chapter 8. The result of Philip's preaching in Samaria was that, "The people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake" verse 6. But from this successful work he was directed to, "Go toward the south unto... Gaza, which is desert" verse 26, and there he was used to lead the Ethiopian eunuch to the Savior.
Under the human organization which has such a strangle hold on Christendom, this would have been impossible. Infatuation with numbers would have declared it folly to leave the successful work in Samaria to go into the desert where there was no one. But the Holy Spirit knows what man doesn't. It was He Who directed the steps of the obedient Philip, and Who at the same time was working in the heart of the eunuch. It was He Whose timing is perfect, Who had arranged for the paths of evangelist and eunuch to cross at the exact time and place of His choosing. And who can count the number of those who have been saved as a result of the preaching of the Gospel from this very incident, or number those converted as a result of the eunuch's testimony in his own country?
Those obsessed with numbers would do well to remember the value God sets upon one soul, "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Mk 8:36-37. Calvary declares God's value of one soul. Those playing the numbers game are reminded that, "There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth" (Lk 15:10).
"My spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not." He who has God's Spirit with him need fear nothing, for he has God with him.
2:6. "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;"
2:7. "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."
As though to remind them of the power of His Spirit, God here points them to a time when He will shake all creation, and while certainly He will eventually shake the present creation and replace it with a new heavens and earth, Re 21:1, there can be little doubt that the immediate reference is to events that will occur in the Tribulation in preparation for the inauguration of the Millennial kingdom.
Since this promise was given about twenty-five hundred years ago, the reference to "a little while" has puzzled some, but the difficulty is removed by remembering that, "One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (2 Pe 3:8). The promise is to be viewed from the Divine, not the human perspective.
While there will be a literal shaking of heavenly bodies, and of earth and sea during the Tribulation, the reference to "the earth," and "the dry land" as two different things, indicates that the language is also figurative, so that the full significance of the message will be understood only as we understand the symbolic meanings of the things referred to.
The heavens are the sphere of rule, as it is written, "The heavens do rule" (Dan 4:26), but men are the Divinely appointed agents of that rule, e.g., Ro 13:1-7, so that the shaking of the heavens includes also the shaking or destruction of established government. The book of Revelation, for example, makes it clear that the Tribulation era will be one of increasing anarchy.
The "earth" is one of the Biblical symbols of the believing remnant of Israel, and of believers in general. True faith guarantees no immunity from trouble, the Lord Himself reminding believers, "In the world ye shall have tribulation" (Jn 16:33). Believers will not be exempt from the Tribulation judgments that will precede the Lord's return to reign. (It is to be noted that believers of the present Church age will not experience those judgments. They will have been raptured home to heaven before that terrible seven-year era begins).
The sea represents the unbelieving masses of humanity, see, e.g., Isa 57:20, "The wicked are like the troubled sea." Humanity having filled its cup of iniquity to the brim, will suffer the outpouring of God's wrath during the terrible Tribulation years.
It is to be noted that "land," which represents false profession, is not in the original, so that "the dry" would seem to refer to the dry earth, i.e., unfruitful (disobedient) believers. As always, some believers will seek to escape persecution in the Tribulation by attempting to hide the fact that they are believers. It will be useless however. None will escape when God shakes the whole creation.
The reference to nations reminds us that God deals not only with individuals, but also with nations. For example, Israel, as a nation, has been rejected during this present age, but individual Jews are saved.
"And the desire of all nations shall come." In spite of some attempts to relate this to the treasures of the nations, it is clear that the reference is to the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. He is the "desire of all nations," for while He is not desired today, except by His own, the Tribulation judgments will lead a rebel world to desire His coming to deliver them from the misery that will fill the earth during the last three and a half years of the terrible reign of Satan's beast emperor.
What was revealed for the encouragement of the returned remnant long ago, is no less meant to encourage us. They were being pointed to a day when earthly Israel would enjoy Millennial blessings under the beneficent reign of the Prince of Peace: we look for His coming to translate us from earth to heaven, and then for His return with us to reign.
