By Dr. Robert E. Picirilli
A message doesn’t necessarily have to last long to have long-lasting effects. The short book of Haggai proves that. The three basic messages of Haggai’s book were all preached in one year. All three of them said and accomplished much.
The first message (1:1-15) came on the first day of the sixth month (our September). It succeeded in inspiring the Jews to rebuild the temple. The second message (2:1-9) came on the 21st of the following month. It addressed their discouragement. The third message came two months later on the 24thday of the month (our December). There are three noteworthy parts to this third message.
First, the Israelites were asked two questions regarding holiness and uncleanliness (vv. 10-14). As verse 11 indicates, Haggai directed the questions to the priests since they were the ones with chief responsibility to teach God’s law.
The first question (v. 12) regarded whether or not the priest’s garment would make holy anything it touched if he were in the process of carrying the “holy” (consecrated) flesh of the sacrificial animal. The priests correctly answered that it would not (see Leviticus 6:27).
The second question (v. 13) was somewhat in reverse. It asked whether or not a
person who was currently ceremonially “unclean” because of touching a dead body could make something else unclean simply by touching it. Again they answered correctly, but this time they answered in the affirmative (see Numbers 19:22).
Verse 14 makes the application of the truth found here. It says that the Jews had been cursed (see 1:10, 11) because they were spiritually unclean and thus defiled everything they touched. This included the sacrifices they offered. However, it was a mistake to think the presence of God’s altar and the sacrifices offered on it were enough to consecrate their land and crops. These things alone did not and still do not guarantee blessing when ungodly lifestyles remain.
The Israelites wicked sloth and self-centeredness had caused the neglect of God’s house and had therefore defiled the people. Because of this God had brought drought and crop failure upon them. We learn from this that the indirect effects of sin are in some ways bigger than those of holy influences. We cannot brush aside the consequences of wrongdoing by laying claim to the presence of a priest or an altar or a church. At the same time, we must realize that our own spiritual impurity adversely affects everything that comes under our influence.
Second, the Israelites were told what to do to restore God’s blessings (vv. 15-19). As had been implied by the two questions in verses 10-14, the troubles they experienced were directly from the Lord as judgment/chastisement for their sin.
Verses 16, 17 refer to crop failures and shortages. A heap of sheaves of grain that would normally yield 20 measures, now yielded only half that much. A grape harvest that normally produced 50 buckets of juice at the wine press now produced only 30 buckets. This agricultural failure was the result of mildew (diseases of grain) and hail.
Once Haggai began to preach to them, the people experienced revival. They again began to rebuild the temple. At this point in the story, the work is definitely going forward. Haggai told the people that because of their newfound obedience, the curse was ending and God’s blessings were once more taking root (vv. 18, 19).
This brings to mind the ponderings of David in Psalm 51. When we are wrong, everything is wrong; but when we get right with God, our spiritual famine ends and the refreshing rains of revival bring us new joy. How we need that in these days!
Third, the Israelites were given a renewed promise of the salvation of the kingdom of God (vv. 20-23). Some think verse 20 actually begins a fourth message in Haggai. However, it was given on the same day as the rest of this third message. The point here is essentially the same as already seen in 2:6-9.
God is yet going to overthrow the kingdoms of this world with all their thrones, power, armies, and resources. He is going replace all of them with the kingdom of God. The prophet Daniel had seen a vision of what would take place. He saw a great stone crushing the world’s kingdoms. He saw the stone then fill the whole earth (Daniel 2:31-45). The blessings being restored to the Jews in Haggai’s day were just a glimpse of the promised blessings of the full salvation of the kingdom of God.
Note that this part of Haggai’s message is addressed to Zerubbabel specifically. He was David’s descendant and Israel’s governor under the Persians. As such, he represented David’s royal line. This line would culminate in Jesus Christ, the seed of David who will reign over the kingdom of God now and forever.
Jesus Christ is God’s signet ring, God’s chosen (v. 23). As Keil and Delitzsch put it: “Jesus Christ has raised up the kingdom of His father David again . . . it will never be crushed and destroyed, but will break in pieces all these kingdoms, and destroy them, and will itself endure forever.”