In this chapter, we have three sermons preached by the prophet Haggai for the encouragement of those who were now diligently engaged in building the Temple. The first of them was delivered about seven weeks after the sermon he preached in chapter 1:1. In that message, he assured the builders that the glory of the house that they were now raising would – in spiritual respects, although not in outward – exceed that of Solomon’s Temple. And in this declaration, Haggai had an eye to the coming of the Messiah (verses 1-9). The second discourse in this chapter transpired just over two months after the last one, and took the form of a dialogue involving the priests. And herein the prophet declared that although the people’s sin in delaying to build the Temple had hindered the prosperous progress of all their other affairs, yet now that they had set about it in good earnest, the Lord would bless them and give them success (verses 10-19). Finally, on that same day, Haggai was told to particularly address Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah; and these words are recorded in the concluding verses (20-23) of the Book. He was to tell the governor that as a reward of his pious zeal and activity in the building of the Lord’s house, he would be blessed by God, and one of the ancestors of Messiah the Prince – Whose Kingdom was to be established upon the ruins of all opposing powers.
Haggai’s second message – in verses 1-9 of this chapter – was addressed to Zerubbabel the governor, Joshua the priest, and all the people. A comparison of Ezra 3:13 with this passage will show how certain of the elderly Jews who remembered the former Temple lamented the comparative inferiority of this one that was now being raised (verse 3). Such memories tended to dishearten the people, so the prophet appealed to them to be strong and to work; and in the name of Jehovah, he promised them that they would enjoy His immediate presence and help (verses 4-5). And then, upon the basis of that promise, Haggai rose to the height of a more gracious one (verses 6-9). First, he says that there would be a terrible shaking of the nations of the earth (verses 6-7; also quoted in Hebrews 12:25-29). Convulsions, changes, and great revolutions and commotions would take place among the nations; but then – at the perfect moment in time – Jesus Christ, “the Desire of all nations,” would come! In Him, all the earth is blessed with the best of blessings, which were long-expected and desired by all Old Testament believers. And when Messiah came, this Temple which the Jews were now building would be filled with a glory that was very far beyond that which Solomon’s Temple ever possessed! (verse 9) It would be filled with glory of another nature, even though they were not able to decorate this house with silver and gold to the degree that Solomon decorated his. Haggai comforted the builders with the assurance that the glory of this second Temple would be greater than that of the former, because the physical and personal presence of the Messiah – the Son of God, and the Lord of glory, in human nature – would one day visit this very house!
About two months later, Haggai delivered his third message, wherein the people are addressed through a conversation with the priests. Unfortunately, many had spoiled this good work of rebuilding the Temple by going about it with unholy hearts and hands, and so they were unlikely to gain any advantage or blessing by it. The main point that Haggai was endeavoring to convey to the people by his dialog with the priests was that sin is more easily learned from others than holiness. A holy object cannot sanctify something that is unclean by mere contact, but alas – how easy it is for something that is pure and clean to be quickly defiled by filthy, abominable pollution! Hence it was not enough for the people to just zealously go through the motions of sawing wood and chiseling stone so that the Temple could be raised; for the impurity of the people’s hearts and lives was making the work of their hands, and all their offerings, unclean before God. And the case is the same with us. The ceremonial uncleanness that is spoken of in verses 11-14 is a picture of the polluted and utterly lost state of our whole nature, and the cleansing from that pollution can only be in Christ.
The last message of Haggai (verses 20-23) was delivered on the same day as the previous one, and it was an enforcement and explanation of that promise: “I will bless you.” It consisted first of a repetition of the declaration of Jehovah’s determination to shake the heavens and the earth, in order to destroy all false authority and power; and then there was a promise of the establishment of true authority. Haggai was commissioned to deliver this special message to Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah, because he was a picture or foreshadow of Christ. For although the Lord might tell this governor not to feel alarm in the midst of the shaking of kingdoms and nations, yet this could not be intended to hold forth to Judah or Judah’s governor any peace in temporal things, in the midst of the commotion – for in fact, it was not so! Therefore, the shaking that is here spoken of must allude to the overthrow of Satan’s kingdom and power, and all who oppose Christ and His blessed Gospel. And in the assurance of the certainty of the outcome of that conflict, Zerubbabel – as a picture of Jesus – would enjoy sweet assurances indeed! Jesus descended from Zerubbabel in a direct line, and He is the sole Builder of the Gospel-Temple. And no matter what changes and upheavals take place on earth, everything will promote the comfort and honor and happiness of His servants!
Lord, we pray that You would bestow grace upon all Your redeemed people on earth, so that they may grow up into a holy spiritual Temple that is fit to be a habitation of the Holy Spirit! Amen.
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