"And I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts." That little temple which they were to build has long since gone, as has also the magnificent temple of Herod which replaced it. Clearly God views all the temples which have been, and which are yet to be, as simply stages which will culminate in the magnificent temple that will adorn the Millennial earth, and which will be again what Solomon's temple was: the earthly dwelling place of His glory.
That literal house however, is but a figure or symbol of the spiritual house, the Church, which has been in the building for almost two thousand years, but which is now almost complete. God's showing them therefore that what they were being called upon to build was but a stage of a work that began with the Tabernacle, and that won't be complete until the Millennial temple is built, is to remind us that the part which each generation of Christians has in the building of the Church, is but a small part of a great whole. And as God encouraged them not to look back, but forward, so does He also encourage us. As they were not to waste time on weeping over departed glory, neither are we to sit idle, bewailing the departed glory of the Apostolic age, or even of the generation that has preceded us. We are to look forward and build, with our eyes on the finished work, on that day when the building will be complete, and Christ will, "Present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing" (Eph 5:27).
That spiritual house, in the building of which we are privileged to have a part, will surpass the glory of any earthly temple, for as Solomon's temple passed away, so will that of the Millennium, but the Church will endure for ever, her glory lustering eternity.
2:8. "The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts."
Silver is the Biblical symbol of redemption, as gold is of Divine glory, so that the references to these literal precious things are to remind us that, "Salvation belongeth unto the Lord" (Ps 3:8), as does also the glory.
It is instructive also to note that the order here is that most frequently found in Scripture: the silver precedes the gold. The lesson being taught is that there must be salvation before there can be glory.
2:9. "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."
They weren't to be discouraged by comparisons between the little temple they were to build, and the magnificent temple that had once adorned the site. They were to believe by faith that the final stage of the earthly temple would surpass anything that had been in the past. We are not to be discouraged by comparisons between the present day and the manifestations of the Spirit's power that marked the Apostolic age. We are to build, believing that the glory of the Church complete, will surpass anything the mind of man might ever have imagined.
"And in this place will I give peace." Jerusalem, meaning lay or set ye double peace, the place of their labors, knew little of the peace associated with its name, but God assures them that there will yet be, not only a temple of surpassing splendor, but also a reign of peace such as the world longs for, but has never known, and won't know until the rule of man is ended, and the Prince of Peace holds the scepter of earth.
We too "build" in that same restless troubled world, but it is in the knowledge that the reign of the Prince of Peace is not far off, and that, "If we suffer (endure), we shall also reign with Him" (2 Tim 2:12).
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,"
This introduces a new section, the significance of which is indicated in the numbers twenty-four and nine. As has been noted already, the spiritual lesson of numbers larger than eight is derived from their factors. There are three sets of factors for twenty-four (1) 2 x 12, (2) 3 x 8, (3) 4 x 6. Two is the number of witness, and twelve the number of Divine government on display. The remnant were to be the witness to the nations around them that they were a people governed by God. So are we.
Three is the number of resurrection, and eight the number of a new beginning. They were to manifest that they were a resurrected people who, by God's grace, had been given a new beginning as a nation, the death of the nation being represented in the Babylonian captivity, and resurrection being portrayed in their return from that captivity. We too are a people who, by God's grace, have been resurrected out of spiritual death, who have been delivered from "Babylonian" bondage, and given a new beginning.
Four is the number of earth and testing, and six the number of man, weakness and sin. They were at best only men, weak and prone to sin, and they were being tested by the earthly circumstances attending their lives, but the God Who knew them and loved them, had given them all they needed to live as overcomers: He had promised, "I am with you," verse 4, "My Spirit remaineth among you," verse 5.
We too are only men, living in the midst of earthly testing, but we too have been given the same enablement to live as overcomers. He has promised, "I am with you alway" (Mt 8:20), and His Spirit remains with us, indwelling every believer, so that we can say with Paul, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Ph'p 4:13).
