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Even better days are coming - Haggai 2:10-23

This is a sermon by Malcolm Peters from the Riverside Church service on 22nd July 2007.

Click here to read the bible passage. Click here to use larger text.

Sermon (SF & Riv):   22 July 2007 Ė Haggai 2:10-23 (NIV)

Opening Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father, as we listen to your word of your Prophet, may we be strengthened by your promises of blessing.  Amen


Arresting Intro   -  Half-hearted repentance

I want to start this morning, but giving you an insight into discipline at the Petersí household. When Bethanís been disciplined, we always seek a response from her.  And what weíre looking for is an expression of repentance.  Something like:  Daddy, Iím really sorry I whacked Daniel on the head with my book.

Sometimes, it works.  But sometimes, the ĎIím sorry daddyí can seam really genuine, but as soon as sheís back downstairs, sheís doing the same thing again.  Clearly the repentance was a bit half hearted. 

Now if youíve had any contact with children, then Iím sure you can relate to all that.    But the depressing thing, is that we adults do the same with God.  Itís just that weíre better at covering up our half-hearted repentance.  And thatís exactly the kind of repentance God is highlighting in this morningís passage. 


Recap of Background

So turn with me if you would, to Hagg 2:10 on p [881/  1470.] 
10On the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Haggai:,

 Iíve been translating these dates for you into our calendar so we can see the timeline of what's been going on.    So as you can see handout, 18 years ago back in 538BC The Lord brought the Jews home from the exile in Babylon.  2 years later, the foundations for the new Temple had been finished.

But then, as we saw 2 weeks ago, Godís people gave up;  work on the Temple stopped.   So on 29 Aug 520BC, the word of the Lord first came to the prophet Haggai.  ďSort out your priorities, and get on with building the TempleĒ.  And they did.  So by the end of chapter 1, less than a month later, work had restarted on the Temple. 

But last time, we saw that only 3 and half weeks later, they were discouraged again.    Solomonís original Temple had been Tescoís finest.  But the new Temple was going to be a Tesco value version.  And so the people were discouraged.  They were in danger of giving up again.  And so on 21 Sept 520BC, the Word of the Lord came to Haggai again in chapter 2:1-9.    And the heart of the message was:  be encouraged.  Be encouraged and get on with the Lordís work.    

And so the question at the end of last weekís passage was this?  Would Godís people be encouraged by Godís Word?  Would they be strong and get on with the job?  Well if you look ahead in 2:18, you can see that on this day, on 18 December 520BC, the Templeís foundation stone had been laid.  Yes the foundations had originally been completed 16 years ago.  But remember, theyíd gone to pot.  And it had taken 3 months for them to repair and relay those foundations. 

So now, on 18 December, they were having another festival in Jerusalem to celebrate the re-completion of those foundations.  And on that day, the 18 December 520BC, Haggai receives 2 separate words from the Lord.      Into the festivities, God speaks.    So whatís He saying?  Well if you look at the handout, then youíll see the headings. 


The Lordís obedient people remain defiled  (v10-14)

And the first point in v10-14, is that the Lordís obedient people remain defiled;  the Lordís obedient people remain defiled.      It might seem complicated, but in v11-13, Godís simply using 2 OT laws as an illustration which leads to the conclusion of v14. 

Letís look at the first illustration in v12:    

If a person carries consecrated meat in the fold of his garment, and that fold touches some bread or stew, some wine, oil or other food, does it become consecrated?' "
The priests answered, "No."

We donít need to get stuck in the detail to get the main point.    Is holiness contagious in this casual sense?   And the clear answer from the OT Law is no:  holiness isnít contagious like this.    It takes a lot of hard work for goodness to spread.  Holiness doesnít just spread.  Itís like a vaccination plan:  there needs to be concerted planning and effort for holiness to spread. 

So is it the same with uncleanness?  Is it the same with evil?  Well look at v13:

Then Haggai said, "If a person defiled by contact with a dead body touches one of these things, does it become defiled?"   "Yes," the priests replied, "it becomes defiled."                

In OT thinking, dead bodies were unclean;  and uncleanness in the OT is a picture of sin and evil.   And the OT Law was clear;  anyone who touched anything unclean, like a dead body, would become unclean.     The point is equally clear:   sin and evil spread like gangrene;  sin and evil spread like yeast through a batch of dough;  or like the flood waters through [Kingswood/ Brandsholm].    

Holiness isnít contagious.  But sin and evil are highly contagious.   Thatís the point of the 2 illustrations.   And so the Lord applies them to His people in v14. 

" 'So it is with this people and this nation in my sight,' declares the LORD. 'Whatever they do and whatever they offer there is defiled.

