Haggai: 8 Lessons in Priorities (Part 3)

Posted on February 9, 2018

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By David Ettinger

I have been a longtime writer for the magazine Zion’s Fire. Here’s an article I wrote from 1999, and felt it would make for a good blog series, in four parts. (I freshened it up a tad.) Today, Part 3, Lessons 5 & 6. Read Part 1 here. Read Part 2 here. 

Lesson 5. God’s Will Revealed through Right Priorities (2:6-9)
Man’s Priority: To live for the moment.

Outcome: Not seeing the greater purpose for which God desires to use us.

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While building the Temple, the Israelites were no doubt looking exclusively at the times in which they lived and believed the structure they were working on would be used solely as a place for worship and sacrifices. Looking hundreds of years in the future was far from their thinking. Therefore, this prophecy by Haggai must have shocked them: “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord Almighty” (2:6-7).

Upon hearing these words, those building the Temple must have looked at their modest work and asked, Will God bring glory to this place? It looks so small and insignificant. However, unlike people, God lives in the moment and for His future glory. As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we, too, are guilty of the same thinking as the Israelites, living solely for what we see and experience without considering for what future purposes God may use us.

God’s Priority: To use all things for His glory, both present and future.

Long before the post-exilic Jews began work on the new Temple, God already determined its function. On the one hand, the Israelites of Haggai’s day were right. The Temple indeed would serve as a place for worship and daily sacrifice. But far more, God saw the modest structure as being so much more. “‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty” (2:8-9).

The promise that the second Temple would be “greater than the former” – meaning the Solomonic Temple – had two fulfillments. Physically, the Temple would be drastically enlarged by Herod the Great, turning it into a world wonder. Even greater, however, was that the very Temple the Israelites were constructing during the time of Haggai would be visited by Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry. The Israelites who were so discouraged by their current work had no idea that the promised Messiah would stand in the Temple their hands were fashioning.

Haggai’s Message to Us: Obey God fully, and watch Him do great things.

Lesson 6. A Matter of Priorities (2:10-14)

Man’s Priority: Acting like the world and not being separated unto the Lord.

Outcome: Defilement by sin.

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Now that God had blessed and encouraged the Israelites for their obedience, He was concerned they would return to their old, sinful ways. The Jewish populace had just emerged from a special time of communion with the Lord, but this was no guarantee they would continue in fellowship with Him. Therefore, God gave them an illustration of sin and holiness. He said: “If someone carries consecrated meat in the fold of their garment, and that fold touches some bread or stew, some wine, olive oil or other food, does it become consecrated?” (2:12). The answer is “no.” God’s message is clear – holiness is not contagious.

When we as Christians have done right before God, we have a tendency to relax and pat ourselves on the back. We often lose our edge because we believe we have “done our duty” for God. However, holiness is an ongoing, minute-by minute, hour-by-hour, day-by-day, year-by-year process. We want quick gratification spiritually; God desires a reflective, meaningful fellowship. We often relate to God with ritual, but God desires that we love Him “with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5). We too often divide our time between God and the world, but God requires that in everything we do, we are to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).

God’s Priority: That God’s people live holy lives and be separated unto Him.

With the Israelites commended and encouraged, there was the possibility their mindset could change. From the hopelessness they felt at the “smallness” of the structure they were building, to the soaring of their spirits after Haggai told them God’s plan of its future glory, there easily could have come a letdown in the people’s zeal for both God and their task. This lack of zeal would border on sin, and God gave them a lesson in it. “‘If a person defiled by contact with a dead body touches one of these things [listed in v. 12], does it become defiled?’ ‘Yes,’ the priests replied, ‘it becomes defiled’” (2:13).

haggai BibleAgain, God’s message is clear: Where holiness is not contagious, sin is contagious. Whenever we sin, it is rarely “restricted” to just us. Sin spreads like a disease, infecting friends, family, and loved ones. God was concerned that His people know this, for though as a unit they obeyed, He knew that individual sin would spread throughout the congregation and ruin the sweet fellowship which had just been established. This is why God tells Haggai, “So it is with this people … Whatever they do and whatever they offer there is defiled” (2:14). And so it is with Christians who sin and do not seek repentance. Sin causes our works before God to be unclean until we right ourselves of our transgressions.

Haggai’s Message to Us: Be separated unto God, and do His bidding.

Up next, Lessons 7 & 8.