The factors of nine are 3 x 3, the number of resurrection, so that this second reference to resurrection, emphasizes the double nature of their own. They had been resurrected from the Babylonian captivity, and were now being resurrected again, as it were, from the failure of the past twenty years, during which they had lived as those who were dead as far as building God's house was concerned.
We too have lived as those who were dead as far as building God's house is concerned, but there is available also to us the hope of resurrection from that state. Whether that resurrection will be ours however, depends on whether the words of Haggai will produce in our hearts the same repentance and willing obedience as they did in the hearts of the returned remnant.
"In the second year of Darius." We have noted already that Darius means investigation; the dwelling will be full of heaviness, meanings which have yielded the lesson that the examination impelled by the message of the prophet had resulted in heart-searching that had made their hearts "full of heaviness," and that had produced repentance and obedience. Our study of Haggai will have been wasted if it doesn't produce the same results in our lives.
2:11. "Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Ask now the priests concerning the law, saying,"
2:12. "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."
So far God had exposed their sin and expressed His displeasure, commanded them to examine their ways, revealed the remedy, explained His chastisements in the form of blighted harvests, etc., and then in response to their repentance and obedience, had assured them, "I am with you" (Hag 1:13). Then He had encouraged them by repeating the assurance of His presence with them, while exhorting them to look forward, not back, in the realization that their work was a part of a great whole that wouldn't be completed until the Millennial temple was built in a day then still far distant. Further encouragement was given by the revelation that there would be associated with that Millennial temple glory transcending that which had characterized Solomon's temple, and the peace of which Jerusalem is now the symbol, but will then be the center.
They must also learn however, that while they waited and worked in anticipation of that coming day of earthly glory and peace, (a day in which they, in resurrection, will enjoy a greater glory, a greater peace, in heaven), they were to walk in the knowledge of God's ways. His Word was to govern their lives. The book of Haggai has been preserved to teach us those same truths. Our work is also only a part of a great whole (now almost complete), and while we too, wait and work in anticipation of future glory in heaven, we are also to walk in the knowledge of God's ways. His Word is to govern our lives.
First they were to ask the priests, "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." The "holy flesh" is that of an animal being offered, or that has been offered, as a sacrifice to God, but since every such sacrifice was a type or symbol of Christ, the man carrying the holy flesh represents a believer, for every believer "bears Christ in the skirt (fold) of his robe," i.e., we have Christ as the sacrifice offered to God through faith for our redemption.
Since garments represent righteousness, the robe represents the righteousness of Christ that clothes every believer.
Since all of the other things mentioned - bread, pottage, wine, oil, meat - are forms of food, they represent different aspects of the Word which is the believer's spiritual food. The question therefore becomes, Will my being a believer automatically invest my personal use of the Word with holiness? (This has nothing to do with the intrinsic holiness of the Word which nothing can affect). If the Word is to be my spiritual food I must be living an obedient life, and for a very obvious reason: apart from the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, the Word is no more to the believer than to the unbeliever - it is simply literature. A Holy Spirit, quenched or grieved by disobedience, will not transmute the Word into spiritual food. It is instructive in fact to note that neglect of the Word is concomitant with disobedience.
The enumeration of different types of food is also intended for our instruction, otherwise the Holy Spirit could just as easily have omitted the details, and described it as food or meat.
Heading the list is bread, basic to natural life. As such, it represents the Word as being basic to spiritual life. Men can no more live without the Word than they could without literal bread, for until they receive Him Who is the "Bread of life" they must remain spiritually dead. The new spiritual life obtained through faith in Christ the living Word must be nourished by the written Word, for it is nothing less than the unfolding of Him, see Jn 1:1,14, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.... and the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us...."
In the pottage we have another aspect of the Word: it is to be the subject of the believer's study. Pottage is boiled food, and four things are needed for its preparation: (1) A vessel, (2) Liquid (usually water), (3) The vegetable or meat to be boiled, (4) fire.
