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CRITICAL NOTES.] This oracle, delivered nearly a month after building had begun, designed to remove despondency, and to meet a new difficulty.
Haggai 2:3.] The glory of the second did not answer to that of the former temple. Some of the oldest who had returned, had seen the first building, and wept at the contrast (Ezra 3:12). The Jews note five points of inferiority. The absence
(1) of the sacred fire;
(2) the shekinah;
(3) the ark and cherubim;
(4) the Urim and Thummim;
(5) the spirit of prophecy. Nothing] God makes the contrast as great as possible, seems to share their feeling, and give evidence of his strong sympathy.
Haggai 2:4. Yet] whatever your estimate, I give another. Strong] Fear not, I am with you. Work] David’s words to Solomon (1 Chronicles 28:10; 2 Chronicles 19:11).
Haggai 2:5. Covenanted] God the same in promise to all generations and ages (Exodus 19:5-6; Exodus 24:10-11). Spirit] to strengthen (cf. Haggai 1:14; Zechariah 14:6), hence continual enjoyment of God’s presence and aid.
METHODS IN DIVINE TEACHING.—Haggai 2:1-2
Rebukes, warnings, and encouragements had due influence upon the people. But new difficulties now threaten and a fresh message is required. Hence “came the word of the Lord” again, in matter and method adapted to guide and comfort.
I. God speaks to his people in different periods of time. “In the seventh month, in the one and twentieth day of the month.” In Haggai 2:1; Haggai 2:10; Haggai 2:18, and chap. Haggai 1:1; Haggai 1:15, how specific the mention of time! no age is left without its prophet and Divine utterance.
II. God speaks to his people in different circumstances of life. The Jews had passed through circumstances of indolence and zeal. Now they begin to despond on account of an inferior temple and failing harvests (Haggai 2:9-11). But when God stirs up a people he will help and comfort them in their work. “Set the wheels a going and God will oil them,” says an old writer.
III. God speaks to his people in words adapted to their needs. We have warnings and comfort, “consider” and “fear not,” “go up and build” (chap. Haggai 1:8). Revelations are given “in sundry times and in divers manners,” in parts and methods according to our requirements. Germs for present use and future growth. “Whatsoever is Divine revelation ought to overrule all our opinions, prejudices, and interests, and hath a right to be received with full assent,” says Locke. “What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.”
CAUSES OF DESPONDENCY IN THE WORK OF GOD.—Haggai 2:3
The inferiority of the second temple to that of Solomon was a ground of discouragement in work. The old people affected the young, and though disappointment was not openly expressed, yet it suspended their labours.
I. Many disaffected discouraged others in the work. Some old men were still alive, who thought more of former performances and attainments than present duty and hopeful signs. They discouraged others, exaggerated the evils and reflected upon the work of God. Murmurers and complainers belong to every age. “If the times are bad what are we doing to mend them?” asks one. “Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not inquire wisely concerning this.”
II. All esteemed the work too lightly. “Is it not in your eyes, in comparison of it, as nothing.” They thought more of outward glory than spiritual blessings. We are too apt to judge by outward appearance, and forget God’s estimate of labour. Though we are not building a material we are a spiritual temple. If not honoured with the position of some, we have responsibilities and duties. Never say that you do nothing, if not surrounded with outward pomp, and patronized by the rich and the noble. Let us “serve our own generation by the will of God.”
REMEDIES FOR DESPONDENCY IN THE WORK OF GOD.—Haggai 2:4-5
Notwithstanding alleged grounds of fainting, God exhorts them all to be courageous, to go on with their work, and gives reasons for the exhortation.
I. God’s covenant with them is unchangeable. “According to the word that I covenanted with you, when ye came out of Egypt.” Mercies to God’s people are ensured by a pledge which is eternal and immutable. Dark may be the days and difficult the work of his people; but they are as much the object of his care as when the covenant was first ratified. They may sin and be punished for their sin; but his attitude towards them is not the result of caprice nor change. Unfaithfulness will banish God from us, but return to obedience will restore his favour and help. “My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.”
II. God’s presence with them is guaranteed. “For I am with you, saith the Lord of hosts.” God continually declares that we have no ground for fear. We need to have these assurances repeated. If hosts are against us, and the Lord of hosts is with us, this should strengthen us. His presence will compensate for past distress, aid in present duty, and be all-sufficient for the untried future. “The promises of the gospel are sealed to us by the word of the Father, the blood of the Son, and the witness of the Spirit” [Mason].
