10 On the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Haggai: 11 “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Ask the priests what the law says: 12 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?’”
The priests answered, “No.”
13 Then Haggai said, “If a person defiled by contact with a dead body touches one of these things, does it become defiled?”
“Yes,” the priests replied, “it becomes defiled.”
14 Then Haggai said, “‘So it is with this people and this nation in my sight,’ declares the Lord. ‘Whatever they do and whatever they offer there is defiled.
15 “‘Now give careful thought to this from this day on—consider how things were before one stone was laid on another in the Lord’s temple.16 When anyone came to a heap of twenty measures, there were only ten. When anyone went to a wine vat to draw fifty measures, there were only twenty. 17 I struck all the work of your hands with blight, mildew and hail, yet you did not return to me,’ declares the Lord. 18 ‘From this day on, from this twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, give careful thought to the day when the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid. Give careful thought: 19 Is there yet any seed left in the barn? Until now, the vine and the fig tree, the pomegranate and the olive tree have not borne fruit.
“‘From this day on I will bless you.’”
(Haggai 2:10-19 NIV)
After Haggai spoke the first word of the Lord to the leaders and people of Israel, rebuking them for not rebuilding the Temple as they had been commissioned, the people repented, listened, and began the rebuilding work.
About a month after the Lord had rebuked the leaders and people, the Lord spoke again, this time to encourage the leaders and the people to be strong, take courage, keep working, and not to let fear stop the rebuilding work. This was a crucial moment in Israel’s history. Even though this Temple was smaller than Solomon’s original Temple, the Lord promised to fill this new Temple with more glory than the original one. And more importantly, the Lord promised to bring peace, something the leaders and Israelite had not known for a very, very long time.
As we step into today’s text, we see the Lord speaking through Haggai the prophet again, this time approximately two months after He spoke words of encouragement to the leaders and the people.
The Lord directed Haggai to ask two questions to the priests:
- If something consecrated (such as a piece of cooked meat offered on the altar) touches something common (such as other food), will the common things become holy? The priests’ answer was “no”.
- If someone ceremonially unclean touches anything, whether holy or unholy, will that thing become unclean? The priests answered, “yes, it becomes defiled (unclean)”.
The Lord used these two questions to show that He had considered the people ceremonially unclean. The Lord had set Israel apart (made them holy) to do His work (rebuilding the Temple). But the leaders and people had stopped for fifteen years, and the Temple stood like a dead corpse in the middle of their city, a testimonial to their unfinished work and disobedience to the Lord.
With the entire city pronounced as unclean before the Lord, this affected not only their status before the Lord but also their well-being. The famine, droughts, and pestilence were all a direct result of their disobedience to the Lord.
Thankfully, this was not the end of the Lord’s word through Haggai the prophet. In verses 18-19, the Lord does something no one else can do – He offers salvation by His grace and blessing to His people once again.
Let’s take a quick look at the calendar to understand the context of the Lord’s statement. The original word of the Lord was in late September, during the harvest. This third word from the Lord was three months later, in December. The harvest was complete, the fall tillage was done, the late autumn rains had fallen, and the winter seeds were sown, and the uncertainty of spring lay ahead.
And yet now, in December, the Lord offered His blessings due to the obedience of the people in rebuilding the Temple. The Lord predicted that there would be great physical harvest as a result of His blessings on His people, just there would be a great spiritual blessing on His people because they obeyed and were rebuilding the Temple.
May we see the image of Christ painted in today’s story – how we who were unclean with no hope of redemption were pronounced clean and holy by God’s grace, through Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. and how we are promised God’s blessings of eternal life, just as the Lord promised the blessing of an abundant crop next September while the seed lay dormant in the December ground.
May we see how we are promised God’s blessings of eternal life through Christ, just as the Lord promised the blessing of an abundant crop next September while the seed lay dormant in the December ground before spring and summer had come.
May we see that like that seed that lay in that soil, unless we die to self, we cannot produce a harvest and multiply His glory as the Lord intended.