What is the spiritual equivalent of these things? The believer himself is the vessel, and the liquid is the water of the Word. Before there can be fruitful study, the water must be put into the vessel. The Holy Spirit must have something to work with. The Word must be read. It must fill my mind and heart. That's the water in the vessel. The item being boiled represents the particular part of the Word being studied. It may be a word, a phrase, a chapter, a book, a topic, etc., but that part will become my spiritual food only as it is "boiled in the water," i.e., understood in the context of the whole of Scripture. And finally there is the fire, symbol of the Holy Spirit. As there can be no literal boiling without the fire to bubble up the water, neither can there be the spiritual equivalent apart from the Holy Spirit's "bubbling up the water," i.e., using the Scriptures I've read, to unfold the meaning of the particular part now being studied.
The lesson of the pottage in the verse being considered, is that apart from obedience and total dependence on the Holy Spirit as my Teacher, Bible study will be only an academic activity yielding little or nothing to nurture the soul.
"Wine that maketh glad the heart of man," Ps 104:15 (see also Pr 31:6, and Ec 10:19), represents the Word in its ability to cheer the heart. Disobedience robs it of that capacity.
Oil represents the Holy Spirit, and its use here in Hag 2:12 as an item of food, reminds us that the Word is no less a revelation of Him and the Father than it is of the Son. Disobedience dims that revelation, so that what should be the revelation of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, becomes simply literature, no more intelligible to the believer than to the unbeliever.
"Any meat" represents the Word generally without regard to any specific characteristic, so that the lesson continues to be that disobedience deprives it of any capacity to feed my soul.
The inability of that holy flesh to transmit its holiness to any of these items of food, declares the truth that my being a believer does not automatically ensure that the Word will fulfill its Divine function in my life apart from my obedience.
2:13. "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."
This is the opposite of the earlier question, which was, Can holiness be transmitted? Now the question is, Can defilement be transmitted? and the answer is, Yes.
The lesson is easily understood when it is recognized that the "dead body" represents the old I, or the body as the servant of the old nature, see Ro 8:10, e.g., "And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin...." For those addressed by Haggai, the defilement came through literal contact with a dead body. That touch rendered the man ceremonially unclean. The spiritual equivalent of that defiling touch is the yielding of any part of my body, including my mind, to the service of the old nature. One wrong thought defiles me.
2:14. "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."
"...this people... this nation," reminds us that what they were individually is what they were nationally: a warning to us that the character of each local church is governed by the conduct of the individuals comprising it.
"...and so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean." Their disobedience defiled both their work and their worship. Every honest heart will confess that this is true of us.
The one ray of light amidst the darkness however was that this related to their past. God's chastise-ments, and His rebuke through His prophet, had produced genuine repentance. Their spirits had been stirred up, and it was not mere verbal repentance, for, "They came and did work in the house of the Lord of hosts, their God" (Hag 1:14).
He who is willing to make this condemnation applicable also to his past, may then claim the assurances that follow.
2:15. "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:"
The rebuke of the prophet had accomplished God's purpose: it had produced repentance and obedience, and the result was that God could now assure them of blessing. That assurance will be ours when these words of Haggai produce the same results in our hearts. When we are willing to confess our sin (failure to build God's house, i.e., failure to go out with the Gospel), and are willing to yield obedience to Christ's command, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature," then, and only then will there be blessing.
The reference to the laying of stones "in the temple of the Lord" reminds us that believers are "living stones" (1 Pe 2:5), the material of which God's house (the Church) is built today. Apart from the preaching of the Gospel there can be no living stones.
A comparison of 1:15 and 2:18 indicates that for three months they had been faithful to continue the building so long abandoned. God requires more than lip confession of faithfulness: He wants works that demonstrate the reality of the profession. Our good intentions to preach the Gospel "tomorrow" won't bring blessing. Tomorrow we could be gone. Tomorrow those who might have heard the Gospel, but for our unfaithfulness, could be gone - into a lost eternity. "Behold, NOW is the accepted time" (2 Co 6:2), applies to the saint as well as the sinner. Today is the time for the saint to preach, as well as for the sinner to repent.
2:16. "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."
