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Part II. THE SECOND ADDRESS: THE GLORY OF THE NEW TEMPLE.
Haggai 2:1-5—§ 1. The prophet comforts whose who grieve at the comparative poverty of the new building with the assurance of the Divine protection and favour.
In the seventh month, in the one and twentieth day of the month. The seventh month is Ethanim or Tisri, answering to parts of September and Ootober. The twenty-first was the last and great day of the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:34, etc.), 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 mere 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 Haggai 1:1).
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 Haggai 1:1 and Haggai 1:12).
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 verse 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, etc.) 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 splendour 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. the ark of the covenant, with the cherubim and mercy seat; the holy fire; the Shechinah; the spirit of prophecy; the Urim and Thnmmim. 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.,' Ezra 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.
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 (1 Chronicles 28:10; comp. Joshua 1:6, Joshua 1:7, Joshua 1:9). 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 (comp. Zechariah 8:9). And work; literally, and do; ποιεῖτε: facite, The word is used absolutely, as often (camp. 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 Haggai 1:13, and note there). The consciousness of God's presence gives confidence and strength.
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 fallows: "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, Exodus 19:6; Exodus 29:45, Exodus 29:46; 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 good work. Wordsworth notes that "Christ was with the ancient Church in the wilderness (see 1 Corinthians 10:9; 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 comp. Zechariah 4:6).
§ 2. The prophet, to reconcile the people to the new temple, and to touch them to value it highly, foretells a future time, when the glory of this house shall far exceed that of Solomon's, adumbrating the Messianic era.
Yet once, it is a little while; ἔτι ἅπαξ; 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 LXX. 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; Psalms 68:7, Psalms 68:8), when, too, the Egyptians were "shaken" by the plagues sent on them, and the neighbouring 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. 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 Haggai 2:21, Haggai 2:22. Other prophets announce that Messiah's reign shall be ushered in by the overthrow or conversion of heathen nations; e.g.. Isaiah 2:11, etc.; Isaiah 19:21, Isaiah 19:22; Daniel 2:44; Micah 5:9, etc.
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. Tile words in this case point to a person, and this person can be no one else than the Messiaih for whom "all nations consciously or unconsciously yearn, in whom alone all the longings of the human heart find satisfaction" (Perowne). 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 LXX. translates, Ηξει τὰ ἐκλεκτὰ πάντων τῶν ἐθνῶν, "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 2 Chronicles 32:27, where it refers to Hezekiah's treasures, and 2 Chronicles 36:10, "the goodly vessels" of the temple (comp. 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 2 Chronicles 36:8. 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 55:5-7, Isaiah 55:11, Isaiah 55:13, 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, Revelation 21:26.) I will fill this house with glory. There is a verbal allusion to the glory which filled Solomon's temple at the dedication (2 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 fulfilment commenced.
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 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 (Haggai 2:3), whether of Solomon, or Zerubbabel, or Herod. As understood by the hearers, this promise referred to the material fiches, 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 Haggai 2:3. 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 (comp. Isa 55:1-13 :18; Joel 3:17; Micah 5:4, Micah 5:5). 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). At the end of this verse the LXX. has an addition not found in the Hebrew, "even peace of soul for a possesion to every one who buildeth, to raise up this shrine."
Part III. THE THIRD ADDRESS; THE CAUSE OF THE CALAMITIES WHICH HAD BEFALLEN THE PEOPLE, AND A PROMISE OF BLESSING.
§ 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.
In the four and twentieth day of the ninth month. 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 wag uttered (Zechariah 1:2-6).
Concerning the Law. Others translate, "for instruction." Ask the priests these two legal questions, such as they were appointed to expound (Deuteronomy 17:8, etc.; Deuteronomy 33:10; Malachi 2:7). By this appeal the prophet makes his lesson sink deeper into the people's mind.