Notice Heís even referring to them as these people.  Not my people.  But these people.  Everything they do during the week at home, in the office, and in church is defiled, says the Lord.    They may have got on the job.  They may have restarted building the Temple.  But their repentance was half-hearted.    Just like Bethanís ďsorry, DaddyĒ, they didnít fully mean it.  They werenít fully devoted to the Lord.  They were doing the Lordís work, but their hearts werenít fully devoted to the Lord.   Maybe their minds were still really focused on doing up their own houses, as we discovered back in chapter 1?  Maybe their minds were more preoccupied with the summer holidays.   They werenít fully focused on the Lordís work.   They were half hearted.    And Godís basically saying:  half hearted obedience isnít good enough.  Why?  Because holiness isnít contagious.   But your sins are.  And so in Godís eyes, youíre still defiled;  youíre still unclean;  youíre still sinful.  Still not at peace with God.   

So, weíve seen that in v10-14, the Lordís obedient people, remain defiled.   Or rather, the Lordís partially obedient people, remained defiled. 

The Lord promises to Bless His People  (v15-19)

So when we get to v15, weíre expecting an announcement of judgement.  But what we see is a promise of blessing.  Because in v15-19, as you can see from the second heading on the handout, the Lord promises to Bless His People;  the Lord promises to Bless His people.

In v15 God says:  now look:  I want you to think deeply about all this.  Think about what Iím about to do and relate it back what Iíve already said in the book of Deuteronomy.  Think about my promise of blessing if you obey me and my promise to curse you if you disobey me. Today 18 Dec 520BC weíre celebrating the re-completion of the templeís foundation.  Great. You've taken notice of my Word through the prophet Haggai.  Youíve got on with the job.    

But now remember.  Remember whatís been happening over the past few years.  Remember what I explained to you back in chapter 1.  That because of your disobedience;  because you wanted to live in my city without my presence;  because you wanted religion, without the reality of the God behind it;  because of all that, I was cursing you.  I was bringing on you all the curses of Deut.  Look at 3:16: 

When anyone came to a heap of twenty measures, there were only ten. When anyone went to a wine vat to draw fifty measures, there were only twenty. 17 I struck all the work of your hands with blight, mildew and hail, yet you did not turn to me,' declares the LORD.

I did all this, but you didnít get it.  Even through youíd been through the exile;  even though youíd experienced the ultimate curse, you didnít get it when I started to curse you again.  So I had to spell it out for you.  I had to send you my prophet Haggai.  Look back to 1:9

You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?" declares the LORD Almighty. "Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house.


But now, consider this says the Lord.  Look on with me to 2:18:  

'From this day on, from this twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, give careful thought to the day when the foundation of the LORD's temple was laid. Give careful thought: 19 Is there yet any seed left in the barn? Until now, the vine and the fig tree, the pomegranate and the olive tree have not borne fruit.      " 'From this day on I will bless you.' "


3 months ago I challenged you to get on with the job and start rebuilding the Temple.  Today, weíre celebrating the end of stage 1.  The foundations have been re-laid.    You were disobeying me and I had been cursing you.   But now consider this.    Itís now the middle of December.  And in Israel, that means the ploughing and the sowing had been done.  Thatís why thereís no seed in the barn.  Because theyíve already sown the seeds of next yearís crops.

Consider and remember this.   I promise you, that next yearís harvest will be a bumper one.  I promise to bless you, just as I promised my prophet Moses;  I will bless you, because youíve obeyed my word and got on with rebuilding the Temple.   Just you wait until next yearís harvest.  And then remember;  consider this.  The bumper harvest, will be a reminder to you.  A reminder, that I bless you when you obey me.  But I will curse you, when you disobey me. 

And so, weíve seen that, that in v15-19, the Lord promises to bless His people.  The Lord promises to bless His people.  Why?  Because theyíre now obeying Him.  Because they were getting on with the job and rebuilding the temple.    

But thereís a problem.  Did you spot it?    Whatís the problem the promise of blessing for obedience?  Well the problem, as we saw back in v10-14, is that the Lordís obedient people remained defiled.  Their obedience was only partial.  And holiness in one part of our lives isnít contagious over the rest.  Rather itís the other way round.  The sinfulness of the rest of our lives, makes our partial good works seem like filthily rags in Godís sight.  Their good work of building the temple was contaminated by the rest of their sinful disobedience. 

The Lordís partially obedient people, remained defiled.  And so the problem is this:  if they remained incapable of serving the Lord with all their hearts, souls and minds, how long would Godís blessing last?  How long would it be before God had to discipline them again?  How long would it be before God has to inflict more covenant curses on them as a just punishment for their disobedience.   

If the blessing of v19 is simply a promise of blessing under the Old Covenant, then ultimately itís worthless.  Because none of us are capable of perfectly fulfilling the Law.  None of us can live up to Godís perfect standards.  None of us deserve Godís blessing. 