III. God’s Spirit with them abides for ever. “So my Spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not.” God’s Spirit was with the leaders, inspiring the prophets and sanctifying the priests; with the people for the work of the sanctuary (Exodus 31:1), and the confirmation of the weak. The Spirit to stir up all to duty (Ezra 5:1; Zechariah 4:6), and remove every hindrance to its performance. The Spirit still abides in the Church, helping to realize the Divine purpose in Christ. “Thou gavest also thy good Spirit to instruct them.” This should furnish,
1. an antidote to fear,
2. a ground of confidence, and
3. a motive to renewed consecration. “Be strong and work: for I am with you” (Haggai 2:4).
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Haggai 2:2. The better to hearten them, the prophet is sent again, with a like message as before. Learn—
1. That there are none so forward for God and his work but may stand in need of continual quickening.
2. That continual preaching makes men continue in well-doing [Trapp].
3. That all those who work for the Lord will be strengthened and encouraged in their difficulties. Speak now, &c. “The encouragements here are sent to the same persons to whom the reproofs in the foregoing chapter are directed; for those that are wounded by the convictions of the word shall be healed and bound up by its consolations.”
Haggai 2:3. Important questions. What answers to be given? Some were left who had seen the first house in its glory, about sixty-eight years since. The contrast in the times and in the buildings no ground for despair. “Long life is a blessing to the servant of God, if at its close he is permitted to see the revival of God’s kingdom and increasing signs of its coming glory” [Lange]. In your eyes, that is, in your, thoughts: for God taketh notice of the inward workings of the heart [Trapp]. Whatever they thought of the work, God’s estimate was very different. Judge not by appearances.
Haggai 2:4-5. Lessons of life. Dwell much upon past history, and learn—
1. That what checks and distress may be experienced are due to unfaithfulness.
2. That God never failed to fulfil his covenant, whether he chastened or blessed.
3. That in the adversities of the present true hope lies in the presence and power of the Spirit [cf. Lange].
Haggai 2:4. Be strong. Here he exhorteth all ranks, first to good affection, Be strong, or of a good courage; secondly, to good action, Work, or be doing; for affection without action is like Rachel, beautiful but barren. Here then, that we falter not, betray not the cause of God, nor come under his heavy displeasure, who equally hateth the timorous and the treacherous,
1. Be armed with true faith. Faith quelleth and killeth distrustful fear.
2. Get the heart fraught with the true fear of God; for as one fire, so one fear, drives out another (Matthew 10:28; 1 Peter 3:13-14).
3. Get and keep a clearing, cheering conscience; for that feareth no colours, as we see in St. Paul, Athanasius, Luther, Latimer, and other holy martyrs and confessors.
4. Think on God’s presence as here, Be strong and be doing, for I am with you. Lastly, look up, as St. Stephen did, to the recompense of reward; steal a look from glory, as Moses (Hebrews 11:26); help yourselves over the difficulty of suffering with Christ by considering the happiness of reigning together [Trapp].
Haggai 2:5. The word that I covenanted. Deliverance in Egypt should remind of God’s power and presence with his Church. Encouragement is strengthened by reference to the covenant. Former appearances are types of future.
1. Providences may seem to contradict promises.
2. Promises never contradict providences. Hence the continual repetition and renewed emphasis of the word.
“Our God is still as kind, and all His gifts
Like wondrous, like unlimited, like fair,
As when the wind first blew. Man is to God
That he hath ever been” [Bailey].
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 2
Haggai 2:1-2. Word. What a beautiful sermon or essay might be written on the the growth of prophecy!—from the germ no bigger than a man’s hand in Genesis, till the column of cloud gathers size and strength, and height and substance, and assumes the shape of a perfect man: just like the smoke in the Arabian Night’s tale, which comes up and at last takes a genie’s shape [Coleridge].
Haggai 2:3-5. Despondency. Too often a mischievous gloom enters the mind of God’s people. Their hands slacken, their energies are paralyzed for the work of God, and they sink into desponding apathy and indolence. Did we realize our present privileges and future prospects, the gleam of sunshine would be to us the earnest of what it will be, when—as Rutherford beautifully observes—“we shall be on the sunny side of the Brae” [Bridge].
“There’s not a scene on earth so full of lightness,
That withering care
Sleeps not beneath the flowers, and turns their brightness
To dark despair” [Hon. Mrs Norton].
Haggai 2:6. Once] Yet only a little while; lit. one little, i.e. brief space; till a series of movements is to begin. Shake] by great moral and physical revolutions, preparatory to the establishment of Christ’s kingdom (Matthew 24:29; Hebrews 12:26-28).
Haggai 2:7.] Having figuratively set forth great political changes, the prediction is repeated, and the arrival of the blessings desired, announced. Desire] Some apply these words to the Church, but the majority to Christ. This is not the place for a discussion [cf. Henderson and Wordsworth]. Glory] Not outward furniture, but the presence of God himself (cf. Zechariah 2:5; Ezekiel 43:4-5; Exodus 40:34-35; 1 Kings 8:11).