If one bear; literally, behold, one beareth, which is equivalent to "suppose a man bears." Perowne compares Jeremiah 3:1, "Lo, a man puts away his wife;" and 2 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 (Le 2 Chronicles 6:26; 2 Chronicles 7:15-20; 2 Chronicles 10:13; comp. Jeremiah 11:15). The skirt of his garment; literally, wing of his garment, as Deuteronomy 22:12; 1 Samuel 15:27. Any meat; παντὸς βρώματος: 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.
Unclean by a dead body; Septuagint, ἀκάθαρτος ἐπὶ ψυχῇ: 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, Numbers 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, etc.). 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 sepulchres every year, that they might be seen and avoided (Matthew 23:27, and Lightfoot, 'Her. Hebr.' in loc.).
Then answered Haggai, and said; then Haggai continued and said. He applies the principles just enunciated to the ease of the Jews, taking the communication of uncleanness first. So is this people. Not, my people, because by their acts they had disowned God (Haggai 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 labour, 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 (Wordsworth). The LXX. has an addition at the end of the verse. Ενεκεν τῶν λημμάτων αὐτῶν τῶν ὀρθρινῶν ὀδυνηθήσονται ἀπὸ προσώπου πόνων αὐτῶν καὶ ἐμισεῖτε ἐν πύλαις ἐλέγχοντας "On account of their morning gains [or, 'burdens'] they shall be pained in the presence of their labours, 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.
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 (Haggai 2:10; comp. Haggai 2:18). 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.
Since those days were. The word "days" is supplied. Revised Version, "through all that time," viz. the fourteen years spoken of in Haggai 2:15. Septuagint, τίνες ἦτε, "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 LXX; σάτα (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 Haggai 1:6, Haggai 1:9. 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 σάτα, "and there were ten measures of barley." The press fat; 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 drown. LXX; μετρητάς (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. Knabenbauer suggests that 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.
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 (comp. Amos 4:9, and note there). These two pests affected the corn; the vines were smitten with hail (Psalms 78:47). In all the labours (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 LXX. 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.
Haggai 2:18, Haggai 2:19
§ 2. On their obedience the blessings of nature shall again be theirs.
Consider now from this day and upward (see note on Haggai 2:15.) For "upward" Jerome has here in futurum, though he translated the same word supra in Haggai 2:15. 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 Haggai 2:19. 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 (Haggai 2:10), 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 Haggai 2:15, after the foundation was completed, but before "stone was laid upon stone" of the superstructure (comp. Zechariah 8:9).
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 (1 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." LXX; Εἰ ἐπιγνωσθήσεται ἐπὶ τῆς ἅλω, "If it shall be known upon the threshing floor." Jerome must have read γῆς 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; 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 (Le Job 26:3, etc.; Deuteronomy 28:2, etc.). From this day will I bless you. "This day" is the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month (Job 1:10). 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).
Part V. THE FOURTH ADDRESS: PROMISE OF THE RESTORATION AND ESTABLISHMENT OF THE HOUSE OF DAVID, WHEN THE STORM BURSTS ON THE KINGDOMS OF THE WORLD.
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; and a second time; ἐκ δευτέρου. This revelation took place on the same day as the preceding one.
Zerubbabel (see note on Haggai 1:1). I will shake the heavens and the earth. He repeats the prediction of Haggai 2:6 in this chapter (where see note). This is the general statement, expanded and explained in the next verse.
I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms. No events in Zerubbabel's time satisfied this prediction, which waits for its fulfilment 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 (Psalms 20:7; Zechariah 10:5). Shall come down. Be brought to the ground, perish (Isaiah 34:7). By the sword of his brother. The heathen powers shall annihilate one another (Ezekiel 38:21; Zechariah 14:13).
