Haggai 2

 

§ 1. The prophet comforts whose who grieve at the comparative poverty of the new

building with the assurance of the Divine protection and favor.  (vs. 1-5)

 

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,”

The seventh month is Ethanim or Tisri, answering to parts of

September and October. The twenty-first was the last and great day of the

Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:34-36), when It was the custom to

celebrate the ingathering of the harvest. The joyous nature of this festival

was sadly marred on this occasion. Their crops were scanty, and they had.

no temple in whose courts they might assemble to pay their vows and offer

their thank offerings. The building which had begun to make some progress

only the more showed its poverty. Everything tended to make them

contrast the present with the past. But God mercifully relieves their

despondency with a new message. By the prophet Haggai (see note on ch.1:1).

 

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,”  Speak now to Zerubbabel. The message is

addressed to the heads of the nation, temporal and spiritual, and to all the people

who had returned (see notes on ch.1:1 and 12).

 

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?” Who is left among you! etc. It is quite possible that there

should be some old people present who had seen Solomon’s temple. Many

have thought that Haggai himself was of the number. It was sixty-eight

years ago that the temple was destroyed, and we can well believe that its

remarkable features were deeply impressed on the minds of those who as

boys or youths had loved and admired it. Ezra tells us (Ezra 3:12) that

“many of the priests and Levites” [when the foundation first was laid] and

chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house,…

wept with a loud voice.” This house. The prophet identifies the present

with Solomon’s temple, as being adapted for the same purposes, to fill the

same place in the national life, built on the same hallowed spot, and partly

with the same materials. In the Jews’ eyes there was one only temple,

whatever might be the date of its erection or the comparative worth of its

decorations and materials. First; former, as v. 9. How do ye see it now?

(Numbers 13:18). In what condition do ye see this house now? Is it

not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing? The words, “in

comparison of it,” ought to be omitted, as not required by the Hebrew

idiom. Does it not seem in your eyes as if it had no existence? If the

injunction of Cyrus (Ezra 1:3-11) had been carried out, the

dimensions of. the new temple would have exceeded those of the old; but

Zerubbabel seems to have been unable, with the small resources at his

disposal, to execute the original design, though even so the proportions

were not greatly inferior to those of the earlier temple. But the chief

inferiority lay in the absence of the splendor and enrichment with which

Solomon adorned his edifice. The gold which he had lavished on the house

was no longer available; the precious stones could not be had. Besides.

these defects, the Talmudists reckon five things wanting in this second

temple, viz.

 

  1. the ark of the covenant, with the cherubim and mercy seat;
  2. the holy fire;
  3. the Shechinah;
  4. the spirit of prophecy;
  5. the Urim and Thummim.

 

It was, according to Josephus, only half the height of Solomon’s-sixty cubits

(‘Ant.,’ 15:11, 1), and it appears to have been in many respects inferior to

the first building (‘Ant.,’ 4:2). Hecabaeus of Abdera gives the dimensions

of the courts as five hundred feet in length and a hundred cubits in breadth

(double the width of the court of the tabernacle), and the size of the altar

as twenty cubits square and ten cubits high (see Josephus, ‘Cont. Ap.,’

1:22; Conder, ‘Handbook to the Bible,’ p. 370).

 

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:” Be strong. This is repeated three times for emphasis’

sake. The same exhortation was given by David to Solomon before the building of

the first temple (I Chronicles 28:10; compare Joshua 1:6-7, 9).

Haggai seems to suggest comfort in the thought that such admonition was

needed at that time as well as now when they are so depressed (compare

Zechariah 8:9). And work; literally, and do; ποιεῖτε -  poieite:  facite, The

word is used absolutely, as often (compare Isaiah 44:23; Amos 3:6,

and note there). Here it means, “Work on bravely, finish what you have

begun.” I am with you (see ch. 1:13, and note there). The

consciousness of God’s presence gives confidence and strength.

 

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.”

According to the word that I covenanted. The Hebrew is

simply, “the word that I,” etc. Hence some have connected it with the verb

“do” in the preceding verse, the intervening words being parenthetical. But

there is intended no injunction respecting the observation of the old

covenant, but a consolatory message under present despondency. Others

take it with the verb that follows: “the word and my Spirit remain among

you.” but it is best to leave the clause in the abrupt fashion in which it is

introduced: “(Here is, here stands) the word that I covenanted with you.”

If anything is supplied, we might insert, “I will confirm.” The promise of

present help is confirmed by the remembrance of God’s former covenant

with Israel, that they should be His peculiar people and possess the right of

access to Him and a claim on His help (Exodus 19:5-6; 29:45-46;

Deuteronomy 7:6; Jeremiah 7:23). This clause is entirely omitted by

tile Septuagint. So my Spirit remaineth among you; Revised Version,

and my Spirit abode among you. But the clause refers to God’s presence

among them now, which was shown by the revelations made to the

prophets, as Haggai and Zechariah, and which exhibits itself in His

providential ordering of events, the removal of obstacles, the furthering of

the go od work. Wordsworth notes that “Christ was with the ancient

Church in the wilderness (see I Corinthians 10:4,9; Hebrews 11:26);

and now, when the eternal Word became incarnate, and when the Holy

Spirit was sent to be in the midst of God’s faithful people, then this

prophecy was fulfilled. Fear ye not. If God be for us, who can be against

us?” (Romans 8:31; and compare Zechariah 4:6).

 

 

Past and Present.  (vs. 3-5)

 

  • A SUGGESTIONOf the continuity of human history. Haggai’s

question assumes that the structure then erecting was not a new edifice

(which it really was), but the old building set up again, though in faded

splendor, which also it was, inasmuch as it was based on the foundations

of the earlier pile. “This house in its former glory” meant that the prophet

looked on the two houses as one, and the two eras represented by these

houses, not as two distinct and separate periods, but as one continuous

period. As it were the national life, for seventy years interrupted by the

exile, again flowed on, restoring the temple, reinstituting the religion of

Jehovah, and pervading the whole fabric of society. The present was not so

much a fresh commencement as a prolongation of the past. And this is true

of human history and life in general. No age or individual is entirely

disconnected from and independent of the ages and individuals that have

gone before. A perfectly new beginning in human history or in individual

life has never yet taken place. Even in the Incarnation, the second Adam

was connected with the first through his human nature. The civilization of

the twenty-first century is built upon the foundations laid by preceding

centuries. The maturity of manhood in wisdom or virtue is developed from

the gains in knowledge and goodness made in youth.

 

  • AN ILLUSTRATION Of the tendency to glorify the past at the

expense of the present. “Who is left among you that saw this house in its

former glory? and how do you see it now? asks the prophet; is it not in

your eyes as nothing?” In certain respects this depreciation of the postexilic

temple, in comparison with the Solomonic, was justifiable — the

material splendor of the second building was vastly inferior to that of the

first; but in other respects the glory of the latter house would ultimately far

eclipse that of the former (v. 9) — it would be the center and scene, the

instrument and support of a purer worship than had been maintained in the

former, and would be honored by the visit of a greater potentate than

Solomon himself, even by the Messenger of the covenant and the Lord of

the temple, after whom were going out the desires, not of Israel alone, but

of all nations (v. 7). And upon the foundation of the old structure of

cedar wood and gold, and to glorify the old which seventy years before had

perished in the going down of their nation before the might of Babylon, so

does it seem to be a tendency in human nature to exalt the past and to

depress the present, to extol the men and institutions, the characteristics

and occurrences of other days at the expense of the present, even when

there is as little ground for doing so as there was for the depreciatory

remarks of the builders. It is not difficult to account for either this

laudation of the past or this disparagement of the present. On the one hand,

lapse of years allows the memory of past discomforts, irritations,

deficiencies, imperfections, blemishes, to fade away, while present evils

obtrude themselves upon the notice and press upon the hearts of the

passing generation; on the other hand, the present is too near for its

peculiar excellences to be rightly gauged, while the glories of the past, like

distant mountains, shine out with augmented splendor. Yet the verdict

which prefers the past to the present is incorrect (Ecclesiastes 7:10).

Unless the world is a hopelessly bad world, which it is not (Romans 8:20),

and the grace of God that bringeth salvation is effete, which is not

the mind of Scripture (Titus 2:11); unless the predictions of the Word

of God are to be falsified (Isaiah 11:9; Habakkuk 2:14; Revelation 11:15),

which cannot be (Isaiah 55:11; Matthew 24:35), and the aspirations of good

men’s hearts are to be disappointed, which would be clean contrary to what

God has led them to expect (Psalm 145:19); — there can be little doubt that

the world is and must be surely but slowly becoming better.

 

“For I doubt not through the ages one increasing purpose runs;

And the thoughts of men are widened by the process of the suns.”

(Tennyson.)

 

To the widening of the thoughts add the purifying of the hearts and the

elevation of the lives of men.

 

  • AN EXHORTATION to earnest diligence in discharge of present

duty. “Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the Lord,” etc. The duty of

the builders was to prosecute the work in which they were engaged, the

erection of the temple, even though the temple should be inferior to its

predecessor, and the circumstances for its erection less favorable than had

been those for the construction of the former — perhaps all the more their

duly on that account. So were the present age inferior to the ages which

had gone before, the same duty would be incumbent on all ranks and

classesthe duty, viz. of working with earnest diligence at one’s daily

calling,  (Of David it is said “he had served his generation” – Acts 13:36 –

CY – 2015)  the trivial round, the common task,” if assigned by God, and

more especially at the building up of God’s spiritual temple in the individual

soul and in the world at large. Without this the present age cannot grow

better than the past, and is certain to grow worse.

 

  • A CONSOLATION in the guaranteed fellowship of God. Jehovah

would be with them — always, of course, conditionally if they continued

with Him (II Chronicles 15:2).

 

Ø      Not merely externally, as through His immanent presence He is with all,

but internally, by His Spirit abiding amongst them as a community, and

in their hearts as individuals, as He still does in the midst of His Church

and in the souls of believers, when these remain true to Him, no matter

how degenerate the age may be in which their lot is cast.

 

Ø      Not now for the first time, but as He had ever been since the day when

they came forth from Egypt; without which, indeed, they had never

become a nation having access to Jehovah through their priests and

sacrifices, and receiving from Him revelations and spiritual quickening

through the medium of their prophets (Hebrews 1:1); and without

which they could not now be prospered in their undertaking. God’s

Spirit is the secret source and ultimate cause of all good in either

Church or nation.

 

Ø      Not of constraint, but willingly, according to His own covenant

engagement, which are never imposed on Him by any of His creatures,

but always freely proposed and executed by Himself — whence they

are rightly styled covenants of grace. It is the existence of such a

covenant that guarantees the indestructibility and perpetuity of the

Christian Church.

 

Ø      Not as an unseen presence only, but as an actively cooperating power,

imparting to them strength for their work as well as boldness in it (see

homily on ch. 1:13-14), both of which would be theirs in

proportion as they realized the cheering truth that they were fellow

laborers with God. In like manner also, and for similar ends and

purposes, is Christ, by His Spirit, present with His Church

(Matthew 28:20; John 14:6).

 

  • LESSONS.

 

1. The inheritance of the past a cause of thankfulness.

2. The imperfections of the present a stimulus to duty.

3. The glorious times of the future a reason for cheerfulness and hope.

 

 

 

The Real Presence.  (vs. 4-5)

 

In contrasting the house the builders were now raising for God with the

first temple, many a reference was doubtless made by the “ancient men” to

the ark of the covenant” and “the Shechinah,” which had been the visible

symbols of the Divine presence. What, after all, they would urge, could this

new structure be without these precious tokens of the Lord, as being with

them in all His majesty and might? Haggai therefore most appropriately laid

great emphasis upon the glorious fact that they had with them the spiritual

presence of the Lord Most High, who would remain with them, and would

faithfully fulfill to them every covenant engagement made with their sires

(vs. 4-5).

 

  • THE GLORIOUS FACT OF THE REAL PRESENCE OF THE LORD

WITH HIS CHURCH.

 

Ø      This truth is constantly declared in the oracles of God.

Ø      It was brought home to the Israelites in the olden times by means of

symbolical representations.

Ø      It was impressed upon these returned captives by the raising up of

faithful men to declare the Divine will, and to stimulate them to

renewed devotion.

Ø      It is made manifest to us in the Incarnation of God in Christ. Not only

will God in very deed dwell with man upon the earth, but He has even

taken man’s nature into union with his own. He has come to us,

affecting us not only with the glory of His majesty, but revealing

to us His very heart, and unveiling to us the intensity of His infinite love.

 

  • THE INFLUENCE WHICH THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF THIS

GREAT TRUTH SHOULD EXERT UPON HIS SERVANTS.

 

Ø      It should be to them in times of depression the source of strong

consolation. “Be strong” (v. 4); i.e.” Be comforted.”