Haggai 2:8. Mine] Hence they should be free from anxiety in poverty, and cease to mourn the absence from the temple of these things.
Haggai 2:9. Greater] Not in architectural splendour, but in the presence of Jehovah the Messiah, and in peace between man and man, and God and man—temporal peace under Persian rule, and spiritual in Jesus Christ.
THE ESTABLISHMENT OF GOD’S KINGDOM.—Haggai 2:6-8
The Jews are encouraged to proceed with the work by the assurance that Jehovah would, as the governor among the nations, in a brief space, exert his almighty power in effecting a great revolution in the state of the kingdoms of this world, preparatory to the establishment of the kingdom of the Messiah. This mighty change is first described in the usual figurative language of prophecy, as a convulsion of the physical universe, and then literally as a convulsion of all nations. The passage has long been regarded as one of the principal prophecies of the Redeemer’s advent [Henderson].
I. Revolutions prepare for its establishment. “I will shake the heavens and the earth,” &c.
1. Physical preparations. The kingdoms of the world are but the scaffolding for the spiritual kingdom, and will be overturned when they have accomplished their end. All earthly mansions are moveable and transitory, subservient to “the kingdom that cannot be moved” (Hebrews 12:26-28). Recognize—
(1) Divine agency in the world—“I will.”
(2) Divine order—“will shake.” Disturbance before repose, war before peace, is a law in the operations of nature, the government of nations and the history of the Christian Church. In the wars of Alexander the Great and his four successors, in the conquests of Rome, the world was shaken and reduced to order.
2. Moral preparations. “I will shake all nations, and the Desire of all nations shall come.” It was an ancient notion that the gods forsook the cities that were taken by the enemy. Hence the power of the gods decayed and national deities were destroyed by the conquests of Roman armies. The nations were thus prepared for the gospel (cf. Keil and Hengs. in loco). If men did not definitely desire Christ, they were not satisfied with painful rites and bloody sacrifices. They were unsettled, and longed for some one to satisfy their desires. Bewildered by superstitions, they craved for Divine light. And as the time of the Redeemer’s advent drew near, there was a general expectation of a deliverer in Jewish and Gentile world.
II. All nations contribute to its establishment. “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine.” According to Josephus, gifts adorned the temple, and dedicatory offerings were presented in it. King Artaxerxes and his counsellors bestowed presents upon Ezra (Ezra 7:15), and the help of Darius Hystaspes (Ezra 6:6-10) may be regarded as a pledge of the fulfilment of the promise. The riches of kingdoms flowed into the temple. Material wealth will yet be given for the extension and inward growth of God’s kingdom. All that is valuable in labour, all that is achieved by intellect, all that is pure and lofty in science, art, and religion, are offerings which the world has brought or will bring into the Church. “The glory and honour of the Gentiles” shall be presented in the courts of Zion (Revelation 21:26).
THE DESIRE OF ALL NATIONS.—Haggai 2:7
This refers unquestionably to the Messiah, yet the title seems to disagree with other parts of Scripture and with fact. He was in the world, and the world knew him not—despised and rejected of men. How then can he be called the Desire of all nations? This character is justified five ways. First, by the general expectation that prevailed in the world previously to his advent. It is well known that there was a looking out for some great deliverer and benefactor nigh at hand. Testimonies from heathen authors have been collected, especially a little poem of Virgil’s, written a few years only before the birth of Christ, which contains a prophecy and foreshadows a personage who would restore the peace and plenty of the golden reign. The sentiment was handed down by tradition, but originally derived from a Divine source, the early and repeated promise of “him that should come.” Secondly, by the need all mankind had of such a Saviour as he would be. Darkness covered the earth. Men knew not the supreme good—found only vanity and vexation of spirit in their pursuits and attainments—had no support in trouble, and their uneasiness arising from guilt, death, and futurity, led them to offer thousands of rams, rivers of oil, and to give their first-born for their transgressions. No remedy could be found to remove doubts and fears. Though they had no revelation of Jesus, who meets their condition, yet they ignorantly groped after what he alone can impart. He therefore deserves to be called the Desire of all nations, just as a physician, able and willing to cure all diseases, is the desire of all patients. Thirdly, by being so attractive in himself, that all would actually long after him if they knew him. He has every excellency in person, every perfection in character. Nothing in creation will afford a proper image. All the loveliness of man and angels cannot be compared to his charms. “He is altogether lovely.” Do we esteem riches? His are unsearchable. Admire friendship? He sticketh closer than a brother. Applaud benevolence? His love passeth knowledge.