In that day. When the heathen nations of the earth are overthrown, Israel shall be safe, and be the more exalted by the Divine favour 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" (comp.Deuteronomy 4:20; Deuteronomy 4:20; 2 Kings 14:21; Keil). My servant. An honourable title used especially of David (1 Kings 11:13, etc.; Jeremiah 33:21, etc.), and his future successors (Ezekiel 34:23, etc.; Ezekiel 37:24). Make thee as a signet. I will make thee most precious in my sight (comp. Song of Solomon 8:6). Among Orientals the signet ring was an article of great importance and value (see Revelation 5:1; Revelation 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" (Ecclus. 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" (Corn. a Lapide ap. Pusey). 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 fulfilment 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 hie throne should be as the sun before God (Psalms 89:36, Psalms 89:37; 2 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 fulfilment, "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, Luke 1:33).
Past and present.
I. A SUGGESTION—Of 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 splendour, 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 nineteenth 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.
II. 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 post-exilic temple, in comparison with the Solomonic, was justifiable—the material splendour 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 (verse 9)—it would be the centre and scene, the instrument and support of a purer worship than had been maintained in the former, and would be honoured 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 (verse 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 splendour. 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 4:1-6:11; 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 (Psalms 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."
To the widening of the thoughts add the purifying of the hearts and the elevation of the lives of men.
III. 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 favourable 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 classes—the duty, viz. of working with earnest diligence at one's daily calling, "the trivial round, the common task," if assigned by God, and more especially at the upbuilding 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.
IV. A CONSOLATION—in the guaranteed fellowship of God. Jehovah would be with them—always, of course, conditionally if they continued with him (2 Chronicles 15:2).
1. 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.
2. 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 quickenings 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.
3. 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.
4. 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 Haggai 1:13, Haggai 1:14), both of which would be theirs in proportion u they realized the cheering truth that they were fellow labourers 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).
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.
Haggai 2:6, Haggai 2:7
The shaking of the heavens and the earth.
I. HISTORICAL ILLUSTRATIONS.
1. At Sinai, when Jehovah manifested himself to Israel (Exodus 19:16-19; Psalms 68:7, Psalms 68:8). Preparatory and prophetical.
2. At the birth of Christ, when Jehovah appeared on earth in the Person of his Son (Joel 2:30, Joel 2:31 : Luke 2:8-14; Acts 2:19, Acts 2:20). Furthering and fulfilling.
3. 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, Isaiah 24:20; 2 Peter 3:10). Culminating and completing.
II. 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.
1. At Sinai were shaken and removed
(1) the polytheism which Israel had in large measure brought with her from Egypt;
(2) the individualism which had hitherto prevented Israel from forming herself into a nation; and
(3) the serfdom which had rendered the realization of Israel's calling impossible;
while the things that could not be shaken and remained were
(1) the unity of God, or the monotheistic element which still survived in Israel's religion;
(2) the covenant relationship in which Jehovah stood towards Israel; and
(3) the capacity for religion which no amount of oppression had been able utterly to destroy.
2. At the birth of Christ were shaken and removed
(1) the Mosaic institute which had then served its day, and was even ready to vanish away (Hebrews 8:13);
(2) the partition wall between Jew and Gentile (Ephesians 2:14), which had repelled each from, rather than attracted each to, the other; and
(3) the externalism and literalism in worship, which had converted it into mere mechanism;
while the unshakable things that remained were
(1) 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;
(2) the brotherhood of man, which was henceforth to be placed in the forefront of the gospel message (Acts 17:26; Romans 2:11; Romans 3:29; Colossians 3:11; Galatians 3:26); and
(3) 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 (Jon 4:1-11 :21-24).
3. At the end of time will be shaken and removed
(1) the present state and condition of things (1 Corinthians 7:31; 1 Corinthians 15:50-57; 2 Peter 3:10, 2 Peter 3:12; 1 John 2:17);
(2) the presence and power of sin (Revelation 22:3); and
(3) the mediatorial sovereignty of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:23);
while as things that cannot be shaken, shall remain
(1) the new heavens and the new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness (2 Peter 3:13);
(2) the redeemed family of believers (1 John 2:17); and
(3) the eternal supremacy of God, who shall then be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:23).
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.