Ø      It should take from them all craven fear, inspiring them with holy

courage: “Fear ye not” (v. 5).

Ø      It should impel them to renewed consecrated endeavor: “and work”

(v. 4).

 

§ 2. The prophet, to reconcile the people to the new temple, and to teach them

to value it highly, foretells a future time, when the glory of this house shall far

exceed that of Solomons, adumbrating the Messianic era.  (vs. 6-9)

 

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;”  Yet once, it is a little while; ἔτι ἅπαξ  - epi hapax  - yet once (Septuagint);

Adhuc unum modicum est (Vulgate), The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews

(12:26-27) quotes and founds an argument on this rendering of the Septuagint.

The expression is equivalent to “once again within a little time.” I will

shake, etc. Some difference of opinion exists as to the events here

adumbrated. All, however, agree in seeing an allusion to the promulgation

of the Law on Mount Sinai, which was accompanied with certain great

physical commotions (see Exodus 19:16; Psalm 68:7-8), when,

too, the Egyptians were “shaken” by the plagues sent on them, and the

neighboring nations, Philistia, Edom, Moab, were struck with terror

(Exodus 15:14-16). This was a great moral disturbance in the heathen

world; the next and final “shaking” will be under the Messianic

dispensation for which the destruction of heathen kingdoms prepares the

way. The Israelites would soon see the beginnings of this visitation, e.g. in

the fall of Babylon, and might thence conclude that all would be

accomplished in due time. The prophet calls this interval “a little while”

(which it is in God’s eyes and in view of the vast future), in order to

console the people and teach them patience and confidence. The final

consummation and the steps that lead to it in the prophet’s vision are

blended together, just as our Lord combines His prediction about the

destruction of Jerusalem with details which concern the end of the world.

(Matthew 24; Luke 21)  The physical convulsions in heaven and earth, etc.,

spoken of, are symbolical representations of political revolutions, as explained

in the next verse, “I will shake all nations,” and again in vs. 21-22. Other

prophets announce that Messiah’s reign shall be ushered in by the overthrow or

conversion of heathen nations; e.g.. Isaiah 2:11-23; 19:21-22; Daniel 2:44;

Micah 5:9-16.

 

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.”

All nations (Luke 21:25, where our Lord refers to the end

of this world). But before Christ’s first advent there was a general shaking

of empires. Persia fell; Alexander’s dominion was divided and gradually

shattered before the might of Rome; Rome herself was torn with civil wars.

The faith in the power of national gods was everywhere weakened, and

men were prepared to receive the new revelation of ONE SUPREME

DEITY who came on earth to teach and save. Now is mentioned the object

or consequence of this shaking of nations. The desire of all nations shall

come. This is the rendering of the ancient Jewish expositors, the Chaldee

Targum, and the Vulgate, which gives, Veniet desideratus cunctis

gentibus. The words in this case point to a person, and this person can be

no one else than THE MESSIAH for whom “all nations consciously or

unconsciously yearn, in whom alone all the longings of the human heart

find satisfaction.  But there is difficulty in accepting this view.

The word rendered “the desire” (chemdath) is singular, the verb “shall

come” (bau) is plural, as if it was said in Latin, Venient desiderium

omnium gentium. The Septuagint translates, Ηξει τὰ ἐκλεκτὰ πάντων τῶν

ἐθνῶνHaexei ta eklekta panton ton ethnon -  The choice things [or, ‘portions’]

of all the nations shall come. The plural verb seems fatal to the idea of a person

being spoken of; nor is this objection answered by Dr. Pusey’s allegation that

the object of desire contains in itself many objects of desire, or Bishop

Wordsworth’s refinement, that Messiah is regarded as a collective Being,

containing in His own Person the natures of God and man, and combining the

three offices of Prophet, Priest, and King. Every one must see that both these

explanations are forced and unnatural, and are conformed rather to

theological considerations than to grammatical accuracy. Chemdah is used

for “the object of desire,” as II Chronicles 32:27, where it refers to

Hezekiah’s treasures, and ibid. ch.36:10, “the goodly vessels” of

the temple (compare Jeremiah 25:34; Nahum 2:9). Nowhere is any

intimation given that it is a name applied to the Messiah; nowhere is any

such explanation offered of the term so applied. The word is a common

one; its meaning is well ascertained; and it could hardly have been

understood in any but its usual acceptation without some preparation or

further definition. This acceptation is confirmed by the mention of “the

gold and silver” in v. 8. The Revised Version cuts the knot by rendering,

“the desirable things;” Perowne affirms that the plural verb denotes the

manifoldness and variety of the gifts. This seems scarcely satisfactory. May

it not be, as Knabenbauer suggests, that “the desire of all nations” forms

one notion, in which the words, “all nations,” have a predominating

influence, and so the plural ensues by constructio ad sensum? The

meaning, then, is that all nations with their wealth come, that the Gentiles

shall devote their treasures, their powers, whatever they most highly prize,

to the service of God. This is what is predicted elsewhere (e.g. Isaiah

60:5-7, 11, 13, 17), and it is called, metaphorically, coming with treasures

to the temple. To hear of such a glorious future might well be a topic of

consolation to the depressed Israelites. (For a further development of the

same idea, see Revelation 21:24, 26.) I will fill this house with glory.

There is a verbal allusion to the glory which filled Solomon’s temple at the

dedication (II Chronicles 7:1), but the especial mode in which it is to be

manifested in this case is not here mentioned. The previous clause would

make the reference rather to the material offerings of the Gentiles, but a

further and a deeper signification is connected with the advent of Messiah

(as Malachi 3:1), with which the complete fulfillment commenced.

 

 

The Shaking of the Heavens and the Earth.  (vs. 6-7)

 

  • HISTORICAL ILLUSTRATIONS.

 

Ø      At Sinai, when Jehovah manifested Himself to Israel (Exodus 19:16-

19; Psalm 68:7-8). Preparatory and prophetical.

 

Ø      At the birth of Christ, when Jehovah appeared on earth in the Person of

his Son (Joel 2:30-31: Luke 2:8-14; Acts 2:19-20). Furthering

and fulfilling.

Ø      At the end of time, when Jehovah will a third time appear, in the Person

of the glorified Christ, to save His people and judge His foes (Isaiah

24:19-20; II Peter 3:10). Culminating and completing.

 

  • SCRIPTURAL INTERPRETATIONS. According to the writer to the

Hebrews, “This word, Once more, signifieth the removing of the things

that are shaken, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain”

(Hebrews 12:27). In other words, the object of each successive Divine

interposition has been and will be the abrogation of institutions that have

served their day, the correction of errors that have hindered the truth, the

alteration of circumstances and conditions that are no longer suited to the

new era about to be introduced.

 

Ø      At Sinai were shaken and removed

o       the polytheism which Israel had in large measure brought with

her from Egypt;

o       the individualism which had hitherto prevented Israel from

      forming herself into a nation; and

o       the serfdom which had rendered the realization of Israel’s calling

impossible; while the things that could not be shaken and

remained were:

§         the unity of God, or the monotheistic element which still

survived in Israel’s religion;

§         the covenant relationship in which Jehovah stood towards

Israel; and

§         the capacity for religion which no amount of oppression

had been able utterly to destroy.

 

Ø      At the birth of Christ were shaken and removed

o       the Mosaic institute which had then served its day, and was even

ready to vanish away (Hebrews 8:13);

o       the partition wall between Jew and Gentile (Ephesians 2:14),

which had repelled each from, rather than attracted each to,

the other; and

o       the externalism and literalism in worship, which had converted

it into mere mechanism;while the unshakable things that

remained were

§         the covenant of grace which underlay the Mosaic institute,

and shone the brighter when that was removed which for

centuries had been superimposed upon it;

§         the brotherhood of man, which was henceforth to be

      placed in the forefront of the gospel message (Acts 17:26;

      Romans 2:11; 3:29; Colossians 3:11; Galatians 3:26); and

§         the spirituality of religion, which was no more to be

      confined to either places or seasons, persons or forms,

      but to find its seat in the heart and its priest in the

      renewed soul (John 4:21-24).

 

Ø      At the end of time will be shaken and removed

 

o       the present state and condition of things (I Corinthians 7:31;

15:50-57; II Peter 3:10, 12; I John 2:17);

o       the presence and power of sin (Revelation 22:3); and

o       the mediatorial sovereignty of Christ (I Corinthians 15:23);

while as things that cannot be shaken, shall remain

§         the new heavens and the new earth wherein dwelleth

righteousness (II Peter 3:13);

§         the redeemed family of believers (I John 2:17); and

§         THE ETERNAL SUPREMACY OF GOD who shall

      then be ALL IN ALL!  (I Corinthians 15:28).

 

LEARN:

 

1. That nations and individuals mostly advance by means of struggle and

     commotion.

2. That peace and quietness may often mean stagnation and death rather

                 than progress and life.

      3. That TRUTH and RIGHT will eventually prevail over falsehood and

          wrong.

 

 

“The Desire of All Nations.” (v. 7)

 

  • ALL NATIONS HAVE DESIRED A VISIBLE DIVINITY; AND

SUCH A MANIFESTED OR REVEALED DIVINITY HAS BEEN

GIVEN TO MANKIND IN CHRIST. That all nations from the beginning

downward have believed in the existence of a Supreme Being has been

sufficiently demonstrated by the universality in man of the instinct of

worship. Nor have all nations merely wished to possess a god, but the Deity

they have longed for has been, not a god remaining always little more than

a conception of the mind, an infinitely exalted being with whom they could

not enter into fellowship, but a God whom they could look upon, or at

least think of, as not far from any one of them, a God who could not only

come near to them, but to whom they in turn could come near. The lowest

forms of religion that have existed on the earth, the religions of men in

most degraded conditions, have made this perfectly apparent no less than

the elaborate rites of the cultivated and civilized nations of antiquity. What

the savage means by putting a spirit into the various forms of nature by

which he is surrounded, or by making an idol of wood or stone, and setting

it up before him as an object of adoration; what the untutored child of

nature thereby means, viz. to express his belief in a power above himself

and above nature, and his desire to bring that invisible power or divinity

forth into visibility or nearness; that the old religions of Chaldea, Egypt,

and Phoenicia did when they deified the hosts of heaven and the forces of

nature, or looked upon these as instruments and embodiments of

supernatural powers. In their case it was one more effort of the human

mind to fetch God out of the far distance and make him a distinct object of

contemplation and worship. Then the later religions that prevailed in

Persia, India, Greece, and Rome, with their “incarnations,” or beliefs in

gods who assumed the likeness of men, evinced the same longing of the

human heart for a God at hand rather than afar off, a God visible rather

than a god who remained always unseen, a God who/night be approached

in thought, at least, if not in space, rather than a god who so transcended

his worshippers as to be practically inaccessible. And this longing

Christianity — whether it be true or no may meantime be left undetermined

— meets, as no other religion has done or is likely to do, by placing before

man as an object of religious contemplation and worship One who claimed

to be the Image of the invisible God, saying, “I and my Father are One,”

and “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.”

 

  • ALL NATIONS HAVE DESIRED AN ATONEMENT FOR SIN;

AND SUCH ATONEMENT HAS BEEN PROVIDED AS NOWHERE

ELSE BY CHRIST AND CHRISTIANITY. It is not meant that

everywhere and always men have possessed the same clear, definite,

exalted, and correct ideas on the subject of sin, sacrifice, propitiation,

atonement, as are presented in the Hebrew or the Christian Scriptures. The

most affirmed is that while everywhere men have possessed a deep

instinctive longing after God, along with this they have always been more

or less conscious of unworthiness and unfitness to enter into fellowship

with him, have had a secret conviction that the Deity whom they wished to

serve was displeased with them, and that they could not enjoy his favor

without the intervention of some atonement or propitiation. Hence,

wherever man has been found to have a god, there also he has owned an

altar. The practice begun at the gate of Eden, of worshipping the Deity by

means of sacrifices, and carried forward in the altar building of Abraham

and the patriarchs, and finally developed in the Mosaic ritual of priest and

victim, has been discovered, on investigation, not to have been confined to

these, but to have been followed, with more or less closeness of adherence

to the primitive pattern, by every nation under heaven that has shaped for

itself a religion. In religions of the most rudimentary type, as well as in

those of the highest culture, a place has been reserved for the practice of

sacrificing and for the notion of expiation. The sense of impurity and of

the need of expiation are manifested in the most barbarous modes of worship.