The Lord promises to restore the Son of Davidís House (v20-23)

And God knows that.  The main point of the Law was to teach Godís people that they were incapable of fulfilling it.  The main point of the Law was to make it crystal clear that Godís people were incapable of earning Godís blessing.  The whole point of the Old Covenant was to point forward to a new Covenant which would deal with the problem of defilement and uncleanness.  The new covenant which would deal with sin once for all.

And thatís why, later the same day, on 18 December 520 BC, as we see in v20, the word of the Lord comes to the prophet Haggai again.  Haggaiís second prophesy of the day.  The day the foundations of Godís house were re-completed.   And in this prophesy, as you can see from the 3rd heading:  The Lord promises to restore the Son of Davidís House.  The Lord promises to restore the Son of Davidís House.   Look with me at v21:

"Tell Zerubbabel governor of Judah that I will shake the heavens and the earth. 22 I will overturn royal thrones and shatter the power of the foreign kingdoms. I will overthrow chariots and their drivers; horses and their riders will fall, each by the sword of his brother.

Heís restating the prophesy heíd given back in October.  The prophesy which we looked at last week in 2:6-9.    A prophesy that at the end of time, on the Day of the Lord, God will shake the whole created order.  Not just the physical world, but the political world.  On that day, declares the Lord, I will usher in the New Heavens and the new Earth.  On that day, I will redraw the political map.  On that day, all Godís enemies will be defeated and be seen to be defeated.    Heís using language the people of the day could relate to. 

The Persians had loads of chariots.  They were the state-of the art laser guided missile systems of the day.  But God will overthrow them all, he says in v22.  God is the all-powerful creator and ruler of the universe.  Just as He'd overthrown the enemies of Godís people in the past, Heís going to do it again in the future.  But on the day of the Lord it will be on a much bigger scale.  A global scale.  A cosmic scale.  And in the New Heavens and the New earth, thereíll be no sin.  Thereíll be no opposition to God and His Law.  Because everything will be perfect. 

As the book of Revelation puts it:  Nothing unclean will ever enter it,.  In the New Heavens and the new Earth, thereíll be perfection in every sense.    A complete absence of sin and the effects of sin.

That was the promise v6-9 which God repeats in v21-22.  But the question is: how will he do it?  How will the Lord overthrow the kingdoms of the earth and deal with the problem of sin?   And the answerís in v23:

'On that day,' declares the LORD Almighty, 'I will take you, my servant Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel,' declares the LORD, 'and I will make you like my signet ring, for I have chosen you,' declares the LORD Almighty."


A signet ring was like an ancient seal which rulers used.   It was like the ancient version of our signature or chip and pin.  Except only v important people had a signet ring.  Because it was a symbol of authority.  Israelís kings had ruled under Godís authority;  theyíd been chosen and anointed to rule Godís special chosen people.  

And the last king before the exile was king Jehoiachin.  But as weíve seen in the story of the whole Bible in our FSs, King Johoiachin did evil in the sight of the Lord.  Just like Adam and Eve he rejected God and went his own way.  And so the Lord told Johoiachin that he would be removed as the Lordís signet ring.  He would be taken into captivity by the Babylonians.  And so it was.  Because Godís always faithful to His word.  So what about God's promise to build King David a house or a dynasty.  The promises that thereíd always be a king in Davidís line on the throne?

Well, Zerubbabel was King Jehoiachin's grandson.    And I will take you Zerubbabel, my servant.  And I will make you like my signet ring again.  For I have chosen you, declares the Lord, in v23.  The Lord is reversing His judgement on King Jehoiachin.  Heís restoring the line of David.  Because the Lordís got a much bigger building project in mind that the Temple, important though that was at the time. 

In our FSs we learnt that King David wanted to build God a house;  but the Lord said no:  Iím going to build you a house;  a household or a dynasty.  And just as the Temple is going to be rebuilt, the Lord is promising to rebuild the house of David.   

 Zerubbabel was a king in Davidís line.  Zerubbabel was part of Davidís household.  Zerubbabel was the Lordís chosen one.   And Zerubbabel was the Lordís servant.  And as we know from the genealogy in Mt 1, Zerubbabel was an ancestor of Jesus.   And Jesus was the son of David. 

And Jesus is the final solution for uncleanness.  Jesus is the final solution for sin. In Jesus, the problem of 2:10-19 is solved.  Because, as the NT tells us, Jesus led a life of perfect obedience.    Jesus was the only person whoís ever lived who did earn Godís blessing.   The only person who was completely clean and totally righteous.      But then what?   Well donít turn to it, but listen to this verse from Gal 3:13:

13Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree."[a]

The OT Law made it clear that the disobedience would be cursed.  And the ultimate curse in the OT was the exile.  But, the exile was itself simply a picture of the ultimate exile.  The permanent and eternal exile from God's presence in hell.  Those who disobey Godís law face a just eternity in hell.    But it gets worse.  Weíre not judged on the scales like in Islam;  if youíve done more good than bad, then youíre OK. 