I. 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 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."
II. 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 favour 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," writes Pressense, "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". 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. And the inference from all is that, irrespective of age or country, and however overlaid with superstition, the deep conviction of the human heart is 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, John 1:51), and therefore as possessed of authority to act as Daysman or Mediator between God and man, laying his hand upon both (Job 10:1-22 :33; 1 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 favour 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?
III. 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 favour; 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," has never been reversed; nor is there the least likelihood that it ever will.
IV. 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 fulness of information in comparison with which the teaching of all other religions, the Hebrew Scriptures not excepted, is as darkness,
1. The pre-eminence of Jesus Christ, and of the Christian religion.
2. Gratitude for God's unspeakable Gift.
3. The duty of seeking in Christ satisfaction for the soul's true desires.
The silver and the gold: a sermon on money.
I. 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" (cf. Joel 3:5). The proof lies in three things; that the silver and the gold are:
1. Of God's making. They belong to him as part of that earth and its fulness which he hath created (Psalms 24:1; Psalms 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" (1 Chronicles 29:12, 1 Chronicles 29:14).
2. Of God's giving. God claimed that he had multiplied Judah's silver and gold (Hosea 2:6); and David owned that "all things," including "riches and honour," were of him (1 Chronicles 29:12). The same sentiment is involved in the words of the Baptist (John 3:27), in those of Paul (1 Timothy 6:17), and in those of James (James 1:17).
3. Of God's 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" (Psalms 127:1). Nor can any one keep it longer than God chooses. At any moment can he recall what he has given.
II. 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" (1 Kings 20:3), 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 laboured, 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, Luke 12:18). 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.
1. 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.
2. A proper use of money. As a trust it would be carefully kept, wisely used (Matthew 25:16), faithfully administered (1 Corinthians 4:2), and correctly accounted for (Luke 16:2). It would not be prodigally squandered (Luke 15:13), or in miser fashion hoarded (Matthew 25:25), or selfishly expended (Hosea 10:1), but skilfully, lovingly, and unweariedly employed for the Master's glory.
3. A right feeling with regard to money. Neither inordinate desire after it (1 Timothy 6:10), 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; 1 Timothy 6:6), and of gratitude that one has received any (Genesis 32:10).
The latter glory of this house; or, the glory that excelleth.
I. THE HOUSE.
1. The temple of Zerubbabel, then building, which, however, was regarded as a continuation of and as one with the temple of Solomon (cf. Haggai 2:3).
2. The Christian Church, which on a similar principle of interpretation was viewed as an outcome and development of the Hebrew temple (cf. John 2:20, John 2:21).
II. 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.
1. The glory of spiritual magnificence, as opposed to that of merely material splendour. Tin. temple of Solomon was, alter all, but an "earthly hour" 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 (1 Peter 2:5), "an holy temple" erected out of quickened and renewed hearts "for an habitation of God through the Spirit" (Ephesians 2:21).
2. 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 fulness of him that filleth all in all (Ephesians 1:23), and even speaks of individual believers as temples of the Holy Ghost (1 Corinthians 6:9) and of the living God (2 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; Matthew 28:20; John 14:17, John 14:23; John 15:4; John 16:7, John 16:22).
3. 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 2 Kings and 2 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" (Pusey). But the temple of Jesus Christ was the building of One who was by pre-eminence the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), who came to teach men the way of peace (Luke 1:79), 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; Romans 8:6; Romans 14:17; Galatians 5:22; Philippians 4:7; Colossians 3:15).
III. THE LESSON.
1. The certainty of God's Word. What Haggai predicted has at length been fulfilled. So will all God's promises reach realization.
2. 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.
3. 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;" there is no reason to believe it will do otherwise in the future.
The parable of the holy and the unclean.
I. THE LETTER OF THE PARABLE. Directed by Jehovah, Haggai proposes two questions to the priests.
1. Concerning the law of communicated sanctity. Supposing the case of a man carrying in the skirt of his garment holy flesh, i.e. flesh of animals slain in sacrifice, and with his skirt touching bread, pottage, wine, oil, or any meat, the prophet desires to be informed whether the holiness which according to the Law (Leviticus 6:27) was imparted to the skirt extended further so as to reach also anything with which the skirt might come in contact. To this the priests properly answer, "No."