We admit that the atonement to which they have recourse is often as cruel as

the wrath of the deity whom the worshippers seek to appease. There is a phase

in which sacrifice is nothing more than food offered to the gods. But a higher

idea soon manifests itself.  Remorse comes in, the consciousness of guilt prompts

the sacrifice, and the priest who at first was regarded in the light of an enchanter

becomes a mediator between man and the deity (‘The Ancient World and

Christianity,’ p. 12 by E. De Pressense). In addition it might easily be shown

that the same ideas of sin, penitence, forgiveness, propitiation, sacrifice,

atonement, were present in the religions of ancient Chaldea and of Egypt

(ibid., pp. 47, 87).  And the inference from all is that, irrespective of age or

country, and however overlaid with superstition, the deep conviction of

the human heartis that man has sinned against God and requires the

assistance of a Mediator who shall in some way make peace with the

offended Deity, and secure for the offender forgiveness of his transgressions.

Well, here again Christianity steps in to supply this demand of the human heart,

to answer this pathetic wail for a Deliverer, for One who can make peace and

bring forgiveness — steps in as no other religion known to man does, by

exhibiting Jesus Christ as Son of God and Son of man (John 1:49, 51),

and therefore as possessed of authority to act as Daysman or Mediator

between God and man, laying His hand upon both (Job 9:33; I Timothy 2:5),

by discovering Him as standing in the room of sinful man (Romans 5:6), and as

making peace by the shedding of His blood (Ephesians 2:14), by presenting

Him to view as One whose blood is able both to wipe away the guilt of sin

 and to break its enslaving power.  And this, again, is a high certificate in

favor of Christianity as the only true religion. For what is a religion worth

if it cannot or dare not meet the demands of the human heart and conscience?

 

  • ALL NATIONS HAVE DESIRED A DIVINE REVELATION, OR

AN AUTHENTIC COMMUNICATION OF THE DIVINE WILL; AND

THIS CHRISTIANITY MEETS IN A WAY THAT NO OTHER

RELIGION HAS DONE OR CAN DO. Not only have men in every age

and country believed that GOD IS, and that by means of sacrifices it might

be possible to appease His anger and secure His favor; they have also

supposed it within their reach to receive trustworthy information from God

as to His will and their duty. In the rudest forms of religion, the media

through which such Divine communications have been conjectured to

come have been signs in the sky above or on the earth beneath. In unusual

phenomena of nature, in unaccustomed sights and sounds, in dreams and

visions, men have been wont to see indications of a higher will than their

own made known to them for the guidance of their earthly lives. As

religion has advanced in intelligence and refinement, special persons have

come to be regarded as oracles through whom responses from the heavenly

world might be obtained, and messages from the unseen received. Priests

and priestesses, seers and sages, have been viewed as standing in

immediate connection with the Deity, and as serving to transmit to men the

utterances He might wish to make known. Then, too, in many of the

world’s religions, as in those of Egypt and Persia, India and Arabia, that is

to say, in the most developed religions of which we have any knowledge,

but especially in Parseeism, Brahminism, Mohammedanism, there have

been sacred books in which the revelations vouchsafed to mankind through

the founders of these religions have been preserved. Now, in all this,

irrespective of the truth or falsehood of these religions, a signal testimony

arises to the strength and depth of the desire on the part of man to possess

some authorized expounder of the Divine will in the shape of man, or

book, or perhaps both; and there is no need to say that God has never

gratified this desire outside of the Hebrew or the Christian Church; but of

this one may be certain, that the longing for a Heaven-sent teacher was not

confined to the Hebrews, with their Moses who spake with God face to

face as a man talketh with his friend, but existed as well among the Greeks,

Plato, in one of his dialogues, putting into the mouth of one of his

disputants the ever-memorable words, “It is therefore necessary to wait

until one teach us how to behave towards the gods and men,” and into that

of another, “And when shall that time arrive? and who shall that teacher

be? for most glad would I be to see such a man.” Just such a man was felt

to be one of the world’s greatest wants before CHRIST CAME,  and when

He came just such a man appeared. The verdict pronounced by the officers

on Jesus, “Never man spake like this Man,” (John 7:46) has never been

reversed; nor is there the least likelihood that it ever will.

 

  • ALL NATIONS HAVE DESIRED AN ASSURANCE OF

IMMORTALITY; AND THAT ASSURANCE HAS BEEN GIVEN BY

CHRIST IN A WAY THAT HAS BEEN DONE BY NO OTHER.

Whether apart from Divine revelation the reality of a future life beyond the

grave can or could be demonstrated, may be doubtful; but this much is

undoubted, that in all ages men have believed in the existence of such a life,

and have expressed that belief in their religions. The lowest races by their

worship of ancestors, the Egyptians by their elaborate ritual of the Book of

the Dead, and the ancient Chaldeans by their mythological narrative of the

descent of Ishtar into Hades, each in turn showed that they clung to the

idea of the persistence of the human soul after death. But, indeed, the

notion that death ends all, though the assertion of some philosophers, and

though supposed to be the teaching of science, HAS NEVER AT ANY

PERIOD been the faith of the generality of mankind, and has never won

the assent of the human heart in its inmost and truest convictions. Nor must

it be overlooked that this universal belief in a future state is a clear testimony to

the heart’s longing for a continued existence beyond the grave, and to the

heart’s wish for some authentic tidings about that unknown land; and

nothing surely can be less in need of demonstration, than that Jesus Christ

answers man’s inquiries about the future life with a clearness and fullness

of information in comparison with which the teaching of all other religions,

the Hebrew Scriptures not excepted, is as DARKNESS!

 

  • LESSONS.

 

1. The pre-eminence of Jesus Christ, and of the Christian religion.

2. Gratitude for GOD’S UNSPEAKABLE GIFT!  (II Corinthians 9:15)

3. The duty of seeking IN CHRIST satisfaction for the soul’s true desires.

 

8 “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the LORD of hosts.”

The silver is mine. All the riches of the world are THE LORD’S

and He disposes of them as He wills; if He has promised that the Gentiles

shall offer their treasures for His service, be sure He will perform His word.

There may also be intended a word of comfort for the desponding; they

need not grieve because they had but poor offerings to bring to the house;

He wanted not gold or silver, FOR ALL WAS HIS!

 

 

The Silver and the Gold: A Sermon on Money. (v. 8)

 

  • A FORGOTTEN TRUTH RESTATED. That God is the sole Proprietor

of money: “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of

hosts(compare Joel 3:5). The proof lies in three things; that the silver and

the gold are:

 

Ø      Of Gods making. They belong to Him as part of that earth and its

fullness which He hath created (Psalm 24:1; 50:12), as David

acknowledged in his prayer, “All that is in the heaven and

in the earth is thine;” and again, “Of thine own have we given thee”

(I Chronicles 29:11, 14).

 

Ø      Of Gods giving. God claimed that He had multiplied Judah’s silver and

gold (Hosea 2:8); and David owned that “all things,” including “riches

and honor,” were of Him (I Chronicles 29:12). The same sentiment is

involved in the words of the Baptist (John 3:27), in those of Paul

(I Timothy 6:17), and in those of James (James 1:17).

 

Ø      Of Gods keeping. As no man can obtain wealth from other than God,

so with no help but His can man retain the wealth he has got. “Except the

Lord keep the city, the watchman watcheth in vain” (Psalm 127:1).

Nor can any one keep it longer than God chooses. At any moment can He

recall what He has given.

 

  • AN IMPORTANT INFERENCE DEDUCED. That no man is the

owner of his money, but merely its selected steward, its casual recipient

and temporary holder. What Benhadad of Syria said to Ahab of Israel,

“Thy silver and thy gold is mine” (I Kings 20:3-4), expresses God’s

thought concerning millionaires and paupers alike; while the answer of

Ahab, “My lord, O king, according to thy saying, I am thine, and all that I

have,” exactly utters the response which every one possessed of silver and

gold, whether much or little, should give to the Divine declaration. Few

things are more difficult for men to realize than that that is not their own

for which they have labored, sometimes like galley slaves, and not

unfrequently sinned.  The habitual attitude of men towards their silver and

their gold is that of the rich farmer in the Gospels, “my fruits,” “my barns,”

my goods” (Luke 12:17-18). A recognition of man’s stewardship in

respect of silver and gold would secure three things of immense

consequence, both for the religious life of the individual, and for the moral

welfare of the world.

 

Ø      A just estimate of money. As one of God’s gifts, it would be highly

valued, but as only a gift it would never be regarded as a permanent

endowment, or preferred above THE GIVER!

 

Ø      A proper use of money. As a trust it would be carefully kept, wisely

      used (Matthew 25:16), faithfully administered (I Corinthians 4:2), and

correctly accounted for (Luke 16:2, 10-12). It would not be prodigally

squandered (Luke 15:13), or in miser fashion hoarded (Matthew

25:25), or selfishly expended (Hosea 10:1), but skillfully, lovingly,

and unweariedly employed for the Master’s glory.

 

Ø      A right feeling with regard to money. Neither inordinate desire after it

(I Timothy 6:9-10), nor over esteem of one’s self on account of it

(Hosea 12:8), would arise in one’s besom; but feelings of contentment

with what one has received (Philippians 4:11-13; I Timothy 6:6), and

of gratitude that one has received any (Genesis 32:10).

 

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.”  The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the

former. Revised Version, following the Septuagint, “The latter glory of

this house shall be greater than the former.” “This house” means the temple

at Jerusalem, regard not being paid to the special building (v. 3), whether

of Solomon, or Zerubbabel, or Herod. As understood by the hearers, this

promise referred to the material riches, the precious things offered by the

Gentiles. To us it speaks of the promise of Christ, God incarnate, in the

holy city and in the temple itself, and of His presence in the Church,

wherein He abides forever. Here is the complete answer to the complaint of

v. 3. In this place will I give peace. Primarily this means in Jerusalem,

the place where the temple stood, God would grant peace from enemies,

freedom from danger, and quiet enjoyment of promised blessings (compare

Isaiah 60:18; Joel 3:17; Micah 5:4-5). But the promise is not

fulfilled by this; the peace promised to the spiritual temple is that peace of

heart and conscience which is given by Him who is the Prince of Peace

(Isaiah 9:6), and which includes all the graces of the Christian covenant

(Ezekiel 34:25). The first temple was built by the king whose name is

“Peaceful;” the second is glorified by the presence of the “Peace bringer”

(Genesis 49:10).

 

 

Returning Despondency and Renewed Stimulus.  (vs. 1-9)

 

In these verses we have the third of the earnest addresses delivered by the

devoted seer to these temple builders. In the first (ch.1:3-11) he

reproved them for their neglect and stimulated them to the performance of

their duty. In the second (ch. 1:13), in few words, a single pregnant

sentence, indeed, he assured them of God’s presence with them now that

they had repented of their negligence and were prepared to consecrate

themselves to the important enterprise. In this third address (vs. 1-9) he

expatiated upon the glory of the second temple. The people had again,

become discouraged and depressed, despondent and downcast, and he

sought to impel them to fresh endeavor by indicating the brightness and

blessedness of the coming times. Consider:

 

  • THE CAUSES OF THEIR DESPONDENCY. This despondency very

soon again took possession of them. They had been less than a month

engaged in earnest attempt to carry on the great work when they gave

way once more. It was “on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month” that,

stirred up by the word of God through the prophet, they devoted

themselves afresh to the service of rearing the sanctuary for the Lord, and

now on the twenty-first day of the seventh month their hands tired and

their hearts grew faint. Why?

 

Ø      The failure of their harvests. This was brought conspicuously before

them by the fact that “the Feast of Tabernacles” was now going on. This

festival stood out amongst the Jews as “the feast,” and is described by

Jewish writers as “the holiest and greatest feast” of the nation. It served a

double purpose, for whilst it commemorated the goodness of God as

manifested to the fathers during their desert wanderings, it also

commemorated his goodness in the harvest just gathered in, and was

therefore not only called “the Feast of Tabernacles,” but likewise “the

Feast of Ingathering.” In prosperous times, during its celebration, the holy

city wore quite a holiday aspect. It became converted into a vast camp for

all the people, and, with a view to make more vivid to them the tent life of

their ancestors in the wilderness, they dwelt for the time being in booths,

which they constructed of boughs of olive and palm, pine and myrtle; all

the courses of the priests were employed in the religious exercises,

bullocks were offered in sacrifice, the Law was read, the trumpets were

sounded daily, and each who took part in the commemoration bore

in the left hand a branch of citron, and in the right a palm branch

entwined with willows and myrtle. When we remember how that on

this occasion, in celebrating this feast, they would have, of necessity,

to dispense with many of the usual accompaniments, and also that

the blight had been upon their crops, and hence the ingathering had

been only scanty (ch.1:6), we need not be surprised at the depression

from which they were suffering.

 

Ø      There was, however, another cause of their despondency, viz. the

unfavourable contrast presented as they compared the structure they

were rearing with the first temple. (v. 3.) There were old men among

these returned exiles who had seen the temple of Solomon, and who,

when the foundations of this second temple were laid, conscious that

the new structure would be very inferior in character to the former

building, gave way to demonstrations of grief (Ezra 3:11-13). And it

would seem that, as the work of reconstruction proceeded, these

hoary-headed men continued to revert to the glories of the past, and

instituted so many unfavourable comparisons between that age and

the times as they were now, that the builders grew weary and faint-

hearted in their work.