“His worth if all the nations knew,
Sure the whole earth would love him too.”
Fourthly, by his having had admirers in every country. Wherever believers have been found, they have been distinguished by the same convictions and dispositions with regard to him. Abraham in Canaan rejoiced to see his day. Job in the land of Uz knew that his Redeemer lived. Wise men from Persia paid him homage, and devout men from every nation under heaven joined in the sacrifices and ceremonies of the temple. John heard his praise from an innumerable multitude out of all nations and tongues. Lastly, he is so named because in due time he will be prized and gloried in by all the ends of the earth. To him shall the gathering of the people be. He is the salvation prepared for all people, a light to lighten the Gentiles. All kings shall fall down before him; all nations shall serve him and call him blessed. How does he appear to me? Is he all my salvation, all my desire? Will it complete my happiness to be like him and see him as he is? [Jay].
GOD’S CLAIMS AND MAN’S STEWARDSHIP.—Haggai 2:8
In commanding the erection of a glorious house for the Lord to replace the one that had been destroyed, and which then lay waste, a principle is asserted which is unaffected by time or circumstances. God’s rights in man and man’s possessions may be put among the things which change not.
I. God’s claim. God himself makes the announcement. He is jealous for his honour and rights. What he orders to be done, he expects to be done, even if it be difficult to accomplish and involve many sacrifices.
1. The claim is just. When God demands the silver and the gold to be devoted to his service, he is not usurping authority that belongs to another.
2. The claim is absolute. “Mine” may be written by the finger of God upon all the wealth of the globe (cf. Psalms 50:10-11, and Isaiah 40:0, on God’s absolute proprietorship).
3. The claim is universal. It was true concerning the exiles returned from long captivity, and it is “the present truth” concerning the possessions of all who are now in the land of the living.
II. Man’s stewardship. Possessions entrusted to our keeping or use involve us in responsibility. Silver and gold are a trust from God. They may mean so much intelligence, industry, and self-sacrifice on the part of their temporary owner—but even those mental and moral qualities, which win silver and gold, are enjoyed by God’s bounty, and employed by God’s providence. “Thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth.”
1. Our stewardship ought to be recognized. We may ignore accountability, but putting it out of mind will not put it out of existence. By considering, laying to heart, we shall escape the wrong and mischief of forgetfulness.
2. Our stewardship should be thankfully acknowledged. The inward realization ought to have a glad expression. If the blessing of the Lord makes us rich, he ought to be blessed for his munificent gifts. “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits towards me.”
3. Our stewardship should be faithfully discharged. “It is required in stewards that a man should be found faithful.” Diligent employment of possessions, of which silver and gold may stand for symbols, is the condition of their continuance and increase. “For unto every one that hath (or uses what he hath) shall be given, and he shall have abundance; but from him that hath not (or uses not what he hath) shall be taken away that which he hath.” Because much silver and gold may not be ours we do not escape the levy of divine law for God’s service. “For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath,” &c. Remember that the eternal rewards are given, not to the conspicuous, famous, or successful servant. The divine commendation of “well done,” and the divine dignity and blessedness are bestowed upon “good and faithful servants” [Mt. Braithwaite].
THE GLORY OF THE LATTER HOUSE.—Haggai 2:9
The glory of the second temple was not in its outward structure, but its inward furniture. Splendid buildings, painted windows, and stately forms are surpassed by spiritual blessings. There is a “glory that excelleth.”
I. In the purity of its worship. In the first house was worldly splendour; in the second, heavenly treasures. In one, dark shadows; in the other, the real substance. There was the ministration of the letter, here of the Spirit. One temple was often polluted with idolatry (2 Kings 23:11-12), the other is holy in its elements and institutions. Rites and ceremonies gradually retired into the background; prayer and praise took their place. Thus was kept alive a higher and purer type of religion than outward forms and gorgeous ritual. “That which was made glorious, had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth.”
II. In the residence of its owner. God who owned the temple promised to dwell in it. The first glory was covered in the cloud, the second veiled in humanity. The Messiah was “the glory of his people Israel.” His presence would be more than a substitute for the distinguished articles wanting. Many eminent persons entered the temple, but he was “greater than the temple.” It exists for him, and we must assemble to meet with him. Without him, however splendid, there is no glory; with him, however humble, it becomes “the palace of the great King.” “The Spirit took me up, and brought me into the inner court; and, behold, the glory of the Lord filled the house.”