2. Concerning the law of legal defilement. Stating a contrary case, that of a person defiled by having himself touched a dead body (Leviticus 21:11; Numbers 19:16), Haggai asks whether contact with such a person would render any of the above articles unclean, and is promptly answered that according to the Law it would (Numbers 19:22).
II. THE INTERPRETATION OF THE PARABLE. "So is this people, and so is this nation before me, saith the Lord."
1. Any sanctity possessed by the nation could not pass beyond themselves. The sanctity which they possessed arose from the fact of their having an altar in Jerusalem, which had been built immediately on their return from Babylon, and of their maintaining in connection therewith the festal and sacrificial worship appointed by the Law of Moses (Ezra 3:1-6). Yet this could not transmit itself to the soil so as to render it holy and cause it to become fruitful in corn and wine and oil, notwithstanding their disobedience in neglecting the building of the temple. On the other hand:
2. Whatever defilement was on the nation would affect all that belonged to the nation. But the nation, through its disobedience in neglecting to build the temple, was defiled, since according to Jehovah "to obey is bettor than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams" (1 Samuel 15:22). Hence their uncleanness rendered all about and around them unclean. In particular, it put the land beneath a curse which made its harvests scanty.
III. THE APPLICATION OF THE PARABLE.
1. To the days before the building of the temple was resumed.
(1) In character those were days of scanty harvests and bad trade (Haggai 1:6), of fruitless labours and disappointed expectations. Whereas the farmer might have anticipated from a heap of sheaves twenty measures of wheat, on threshing it out he found only ten; and the vine dresser who hoped to draw off fifty vessels of wine from the pressing trough, had to content himself with twenty (verse 16).
(2) The reason of all this was, though it never seemed to strike the people, that Jehovah had, in punishment for their disobedience, smitten the land with blasting and mildew and hail (verse 17).
2. To the days since the temple foundation was laid. Not at the first (Ezra 3:10), but then, under Haggai, in the four and twentieth day of the ninth month of the second year of Darius (Ezra 5:2; Zechariah 8:9). As yet there was, comparatively speaking, no seed in the barn, and only a small supply of vines, figs, pomegranates, and olives, since the preceding harvest had been bad, so that no evidence as yet appeared that, as regards their condition, any change for the better had begun, nevertheless they were confidently to anticipate that from that day forward Jehovah would bless them.
1. The limitations of personal religion.
2. The greater contagion that belongs to sin.
3. The blindness of the human heart to Divine judgments.
4. The certainty that piety will be rewarded.
5. The ability of God to do beyond what reason warrants or sense expects.
Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel.
I. 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 favour 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, Ecclesiastes 3:2), the bounds of their habitation (Acts 17:26), and the particular circumstances of their lot (Psalms 16:6); but, in addition to this, that God bad 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 be 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" (Psalms 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 (Psalms 25:9).
II. 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 11:1-40.; 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 favour, 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 preheat 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!" lies at the basis of all true greatness in the soul.
III. 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 long and perilous journey to a and prosperous estates in Babylon, and undertake 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 bad travelled 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 levelling of a great mountain, encouraging him at the same time with the assurance that it would be levelled, "Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain." 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).
IV. AN ILLUSTRATION OF CONSPICUOUS PROMOTION. A great honour 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. 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.
1. The value of great men to their own age and to the world at large.
2. The certainty of a Divine fore-ordination m ordinary life.
3. The impossibility of faithful work on earth losing its reward.
HOMILIES BY T. WHITELAW
Returning despondency and renewed stimulus.
