Unclean by Association

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Last week the people were called to remember the temple of old. Turns out there wasn’t a lot of people that actually had an accurate picture of the temple in its glory. The excitement of the project has quickly turned to disappointment. We saw the importance of getting the leaders on board. We need to take courage because God is with us. This morning we’re going to look at the uncleanliness of a nation in Haggai’s third message.

I encourage you to read Haggai 2:10-19.

It has been just over two months since Haggai’s second sermon. The Lord is still speaking through Haggai. Zerubbabel and Joshua are not mentioned and is seems that Haggai is speaking directly to the people. He tells the people to ask the, “priests for a ruling.” Ruling is the Hebrew word Torah. It’s interesting that Haggai would encourage the people to ask for a ruling. The prophet is deferring a ruling to the priest acknowledging his authority. On an interesting note, this is the only place in the O. T. where a priestly ruling is asked for and given.

Here’s the “what if” question that is asked to the priests. Check out verse 12. Notice the “if” then the “and.”  It complicates the ruling. You have to ask the question, “What does it mean to be holy?” Something or someone that is holy is set apart for a specific purpose or task. The priest is considered holy, the altar, the utensils used in sacrifices, places can be holy. There are cases where direct contact with something holy does transfer its holiness to that object. Ex. 29:21 tells us that Aaron’s garments were holy because he wore them. Ex. 29:37 says that anything that touches the altar is made holy. So in v. 12, if I’m carrying some holy meat in my robe, and the robe touches some other food, the holiness or purity from the meat is not transferred to anything else. The transference only happens when in direct contact. The question in v. 12 is about tertiary contact. The priests say holiness is not transferred – it is an accurate rendering of the Law.

So Haggai offers another scenario in v. 13. You’ve got to be thinking, where is Haggai going with this? If someone who is unclean touches the holy meat, that uncleaness is transferred. Think of it this way, I can infect you if I have a cold, but I can’t infect you with my health. If my hands are dirty and I touch a white tablecloth, the dirt is transferred, but I can’t leave a clean mark. So the point is you can easily transfer impurity, but imparting holiness is a whole different matter.

Look at the condition of the people in v. 14. B.   Haggai led them down a self condemning path. There is no warmth in the words Haggai uses. The people are unclean, the nation is unclean, and everything they do is unclean. The people have been tasked to rebuild the temple – it is a very sacred task. Because they are spiritually unclean, everything they touch turns unclean. Even the sacrifices they offer on the altar built according to Ezra 3:2 are defiled because they are unclean. The major problem with the people is their sinful condition. Until that issue is resolved, nothing they do will be pleasing to the Lord. The religiosity of the group you’re a part of doesn’t matter. No matter your good works, or what you do for the church, your family, your boss, unless you are spiritually clean, it doesn’t make a difference to God. And there it is: the danger of doing God’s work is that somehow the holiness of the task is transferred to the doer. Doing God’s work can provide a holier than thou attitude – a self righteous attitude. That’s why busyness in the church is so dangerous. The church has sort of enforced the idea that the busiest people are the most spiritual. That is not the standard. The nation of Judah was rebuilding God’s house and they thought they were good, but Haggai told them otherwise. Haggai was clear that you cannot transfer holiness. Just because you are doing something “holy” does not make you holy.

Haggai offers some good instruction in vs. 15-19. Think about cause and effect. It was George Santayana that said, “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” From here on out, think about God in light of what is happening around you. “Consider from this day onward.” Haggai reminds them of what was going on when the rebuilding began. Look at v. 16. The grain harvest was reduced by 50%. The grape harvest was reduced by 60%. Look at the first part of v. 17. Did you catch the complete opposite weather conditions? Blasting wind refers to a scorching wind that would burn the crops. Then there’s the mildew; that comes from excessive moisture. Then there’s the hail.  Hail can really do some damage to crops. Kind of reminiscent of the plagues of Egypt. The truly condemning phrase is at the end of v. 17. “Yet you did not come back to me.” All of these bad things have happened to the people yet they didn’t get a clue. 230 years earlier the prophet Amos said in 4:9, “I smote you with scorching wind and mildew; And the caterpillar was devouring Your many gardens and vineyards, fig trees and olive trees; Yet you have not returned to Me,” declares the Lord.” In spite of the things God did to try and get their attention, the people didn’t get it. Haggai is saying, “Don’t forget what happened to you, learn from your mistakes.”

Haggai concludes his third message with the now familiar word, “consider” in vs. 18-19. This is to be the turning point for the people. Haggai repeats the date maybe so they can write it down, maybe so they’ll lock this date in their minds. Joshua 24:15 reminds us to, “Choose this day whom you will serve.”

This is the defining moment. For the people of Judah, this was the day that could define them.


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