III. In the blessedness of its attendants. “In this place will I give peace.” The Jews had great trouble, but God’s presence secured peace and protection. Peace in Christ to the penitent sinner and the doubting Christian is “the glory” of God’s house. Peace with men first, and eventually peace on earth. Convulsions in the natural and revolutions in the political world increase “the distress of nations with perplexity” (Luke 21:25-27), and create a longing desire for the Prince of Peace. When he reigns there shall be perpetual peace. Peace from God and based upon his right can never be destroyed. It abounds in depth and duration. “In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth.”
“Peace is the end of all things—tearless peace;
Who by the immovable basis of God’s throne
Takes her perpetual stand; and of herself
Prophetic, lengthens aye by aye her sceptre” [Bailey].
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Haggai 2:6. The Messiah’s kingdom.
1. Introduced by general shaking.
2. Ending in general satisfaction. As the first dispensation was introduced by the shaking of the mount, so the second by the revolutions of nations. These commotions—the presage of God’s help and the fulfilment of his promise. “The Desire of all nations shall come.”
Haggai 2:7-8. Notice—
1. The absolute dominion over the world’s wealth.
2. The subserviency of this wealth to the promotion of Christ’s kingdom.
3. The confidence this should beget in the minds of God’s people. “Every penny bears God’s superscription as well as Cæsar’s” [Henry]. The comparative poverty of the Church is not because God cannot bestow riches upon her, but because there are better blessings than wealth that are often incompatible with its possession [Lange].
Haggai 2:9. Peace.
1. The blessing bestowed.
2. The source from whence it comes—I, saith the Lord of Hosts.
3. The certainty of its possession—“I will give.”
4. The place in which it is given—In this house. Every house of God is a place where God gives peace, and every place of peace is also a house of God [Lange].
On the whole discourse: The glory of God’s kingdom.
(1) Its conditions—the faithfulness of his people to all their covenant obligations and duties, their obedience, their faith and their courage securing his favour and help.
(2) Its nature—the constant reception of increasing multitudes of “Gentiles” with their “treasures” of devotion and service; and the abiding presence of God’s Spirit diffusing peace and joy [Lange].
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 2
Haggai 2:6-9. Shake. The prophet lays stress upon the brevity of the time, for the purpose of comforting. And only what is short in the eyes of men is fitted for this. Even there were forebodings that the time of this empire (Persian) would soon be accomplished, and the rapid conquests of Alexander gave fulfilment to this foreboding. And even his power, which seemed destined to last for ever, very speedily succumbed to the lot of all temporal things. The two most powerful kingdoms that grew out of the monarchy of Alexander, viz. the Syrian and Egyptian, destroyed one another. The Romans now attained to the government of the world; but at the very time when they appeared to be at the summit of their greatness, their shaking had very considerably advanced [Hengstenberg].
Haggai 2:8. Gold is mine. Trust Providence for the supply of your wants in the ways of duty and righteousness [Nicholls].
Haggai 2:10.] This prophecy two months later than those preceding in this chapter.
Haggai 2:11-13.] To convince them of their unworthiness, they must learn from their legal advisers two things—no holy objects could communicate holiness to things or persons who touched them (Leviticus 6:20); but whatever an unclean person touched was unclean (Numbers 19:22).
Haggai 2:14. So] “The nation in its attitude toward the Lord resembles, on the one hand, a man who carries holy flesh in the lappet of his garment; and, on the other, a man who has become unclean through touching a corpse” [Keil]. Unclean] By their habits of sin, all their worship, character, and lives were impure.
DUTY NEGLECTED CONTAMINATES CHARACTER AND CONDUCT.—Haggai 2:10-14
The people suffering from scarcity of food consequent upon the failure of their crops had, it seems, been continuing in some measure their regular sacrificial offerings, though they had been neglecting the building of the temple. These oblations had not been accepted, as they might have inferred from the withdrawal of the divine blessing, the true cause of which is now impressively illustrated. As he who was ceremonially unclean tainted everything with which he came in contact, so had they suffering from God’s displeasure, on account of their disregard of his claims, communicated the effects of that displeasure to all the labour of their hands, which profited them nothing [Lange]. Attendance upon outward ordinances will not sanctify the character and render those acceptable to God who neglect their duty.
I. This truth is illustrated by divine teaching. “Ask now the priests concerning the law,” and it will prove two things.
1. That sacred things cannot communicate holiness to what they touch. The flesh of the sacrifice might hallow “the skirt” in which it was carried (Leviticus 6:27), but did not transmit virtue to meat and drink. The altar does not sanctify the gift, nor the temple the land. Corn, wine, and oil are merely common produce. No special blessing rests upon the fruits of the land, on account of its sacredness.
2. That an unclean person contaminates whatever he touches (Numbers 19:22). “Legal sanctity is not so readily communicated as legal impurity. So the paths to sin are manifold; the path to holiness one, and that one of difficult access” [Grotius]. Thus prophet and priest act in accordance with their proper functions, and teach the same lessons. One expounds the law, and the other applies it (Leviticus 10:10-11; cf. Isaiah 8:20).
