Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
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 (vers. 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. (Ver. 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 (ver. 5).
2. The national upheavings which should take place, and which should be overruled to their good (vers. 6, 7).
3. The halo of glory which should eventually rest upon the shrine they were rearing (vers. 7, 9).
4. The Divine proprietorship of all material resources (ver. 8).
5. The deep and durable tranquillity which should be experienced as the result of the development of the Divine purposes (ver. 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.
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.
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" (ver. 4); i.e. Be comforted.
2. It should take from them all craven fear, inspiring them with holy courage: "Fear ye not" (ver. 5).
3. It should impel them to renewed consecrated endeavour: "and work" (ver. 4). - S.D.H.
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 (vers. 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 here 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 (vers. 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. (vers. 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 ver. 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" (Keil and Delitzsch, on 'The Minor Prophets,' vol. 2:193, 194).
3. A time of settled peace and prosperity (ver. 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" (McCundy; see Lange's 'Commentary on Haggai,' p. 19).
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.
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.
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. (ver. 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. (ver. 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 Psalm 84:1; Psalm 65:1, 2; Psalm 122:1, 2; and he can apply to these modern sanctuaries the grand old promise of his God, "And I will fill," etc. (ver. 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.
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. (ver. 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, 2. Regard to this ensures gain. Cornelius an example (Acts 10:1, 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.
2. Regard to this ensures gain. Cornelius an example (Acts 10:1, 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.
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. (ver. 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 (Psalm 73:16, 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.
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 (Leveticus 6:27), answered, "No" (vers. 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 (ver. 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.). 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 (ver. 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 (vers. 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" (ver. 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! II. THE ASSURANCE OF FUTURE PROSPERITY. (Ver. 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" (ver. 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, 22). - S.D.H.
II. THE ASSURANCE OF FUTURE PROSPERITY. (Ver. 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" (ver. 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, 22). - S.D.H.
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 vers. 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 vers. 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.
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.
I. THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF JUDGING RESPECTING THE FUTURE FROM PRESENT APPEARANCES. The seer referred to coming commotions and upheavings in national life (vers. 21, 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 vers. 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. (Ver. 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.
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" (ver. 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.