 

  • THE CONSIDERATION URGED BY THE PROPHET SO AS TO

STRENGTHEN THEIR HEARTS AND TO ENCOURAGE THEM TO

RENEWED CONSECRATION. Haggai was aged, yet, unlike his

contemporaries, instead of dwelling despondingly upon the past, he looked

on hopefully to the future. With prophetic insight he saw the golden age as

lying, not in the days of yore, but in the coming time. His thoughts were

centered upon Divine blessings to be bestowed richly and bountifully upon

the true and faithful, and he sought to animate the drooping faith and hope

of the workers by directing their minds to these. He reminded them of:

 

Ø      The abiding presence with them of the Lord of hosts, in fulfillment of

      the covenant made with their fathers (v. 5).

Ø      The national upheavings which should take place, and which should be

overruled to their good (vs. 6-7).

Ø      The halo of glory which should eventually rest upon the shrine they

      were rearing (vs. 7, 9).

Ø      The Divine proprietorship of all material resources (ver. 8).

Ø      The deep and durable tranquility which should be experienced as the

result of the development of the Divine purposes (v. 9). The sense of

despondency is experienced still by those engaged in holy service, and

the way to get roused out of this is by anticipating the brighter days

that are in store, when rectitude shall mark every character, and truth

be on every tongue; when holy virtue shall adorn every life; when the

heavenly fruits of “love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness,

faithfulness, meekness, temperance”  (Galatians 5:22-23), shall

everywhere abound, and THE LORD OF HOSTS  shall have a

home and dwelling place in every heart.

 

 

The Prophet’s Messianic Prophecy.  (vs. 6-9)

 

In studying the Old Testament, it is deeply interesting to trace therein the

gradual development of the Messianic hope. Three distinct stages are

observable.

 

1. From the promise made at the Fall (Genesis 3:15) until the death of

Moses. The indefinite promise respecting “the Seed of the woman” was

made more definite in the promise to Abraham (Genesis 12:3), and was

revealed still more explicitly in “the Prophet” who was declared by Moses

as at length to arise, and who should be Law giver, Ruler, and Deliverer

(Deuteronomy 18:15).

 

2. During the reigns of David and Solomon, the idea of the Kingship of the

Messiah was developed, and this Divine royalty was the theme of the

Messianic psalms.

 

3. From Isaiah to Malachi we have a yet further unfolding, the Incarnation

and Passion of the world’s Redeemer Being declared.  The mission of

Haggai had special reference to encouraging the temple builders in their

arduous toil; but the verses now before us (vs. 6-9) connect him with this

development of the Messianic anticipation, since only in the light of the

Christian age can the full significance of his teaching as contained here be

realized.

 

  • CONSIDER WHAT THIS PROPHECY PROBABLY SUGGESTED

TO THE JEWS OF THIS SEER’S OWN TIME.

 

Ø      Freedom from the yoke of servitude. These returned exiles were under

the power of the Persian monarch; and they would understand their seer

(vs. 6-7) to mean that political agitations would soon occur among the

nations, and which their God would overrule to the effecting of their

enfranchisement.

 

Ø      The temple they were rearing to become enriched with material wealth.

“And the desire of all nations shall come,” etc. (vs. 7-8).Chemdah

signifies desire, then the object of desire, that in which a man finds

pleasure and joy, valuables. Chemdath haggoyim is therefore the valuable

possessions of the heathen, or, according to v. 8, their gold and silver or

their treasures and riches. The thought is the following: That shaking will

be followed by this result, or produce this effect, that all the valuable

possessions of the heathen will come to fill the temple with glory.

 

Ø      A time of settled peace and prosperity (v. 9). This restricted

apprehension of the meaning underlying the prophet’s words would

cheer the hearts of the builders and impel them to renewed action.

 

  • CONSIDER THE PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THIS PROPHECY

DURING THE LATER JEWISH AGE. We know that the national

convulsions hinted at in the prophecy did arise — that Persia was subdued

by Greece; that Greece was shaken into fragments at the death of

Alexander; and that the Eastern world became the prey of Rome; and we

know also that whilst these conflicts were going on the Jews prospered,

and material wealth flowed into their temple, the heathen, with the decay of

their systems, coming and consecrating their possessions to the Lord of

hosts. Nor were tokens wanting of the partial fulfillment of the prophecy in

its spiritual significance. Rites and ceremonies retired more into the

background; and prayer began to assume its true place in public worship.

The religious knowledge of the people was kept up through the regular

public reading and distribution of the Scriptures, which were early

collected into their present canonical form. Synagogues were established,

the people having learnt at Babylon that God’s presence might be enjoyed

in their assemblies in any place or circumstances. Thus there was kept alive

throughout the nation a higher and purer type of religion than it had known

in the days when the first temple with its outward splendor and gorgeous

ritual excited the admiration of the people, but too seldom led their

thoughts to the contemplation of the truths it expressed and prefigured.

 

  • CONSIDER THE COMPLETE FULFILMENT OF THE

PROPHECY IN THE CHRISTIAN DISPENSATION. The prophecy is

Messianic. Underneath its letter there lies a deep spiritual meaning. The

prophet saw, afar off, the day of Christ, and testified beforehand of the

latter-day glory of the Lord and His Christ. We see its full accomplishment:

 

Ø      In the shaking of the nations by the power of the Divine Spirit.

Ø      The consecration by the good of all their gifts and endowments to the

service of the Lord.

Ø      The realized spiritual presence of God in Christ with His Church, and

which constitutes her true glory.

Ø      The inward rest and tranquility all His people shall experience as His

bestowment.

 

 

The Latter Glory of This House; or, The Glory that Excelleth.” (v. 9)

 

  • THE HOUSE.

 

Ø      The temple of Zerubbabel, then building, which, however, was regarded

as a continuation of and as one with the temple of Solomon (compare v. 3).

 

Ø      The Christian Church, which on a similar principle of interpretation was

viewed as an outcome and development of the Hebrew temple (compare

John 2:20-21).

 

  • THE GLORY. Called by Haggai “the latter glory” of this house, in

contradistinction to the earlier or former glory which belonged to it before

the Captivity, this can only signify the glory which, in Messianic times,

should pertain to the temple when it should have reached its ideal form in

the Christian Church, whose “glory,” in comparison with that of the

Solomonic structure, should be a glory that excelleth.

 

Ø      The glory of spiritual magnificence, as opposed to that of merely

material splendor. The temple of Solomon was, alter all, but an “earthly

house” of polished stone, carved cedar, and burnished gold; but the

temple of Jesus Christ is a spiritual house, constructed of lively stones,

or believing souls (I Peter 2:5), “an holy temple” erected out of

quickened and renewed hearts “for an habitation of God through

the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:20-22).

 

Ø      The glory of an indwelling Divinity, in contrast with that of a merely

symbolic residence therein. The ark with its mercy seat overshadowed by

the cherubim, between whose outstretched wings shone the visible glory

or the Shechinah — this ark which occupied the holy of holies in the

Solomonic temple, was not Jehovah, but only the material token of His

presence. Though in the Christian Church there is, as in Zerubbabel’s

temple there was, no ark, yet the Divine presence fills it. Not only does

Paul describe it as a temple which God inhabits (see above), but he

represents it as the body of the glorified Christ, the fullness of Him that

filleth all in all (Ephesians 1:23), and even speaks of individual believers

as temples of the Holy Ghost (I Corinthians 6:19) and of the living God

(II Corinthians 6:16); while Christ expressly promises to His Church a

perpetual indwelling in their midst, not collectively alone, but

individually as well (Matthew 18:20; 28:20; John 14:17, 23; 15:4; 16:7,22).

 

Ø      The glory of diffusing spiritual and eternal peace, as distinguished from

a peace which should be merely temporal and temporary. The Solomonic

temple was indeed built by one whose name was Peace, whose reign was

undisturbed by foreign or domestic wars, and whose spirit was neither

military nor aggressive; but it is doubtful if the whole period during which

the Solomonic temple stood could with truthfulness be characterized as

one of peace (see the books of II Kings and II Chronicles). Nor could it be

asserted that the era of the temple of Zerubbabel was throughout peaceful.

Temporal peace they had now, nor was there any prospect of its being

disturbed;… (but) in later times they had it not. The temple itself was

profaned by Antiochus Epiphanes .... Again by Pompey, by Crassus, by

the Parthians, before it was destroyed by Titus and the Romans. But

the temple of Jesus Christ was the building of One who was by

preeminence the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), who came to teach men the

way of peace, who bequeathed to His disciples as His parting legacy

His own peace (John 14:27), who died to make peace between God and

man through His cross (Ephesians 2:14), and who has since come to men

in and through His gospel, preaching peace (Acts 10:36), and by His Spirit

shedding peace abroad in the hearts of them who believe (Romans 5:1;

8:6; 14:17; Galatians 5:22; Philippians 4:7;  Colossians 3:15).

 

  • THE LESSON.

 

Ø      The certainty of Gods Word. What Haggai predicted has at length been

fulfilled. So will all God’s promises reach realization.

 

Ø      The superiority of the gospel dispensation. A dispensation not of letter

and form, but of spirit and life; not of condemnation and death, but of

justification and glory; not of temporal duration, but of eternal

continuance.

 

Ø      The perfectibility of the race. Human history has hitherto progressed

according to the law — “first that which is natural, and afterwards that

which is spiritual”  (I Corinthians 15:46).  “The Lord will perfect

that which concerneth me” (Psalm 138:8).  “I shall be satisfied, when

I awake, with thy likeness!”  (Psalm 17:15)

 

§ 1. By an analogy drawn from the Law, Haggai shows that residence in the

Holy Land and the offering of sacrifice do not suffice to make the people

acceptable, as long as they themselves are unclean through neglect of the

house of the Lord. Hence comes the punishment of sterility.  (vs. 10-19)

 

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,”

The ninth month is Chisleu, answering to parts of November and December. It

was now three months from the time the people had commenced to build,

and two from the day when the second address was delivered. On the

weather at this time depended the hope of the yearly crops. Between the

second and third address Zechariah’s first prophecy was uttered

(Zechariah 1:2-6).

 

11 “Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Ask now the priests concerning the

law, saying,”  Concerning the Law. Others translate, “for instruction.” Ask

the priests these two legal questions, such as they were appointed to

expound (Deuteronomy 17:8-13; 33:10; Malachi 2:7). By this

appeal the prophet makes his lesson sink deeper into the people’s mind.

 

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.” If one bear; literally, behold, one beareth,

which is equivalent to “suppose a man bears.” Compare Jeremiah 3:1, “Lo, a

man puts away his wife;” and II Chronicles 7:13. Holy flesh. The flesh of

animals sacrificed to God, which was set apart from profane uses, and

might be eaten only by the priests or persons ritually pure (Leviticus

6:26; 7:15-20; 10:13; compare Jeremiah 11:15). The skirt of his garment;

literally, wing of his garment, as Deuteronomy 22:12; I Samuel 15:27.

Any meat; παντὸς βρώματος -  pantos bromatos - anything eatable. And

said, No. The priests answered correctly according to Leviticus 6:27.

Whatever touched the hallowed flesh became itself holy, but it could not

communicate this holiness to anything else.

 

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.”  Unclean by a dead body; Septuagint, ἀκάθαρτος ἐπὶ ψυχῇ -

akathartos epi psuchae -  Vulgate. pollutus in anima. These versions are closer to

the Hebrew, “unclean by a soul,” than the Authorized Version, but not so

intelligible. “Soul” (nephesh) is used to mean a person, and, with the

attribute “dead” understood, a corpse, as Leviticus 21:1. The full

phrase is found in Numbers 6:6, 11. Contact with a dead body

produced the gravest ceremonial uncleanness, which lasted seven days, and

could be purged only by a double lustration and other rites (Numbers

19:11-13). This uncleanness was doubtless connected with the idea that

death was the result of sin. Any of these. The things mentioned in the

preceding verse. It shall be unclean. In accordance with Numbers 19:22

A polluted human being communicated his pollution to all that he touched.

It was owing to the defilement that accompanied contact with the dead that

the later Jews used to whiten the sepulchers every year, that they might be

seen and avoided (Matthew 23:27).

 

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.”

Then answered Haggai, and said; then Haggai continued

and said. He applies the principles just enunciated to the case of the Jews,

taking the communication of uncleanness first. So is this people. Not, my

people, because by their acts they had disowned God (ch. 1:2).

This people is defiled in my sight like one who has touched a corpse, and

not only they themselves, but so is every work of their hands; all their

labor, all that they put their hands to, is unclean, and can win no blessing.

Their pollution was their disobedience in not building the house of God.