The twenty and ten measures are of grain, but since grain is a symbol of the Word as our spiritual food, the lesson being taught is related to the Word as food for our souls.
What should have yielded twenty measures yielded only ten. The corresponding spiritual state is all around us. In spite of all the books on how to study the Bible, in spite of all the seminars, the films, the tapes... the yield of spiritual food is far less than expected. Why? We have been as disobedient as that returned remnant. We too have failed to build God's house. We have failed to preach the Gospel. In spite of all the aids to Bible study, the fact remains that Christians are spiritually starving. Our disobedience, our carnality, have grieved and quenched the Holy Spirit, Who alone is able to transmute the Scriptures into spiritual food; and we have sought to make up for the loss by running to buy the substitutes - the books, tapes, etc. The result is that we find only ten measures where there should be twenty. The average Christian today not only sees nothing more in Scripture than the literal language, but such is his blindness and deafness, that he fails to understand the spiritual message even when it is set before him; and worse, he is ready to accuse those who do perceive the spiritual message, of giving reign to imagination. And in his attempt to hide his own lack he decries the allegorical method of study.
As has been noted many times in the course of our studies, wine represents the Word in its ability to cheer and comfort, so that the reference here to a yield of twenty instead of an anticipated fifty, is the symbolic announcement of the truth that today our carnality has drastically reduced the ability of the Word to fulfill its proper function of cheering and comforting God's people. A distraught Christianity is running to psychiatrists and "counselors" in a vain search for what generations of obedient believers found in the Scriptures.
2:17. "I smote you with blasting and with mildew and with hail in all the labors of your hands; yet ye turned not to me, saith the Lord."
Blasting is the result of drought; mildew, of too much moisture. Remembering however that rain in proper measure is one of the signs of Divine blessing, the lessons of the blasting and mildew aren't difficult to read. Certainly rain in proper measure is a blessing today just as it has always been, but clearly the lesson goes beyond the literal fact concerning rain. Our modern, educated, cultured society measures its blessings today, not in raindrops but dollars - but the effects are the same. God's abnormal giving of rain, whether too little or too much, failed to turn the hearts of that disobedient remnant back to Him; and His abnormal distribution of wealth has failed also to turn the hearts of His people today back to Him. Poverty produces railing and complaint against God, when it should cast us more upon Him, while wealth begets arrogant pride and independence, and causes us to forget that we are stewards who must one day give an account of our stewardship, not only of money, but of time, talents, homes, cars - of all that God has entrusted to us.
"..and with hail." Hail invariably appears in Scripture as the symbol of Divine anger, as one of the instruments of God's chastisement. From Job 33:14-30 and 1 Co 11:30 we learn that sickness may sometimes (but not always) be one of the equivalents of the OT hail. The sensitive heart will examine every "misfortune" in an attempt to determine whether it may in fact be chastisement; but it must be emphasized that this is to be self judgment. We may not pass judgment on the "misfortunes" of other believers, for we lack the ability to discern precisely between chastening and refining. The two often accomplish the same purpose, but chastening, only to "them which are exercised thereby" (Heb 12:11).
"...in all the labors of your hands." When the spiritual life is wrong, so is everything else.
"...yet ye turned not to me, saith the Lord." For almost twenty years their disobedience had deprived them of blessing. Yet one blighted harvest should have been sufficient to prompt the question, What have we done? But, as is written in Job 33:14, "God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not." For almost twenty years deaf ears and blind eyes had failed to discern God's message. It is sadly apparent that our own ears and eyes are equally insensitive. And yet how simply, how quickly was the situation remedied, "Then Zerubbabel... and Joshua... with all the remnant of the people, obeyed... and did fear before the Lord" (Hag 1:12), bringing God's immediate response, "I am with you." The formula for blessing never changes. Obedience and blessing cannot be separated.
2:18. "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."
This is the same day on which they had been commanded to seek instruction from the priests, see verse 10. There can be no obedience apart from instruction, and since there can be no blessing apart from obedience, the importance of being instructed in spiritual things can't be over emphasized. We are not given the freedom to pick and choose in the matter of obedience. It must be according to what God commands, not what mere human reason might suggest. (For the spiritual significance of the numbers mentioned here, see the notes for verse 10).