In these verses we have the third of the earnest addresses delivered by the devoted seer to these temple fbuilders. In the first (Haggai 1:3-11) he reproved them for their neglect and stimulated them to the performance of their duty. In the second (Haggai 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 (Haggai 2:1-9) 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 endeavour by indicating the brightness and blessedness of the coming times. Consider—
I. THE CAUSES OF THEIR DESPONDENCY. This despondency very soon again took possession of them. They had been less than a month engaged in earnest endeavour 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?
1. 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 (Haggai 1:6), we need not be surprised at the depression from which they were suffering.
2. 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. (Haggai 2:3.) 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.
II. 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 centred 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:
1. The abiding presence with them of the Lord of hosts, in fulfilment of the covenant made with their fathers (verse 5).
2. The national upheavings which should take place, and which should be overruled to their good (verses 6, 7).
3. The halo of glory which should eventually rest upon the shrine they were rearing (verses 7, 9).
4. The Divine proprietorship of all material resources (verse 8).
5. The deep and durable tranquillity which should be experienced as the result of the development of the Divine purposes (verse 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," shall everywhere abound, and the Lord of hosts shall have a home and dwelling place in every heart.—S.D.H.
The prophet's Messianic prophecy.
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 (see Lidden's Bampton Lectures on 'Our Lord's Divinity,' lect. 2.). The mission of Haggai had special reference to encouraging the temple builders in their arduous toil; but the verses now before us (verses 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 hero be realized.
I. CONSIDER WHAT THIS PROPHECY PROBABLY SUGGESTED TO THE JEWS OF THIS SEER'S OWN TIME.
1. Freedom from the yoke of servitude. These returned exiles were under the power of the Persian monarch; and they would understand their seer (verses 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.
2. The temple they were rearing to become enriched with material wealth. "And the desire of all nations shall come," etc. (verses 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 verse 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".
3. A time of settled peace and prosperity (verse 9). This restricted apprehension of the meaning underlying the prophet's words would cheer the hearts of the builders and impel them to renewed endeavour.
II. 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 fulfilment 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 splendour 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".
III. 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:
1. In the shaking of the nations by the power of the Divine Spirit.
2. The consecration by the good of all their gifts and endowments to the service of the Lord.
3. The realized spiritual presence of God in Christ with his Church, and which constitutes her true glory.
4. The inward rest and tranquillity all his people shall experience as his bestowment.—S.D.H.
Haggai 2:4, Haggai 2:5
The real presence.
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 fulfil to them every covenant engagement made with their sires (verses 4, 5).
I. THE GLORIOUS FACT OF THE REAL PRESENCE OF THE LORD WITH HIS CHURCH.
1. This truth is constantly declared in the oracles of God.
2. It was brought home to the Israelites in the olden times by means of symbolical representations.
3. It was impressed upon these returned captives by the raising up of faithful men to declare the Divine wilt, and to stimulate them to renewed devotion.
4. 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 his very heart, and unveiling to us the intensity of his infinite love.
II. THE INFLUENCE WHICH THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF THIS GREAT TRUTH SHOULD EXERT UPON HIS SERVANTS.
1. It should be to them in times of depression the source of strong consolation. "Be strong" (verse 4); i.e." Be comforted."
2. It should take from them all craven fear, inspiring them with holy courage: "Fear ye not" (verse 5).
3. It should impel them to renewed consecrated endeavour: "and work" (verse 4).—S.D.H.
God's temple filled with glory.
"And I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts."
I. VIEW THIS DIVINE PROMISE AS FULFILLED IN THE ADVENT OF CHRIST TO THIS PARTICULAR SANCTUARY FOR GOD.
1. 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. (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" (Luke 2:38), do you not see the promise realized, "I will fill," etc. (Haggai 2:7)?
2. 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. (Haggai 2:7; Luke 2:42-51).
3. 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.
II. 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 Psalms 84:1; Psalms 65:1, Psalms 65:2; Psalms 122:1, Psalms 122:2; and he can apply to these modern sanctuaries the grand old promise of his God, "And I will fill," etc. (Psalms 122:7). 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. (2 Chronicles 6:41).—S.D.H.
