A New Beginning

You can listen to the podcast for this message here.

Last week we were reminded that while men may look at the works of someone’s hands, God looks on the motives and the heart. We saw that doing holy things does not make one holy. Because of the sinful condition of the people’s hearts, everything they touch became unclean. Haggai concluded by telling them that this day could be their defining moment. This morning we’re going to look God’s plan for Zerubbabel in Haggai’s fourth and final message.

Take one final look in Haggai at 2:20-23.

It was the second message of the day. The Word of God is once again delivered to the prophet. It is the second time that day that God would speak to Haggai. Don’t underestimate this. For the most part, the Lord spoke directly to the prophets and told them what to say to the people. That was the system. It was the 24th day of the 9th month, the same day as the third message from 2:10-19. No other prophecy has so many distinct dates. Why is this important? The exact dates can be historically verified. Since the dates are included, the accuracy of the prophecy can be evaluated. It was the 24th day of the month – Dec. 18, 520 B.C.

There’s a storm coming. The Lord speaks directly to Zerubbabel in vs. 21-22 and only him. Think about this: the Lord God Almighty is talking to Haggai telling him to tell Zerubbabel something very specific. Think about the times in your life that you really needed to hear something from the Lord. Perhaps you needed direction. You needed strength in a time of weakness. Maybe it was courage to stand firm in a time that you were afraid. While the movie Evan Almighty was not a theological masterpiece, there is one instance in which the actor playing God asks a very thought provoking question. “God: Let me ask you something. If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does He give them the opportunity to be patient? If he prayed for courage, does God give him courage, or does He give him opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for the family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does He give them opportunities to love each other?” An excellent series of questions.

When you really need to hear from God, He is always there, always ready to give an answer, always ready to give hope, encouragement, guidance, love. I encourage you to pray specifically. Keep a journal. Sometimes God doesn’t work the way we think He should. That’s why He’s God. He knows the end from the beginning. He knows the best way and He’ll speak to you if you’ll just listen and trust Him. So the word for Zerubbabel comes from the Lord to Haggai. Here’s what coming: read vs. 21b-22. By the use of the pronoun “I”, it looks like it’s personal. God is going to shake and overthrow – kind of like the shock and awe of the Gulf War. That word overthrow is the same word in reference to Sodom and Gomorrah where God personally saw to its destruction as recorded in Genesis, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, and Deuteronomy. It’s the same type of personal involvement when God threw Pharaoh’s horses, riders, chariots, and the whole army into the Red Sea as told in Exodus. Haggai talks about the overthrow of thrones of kingdoms and the destruction of the power of the kingdoms of the nations. God is going to see to it. All Zerubbabel and the remnant need to do is continue with the work before them. Keep their focus, walk by faith.

Look at the chosen lineage in v. 23. God has a specific plan. Zerubbabel was not a prophet like Haggai or a priest like Joshua. He was a statesman, a politician just like Joseph, Daniel, and Nehemiah. He was the civil leader for the Jewish community. “On that day.” The day has not yet arrived, but when it does God says, “I will make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you.” It’s easy to get discouraged when it appears that the world is against you. Ezra 4:1-5 tells us that the enemies of the Jews were bent on preventing the rebuilding of the temple. It was a very unsettled region and Zerubbabel needed some encouragement. Turn over one book in the Bible to the right and read Zech. 4:6-9. Zerubbabel was chosen; it’s good to get picked. When you look at the lineage of the Messiah in Matthew 1 and Luke 3, you will see the name Zerubbabel. Jesus Christ came from this line – it’s nice to be chosen.

As we close this series, we need to understand a few things from this verse that will help us as we continue to pursue God’s mission for us. Don’t rely on your own strength to accomplish God’s will. Remember Zechariah saying, “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit.” Yes we must be obedient, plan, execute the plan, enlist volunteers, etc., but it’s God that will transform the heart. Don’t allow circumstances or what’s going on around you to derail what the Lord has called you to do. What God starts, He will finish. This includes His work in us and through us. Paul said, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 1:6) In John 19:30 Jesus said, “It is finished.”

Haggai’s prophecy spans about 3 ½ months. A pretty short period of time. I want to leave you with five things to think about having looked at Haggai’s prophecy whose main theme involves rebuilding the temple.

  1. Rebuilding the temple was a reflection of the people’s priorities.
  2. Second, it showed that God was with the remnant and that His promises of restoration had begun to be fulfilled.
  3. Third, it declared God’s glory and thus brought Him pleasure.
  4. Fourth, it served to vindicate the Lord since the temple’s destruction had disgraced the Lord’s name.
  5. Fifth and perhaps most critical, it served as a pledge of the new covenant and the messianic age.

We don’t know what happened to Zerubbabel – Scripture is silent. Some would argue that Haggai’s prophecy never came true. Heb. 11:39 says, “And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised.” Haggai’s promises given to Zerubbabel, while true of him in a limited way, find their ultimate expression in a greater Zerubbabel who was to come. This is really a message of hope, a message of God’s continued love for us and His desire to see everyone enter into a relationship with His Son.

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