From Ezra 3:10 we learn that they had begun to lay the foundation of the temple in the second month of the second year of their return from Babylon. That had been almost twenty years ago, yet God speaks here as though the foundation had just been laid, a fact that has a valuable lesson to teach us. Those intervening years didn't count. They had been wasted. So is it in regard to all time spent in disobedience. The Bema will reveal the sad truth that all too many of us have also wasted precious time that might have been used to build God's house, and enrich us for eternity. The lesson of the wasted years may be traced through Scripture. Upon returning from his disobedient sojourn in Egypt, Abraham "went on his journeys from the south even to Bethel, unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning unto the place of the altar which he had made there at the first" (Ge 13:3-4). The years spent in "Egypt" (the world) are always wasted. Naomi is another who had to come back to the place where departure had begun. The prodigal son is another. But all of these point to Calvary. It was in a garden that Adam departed from God and forfeited man's life, and when the last Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ, as man's Representative, yielded up that life, He had to return to a garden, for in spite of all that the hymn-writers have said about "green hills" and "mountains," Scripture tells us that, "In the place where He was crucified there was a garden" (Jn 19:41). Man must come back to the point of departure before there can be blessing. Sin brings death, and time spent in disobedience is time during which we might as well be dead, for it is profitless for eternity.
To read of the experience of that remnant however, and not realize that their twenty wasted years have had their corresponding part in most of our lives, is to read without understanding.
2:19. "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 reminds us that there had to be faith to believe God's word, for as yet there was nothing but His word to assure them that that year's harvest would be different from those shrinking harvests of previous years. In this we are reminded of our own state. It too, is one of faith. We are to build God's house, having the faith to believe His word that in the future, at the Bema, we will reap an abundant harvest.
Harvest however, as declared by the Lord Himself, points to the end of the age, "The harvest is the end of the world (age)" (Mt 13:39), and there is instructive significance in the details furnished here in verse 19. The gathering of the seed into the barn is a figure of the ingathering of the redeemed - for the Church that moment will be the Rapture, and for Israel, the end of the Tribulation. But note the order in which the trees are mentioned: the vine, the fig, the pomegranate, and the olive. The vine represents Israel in the past as a vine brought out of Egypt, Ps 80:8. The fig tree represents Israel during this present age, one of the signs that the age is almost ended being that we see the fig tree begin to bud, as foretold by the Lord Himself in Mt 24:32-34. The olive however, represents her in the Millennium, and it is significant that between the fig and the olive harvests, comes the reference to the ingathering of the pomegranate harvest. The pomegranate represents the Church. She will be gathered "into the barn" before Israel, as represented by the olive, is brought into Millennial blessing.
"From this day will I bless you." From that day when they returned to the work, so long abandoned, they were assured of blessing. The promise is no less to us. The moment we return in repentant submission, and begin to build again God's house, we will be blessed. How do we build? There is only one way. Preach the Gospel, for it is only as men believe that Gospel that they become the "living stones" of which God's house is comprised.
2:20. "And again the word of the Lord came unto Haggai in the four and twentieth day of the month, saying,"
As throughout this little book a new section has been introduced by the formula came the word of the Lord by Haggai, or the equivalent, so here a new, the final section, begins with the same formula. But it is to be noted that this closing message is given to the prophet on the same day as was the promise, "from this day will I bless you" (verse 19), i.e., the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, the same day on which they were commanded to seek instruction from the priests (verse 10). Those who would do God's work must do it according to His direction.
