Haggai 2:20-23, "The King's Seal"
Two weeks ago, Pastor Joshua talked about King Solomon. As a young king God told him to ask for whatever he wanted. Of everything that he could have asked for, Solomon’s request was for wisdom to lead God’s people. God was so pleased that he also gave Solomon what he did not ask for, wealth and honor. It was Solomon who built the temple for the people of Israel. Solomon built the temple from a position of wealth and honor. To say that it was immaculate would be the understatement of the year. It was built with such quality, beauty, detail, and the finest of materials. Much of it was overlaid with pure gold.That was Solomon’s temple.
Today, we’re going to fast forward about 450 years. The people of Israel turned away from the Lord again and again and again and provoked Him to such anger that they were struck with war, famine, and pestilence. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon overthrew Jerusalem. He burned the temple, took away the vessels in the temple, and took away the vast majority of anyone who had any skill or importance leaving a ruined city to be possessed by the poorest and weakest. Jerusalem; everything and everyone left in it was a desolation.
After 70 years of exile, the people were allowed to return home. They rebuilt the altar and laid the foundations of the temple. But some of the Levites and priests and old men still remembered what Solomon’s temple was like. We’re told in the book of Ezra that when the foundations were laid, the sound of the people was heard from far away but that the cries of joy couldn’t be distinguished from the people’s weeping. Shortly after that, the people faced opposition and work on the temple ceased. Nothing more was done on it for 18 years.
After that time, God sent his prophet Haggai. God Gave just four messages over the span of three months through Haggai. The first message was a call for repentance. The people had given into the pressures and temptations not to build the temple and told themselves that it simply wasn’t the right time. But yet, they somehow thought it was time to pursue luxuries, and personal wealth and comfort. They thought they they could get on with their lives and that worshipping didn’t need to be a part of that, but that it could come later. They did not value or prioritize service and worship to the Lord, but it didn’t amount to anything. They were still poor and trouble. God points out that He hasn’t blessed them because with hearts like theirs, they really couldn’t be called His people. They were their own people. They worshipped themselves. After that call to repent the people did begin to work on the temple, but we learn that this was not a full repentance and the work would be dropped in less than a month.
That brings us to Haggai’s second message. The people were quickly discouraged in seeing that their work would not and could not compare to Solomon’s temple. “What’s the point? Why waste our time building a worthless heap? What value is that to God?” God reassures them that their work is one of faith and that the combination of stones and gold is not what’s of value, but it’s their service to Him. Their love and faith in Him. He doesn’t need them to give gold because all the gold is His anyway. But he promises them of a future glory that will far surpass the glory of Solomon’s temple.
After that message, Zechariah’ ministry of prophecy began. After Zechariah’s first message, the people did repent. After that, God’s next message to the people was again through Haggai. In his third message then, he told them that they weren’t saved simply because they were working, because of their deeds, but that their hearts needed to be pure before the Lord. They were told to work. They were promised that God was they one who would glorify their work and give it meaning and value. They were reminded to be pure before the Lord as they continued to serve Him.
Finally, we come to Haggai’s last message. It’s given on the same day as the previous call for purity. This message is different in that it’s not given the people of Israel, but it’s given specifically to one man, Zerubbabel. Why was that? Why a specific message to this one man? That’s a good question that needs to be answered if we are to fully understand the thrust of this message.
Babylon, the country who overthrew Jerusalem, was overthrown by the nation of Media, who were later overthrown by King Cyrus of Persia. This all happened during Israel’s exile. God worked through Cyrus to return Israel home when the time of exile and punishment was complete. But there was no reason for Cyrus to give up control of this taxable people and land. Hence the need for governors, someone who enforced peace and justice as a representative of the king. That was Zerubbabel. He was the governor of Israel.
By birth, Zerubbabel would have been king of Israel had the people not been conquered and taken into exile, but blood line was not exactly a benefit for Zerubbabel. He did descend from some very Godly men. David (a man after God’s own heart), Hezekiah and Josiah (who we’re told trusted so greatly in the Lord so that there were no kings before or after them), but Zerubbabel was also the grandson of Jeconiah, also known as Jehoiachin.
This is what God says about Jeconiah in Jeremiah. [READ JEREMIAH 22:24-30] Vs. 24 A signet ring was a symbol of the king’s authority. It bore the king’s personal insignia. A king would pour out hot wax and press his ring onto the puddle as it cooled to leave a distinctive impression, a seal. The signet ring was the seal of authenticity and authority. One ring to rule them all. Just kidding, but God says of Jeconiah, that even if you were the seal and symbol of my authority, I would hurl you away to the people who want kill you. “Write this man down as childless.... for none of his offspring shall succeed in sitting on the throne of David and ruling again in Judah”.