II. This truth is proved in human life. “So is this people, and so is this nation before me.” Here the two cases are applied. By the first the nation is not made holy by its offerings; by the second, by their disobedience, they pollute what they offer.
1. It is proved in Divine worship. “And that which they offer there is unclean.” Like character, like worship. However splendid the gifts or beautiful the actions in themselves, they will not remove impurity of life through neglect of duty. The possession of sacred privileges will not counterbalance disobedience.
2. It is proved in daily life. “So is every work of their hands.” Not only in their offering, but also in their works are they unclean. Impurity in heart will not sanctify in works. “Those whose devotions are plausible, but whose conversation is wicked, will find their devotions unable to sanctify their enjoyments, and their wickedness prevailing to pollute them.” “Unto the pure all things are pure, but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.”
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 2
Haggai 2:12-14. Priests. The ceremonial institutes of the ancient law were designed to illustrate man’s relation to God, as being under his favour or under his displeasure. The conditions and treatment of uncleanness, while setting forth most vividly the loathsomeness and defilement of sin, exhibited as clearly the effects of God’s anger against it, which was shown to extend to all the sinner’s experience, removing him beyond the reach of covenant mercies and blessings. While the Divine displeasure was manifested towards an individual or a nation, no amount of outward religious observances could appease it, just as no frequency of contact with legally consecrated offerings could impart sacredness to any other object [Lange].
Haggai 2:15. Consider] Review of their condition from the present specific time to the period before resumption of work—“to connect their distress, then suffered, with their unfaithfulness.” They had ten measures when they expected twenty; twenty vessels instead of fifty from the press-vat; they were smitten with two blights of corn which were predicted as chastisements for disobedience (Deuteronomy 28:27; Amos 4:9); yet none turned to God.
Haggai 2:18.] Resumed from Haggai 2:15, after Haggai 2:16-17, that the blessing in Haggai 2:19 may stand in the more marked contrast with the curse in Haggai 2:16-17 [Fausset].
Haggai 2:19.] After an appeal to lay to heart past times, in which blessings had been withheld, they must now fix their eyes upon the time now beginning. “It is winter (Haggai 2:10); the seed, only just committed to the earth, was not yet in the barn. No fresh leaves on the fruit-trees—vine, fig tree, pomegranate, and olive—but ye have begun again to build; from this day forward I will hasten to bless you” [Wordsworth].
GOD’S RELATION TO MEN DETERMINED BY THEIR CONDUCT.—Haggai 2:15-19
The people are bidden to review their condition from the present time to the period preceding the resumption of the temple. The time when the work was resumed is specified here, because it was the turning-point of their fortunes. Their condition before that event is recalled for their contemplation, that it might connect their distress then suffered with their unfaithfulness; and the brief period succeeding their return to obedience is included, because they could not so soon recover from their embarrassments, no harvest having yet intervened [Lange].
I. If duty be neglected men are punished. If we repudiate what is due to God, we expose ourselves to danger. Without the controlling influence of duty the wisest and strongest go astray.
1. They are fruitless in their labour (Haggai 2:17). “I smote you … in all the labours of your hands.” To the disease of the corn we have the hail, which smote the vines. The grape for the rich, and the fig for the poor, were smitten by the judgment of God (Psalms 78:47).
2. They are disappointed in their hopes (Haggai 2:16). The heap of sheaves when threshed only yielded half of what they expected. The juice of the grapes gave not the usual measure. God’s curses are upon men’s labours, if they care not for his work and honour. “The Lord shall smite thee with … blasting and with mildew; and they shall pursue thee until thou perish.”
II. If duty be performed men are blessed. As the consequence of repentance and obedience the Jews had a prospect of rich and speedy blessings.
1. Blessed from the day of amendment. “From this day will I bless you” (Haggai 2:19). God blesses more readily than we think. The day of return to him is the day of rejoicing for us. Temporal blessings shall be followed by spiritual, and we shall prove that “Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.”
2. Blessed beyond former abundance. The vine and olive, which had borne little or nothing, would produce from that day more abundantly. The earth would yield its increase, and God would bless them beyond all probability and degree. Thus do we learn that rewards or chastisements come to man according to his conduct towards God. That natural laws serve for moral discipline, and that whoso is wise will observe these things. “If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land” (Isaiah 1:19; Zechariah 8:9-12).
CONSIDERATION OF DIVINE CHASTISEMENTS
God’s dealings may be seen and felt by all, without being understood. Hence men need constantly to be stirred up to consider them. “Now, I pray you to consider from this day.”