The Divine blueprint for blessing is the same today as then: the fear of God must govern His people, that reverential fear making us tremble to disobey (1:12); there must be a ready willingness to do His work, i.e., to build His house, a work which we have seen to be impossible apart from a faithful, diligent proclamation of the Gospel (1:14). Where this spirit is found in His people, there is found also His encouragement, and the assurance of His all-sufficient strength (2:4-5). And looking to the day when the work is complete, and the house built, there is the promise of future glory (2:6-9). The need to be instructed in Divine things, i.e., to be workmen who need not to be ashamed (2 Tim 2:15), and the need of holy living, are taught next (2:10-14). Then there is the imperative that we profit, not only from God's correction of our own disobedience, but also from His chastisement of others (2:15-18). The need for faith to trust Him for the fulfillment of His promises is found in 2:19, and finally, in 2:20-23 is the exhortation to live, work, and worship in anticipation of that day (surely not far off) when we shall reign with the victorious Christ set before us typically in "Zerubbabel, governor of Judah (praise)."
2:21. "Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I will shake the heavens and the earth;"
It is significant that this is the only time throughout this book that Zerubbabel alone is referred to: in all other instances he and Joshua are mentioned together. Zerubbabel represents Christ as King; Joshua, Christ as Priest. In the verses before us, God is pointing to the day when Christ, His priestly work done, will come forth as King of kings, and Lord of lords, fulfilling the type of Zerubbabel; so, fittingly, there is no further mention of Joshua.
Since the significance of God's shaking the heavens has already been discussed in our study of verse 6, it need not be repeated here.
2:22. "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."
It is equally unnecessary to dwell long on this verse, for it is clear that the references are to the overthrow of man's government, and the total destruction of man's vaunted "civilization" when the Lord returns in power and glory to end the Tribulation and inaugurate His Millennial kingdom, as it is written, "And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it. In that day, saith the Lord, I will smite every horse with astonishment, and his rider with madness: and I will open mine eyes upon the house of Judah, and will smite very horse of the people with blindness. And the governors of Judah shall say in their heart, The inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be my strength in the Lord of hosts their God. In that day will I make the governors of Judah like an hearth of fire among the wood, and like a torch of fire in a sheaf; and they shall devour all the people round about, on the right hand and on the left; and Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her own place, even in Jerusalem. The Lord also shall save the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem do not magnify themselves against Judah. In that day shall the Lord defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the Lord before them. And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn" (Zech 12:3-10). See also Zech 14:1-15, particularly verse 13 which makes specific reference to what is declared here in verse 22: God will cause them to fall, "every one by the sword of his brother."
2:23. "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."
The significance of Zerubbabel's being made "as a signet" is easily understood in the light of what a signet was, and how it was used. One popular form consisted of a ring with an engraved design, used to validate documents by pressing the ring into the wax or clay used to seal a document, while the wax or clay was still soft. Es 3:10 and 8:8 furnish examples of such use. Thus sealed, a document carried the authority of the one whose seal it bore.
But it is Jer 22:24 that furnishes the clearest illustration of the truth being presented in God's describing Zerubbabel as a signet. There it is written, "As I live, saith the Lord, though Coniah (Jehoiachin, Zerubbabel's grandfather) king of Judah were the signet upon my right hand, yet would I pluck thee thence...." Judah's kings were theocrats (persons ruling as the representatives of God), so that as the king's signet invested a document with his authority, so here in Hag 2:23 is announced the fact that in the Millennium, the One of Whom Zerubbabel is a type or figure, will reign as God's King. That One of course is not a resurrected Zerubbabel, but the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, for other Scriptures indicate that in the Millennium all resurrected individuals will be in heaven, not on earth, the Millennial earth's population consisting of those believers who will have survived the Tribulation judgments, and the children born to them during the Millennium.
All Scripture anticipates that coming reign of glory and peace, as does also a groaning creation. Surely then we who have been redeemed by the precious blood of that same Prince of Peace, should work with unremitting zeal, realizing that every "living stone" added to God's "house" brings nearer that moment when the Lord will come for us, and then return with us to end the Tribulation and begin His glorious thousand-year reign that will bring earth's tempestuous history to a peaceful close. That final millennium, added to the six that have run their course since Adam, will complete God's great "week," that seventh "day" being the "Sabbath" that will precede an eternity of peace and bliss in a new heavens and a new earth.