No.  We saw from v10-14, that sin in any area of our lives, pollutes the   rest of our lives.  Sin is contagious.  As the NT puts it:  if weíve broken the Law at just one point, then in Godís eyes weíve broken the whole law.  Weíre unclean in Godís sight.  Which is why the NT concludes:  thereís no one righteous, no one who seeks God;  no one who does what is right in Godís sight.  Because all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  Everyone one of us was facing the curse of the Law.  A just eternity in the exile of hell.

But for those of us in Christ, for those believing and trusting in Christ alone, Jesus took the curse of the law upon himself on the cross.  If youíre in Christ this morning, then Jesus has dealt with your sin.  Youíre now completely clean in Godís eyes.  Thatís what it means to be in Christ. 

And so on the Day of the Lord in v21-22, when Christ returns to usher in the New Heavens and the New Earth, you wonít be cursed along with the rest of Godís enemies.  Not because you donít deserve it yourself.  But because of Godís grace;  because of Godís decision to clean you up and make you fit for heaven.  Or as the sermon title puts it:  even better days are coming.   

The OT was an unfinished book.  And Godís OT people kept slipping back.  They had no assurance of heaven.  Because they had no assurance that their sins had been dealt with.    But as NT Christians, we do.  We have complete assurance.  Because Jesus has won the victory.  The price for sin has been paid.  There is now no condemnation for those in Christ and even better days are coming.  How encouraging is that?  

But thereís still an issue even for Godís New Cov people.  Yes the price for our sin has been paid.  But the whole point of cleansing our sins was to make us fit for a perfect heaven. Godís plan is for us to be growing in Godliness.    And so we are like Godís OT people in this respect:  if we resist His will for our lives;  if we ignore His word, then the Lord will discipline us.  Not as a punishment for sin.  But as discipline aimed at correcting our disobedience.  Just like my daughter Bethan.  And just like Godís OT people. 

In v15-19, God was reminding His OT people that heíd disciplined them when theyíd disobeyed Him.  And now they were getting on with building the Temple, God was going to bless them.  And so itís the same for us.    Weíve seen over the past 2 weeks that, for us, getting on with building Godís kingdom isnít about physical building projects. 

And let me repeat that:  for us, the book of Haggai has got nothing to do with refurbishing SF's church building or any other building.  No for us, building the church is all about discipleship and evangelism.    Growing in our knowledge of Christ and making Him known to others. 

So we can expect Godís blessing if weíve got our priorities right;  if weíre getting on with the job.  As individuals, as families and as a church family, we can expect Godís spiritual blessing if weíre getting on with the job;  if weíre strategically focused on discipleship and evangelism.  But, if weíve stuck in a rut or just drifting away onto other priorities, even churchy or religious things like physical building projects, if weíre ignoring Godís main priorities for us as a church, then we can expect God to discipline us.   And so we need to continue asking ourselves -  how are we doing on the discipleship and evangelism fronts?  

So again following the patter of the last 2 weeks:  let me ask you some questions which youíll find on the back the handout:

1.      How is your personal Bible reading going?
Are you a member of a small Bible Study Group and if so are you committed to being there regularly?

2.      Which non-Christians are you praying for by name?

3.      Which service, group or event could you invite them to? 
[NB Harvest weekend:  5-7 October;    Wednesday at 10]

4.      Would a different event be helpful for your friends?
Are the events weíre putting on scratching where your friends and contacts are itching?  And if not, what kind of event would you feel comfortable inviting your friends to?  
Riv:  The Steering Committee is meeting tomorrow partly to discuss this.
So pl do come and talk to one of us before then if youíve got any ideas. 

The prophet Haggai has been all about building the kingdom of God;  not physical building projects, but discipleship and evangelism.  So as we close, letís have another time of reflection on how God wants each of us to be part of that plan.  Letís pray.

Closing Prayer

Dear covenant faithful God, who loves to bless his people, thank you for blessing us in Jesus.  That he took the curse for us, if weíre in Christ.  Jesus went to hell for me.  And thank you again for the reminder of what our priorities should be.  Thank you for reminding us that our job is to build your kingdom, to get on with discipleship and evangelism.  Help us all to have a clear idea of exactly what this means for each one of us, and to make sure weíre making the most of all the opportunities you bring our way.  For the eternal joy of those we seek to reach, but your ultimate glory we pray.  Amen.

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