I. Consider the cause of chastisement. God’s anger rested upon them when they neglected their spiritual interests. We assign any cause for sufferings rather than our sins. “Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee.”
II. Consider the time of chastisement.
1. The past. “From before a stone was laid upon a stone in the temple of the Lord” (Haggai 2:15).
2. The present. “From this day.” Think of the evils which befell you before you set to work, and remember the blessings promised from the day of its commencement. A true understanding of the past is often the best preparation of the future.
III. Consider the source of chastisement. “I smote you with blasting” (Haggai 2:17). Men do not recognize Divine agency in the government of the world. The Jews were sensible of their calamities, but did not inquire seriously into the cause of them. Tully thought that God had nothing to do with rain and dew, and ordinary occurrences in life. Science dethrones God, and assigns nature to inflexible laws or infinite power. But all things are upheld by God’s power (Hebrews 1:3), and made subservient to his purpose. “Fire and hail, snow and vapour, stormy wind fulfilling His word.
IV. Consider the aggravations of chastisement. “Yet ye turned not to me, saith the Lord” (Haggai 2:17). Affliction will harden the heart if God’s purpose be not discovered in it. Impenitence will be a ground of further controversy. The more men revolt, the more will they be smitten (Isaiah 1:5). “The people turneth not unto him that smiteth them, neither do they seek the Lord of Hosts.”
“Though woo’d and awed,
Bless’d and chastised, a flagrant rebel still!” [Dr Wardlaw].
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Haggai 2:15. The retrospect.
1. Its beginning. With the resumption of work. Its direction. “From this day and upward” (i.e. backward). Literally, “from the not yet of the laying … onwards,” i.e. onwards from the time when stone was laid upon stone at the temple; in other words, when the building of the temple was resumed, backwards into the past [Keil].
3. Its design. To learn the evils of disobedience, and the blessings of obedience.
Haggai 2:17. Divine chastisements.
1. In their intention to bring back to God.
2. In their results, “yet ye turned not.” This result grievous to God, and sorrow to men. “Not being untutored in suffering, I learn to pity those in affliction” [Virgil].
Haggai 2:19. It was winter. No seed in the barn and no signs of a crop, much less of safe ingathering. “Yet from this day will I bless.”
1. God’s blessing immediate. “From this day”—as soon as you return to me and my work.
2. God’s blessing certain. No visible sign in nature—every appearance against it. But the promise is sure—“infinitely to be preferred even in prospect, to the world’s best things in possession” [Fausset]. God is so sovereign and absolute a Lord of all things, and hath times and seasons, blessings and cursings, so in his hands, that he may undertake to do things whereof there is no visible probability or certainty in the second causes, and can certainly perform them; therefore doth he undertake to bless them, when second causes and the season could speak no such thing [Hutcheson].
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 2
Haggai 2:15-19. From this day. Live much in a short time. “Redeem the time,” and repair thy omissions in some manner, by redoubling thy diligence. Let the book of thy life, the book that must be opened at the last day, be full of sense and worthy matter: let there be no void spaces and empty gaps (idle words and idle hours are such) in it; let every page of it, every day, be filled with what is significant, intelligible, rational, and worthy to be transcribed and copied out by others [Dr Worthington].
Consider. Things are not to be done by the effort of the moment, but by the preparation of past moments [Cecil].
Haggai 2:17-19. Mildew. Thorns and thistles were brought forth from the earth as a judgment for disobedience; serpents and savage beasts became evil to man or to each other for the same cause. Every hour reminds us of our fallen condition; but God has so tempered mercy with judgment, that even the natural world calls the sinner to repentance, but not to despair [Brewer].
“These worlds had never been, hadst thou in strength
Been less, or less benevolent than strong.
They are thy witnesses, who speak thy power
And goodness infinite” [Cowper].
Haggai 2:20-23.] Renewal of promise to save in convulsions.
Haggai 2:21. Shake] Points back to Haggai 2:6 and Haggai 2:7.
Haggai 2:22. Throne] Government which binds nations together (Daniel 7:27). War-chariots, horses, and riders, military power, and support of kingdoms, to be overthrown by one another’s sword. “One hostile kingdom will destroy another, and in the last conflict the heathen hosts will annihilate one another” (cf. Ezekiel 38:21; Zechariah 14:13) [Keil].