They had calmly contemplated the lifeless symbol of the theocracy, the

ruined temple, and made no determined effort to resuscitate it, so a blight

had rested on all their work. That which they offer there (pointing to the

altar which they had built when they first returned, Ezra 3:2) is unclean.

They had fancied that the sanctifying influence of the altar and its

sacrifices would extend to all their works, and cover all their shortcomings;

but so far from this, their very offerings were unclean, because the offerers

were polluted. They who come before the Holy One should themselves be

holy. Neither the altar nor the Holy Land imparted sanctity by any intrinsic

virtue of their own, but entailed upon all an obligation to personal holiness!

The Septuagint has an addition at the end of the verse. Ανεκεν τῶν λημμάτων

αὐτῶν τῶν ὀρθρινῶν ὀδυνηθήσονται ἀπὸ προσώπου πόνων αὐτῶν καὶ ἐμισεῖτε

ἐν πύλαις ἐλέγχοντας Aneken ton laemmaton auton ton orthrtinon

odunaethaesontai apo prosopou ponon auton kai emiseite en pulais elegchontas

On account of their morning gains [or, ‘burdens’] they shall be pained in the

presence of their labors, and ye hated those who reproved in the gates.

This is expounded by Theodoret thus: As soon as morning dawned ye

employed yourselves in no good work, but sought only how to obtain

sordid gain. And ye regarded with hatred these who reproved, you, who

sitting at the gate spake words of wisdom to all who passed by. The

passage is found in no other version.

 

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 prophet bids the people look backwards, and consider how

their neglect had been visited by scanty harvests; their own experience

would teach them this lesson. From this day; viz. the twenty-fourth day of

the ninth month, when this address was delivered (v. 10; compare v. 18).

And upward; i.e. backward. He bids them go back in thought fourteen

years when they first intermitted building. Before a stone, etc. This does

not mean before the building was first begun, but before they began to

build on the foundation already laid.

 

16 “Since those days were, when one came to an heap of twenty

measures, there were but ten: when one came to the press fat for to

draw out fifty vessels out of the press, there were but twenty.”

Since those days were. The word “days” is supplied. Revised

Version, “through all that time,” viz. the fourteen years spoken of in v.15.

Septuagint, τίνες η΅τε -  tines aete - what ye were; the Vulgate omits the words.

When one came to an heap of twenty measures. The word “measures”

is not in the Hebrew: it is supplied by the Septuagint, σάτα  - sata -(equivalent to

scabs), and by Jerome, modiorum. But the particular measure is of no

importance; it is the proportion only on which stress is laid. The prophet

particuiarizes the general statements of ch.1:6, 9. The “heap” is

the collection of sheaves (Ruth 3:7). This when threshed yielded only

half that they had expected. There were (in fact) but ten; καὶ ἐγένετο κριθῆς

δέκα σάταkai egeneto krithaes deka sata -  and there were ten measures of

barley.  The pressfat; the wine fat, the vat into which flowed the juice forced

from the grapes when trodden out by the feet in the press. A full account of

this will be found in the ‘Dict. of the Bible,’ arts. “Wine press” and “Wine.”

Fifty vessels out of the press. The Hebrew is “fifty purah.” The word purah is

used in Isaiah 63:3 to signify the press itself, hence the Authorized

Version so translates it here, inserting “out of,” and supplying “vessels,” as

“measures” above; but it probably here denotes a liquid measure in which

the wine was drawn. Septuagint, μετρητάςmetraetas - (equivalent to Hebrew

baths). Jerome, lagenas; and in his commentary, amphoras. They came and

examined the grapes and expected fifty purahs, “press measures,” but they

did not get even half that they had hoped. There were but twenty.

The meaning may be — looking at the crop of grapes, they expected to draw

out, i.e. empty (chasaph), the press fifty times, but were egregiously deceived.

 

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.”

I smote you with blasting and with mildew. It was God who

inflicted these calamities upon them judicially, according to the threats in

Deuteronomy 28:22 (compare Amos 4:9, and note there). These two

pests affected the corn; the vines were smitten with hail (Psalm 78:47).

In all the labors (work) of your hands. All that you had cultivated with

toil, corn, vines, fruit of every sort. Yet ye turned not to me. The clause is

elliptical, “yet not ye to me.” The Septuagint and Syriac translate as the

Authorized Version, supplying the verb from the parallel passage in

Amos 4:9. The Vulgate (not according to precedent), Non fuit in vobis

qui revertetur ad me. In spite of these visitations there was not one among

them who shook off his idle inaction and worked for the Lord.  (Compare

Psalm 81:11)

 

It never seemed to strike the people, that Jehovah had, in punishment for their

disobedience, smitten the land with blasting and mildew and hail!

 

§ 2. On their obedience the blessings of nature shall again be theirs. (vs. 18-19)

 

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.”  Consider now from this day and upward (see note

on v.15.) For “upward” Jerome has here in futurum, though he translated the

same word supra in v. 15. Such a rendering is allowable, and affords a

good sense, the prophet directing the people’s attention to the happy

prospect in the future announced in v. 19. But it seems, best to keep to

the same interpretation in two passages so closely allied. The prophet bids

the people consider the period from the present, the four and twentieth

day of the ninth month, when this prophecy was uttered (v. 10), to the

other limit explanatory of the term “upward” or “backward.” Even from

the day that the foundation, etc.; rather, since the day that, etc. This is

obviously the same period as that named in v. 15, after the foundation

was completed, but before “stone was laid upon stone” of the

superstructure (compare Zechariah 8:9).

 

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.”  Is the seed yet in the barn? Is there any of your poor

crop still left in your granaries? Is it not already expended? “The seed” is here

the produce of the seed, the grain (I Samuel 8:15; Job 39:12). The

corn crop is mentioned first, then the fruit harvest. The Vulgate has,

Numquid jam semen in germine est? Has the seed begun to grow? Is there

any sign of abundance? Yet the harvest shall be prolific. But there is no

doubt that megurah means “barn,” not “sprout.”  Septuagint - Αἰ ἐπιγνωσθήσεται

ἐπὶ τῆς ἅλω, - Ai epignosthaesetai epi taes halo - If it shall be known upon the

threshing floor.”Jerome must have read γῆςgaesearth for τῆς, as he renders,

Si ultra cognoscetur super terram area.” He expounds it thus: So abundant shall

be the produce that the threshing floor shall not recognize its own corn or

that the threshers shall be forced to join floor to floor to make room for all

the grain, “et arearnm separatio nesciatur in terra” Yea, as yet; καὶ εἰ ἔτι

kai ei eti - (Septuagint); et adhuc (Vulgate); as Judges 3:26; Job 1:18. Others

translate, “as regards.’’ Though there was no sign of leaf or fruit on the

trees, nothing by which one could judge of the future produce, yet the

prophet predicts an abundant crop, dating from the people’s obedience

(Leviticus 26:3-5; Deuteronomy 28:2-5). From this day will I

bless you. “This day” is the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month (v. 10).

From now the improvement in the season should begin and make itself

evident. “Bless” is a term often used for sending fruitful seasons

(Deuteronomy 28:8; Malachi 3:10).

 

THE FOURTH ADDRESS: PROMISE OF THE RESTORATION AND

ESTABLISHMENT OF THE HOUSE OF DAVID, WHEN THE STORM

BURSTS ON THE KINGDOMS OF THE WORLD.  (vs. 20-23)

 

20 “And again the word of the LORD came unto Haggai in the four

and twentieth day of the month, saying,” Temporal blessings had been promised

to the people generally; now spiritual blessings are announced to Zerubbabel as

the head of the nation and the representative of the house of David. And again;

ἐκ δευτέρου  - ek deuterou - and a second time  (Septuagint). This revelation took

place on the same day as the preceding one.

 

21 “Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I will shake the

heavens and the earth;” Zerubbabel (see note on ch. 1:1). I will shake the

heavens and the earth. He repeats the prediction of v. 6 in this chapter

(where see note). This is the general statement, expanded and explained in

the next verse.

 

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.”

I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms. No events in

Zerubbabel’s time satisfied this prediction, which waits for its fulfillment in

the Messianic age (Luke 1:52). “The throne” is used distributively for

“every throne of kingdoms;” Septuagint, “thrones of kings.” Of the

heathen; of the nations. Chariots, etc. Emblems of the military power by

which the nations had risen to eminence (Psalm 20:7; Zechariah 10:5).

Shall come down. Be brought to the ground, perish (Isaiah 34:6-8).

By the sword of his brother. The heathen powers shall annihilate

one another (Ezekiel 38:21; Zechariah 14:13).

 

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.”  In that day. When the heathen nations of the earth are

overthrown, Israel shall be safe, and be the more exalted by the Divine

favor and protection. Will I take. The verb simply serves to introduce the

following act as one of importance, and does not signify, “take under my

protection” (compare Deuteronomy 4:20; II Kings 14:21). My servant.

An honorable title used especially of David (I Kings 11:13; Jeremiah 33:21-22),

and his future successors (Ezekiel 34:23-24; 37:24-25). Make thee as a signet.

I will make thee most precious in my sight (compare Song of Solomon 8:6).

Among Orientals the signet ring was an article of great importance and value

(see Revelation 5:1; 9:4; and ‘Dict. of the Bible,’ art. “Seal”). The allusion is

particularly appropriate here, because Zerubbabel is set at the head of the nation

in the place of his grandfather (?) Jeconiah, whose rejection from the monarchy

had been couched in these terms: “As I live, saith the Lord, though Coniah

the son of Jehoiakim King of Judah were the signet upon my right hand,

yet would I pluck thee thence” (Jeremiah 22:24). The Son of Sirach, in

his praise of great men, refers to this premise,” How shall we magnify

Zorobabel? even he was as a signet on the right hand” (Ecclesiasticus. 49:11).

The signet, too, is the sign of authority (Genesis 41:42; Esther 3:10); so

Zerubbabel has authority delegated to him from God, the type of Him who

said, “All things are delivered unto me of my Father” (Matthew 11:27).

“The true Zerubbabel, i.e. Christ, the Son and Antitype of Zerubbabel, is

the signet in the hand of the Father, both passively and actively, whereby

God impresses His own majesty, thought, and words, and His own image,

on men, angels, and all creatures.”  I have chosen thee. This is not a personal

assurance only to Zerubbabel, for neither he nor his natural seed reigned in

Jerusalem, or rose to any special eminence in the kingdoms of this world.

The fulfillment must be looked for in his spiritual progeny and IN CHRIST!

Promises are often made in Scripture to individuals which are accomplished

only in their descendants; witness those made to Abraham and the other

patriarchs, the prophecies of Jacob to his sons, and many others of a similar

nature in the Old Testament,  Those large promises made to David in old time,

that his seed should endure forever, that his throne should be as the sun before

God (Psalm 89:36-37; II Samuel 7:16), were now passed on to Zerubbabel and

to his line, because of him was to spring MESSIAH, IN WHOM ALONE

these wide predictions find their fulfillment, “He shall be great, and shall be

called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the

throne of his father David: and He shall reign over the house of Jacob

forever; AND OF HIS KINGDOM THERE SHALL BE NO END!”

(Luke 1:32-33).  “THE ZEAL OF THE LORD OF HOSTS WILL

PERFORM THIS!” (Isaiah 9:6-7)

 

 

Zerubbabel the Son of Shealtiel.  (v. 23)

 

  • THE SUBJECT OF A SPECIAL DIVINE. CALLING. This alluded to

in the words, I have chosen thee, saith the Lord of hosts.” By this was

meant, not merely that his birth in Babylon, preservation and growth to

manhood, high esteem and favor among his countrymen and with Cyrus,

as well as obvious natural abilities, had all come about in accordance with

that general providence by which God appoints to all men the times of their

coming into life and of their going out at death (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2),

the bounds of their habitation (Acts 17:26), and the particular

circumstances of their lot (Psalm 16:6); but, in addition to this, that

God had specially selected, endowed, and trained him for the office into

which he had been thrust, that of leading the people forth from Babylon,

and for the work he had now to do, that of laying the foundations, not of a

second temple merely, but of a second empire. What Haggai wished to

impress upon Zerubbabel was that the position he occupied at the head of

the new community was one that had come to him, not by accident, but, as

in the earlier cases of Abraham (Isaiah 41:2), Moses (Exodus 3:10),

and Cyrus (Isaiah 44:28), by Divine appointment. One can imagine the

inspiration a thought like that must have imparted to Zerubbabel, the

stimulus it must have given to every good impulse of his heart, the

elevation and dignity it must have lent to even the least significant action he

performed. Similar inspiration, stimulus, and dignity might be enjoyed by

all, were all to realize that “the steps of a good man are ordered by the

Lord” (Psalm 37:23), and that for each man’s life there is a plan

existing in the mind of God, into which each will be surely guided, if only

he will meekly put himself into the hand of God (Psalm 25:9).