This might raise a big question. If none of Jeconiah’s offspring would be king, then what about God’s promise for the eternal king to come from David’s line? I can only speak briefly to this question. After the exile, Israel had always remained as a country under control by outside powers such as the Persians, or Alexander the Great and the Greeks, or the Roman Empire. Therefore, Zerubbabel and anyone after him were nothing more than governors or vassal kings. Also, Jesus was from the line of David in that He was raised as Joseph’s oldest son and was his heir, but Jesus was born of Mary, conceived of the Holy Spirit. He is the line of David, but not the blood of David. Begat of David, but not born. This was Israel’s law for continuing family lines in the absence of physical heirs. Jesus is the eternal king who conquered death. In a nutshell, God’s promise and curse were both upheld. I’d be happy to explain this in further detail after the sermon or over coffee some time, but for the sake of time, we have to continue on this morning.
We see that Zerubbabel was the son of a curse, a broken line. He’s not a king of a rich and powerful nation with armies and honor and full treasuries. Instead, he’s governor of a poor people and broken land. Even his name means son of Babylon. A slave. Basically, he has all the work and stress and headaches of a king, but no honor or perks. As he’s led the people to start rebuilding the altar and temple, his own people are grieved to the point of open weeping at the quality of his humble work. Even then, the neighboring people come in and create big obstacles. After Haggai’s messages, he’s still left building a very humble temple with an emotional and unreliable workforce that’s walked away from the project twice, and the second time coming less than a month after they restarted. Talk about humble circumstances. How would you like to be in Zerubbabel’s shoes? No thanks, right? No wonder he needs a word of encouragement from the Lord!
[READ VS 21-22] God reassures this Governor that He is sovereign and that victory is coming. But when? These verses are referred to in the book of Hebrews 12:26-27 “At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised. ‘Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.’ This phrase, ‘Yet once more,’ indicates the removal of things that are shaken - that is. things that have been made - in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain”. This points to the end times. So please turn with me to Revelation 16:13-21. Thunder, lightning, an earthquake such as there has never been, one hundred pound hailstones. Yep, I think that qualifies as a shaking of the heavens and the earth. In chapter 17, Scripture speaks again of this battle of Armageddon in verse 14 “They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.” That also fits God’s message in Haggai of of overthrowing the chariots and their riders.
God is clearly speaking of the end times to Zerubbabel. [READ VS 23] After that final battle of Armageddon, God promises on that day that Zerubbabel will be a symbol and seal of Gods authority.Wow! What a thing to be said to the lowly governor, grandson of the cursed Coniah. God reassures Zerubbabel that He has not forgotten his love and promise to David, and Zerubbabel’s repentance and service have not gone unnoticed.
What’s more, is that this isn’t the only encouragement God gives to Zerubbabel. [READ Zechariah 4:6-10] God promises that this mountain of a task that he’s undertaken will be accomplished. And this is not just a promise to succeed in one’s work, but this seemingly insurmountable task of glorifying God will be strengthened and completed not my might or power, but the one thing that actually gives us any sort of real strength, God’s Spirit.
So let’s put it all in perspective. Zerubbabel is born into a family curse. He is born into exile, born into a broken nation. Born as a prisoner. And though he is granted leadership, he doesn’t seem to wield any true power or authority and he leads from a very poor and compromised position. So it’s easy to see why the people initially walked away from the rebuilding of the temple that had originally been built from a position of power and abundance and peace. But then God speaks. And he leads them. And they listen. And eventually, they repent. Then God reminds them to be pure and promises to bless them. And on that same day, He returns to Haggai with a specific message for Zerubbabel. It’s like a coach who sends his team out onto the field and as they’re walking out to face their fight, he calls the captain back to the sideline for one more personal word. And he says this, “Hey, I know you see the hopelessness and trials more clearly than anyone else, so let me tell you something. I see it better than you. Let me tell you what’s coming down the road. I’m going to blow things up like you can’t imagine. Victory will come. I promise you that. And you’re a part of it. I am using you, and I will use you. Now go to work.
And we can all relate to Zerubbabel. We are born into this broken world. We are born into the slavery of sin. We born into the weakness of the flesh that so naturally and easily leads us to rebel against God. And even when we try to serve Him and please Him, we face the struggles of sin and rebellion and weakness at every turn of both ourselves and those we seek to minister to and with. It often seems impossible and hopeless to accomplish anything of significance. We share our faith for years, and we see the people around us only harden more and more to the Gospel. It can seem as if we constantly take one step forward and two steps back.
