Yesterday Peter gave us an excellent introduction to Haggai, and challenged us about putting God first even in, or perhaps especially in our busyness. Haggai is one of the shortest old testament books at only two chapters long, and chapter two covers three of the four parts of the structure of this book.
A bit over a month after chapter 1, the people have been obediently building God’s temple, but morale is low. They realise that their effort post exile will result in nothing like the former glory of the original temple, so Haggai reminds them to be strong, since the Lord is with them. He reminds them of God’s promise in Isaiah to build a new Jerusalem which will be even more glorious than the original one.
The next little section may seem a bit strange, as a couple of months later, Haggai has this crazy conversation with some priests about touching dead bodies and food. The point he is making is that building God’s temple won’t make the people Holy, quite the opposite, unless they repent and live like they are God’s people, then whatever they build, including the temple, will be unclean, and not holy.
Yet God is faithful – He wants to keep blessing his people. He reminds them that he has not blessed them since they started building, because although they had obeyed in building the temple, their hearts are rebellious. He calls them to repent and have humble hearts and declares then that from this day on I will bless you.
Similarly for us, going to church is not going to make us right with God, but rather, when we repent and trust in Jesus, if two or three of us gather together, that’s church right there, and Jesus is in our midst. God longs for us to have a humble heart. It’s this humble heart that Jesus commends in our Luke reading – for such generosity, giving all she had to live on, cannot come from a proud heart and a haughty spirit, but rather from someone willing to be utterly dependent on God.
The book of Haggai closes with verses 20-23, looking to the future when God will shake the heavens and the earth and overthrow the throne of kingdoms. And God has chosen Zerubbabel from the line of David to be like a signet ring or a representative of God’s authority.
Yet clearly, since the people are already rebuilding a temple that has already been noted as only a shadow of the glory of the former temple, it is unlikely that Zerubbabel will be the one who ushers in the New Jerusalem. Yes. God has a new, messianic king in the wings, also in the line of David, and he will usher in a new kingdom, but his plan is yet to be fully revealed.