 

  • THE POSSESSOR OF A LOFTY FAITH. This distinction may be

claimed for Zerubbabel, though not assigned a place in the magnificent

picture gallery of Hebrews 11; because it is difficult to see how

Zerubbabel, being the man he was, a descendant of the royal line of David,

and located where he was in the prosperous city of Babylon, and situated

as he was in the manifest enjoyment of the Persian monarch’s favor,

would have acted as he did, had he not been possessed of faith. In

comparison with those who remained behind in Babylon, but a handful set

forth to seek the land of their fathers; and it is little probable that

Zerubbabel would have cast in his lot with the pilgrims, had he not been

persuaded that the movement was of God, that the journey upon which

they were about to enter had been marked out for them by Heaven, and

that the insignificant and feeble company itself was a true representative of

Jehovah’s Church upon the earth. That spirit, it may be added, which was

present in Zerubbabel, the spirit of faith, which can recognize the

superiority of things spiritual and religious to things earthly and secular,

that is not ashamed to espouse the cause of truth and righteousness on

earth, however humble and obscure, because it is the truth of God, and that

is always ready, when the voice of God cries within the soul, “Who will go

for us?” to respond, “Here am I, Lord; send me!”  (Isaiah 6:8)  lies at the

basis of all true greatness in the soul.

 

  • AN EXAMPLE OF INDOMITABLE COURAGE. Few things rarer,

even among Christians, than a fortitude that can brave all difficulties and

defy all oppositions, especially in matters of religion. Yet is nothing more

indispensable. Thousands of brilliant schemes, private as well as public, in

Church as in state, have come to nothing for want of manly resolution to

go on with them and carry them through. Had Zerubbabel been a craven,

he never would have done so outwardly foolish a thing as join himself with

a handful of pilgrims who proposed to quit their comfortable homes and

prosperous estates in Babylon, and undertake a long and perilous journey to a

a promised land on the other side of the Syrian desert. Nor, had he been a

weakling, would he have succeeded in carrying these pilgrims in safety to

their destination. Traced out on a modern map, it seems not a far journey

between Babylon and Jerusalem. Most likely Zerubbabel took the road that

Abraham had traveled by when he departed from Ur of the Chaldees,

moved northwards to Haran, rounded the head of the Syrian desert, and

came down upon Palestine by Damascus. Yet to Abraham, with his

comparatively small company, the feat must have been immensely easier

than it could have been to Zerubbabel, with fifty thousand heads of families

and nearly a quarter of a million souls in all to take charge of. But with the

help of God and his own stout heart he did it. It was a feat only second to

that of Moses, who brought their fathers out of Egypt, led them through

the scorching and fiery wilderness, and set them down at the gate of

Canaan. Nor again, unless Zerubbabel had been a hero who was not easily

discouraged, could he have brought the temple to completion, working, as

he did, with a company of builders who became alarmed at every menace

uttered against them by the people of the land, and who threw down their

tools on encountering the smallest resistance. So difficult was the task to

keep them at their work, and so formidable were the obstacles he had to

encounter, that Zechariah, a younger prophet than Haggai, likened the

work he had to do to the leveling of a great mountain, encouraging him at

the same time with the assurance that it would be leveled, “Who art thou,

O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain.”

(Zechariah 4:7)  And become a plain it did. Reinforced by a fresh company

of builders who came up from Babylon under the leadership of Ezra,

Zerubbabel and his band pushed on the work till it was finished, and the

temple received its topstone with shoutings of “Grace, grace unto it”

(Ezra 7:6-8; Zechariah 4:7).

 

  • AN ILLUSTRATION OF CONSPICUOUS PROMOTION. A great

honor was conferred on Zerubbabel when chosen by Jehovah to be His

servant, and as such appointed the leader of His people. A greater when

assured that God would graciously assist him until the task assigned to him

had been successfully carried through. The greatest when, in reward for his

faithful service, it was promised that he and his would be sharers in the

future Messianic glory reserved for Israel; for this is what the clause

means, “I will make thee as a signet ring, O Zerubbabel, my servant.” It

lends a remarkable interest to this verse of Haggai to be told that in recent

excavations upon Temple Hill, a ring has been discovered with the name of

Haggai inscribed upon it (‘Recent Discoveries on the Temple Hill,’ pp. 78-

80). In the eyes of Orientals the finger ring, or signet, was regarded as a

valuable possession, to lose which was esteemed a dire calamity. To speak

of one as a signet ring was to assure him of tender regard and watchful

preservation. Reversing the threat pronounced against Jeconiah, the last

King of Judah, and the grandfather of Zerubbabel (Jeremiah 22:24),

Jehovah promises that Zerubbabel shall be as a signet ring upon his own

finger, i.e. shall be indissolubly associated with Himself and regarded with

sincere affection; and this promise may be said to have been fulfilled, so far

as Zerubbabel was concerned, in that he was henceforth inseparably linked

with the history of God’s people, and in fact constituted an ancestor of

Messiah, who afterwards sprang from his line. But as the day when the

promised distinction should be conferred on Zerubbabel was expressly

specified as the day when the process begun by Jehovah of shaking the

heavens and the earth should have been brought to a completion, at which

time Zerubbabel should have been long dead, it becomes obvious that the

promise must be understood as having reached its highest fulfi1ment in

Zerubbabel’s distinguished descendant, who should then be made

Jehovah’s signet ring, in reward for a greater work of emancipation and

temple building than had been performed by Zerubbabel. And in this

reward all share who, whether before His coming or since, have been fellow

workers with Him by serving the will of God in their day and generation.

 

  • LESSONS.

 

1. The value of great men to their own age and to the world at large.

2. The certainty of a Divine fore-ordination in ordinary life.

3. The impossibility of faithful work on earth losing its reward.

 

 

 

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God’s Temple Filled with Glory.  (v. 7)

 

“And I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts.”

 

  • VIEW THIS DIVINE PROMISE AS FULFILLED IN THE ADVENT

OF CHRIST TO THIS PARTICULAR SANCTUARY FOR GOD.

 

Ø      Thither the Child Jesus was taken in his infancy by Joseph and Mary,

that they might present him before the Lord. So far as material splendour

was concerned, no trace of it was to be seen in this introduction of the

Child Jesus to that house. The rich were required to bring a lamb as an

offering when they came to present their children thus, but Joseph and

Mary were too poor to bring so costly an offering, and hence they brought

the humbler gift the Law required. But whilst earthly glory was lacking on

this occasion, a higher glory was expressed. See those distinguished

servants of God! And as you behold old age gazing with holy joy upon that

helpless Babe, regarding him as the Deliverer of Israel, as in imagination

you witness the one, Simeon, taking that infant form into his arms,

exclaiming “Lord, now lettest,” etc. (<420229>Luke 2:29), and as you behold the

other, Anna, “giving thanks to God, and speaking of the Redeemer to all

who looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (<420238>Luke 2:38), do you not see

the promise realized, “I will fill,” etc. (ver. 7)?

 

Ø      When he attained the age of twelve years, we find him again in that

temple, sitting as a learner, hearing those who gave instruction there, and

asking them questions. We can form no idea as to the nature of the

questions he proposed to the masters in Israel; but when we think of those

teachers as being confounded by the questions and answers of that

Galilaean Youth, when we remember how that all who heard him were

astonished at his understanding, and when we reflect upon the Divine light

and knowledge which was then communicated, we see how that on the day

when the sorrowing parents were searching diligently for their lost Son,

God was fulfilling the promise made ages before to his people, “I will fill,”

etc. (ver. 7; <420242>Luke 2:42-51).

 

Ø      Whenever he entered that temple it became filled with the glory of the

Lord. This was so, no matter whether he approached it for the purpose of

performing some of his mighty works, or to give utterance to his wondrous

words, or to drive from the shrine those who were desecrating it and

causing it to become a den of thieves. Never did he enter it without

imparting to it a glory such as was unknown to the temple of Solomon.

That temple in all its glory could not hear comparison with this second,

when this latter house was favoured with the visits and the holy influence

of the Christ of God; and it was not until they who ought to have rejoiced

in the light he imparted and in the halo his presence shed had rejected and

crucified him that the glory departed from this temple as from the former

one, and that irreparable ruin was brought upon the house which had been

repeatedly filled with the glory of the Lord.

 

  • VIEW THIS DIVINE PROMISE AS HAVING ITS APPLICATION

TO EVERY SANCTUARY IN WHICH GOD IS WORSHIPPED IN

SPIRIT AND IN TRUTH. Every such structure is as much God’s temple

as the Jewish temple ever was. The Christian worshipper may adopt, in

reference to the sanctuary to which it is his happiness to repair, such

utterances as <198401>Psalm 84:1; 65:1, 2; 122:1, 2; and he can apply to these

modern sanctuaries the grand old promise of his God, “And I will fill,” etc.

(ver. 7). There is but one essential in order that any sanctuary may be filled

with glory, even the presence of Christ, not the visible, but the spiritual,

presence of the Divine Redeemer. Let this be wanting, and it is immaterial

how magnificent may be the structure reared or how imposing the outward

form. Vestments may be worn, the whole assembly may assume a

reverential aspect, the music may be of the most attractive character, the

pulpit may be occupied by one who may charm and captivate by his

eloquence; yet if the presence of Christ is not realized, the house will not

be lighted up with the true glory; whereas much of this may be wanting,

but if Christ’s presence is realized, glory shall fill the place. What a contrast

there was between this temple and the upper chamber in which the chosen

disciples were assembled, waiting for the fulfilment of the promise of their

risen Lord! And yet, on the second sabbath after the Ascension, a glory

filled that upper chamber such as was unknown to the Jewish temple,

simply because he who had been driven from the temple, and who, during

his appearances there, had been invariably rejected by its worshippers, was

a welcome Guest in that upper room. His presence was fully realized there,

and hence the place was filled with the Divine glory, and was rendered “the

very gate of heaven.” The spiritual presence of the Divine Redeemer thus

constitutes the true consecration of any building reared for Christian

worship and teaching; this is what is needed in order that any sanctuary in

our own day may be filled with God’s own glory. Then, clothed with true

sincerity of spirit, partaking of his love, his purity, his spirituality, his

consecration, walking as he walked, honestly, uprightly, consistently, and

so fulfilling the conditions upon which his manifestation depends, may we

feel him near, as in the sanctuary, dear to us by hallowed associations, we

engage in acts of worship; near us the Imparter of a Divine life, the Inspirer

of all our songs, our prayers, our words, our toils; the Bestower of large

blessings upon us and upon all who come within the range of our influence.

“Now therefore arise, O Lord God,” etc. (<140641>2 Chronicles 6:41).

 

 

The Consecration of Wealth. (v. 8)

 

“The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts.”

 

  • THE DIVINE RIGHT TO EVERYTHING WE POSSESS. God is our

Sovereign, and as such he exercises dominion over us, and disposes of us

as it seemeth him good. This sovereignty is exercised by him in strict

accordance with the principles of wisdom, rectitude, and goodness. This

Divine right has reference, not only to ourselves, but extends also to all

that we possess. “All things come of him;” we are but stewards of his

bounty. The recognition of this fact contributes to a man’s real welfare. If a

man views his possessions as being his own, he is in danger of that love of

money which is the root of all evil. Hence it is with a view to man’s

spiritual preservation, as well as with a due regard to the benefit of the race

and the progress of his cause, that God insists upon his right, saying, “The

silver is mine,” etc. (v. 8).

 

  • THE IMPORTANCE OF THE RECOGNITION OF THIS DIVINE

RIGHT ON THE PART OF MAN, AND THE CONSECRATION OF

HIS SUBSTANCE TO THE SERVICE OF GOD.

 

Ø      Neglect of this involves loss. The young ruler an example (<401916>Matthew

19:16-22). “He went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” He

kept his wealth, but at a terrible sacrifice, for he forfeited intercourse with

Christ, the joys of the Christly life, and the unfading treasures with which

the Saviour was prepared to enrich him.

 

“For mark the change! Thus saith the Lord,

‘Come, part with earth for heaven today.’

The youth, astonished at the word,

In silent sadness went his way.”

 

Ø      Regard to this ensures gain. Cornelius an example (Acts 10:1-2).

He viewed property as a trust. He rendered unto God his due. His prayers

and his alms “came up for a memorial before God.” And the result was that

God blessed him, granting unto him the ministry of angels, guiding him into

truth by his servant, imparting to him the consciousness of his love, and

filling him with the graces of his Spirit. Let us readily render unto God his

just claim in reference to the possessions of earth

 

o       when help is required in order to the maintenance of his worship;

o       when the cry of distress, occasioned not by improvidence, but by

unavoidable adverse influences, rises into our ears;

o       when fresh openings for doing the work of God both at home and

abroad are found, and call for increased liberality that they may be

embraced, let God’s voice be heard in these, intimating that he has need of

those resources which have come to us as his gifts, and let us cheerfully

give to him of his own. For who has such right to what we possess of this

world’s goods as he whose free gifts these are, and who in the bestowment

of them has blessed the work of our hands?