The consecration of wealth.
"The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts."
I. 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. (Haggai 2:8).
II. 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.
1. Neglect of this involves loss. The young ruler an example (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."
2. Regard to this ensures gain. Cornelius an example (Acts 10:1, Acts 10:2). 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
(1) when help is required in order to the maintenance of his worship;
(2) when the cry of distress, occasioned not by improvidence, but by unavoidable adverse influences, rises into our ears;
(3) 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?—S.D.H.
The peace of god.
"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. (Haggai 2:9).
I. 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."
II. 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. (Haggai 2:9).
III. 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 (Psalms 73:16, Psalms 73:17). 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.—S.D.H.
The past and the future.
Two months had now elapsed since, stimulated by the prophet's glowing words, the temple builders had resumed their labours (comp. Haggai 2:1 with Haggai 2:10). 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.
I. THE CAUSE OF VAST ADVERSITY.
1. 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 (Leviticus 6:27), answered, "No" (verses 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 (verse 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 19:1-22.). 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 (verse 14). Their adversity was traceable to their sad defection from holy duty and devotedness to the Lord their God.
2. 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 (verses 15-17).
3. 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" (verse 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."
II. THE ASSURANCE OF FUTURE PROSPERITY. (Verse 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. (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" (verse 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 (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 (Exodus 23:21, Exodus 23:22).—S.D.H.
The final message.
We gather from this last recorded message of this prophet, and addressed to Zerubbabel—
I. THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF JUDGING RESPECTING THE FUTURE FROM PRESENT APPEARANCES. The seer referred to coming commotions and upheavings in national life (Haggai 2:21, Haggai 2:22); 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" (Zechariah 1:11). We cannot forecast the future; we know not what a day may bring forth.
II. THE RECOGNITION OF GOD IN THE OVERTHROW OF NATIONS. Repeatedly in verses 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" (Daniel 2:21); "This is the finger of God."
III. THE SECURITY AMIDST ALL THESE CHANGES OF SUCH AS ARE TRULY CONSECRATED TO THE SERVICE OF THE LORD. (Verse 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.—S.D.H.
HOMILIES BY D. THOMAS
God's message to his people by Haggai.
"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—
I. 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.
II. 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?
1. Because it is right, and therefore you may throw your conscience into it.
2. Because it is worthy of all your faculties. Call out and honour all the faculties of your nature.
3. Because it is urgent. The highest interests of your countrymen and your race depend upon it.
III. THIS LABOUR 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.
IV. THIS LABOUR 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."—D.T.
The moral progress of the world.
"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.
I. 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.
II. 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.
1. Man's deep desire is reconciliation to his Creator.
2. Man's deep desire is to have inner harmony of soul. Christ effects this.
3. 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.
III. IT ENSURES THE HIGHEST MANIFESTATIONS OF GOD TO MANKIND. "I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord."
1. 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.
2. God will be recognized as the universal Peace giver. "I will give peace, saith the Lord of hosts."—D.T.
"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 (Haggai 1:15), and about two months after the second prophecy (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 verses 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 verses 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.
I. 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.
1. 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.
2. 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.
II. 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."
1. 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.?
2. 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.—D.T.
"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 man's temporalities; or, in other words, his earthly circumstances, his secular condition. And the passage suggests three ideas in relation to this subject.
I. 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!
II. 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:
1. 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."
2. That even this occasional expression of God's 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.
III. 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?
1. 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."
2. 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.
3. That we may have a practical consciousness that retribution is at work in the Divine government.—D.T.
"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—
I. 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.
II. 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:
1. As God is eternally against the false and the wrong and the tyrannic, he may be said to be the Author of these revolutions.
2. 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."
III. 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" (verse 23). What is here said of Zerubbabel suggests three thoughts.
1. 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.
2. That good men will receive the highest distinction. "I will make thee as a signet," A signet indicates:
(1) 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.
(2) 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
3. 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—D.T.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Haggai 2". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29