Haggai 2:23.] At that time Jehovah would take Zerubbabel, invest him with power and authority as head over all, as kings depute viceroys by giving them their signet (Esther 3:10; Esther 8:2). Some think, as seals and rings were objects of great value and regard, so Zerubbabel would be dear, and held close, to God—an object of incessant care and delight (Jeremiah 22:24; Song of Solomon 8:6). In a theocratic sense he restored the reign of David. What was promised to him was equally promised to all faithful rulers of Judah. They would be guardians of the people, and should stand secure amid the fall of earthly kingdoms. This prosperity and triumph of old prefigured the Redeemer’s reign, whom God would exalt on the throne of David (Matthew 1:12; Luke 3:2), crown as king of the earth (Psalms 89:27), and endow with a kingdom which will never be destroyed (Daniel 2:44; Hebrews 12:28; 1 Corinthians 15:24).
THE PRESERVATION OF GOD’S PEOPLE AMID THE OVERTHROW OF EMPIRES.—Haggai 2:20-23
The same day in which God promised the bounties of nature, the prophet received a second message for Zerubbabel, who was concerned for the interests of Zion in predicted revolutions. God would overturn the nations, but preserve his people and their rulers as elect and precious in his sight.
I. Earthly kingdoms will be overthrown. “I will shake the heavens and the earth” (cf. Haggai 2:6-7).
1. Overthrown by Divine agency. “I will shake”—“I will overthrow,” and “I will destroy.” God is enthroned over all kingdoms, puts down one, and exalts another in his pleasure (Daniel 2:21; Luke 1:52).
2. Overthrown by mutual strife. “Every one by the sword of his brother.” Men opposed to God are often opposed to one another. If national truth and righteousness do not control national life, then we may expect self-destruction, if not fratricidal war. Mutual destruction is a feature of Divine judgment upon wicked nations at the end of the world. “Every man’s sword shall be against his brother” (Ezekiel 38:8-9; Ezekiel 38:21; Isaiah 9:19).
3. Overthrown in military strength. “The strength of the kingdoms,” that which supports them—their chariots and horsemen, and all their military preparations. The kingdoms shall be shaken, thrones upset, and dynasties destroyed. Every people will be shorn of its strength, fall, and cease to be; but the Church of God will be preserved, when unfaithful nations are blotted out of existence.
II. God’s people will be protected. “In that day, saith the Lord of Hosts, will I take thee,” to protect and promote thee and thy people to honour.
1. Certain protection. The words, “saith the Lord of Hosts,” are given three times, for greater assurance and confirmation of faith.
2. A delightful protection. “I have chosen thee.” God loves his people, and chooses them for himself. He will never cast them off, but make them subjects of his special care. They are a seal upon his heart, a seal upon his arm (Daniel 7:13); and hidden in the shadow of his hand (Isaiah 49:2).
3. An everlasting protection. As the ring is inseparable from its possessor, so God’s people will be permanently connected with him, and become his special inheritance. As royal signets on the eternal hand shall they be safely guarded. They are sealed in Christ, and safe for ever—heirs of that kingdom before which all earthly dominions shall fall. “These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful” (Revelation 17:14).
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Haggai 2:22. The overthrow prophesied is universal. It is not one throne only, as of Persia, but the throne, i.e., the sovereigns of kingdoms; not a change of dynasty, but a destruction of their strength; not of a few powers only, but the kingdoms of the heathen; and that in detail; that in which their chief strength lay, the chariots and horsemen and their riders, and this man by man, every one by the sword of his brother [Pusey].
Haggai 2:23. As a signet.
1. A token of value.
2. A token of love (Song of Solomon 8:6).
3. A token of remembrance. This promise is the reverse of Jeconiah’s sentence: “though he were the signet upon my right hand, yet would I pluck thee thence” (Jeremiah 22:24). “Zerubbabel was a devoted servant of God. God acknowledges his faithfulness. Only the beginning of all was with God. God speaks of the nearness to himself which he had given him. But in two words he cuts off all possible boastfulness of his creature. Zerubbabel was all this, not of himself, but because God had chosen him” [Pusey]. In his theocratic relation he represented and preserved the kingdom of David. Hence he is regarded by many as a type of Christ, the son of David, and descendant of Zerubbabel (cf. 1 Chronicles 3:19; Matthew 1:12; Luke 3:27), in whom the kingdom shall be perpetuated. It will be assailed, but never destroyed. All nations that resist shall be broken to pieces, and scattered like chaff before the wind.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 2
Haggai 2:21-23. Overthrow. In spite of man’s short-sighted endeavours to dispose of events according to his own wishes and his own purposes, there is an Intelligence beyond his reason, which holds the scales of justice, and promotes his well-being in spite of his puny efforts [Morier]. Take thee. The weakest believer is safe, because, by believing, he is within the strongest of all defences. None can pluck him out of the hands of Christ (Proverbs 14:26). “Let God be thy love and thy fear, and he will be also thy refuge” [Nicholls].
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Haggai 2". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28