 

 

 

The Peace of God. (v.9)

 

“And in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts.” Various

theories have been propounded concerning how temporal peace and

prosperity may be secured to a people. One wilt tell you that everything

turns upon which political party happens to be in power; a second will cry,

“Free Trade;” a third will respond, “Protection;” a fourth will dilate upon

“the reform of the land laws;” a fifth will enlarge upon the importance of

the maintenance of our military prestige, affirming that peace is best

guaranteed by being prepared for war; but we may rest assured that the

foundations of national peace and prosperity lie deeper far, and are laid in

rectitude and righteousness. True peace, and, as a consequence, lasting

prosperity, come to a people only in a secondary sense through their rulers

and legislators, and men of mark in the various departments: they come

primarily through the people themselves. In proportion as they become

God-fearing and Christ-like, submissive to the Divine authority and guided

by the principles of God’s Word, will he bless them and make them

prosperous and happy. But there is a higher form of peace than that which

is denominated temporal, and to that more exalted blessing the Divine

promise contained in this text referred. Temporal peace was now being

enjoyed by the returned from exile. They dwelt in quietude, although the

subjects of a foreign power. But the Lord of hosts promised them spiritual

peace, and assured them that, in association with the sanctuary they were

raising to his honour, they should experience inward tranquillity and rest.

“In this place will I give peace,” etc. (ver. 9).

 

  • GOD FULFILS HIS GRACIOUS PROMISE TO HIS SERVANTS AS

THEY GATHER AT HIS SANCTUARY BURDENED WITH A SENSE

OF SIN, In our daily life we are continually contracting fresh sins. We

stray from God’s ways, undesignedly we err from his precepts, and as the

result are rendered restless and disquieted. And coming thus to his house,

as we bow, in worship, and as we listen to the story of redeeming love, we

become humbled in spirit and filled with penitence, and we find peace in

Christ. He who controlled the winds and the waves controls also the

passions and tumults of the wilder human spirit as he says in gracious

tones, “Come unto me, and I will give yon rest.”

 

  • GOD FULFILS HIS GRACIOUS PROMISE TO HIS SERVANTS

AS THEY GATHER AT HIS SANCTUARY OPPRESSED WITH A

SENSE OF SORROW. In every congregation assembled for worship there

are to be found sorrowing hearts. “Every heart knoweth its own

bitterness,” and we little know how many and varied are the trials being

experienced by those who form our fellow worshippers; and as such in

their deep need, and oppressed with griefs they could not disclose to

others, turn to him who is touched with the feeling of our infirmities, they

feel themselves divinely soothed and succoured, and realize the fullilment

of the ancient promise, “And in this place,” etc. (ver. 9).

 

  • GOD FULFILS THIS GRACIOUS PROMISE TO HIS SERVANTS

AS THEY GATHER AT HIS SANCTUARY HARASSED THROUGH A

SENSE OF MISGIVING AND MISTRUST. Doubts arise within the

mind, problems are presented concerning God’s truth and his providence

that baffle and perplex, and as it was with Asaph in the olden time, so has it

been with many since — they have found light cast upon the hidden way as

they have come to the sanctuary of God (<197316>Psalm 73:16, 17). And so at

all times and under all our experiences he can breathe over us the peace

that calms the troubled soul and makes the weary heart at rest.

 

 

The Past and the Future.  (vs. 10-19)

 

Two months had now elapsed since, stimulated by the prophet’s glowing

words, the temple builders had resumed their labours (comp. ver. 1 with

ver. 10). These months were of great importance with reference to

agricultural interests, being the usual season for sowing the seed and

planting the vines. That at such a time they should manifest so much zest in

the work of rebuilding the temple proved how thoroughly in earnest they

were; sad this earnestness is the more evident as we remember that the

previous harvests having failed, the people must at this time have been in

very straitened circumstances. It is not surprising if, whilst engaged in these

combined operations, renewed depression took possession of their hearts,

and if in sadness they asked themselves what they would do if the next

harvest should likewise fail. The address of Haggai recorded in these verses

(10-19) was designed either to anticipate or to meet such gloomy

apprehensions; and we have only to hear this design in mind, and the

meaning of his words, otherwise somewhat ambiguous, becomes very

clear.

 

  • THE CAUSE OF VAST ADVERSITY.

 

Ø      He traced this to their own moral defection. The method he adopted was

peculiar — it was by means of parables that he sought to make vivid to

them their last sinfulness, and which had caused their sorrow.

(1) The first parable and its application. He referred them to the priests,

bidding them ask whether, if a man carries holy flesh in the lappet of his

garment (i.e. flesh of animals slain as sacrifices), and he happened to touch

any food with the lappet, the food thus touched would become

consecrated. The priests, in accordance with the ceremonial Law

(Leveticus 6:27), answered, “No” (vers. 11, 12), contending that the lappet

of the dress was made holy, but that it was not said in the Law that it could

communicate this holiness. So, the prophet implied (ver. 14), was it with

his nation. God had chosen their land to set his Name there. His worship

had been established in their midst, they had been constituted a favoured

people, and their land had been consecrated through this association with

the Lord. This, however, did not affect that which had been planted in the

soil; the earth was not bound to yield an abundant increase by virtue of

these sacred associations. It was only by their being faithful to their high

calling, diligently cultivating the soil, and looking up to Heaven for the

blessing, that temporal prosperity could be enjoyed, and the lack of this

spirit had been the cause of all their sorrow.

(2) The second parable and its application. The appeal was again made to

the priests, to know whether, if one who had been defiled by contact with a

dead body happened to touch anything, the thing thus touched would be

unclean. The priests unhesitatingly replied that it would, the declarations of

the ceremonial Law upon this point being very explicit (Numbers 19.). So

the prophet affirmed that his people, neglecting the claims of Jehovah, had

rendered themselves morally unclean, and the blight had consequently

rested upon the works of their hands (ver. 14). Their adversity was

traceable to their sad defection from holy duty and devotedness to the Lord

their God.

 

Ø      He intimated that because of this defection God had visited them in

judgment. He had in chastisement smitten them with blasting and mildew

and hail, rendering their labour so abortive that their sheaves had yielded

but a scanty return (vs. 15-17).

 

Ø      He recorded the fact that, despite these judgments, they had persisted in

their neglect of duty. “Yet ye turned not unto me, saith the Lord” (ver. 17).

The prophet’s strong faithful speech indicates that there had been amongst

these returned captives much of indifference, coldness, and deadness in

reference to the work of God, and it was only right that they should be

reminded of this, and that by the painful memory of past failure they should

be stimulated to more thorough and entire consecration in the future, and

to which we may be sure the devoted seer gladly turned. The past is

irrevocable and irretrievable. No tears, no regrets, can win it back to us.

 

“Thou unrelenting Past!

Strong are the barriers of thy dark domain;

All things, yea, even man’s life on earth,

Slide to thy dim dominions and are bound.”

 

The future, however, is available, and hence, leaving the past, with all our

shortcomings in relation to it, and rejoicing in God’s mercy and in the

strength he is so ready to impart, let us “go and sin no more.”

 

  • THE ASSURANCE OF FUTURE PROSPERITY. (Ver. 19.) Their

action had now completely changed. They fully recognized God’s claims;

instead of seeking their own personal and selfish ends, they now

consecrated themselves heart and soul to the work of God, striving in

every way to advance his glory. The temple rose, and “they finished it

according to the commandment,” etc. (<150614>Ezra 6:14). And their attitude

towards God and his work being thus changed, his attitude towards them

became likewise changed. They must still for a while experience the effects

of their past neglect in that time must elapse before rich fruitfulness should

appear where formerly there had been dearth and barrenness, but they

might rest assured of the returning favour of the Lord; yea, from that

moment this joy should be theirs. “From this day will I bless you” (ver. 19).

So is it in our life, that whilst the cherubim with the flaming sword sternly

guard the door of the past, so that there is no possibility of our return

(<010324>Genesis 3:24), there is also the angel of the Lord opening up the path

before us through the wilderness, and prepared to guide us, if we will, to

the brighter Eden that lies beyond (<022321>Exodus 23:21, 22).

.

The Final Message. (20-23)

 

We gather from this last recorded message of this prophet, and addressed

to Zerubbabel

 

  • THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF JUDGING RESPECTING THE FUTURE

FROM PRESENT APPEARANCES. The seer referred to coming

commotions and upheavings in national life (vers. 21, 22); but at the time

he gave utterance to these intimations all was peace and tranquillity.

Rawlinson refers to the Persian empire as spreading over two millions of

square miles, or more than half of modern Europe, and this vast power was

at this time unassailed. In the opening vision of Zechariah, having reference

to this time, the representation made was, “Behold, all the earth sitteth still,

and is at rest” (<380111>Zechariah 1:11). We cannot forecast the future; we

know not what a day may bring forth.

 

  • THE RECOGNITION OF GOD IN THE OVERTHROW OF

NATIONS. Repeatedly in vers. 21, 22, the Most High refers to his own

action in the convulsions and revolutions to take place. “I will shake,” etc.

Whilst civil broils and contentions and military conflicts contribute to the

effecting of such desolation, these are but agents unconsciously fulfilling

the Divine behests. “The Lord God Omnipotent reigneth;” “He changeth

the times and the seasons:he removeth kings and setteth up kings”

(<270221>Daniel 2:21); “This is the finger of God.”

 

  • THE SECURITY AMIDST ALL THESE CHANGES OF SUCH AS

ARE TRULY CONSECRATED TO THE SERVICE OF THE LORD.

(Ver. 23.) The signet ring was a precious token. It was worn by the

Eastern prince on one of the fingers of his right hand, and was prized by

him above all things. The symbol, as used here, suggests that Zerubbabel

the prince, who had so faithfully fuifilled his trust, should be loved and

cared for by God; that the Lord would cherish him even as the signet ring

was cherished by its owner. Zerubbabel is regarded by some as a

symbolical character, as typical of Christ, the Prince of Peace, who was to

come; and such regard this assurance addressed to him as having its

application to the Messiah, and as setting forth the Divine Father’s delight

in him. The emblem may be still further extended in its application. All true

and loyal hearts are cared for by him as his chosen ones, and he will

preserve them unto his everlasting kingdom.

 

 

 

God’s Message to His People by Haggai.  (vs. 1-5)

 

“In the seventh month, in the one and twentieth day of the month, came the

word of the Lord by the prophet Haggai, saying, 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,” etc. Here is the second

Divine message addressed by Haggai to Zerubbabel, Joshua, and the

residue of the people. Observe:

 

1. The Divine message often comes from one man to many. It now came

by Haggai.

 

2. All temples but the temple of nature are to be built by man himself. God

could have studded the world with temples; but he has honoured human

nature by leaving it to men to do.

 

3. Any postponement of duty is opposed to the will of God. All duty

requires the utmost promptitude. The Jews were now dallying with duty.

The subject of these verses is — God requires human labour purely for

religious objects. We have to labour for many things — for material

subsistence, for intellectual culture and scientific information, but in all for

a religion. True labour in every form should be religious. Whatsoever we

do in word or deed, we should do all to the glory of God. Three thoughts

are here suggested in relation to this subject:

 

  • THAT THIS LABOUR SHOULD BE STIMULATED BY THE VIEW

OF RELIGIOUS DECADENCE. The temple, once the glory of the

country, was now in ruins, etc. “Who is left among you that saw this house

in her first glory? and how do ye see it now?” Into what a low state has

genuine religion sunk in our country! It is cold, formal, worldly,

conventional.

 

  • THAT THIS LABOUR SHOULD BE PERFORMED BY THE MOST

VIGOROUS EXERTION. “Be strong, O Zerubbabel,... be strong, O

Joshua be strong, all ye people of the land.” All the powers of our nature

should be concentrated in this work, the work of resuscitation. Why?

 

Ø      Because it is right, and therefore you may throw your conscience into it.

Ø      Because it is worthy of all your faculties. Call out and honour all the

faculties of your nature.

Ø      Because it is urgent. The highest interests of your countrymen and your

race depend upon it.

 

  • THIS LABOR SHOULD ENLIST THE COOPERATION OF

ALL. All are called upon here to work. The men in office, and the people.

All should unite in this work. It concerns all — young and old, rich and

poor. The energies of all should be enlisted in this grand work of religious

revival.

 

  • THIS LABOR HAS A GUARANTEE OF DIVINE ASSISTANCE.