Reconstruction of the temple was an amazing thing. It was good. The temple was where God dwelled. It was where He spoke with the High priest. There was no project more important than this, and yet it caused Zerubbabel discouragement and fear. I am a firm believer not pushing agendas in sermons but letting the Word of God speak. But at this point, I strongly feel that this message to Zerubbabel is very applicable to our two churches and this proposed merge. I am so excited and hopeful for it, and I know many of you are as well. There are so many exciting advantages and opportunities. But some of us may be feeling some discouragement or even fear. We may feel like our role and identity in our churches is going to be overshadowed or become insignificant somehow in the new church. Or perhaps we simply don’t like the changes we know have to happen.
It’s so easy to become discouraged. Then, the temptation of a complacent and comfortable status quo becomes so appealing to us. I can’t do everything that I hoped to do, so that means I’m justified to settle for complacency. I’m justified to coast and enjoy life for awhile, or heal, or whatever term we might use. And hey, this actually is much easier and seems better for me and my family, so surely this is God rewarding me for all the junk I just went through. Yeah, yeah, that’s right. This is a reward. I didn’t fail. God’s rewarding me because I’m awesome and I deserve it. Thanks God! You’re pretty cool too. I’ll put this on the internet now with a cool picture so everyone else can see this and appreciate it too. And they’ll probably be encouraged. Look at me... rocking my faith. High five to myself.
But the easy life is not what God has called us to. Not as individuals. Not in our families. Not as his body. Rather, in the humility and vulnerability of our repentance, when we are faced with a mountain of a task before us, God encourages us. “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit”. We are to seek His Spirit. We are to be in the word daily. He spoke His word through His Spirit that we might know Jesus and be like Him. We can’t know what He is like or how to be like Him if we’re not seeking Him. Sunday morning sermons aren’t enough. Life group isn’t enough. Cracking open your bible once a year at home isn’t enough. It needs to be daily, because that’s how weak we are and that’s how much we need Him.
[READ 1 Corinthians 1:26-31] We should feel weak, but knowing our weakness can and should actually be our strength when we see ourselves and Jesus properly. He is the one who is wise. He is the one who redeems us. He is the one who makes us righteous. He is the one who sanctifies us. He is the one in whom we boast and find hope. Nothing else. Nowhere else. No one else. In Christ alone.
And He will use us. The beauty and mystery of salvation and redemption. Don’t be fooled into thinking that existence is the same as endurance. We need to continue striving to be what we ought. 1 Corinthians 6:3 reads “Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!” On that day when Zerubbabel will be made a symbol and seal of God’s authority, so will we! We will have jobs. We will represent Him. We will serve Him. So Paul says to us, prepare now. Seek to be what we’re supposed to be. If you obey, He will hold you up.
I would like to look one more time at the passage from Hebrew 12 where the writer repeats the prophecy from Haggai. [READ HEBREWS 12;26-29] We know what He is going to do. He doesn’t just say it the way that I say the sun is going to come tomorrow simply because it has everyday so far and I don’t know any way to stop it . No, God speaks truth and his promises are faithful because He is the one who has the strength to uphold and sustain everything and bring to fruition everything He promises. Victory is coming. The completion of our salvation IS coming.
So what do we do when we come face to face with our mountains tomorrow morning? How do we continue to live with integrity and humility when keep getting passed by for promotions because we don’t exaggerate our value or curse and shout and draw attention when we’re wronged? How do we continue our relationships with loved ones who aren’t believers nag us and put limitations and ultimatums on us about how much of our time and efforts we can actually give for God? How do we continue working with the people who just don’t understand us, how or why we do things? How do we persevere? What do we do in this merger situation where we “know” the benefits for the kingdom but can’t help “feeling” afraid of uncertainties?
“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for God is a consuming fire.” As hard as it may be, our job is to remain faithful. To keep on keeping on. God is a consuming fire, so that is a warning if we give up. Be strengthened to keep doing more than you believe you can because we don’t accomplish our own tasks, but God promises to accomplish his work through us even though we may not see the completion in this life. Let us remain faithful. Let us walk with integrity. Let us not give up. Let us be encouraged by the Almighty. And day after day after day, let us offer acceptable worship. And like Zerubbabel, God promises on that day, that we will be the seal of his Kingship.