Friday 25 September 2009

Bible Book:

"Yet now take courage." (v.4)

Haggai 1:15 – 2:23 Friday 25 September 2009


Following on from yesterday's reading, this passage opens with asecond message from Haggai to Zerubbabel (the governor of Judah)and Joshua (the high priest), delivered about a month after thefirst.

Verses 1-9 were to encourage them in their efforts to rebuild theTemple, reminding Zerubbabel and Joshua that God said "work, for Iam with you" (2:4). God's presence among them, just as the HolySpirit was among them during the Exodus, meant they had no need tofear. This first part of the message reaches an eschatologicalclimax (concerning the end of time) with Yahweh (a Jewish name forGod) reminding the people that "the silver is mine, and the gold ismine" and that the new Temple will surpass the glory and splendourof the first.

Another month after this second message, Haggai delivered a thirdheavy-hitter (2:10-19) - a call to repentance. Here, he questionsthe priests and concludes that uncleanness is more contagious thanholiness. To illustrate the point he says that that even though thepractice of sacrificing animals as an act of repentance had beenreinstated, the people, and by extension their work and theirsacrificial offerings, were still unclean. Because they hadn't keptpace with the building schedule (we already know how easilydistracted they got by their panelled houses, see 1:4) God struck"the products of [their] toil with blight and mildew and hail" andwas literally seeking their "return" (2:17). However, in verses 18and 19 we read that the people had prioritised God's house (theymust have listened to Haggai's message) and God responded with apromise of blessing.

Haggai delivered a fourth and final message (2:20-23) on the sameday as the third, and this little passage is stuffed with messianicand eschatological language. Verse 23 is directed at Zerubbabel,saying God has chosen him as "a signet ring". The signet ringsymbolises royal authority and Zerubbabel was descended from KingDavid. However, generations before Zerubbabel and after King David,Jeremiah had used the imagery of the signet ring to condemn KingJehoiachin and his descendants (Jeremiah 22:24-30)- of whom Zerubbabel was one. So, by reinventing this image Godoffers Zerubbabel hope of renewal and relationship.

To Ponder

What relevance can reading this, and the othersections of Haggai have for us today? What relevance does it havefor anyone beyond those who had to build the second Temple (whichwas ultimately destroyed in AD70)?

The Temple was instituted as the place where Godwould meet with God's own people. Do you have a particular placewhere you meet with God? Are some places more special than othersfor you? Why is that?

Many of us live with a negativity passed on fromprevious generations. Perhaps this has been your experience and youneed the offer of hope of renewal and relationship with God. Beencouraged, read verse 23 again, this time replacing Zerubbabel'sname with your own and see if you can connect with the vastness ofGod's healing love.

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