“For I am with you, saith the Lord of hosts,” etc. Those who are engaged

in this work are labourers together with God. He is with them, inspiring,

directing, encouraging, energizing. Christ says to his disciples, “Lo, I am

with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”

 

 

The Moral Progress of the World.  (vs. 6-9)

 

“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,” etc. Humanity is

undoubtedly progressing in certain directions — in secular information, in

scientific discoveries, in useful and ornamental arts, in the extension of

commerce, in the principles of legislation. But whether it is progressing in

moral excellence is undoubtedly questionable, and yet there is no real

progress without this. The real progress of man is the progress of moral

goodness. Three thoughts are suggested by the passage in relation to this

moral progress.

 

  • IT REQUIRES GREAT SOCIAL REVOLUTIONS AMONGST

MANKIND. “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.”

Perhaps the primary reference here is to the charges which were to be

effected in the Jewish system and commonwealth, preparatory to the

Christian dispensation. Judaism was, as we know, shaken to its centre by

the appearance of Christ. Revolutions in society seem to me essential to the

moral progress of the race. There must be revolutions in theories and

practices is relation to governments, markets, temples, Churches. How

much them is to be shaken in the heaven and earth of Christendom before

the cause of true moral progress can advance! May we not hope that all the

revolutions that are constantly occurring in governments and nations are

only the removal of obstructions in the moral march of humanity? In the

clash of arms, in the fall of kingdoms, one ought to hear the words,

“Prepare ye the way,” etc.

 

  • IT INVOLVES THE SATISFACTION OF THE MORAL

CRAVINGS OF MANKIND. “The desire of all nations shall come.”

Whether this refers to Christ or not has been questioned. Still, philosophy

and history show that he meets all the moral longing of humanity. The

moral craving of humanity is satisfied in Christ, and in Christ only.

 

Ø      Mans deep desire is reconciliation to his Creator.

Ø      Mans deep desire is to have inner harmony of soul. Christ effects this.

Ø      To have brotherly unity with the race. Moral socialism is what all

 

nations crave for. Christ gives this. He breaks down the middle wall of

partition. He unites all men together by uniting all men to God.

 

  • IT ENSURES THE HIGHEST MANIFESTATIONS OF GOD TO

MANKIND. “I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord.”

 

Ø      God will be recognized as the universal Proprietor. “Silver is mine, and

gold is mine,” etc. In the good time coming, men will feel that all is God’s,

not theirs. They will act as trustees, not as proprietors. God will be all in

all.

 

Ø      God will be recognized as the universal Peace giver. “I will give peace,

saith the Lord of hosts.”

 

 

Human Duty  (vs. 10-14)

 

“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, Thus

said the Lord of hosts; Ask now the priests concerning the Law,” etc. “On

the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month of the same year, that is to say,

exactly three months after the congregation had resumed the building of

the temple (<370115>Haggai 1:15), and about two months after the second

prophecy (<370201>Haggai 2:1), a new word of the Lord was uttered through

Haggai to the people. [This is the prophet’s third address, extending over

vers. 10-19.] It was now time, since the despondency which had laid hold

of the people a few weeks after the recommencement of the building had

been dispelled by the consolatory promises in vers. 6-9, and the work was

vigorously pursued, to confirm the people in the fidelity which they had

manifested, by bestowing upon them the blessing which had been

withdrawn. To this end Haggai received the commission to make it

perfectly clear to the people that the curse, which had rested upon them

since the building of the temple had been neglected, had been nothing but a

punishment for their indolence in not pushing forward the work of the

Lord; and and that from that time forth the Lord would bestow his blessing

upon them again” (Delitzsch). The passage suggests two facts.

 

  • THAT THE QUESTION OF HUMAN DUTY 1S TO BE DECIDED

BY AN APPEAL TO DIVINE AUTHORITY. “Thus saith the Lord of

hosts; Ask now the priests concerning the Law.” The question, of course,

implies two things.

 

Ø      That there is a Divine written law for the regulation of human conduct.

Though the Law here refers to ceremonial institutes which were contained

in the Levitical code, there is also a divinely written law of a far higher

significance — that moral law which rises out of man’s relations, and is

binding upon man as man, here and everywhere, now and forever.

 

Ø      That there are divinely appointed interpreters of this law. “Ask now the

priests.” Under the old economy there were men appointed and qualified

by God to expound the Law to the people; and in every age there are men

endowed with that high moral genius which gives them an insight into the

eternal principles of moral obligation. They descry those principles, not

only in the words of God, but in his works; they have that ethical and

spiritual “unction from the Holy One,” by which they know all things

pertaining to duty. Thus, then, the question of duty is to be decided. It

cannot be decided by the customs of the age, the enactments of

governments, or the decrees of Churches. “To the Law and to the

testimony.” The will of God is the standard of moral obligation.

 

  • THAT THE DISCHARGE OF DUTY REQUIRES THE SPIRIT OF

OBEDIENCE. It was the duty of the Jews now to rebuild the temple; but

that duty they discharged not by merely bringing the stones and timbers

together and placing them in architectural order. It required further the

spirit of consecration. The prophet sought to impress this upon the mind of

his fellow countrymen engaged in this work by propounding two questions

referring to points in the ceremonial law. The first had reference to the

communication of the holiness of holy objects to other objects brought

into contact with them. “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?” In other words, whether, if a person carry holy flesh in a

lappet of his garment, and touched any food with the lappet, it should

become holy in consequence? The priests said, “No;” and rightly. Mere

ceremonial holiness cannot impart virtue to our actions in daily life; cannot

render our efforts in the service of God acceptable to him. Ritualism

without righteousness is morally worthless. The second question was this:

“If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be

unclean?” The priests answered and said, “It shall be unclean.” “The sum,”

says an old writer, “of these two rules is that pollution is more easily

communicated than sanctification; that is, there are many ways of vice, but

only one of virtue, and a difficult one. Bonum oritur ex integris; malum ex

quolibet defectu, ‘Good implies perfection; evil commences with the

slightest defect.’ Let not men think that living among good people will

recommend them to God, if they are not good themselves; but let them lear

that touching the unclean thing will defile them, and therefore let them

keep at a distance from it.”

 

  • CONCLUSION. Mark:

 

Ø      The transcendent importance of the spirit of obedience. What are

ceremonial observances, and what are all intellectual or bodily efforts, in

connection with religion, apart from the spirit of obedience? Nothing, and

worse. “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice;” “What have I to do with

the multitude of thine oblations,” etc.?

 

Ø      That man can more easily communicate evil to another than good. As a

legally unclean person could impart his uncleanness to anything, and a

legally holy person could not impart his sanctity to anything, so it is

suggested that evil is more easily communicated by man to man than good.

This is a sad truth, and proved by universal observation and experience.

Briars will grow without cultivation, but not roses. A man can give his

fever to another easier than he can give his health.

 

 

Man’s Temporalities (vs. 15-19)

 

“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,” etc. The subject of

these verses is mans temporalities; or, in other words, his earthly

circumstances, his secular condition. And the passage suggests three ideas

in relation to this subject.

 

  • THAT MAN’S TEMPORALITIES ARE AT THE ABSOLUTE

DISPOSAL OF GOD. Here the Almighty is represented as at one time,

namely, the period daring their neglect of rebuilding the temple,

withholding from the Jewish people temporal prosperity. But after they had

commenced the work in earnest, the stream of prosperity would begin to

flow. Here are the words: “Before a stone was laid upon a stone in the

temple of the Lord: since those days were, when one came to an heap of

twenty measures, there were but ten: when one came to the press fat for to

draw out fifty vessels out of the press, there were but twenty.” “It was I

that gave you only ten instead of twenty measures, only twenty instead of

fifty vessels in the vat. It was I that smote you with blasting and with

mildew and with hail.” So it ever is. Man’s temporal circumstances are at

the disposal of God. Out of the earth cometh all man’s temporal good; but

he can make the earth barren or fruitful as he pleases. He can bind it with

frosts, inundate it with floods, or scorch it with heat. Man, cease to pride

thyself in thy temporal prosperity!

 

  • THAT GOD SOMETIMES REGULATES THE TEMPORALITIES

OF MAN ACCORDING TO MAN’S MORAL CHARACTER. The

Almighty here tells the Jewish people that in consequence of their neglect

of his command to rebuild the temple, temporal distress would befall them.

He ‘smote them with “blasting” and with “mildew” and with “hail in all the

labours of their hands” But as soon as they commenced in earnest he said,

“From this day will I bless you? The fact that God sometimes and not

always regulates man’s temporalities according to his moral obedience or

disobedience suggests:

 

Ø      That the cultivation of a high moral character is important to man eves

as a citizen of this earth. “Godliness is profitable to all things.”

 

Ø      That even this occasional expression of Gods regard for moral conduct

is sufficient to justify the belief in the doctrine of a future and universal

retribution. Antecedently, we should infer that, under the government of an

all-wise, all-powerful, and all-just God, man’s secular circumstances would

be according to his moral worth. It would have been so, had man not

fallen, no doubt. It is sometimes so now, as in the case before us. It will be

universally so one day — the great day that awaits humanity.

 

  • THAT THESE FACTS OUR MIGHTY MAKER REQUIRES US

PROFOUNDLY TO STUDY. “Now, I pray you, consider from this day

and upward.” This call to consider the facts is thrice repeated. Consider

why the adversity came upon you in the first case, and why the blessing is

promised in the second case. It was, in one ease, because you neglected

your moral duty, and in the second because you began to discharge it. Why

should these facts be studied?

 

Ø      That we may have a practical consciousness that God is in the world. In

all the elements of nature, in all the seasons of the year, in all the varying

temperatures and moods of nature, we see God in all things. “The place

whereon thou standest is holy ground.”

 

Ø      That we may have a practical consciousness that God recognizes moral

distinctions in human society. God and evil are not alike to him. The good

he sees, he approves; the evil he beholds, he loathes.

 

Ø      That we may have a practical consciousness that retribution is at work

in the Divine government.

 

 

Terrible Revolutions (vs. 20-23)

 

“And again the word of the Lord came unto Haggai in the four and

twentieth day of the month, saying, Speak to Zerubbabel, Governor of

Judah, saying, I will shake the heavens and the earth; and I will overthrow

the throne of kingdoms,” etc. This is the fourth address. These verses

remind us —

 

  • THAT THE REVOLUTIONS AMONGST MANKIND ARE

SOMETIMES VERY TERRIBLE. Here we read of the “shaking of the

heavens and the earth,” the “crash of thrones,” the “destruction of

kingdoms,” the “overthrow of chariots,” etc. What the particular

revolutions referred to here are cannot be determined. Alas! we know well

enough that such terrible catastrophes have been too common in every age

and land. During the last forty years what tremendous revolutions have

occurred in Europe and in America! The political heavens and earth have

been shaken to their very centre, and even now the political world

throughout Christendom is heaving with earthquakes and thundering with

volcanoes. Such revolutions imply the existence and prevalence of two

antagonistic moral principles in the world — good and evil. These are the

Titanic chieftains in all the battles, the elemental forces in all the

convulsions of the world. It is truth against error, right against wrong,

liberty against thraldom, virtue against vice.

 

  • THAT GOD HAS TO DO EVEN WITH THE MOST TERRIBLE OF

THESE REVOLUTIONS. “I will shake the heavens,... I will overthrow

the throne,” etc. “I will destroy the strength,” etc. Inasmuch:

 

Ø      As God is eternally against the false and the wrong and the tyrannic, he

may be said to be the Author of these revolutions.

 

Ø      As he can prevent them, he may be said to be the Author of these

revolutions. He does not originate them, but he permits them. He could

annihilate all wicked doers by a volition; he allows them to fight themselves

often to death in battling against the right and the true. Hence God permits

and controls all human revolutions. This should inspire us with confidence

in the most terrible scenes. “The Lord sitteth upon the flood.” He sits in

serene majesty, controlling all the fury of the battling forces. He “holds the

winds in his fist.”

 

  • THAT THE GOOD MAN IS SAFE IN THE MOST

TREMENDOUS REVOLUTIONS OF TIME. “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” (ver. 23). What is here said of Zerubbabel suggests

three thoughts.

 

Ø      That good men sustain the highest office. Zerubbabel was not only a

servant, but a “chosen servant,” He was selected for the work of rebuilding

the temple. The highest honour for moral intelligence is to be the appointed

servant of Jehovah.

 

Ø      That good men will receive the highest distinction. “I will make thee as

a signet,” A signet indicates:

 

o       Worth. It was a ring with a seal on it, worn on the finger, as an

ornament of great value. Good men are elsewhere represented as God’s

jewels.

 

o       Authority. The signet of an Eastern monarch was a sign of delegated

authority. A good man is invested with the highest authority — the

authority to fight against wrong and to promote right, at all times and in

every place

 

Ø      That good men will always be safely kept. Jehovah says this to

Zeubbabel Amidst all evil, “God is my Refuge and Strength, a very present

Help in trouble!”