The Book of Haggai : Study No.5 Repentance and Renewal (2:10-19)

Study No.5   Repentance and Renewal (2:10-19)

(Vs.10-14) “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: “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Ask the priests what the law says: If a person carries consecrated meat in the fold of his garment, and that fold touches some bread or stew, some wine, oil or other food, does it become consecrated?’” The priests answered, “No.” 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.” 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.”

Now through the prophet Haggai the LORD asks him to ask the priests a legal question in two parts that was not a difficulty for them to understand or to answer. These questions make the point that uncleanliness defiles everything that it comes into contact with. The opposite is however, not the case. If a priest were to carry a piece of meat consecrated to God in the folds of his robe any item of food that came into contact with that fold would not thereby become  ceremonially clean, though the garment itself would be clean, according to Leviticus 6:17. On the other hand a defiled person who had touched a corpse rendered unclean everything it touched. In God’s sight the fact that the work on the temple had been halted for the past 16 years represented the remnant of Judah as having been unclean through their disobedience in neglecting God House resulting in all of the areas of their lives being defiled.

Spiritually understood He that is holy in character, our Triune God, imparts no holiness of character to anything or anyone else defiled by sin because he that is defiled communicates defilement and God cannot look upon or tolerate sin without judging it. In other words, work and worship do not sanctify sin.

As we read in Habakkuk the prophet; “Are You not from everlasting, O LORD, my God, my Holy One? We will not die. O LORD, You have appointed them to execute judgment; O Rock, You have established them for correction. Your eyes are too pure to look upon evil, and You cannot tolerate wrongdoing” (Habakkuk 1:12-13). And again it is written; “The LORD is in His holy temple; the LORD is on His heavenly throne. His eyes are watching closely; they examine the sons of men” (Psalm 11:4). And again we read; “For You are not a God that has pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with You (Psalm 5:4, 5). And yet again we read; “The LORD is in His holy temple, the LORD’S throne is in heaven: His eyes behold his eyelids test and scrutinize, the children of men (Psalm 11:4-7).

When God was present in His temple unconfessed and harboured sin that was being nurtured in the lives of His people would not be accepted or tolerated by Him as true worship because, as God’s holy people, we are to worship Him in His holiness, not in defilement. Sin that has not been confessed and cleansed through the blood of the Messiah our Lord Jesus contaminates the work and worship of God no matter how successful by human reasoning or standards it may seem to be. As the Psalmist writes; “Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His name; bring an offering and enter His courts. Worship the LORD in the splendour of His holiness; tremble before Him, all the earth” (Psalm 96:8).

As God also said through Rabbi the apostle Paul; “What agreement can exist between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be My people.” “Therefore come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” And: “I will be a Father to you, and you will be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:16-18).

Paul also writes; “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1). If we have been redeemed by the blood of Messiah, and have availed ourselves of that blood, and through faith in Him to save us and His blood to cleanse us, and are seeking to walk moment by moment in step with the Holy Spirit then God will be as a father to us and treat us as His sons and daughters, and treat us in the same way as He would treat His Son our Lord Jesus.

If we have made the Lord Jesus our saviour and Lord, have confessed our sins and have a deep desire to overcome its power and presence in our lives, and with the help of the blessed Holy Spirit living on the inside of us, then we need to work at cleansing ourselves from all spiritual defilement of our fleshly fallen nature with its appetites and desires as we seek to persevere by faith, and through this perfecting holiness in the fear of God. When the Holy Spirit really goes to work in God’s living temple the first thing He deals with is spiritual defilement in the lives of His people.

Once the blessed Holy Spirit has dealt with this defilement and washed it away through applying the blood of Jesus to our heart and conscience He then pours out the rich blessings of God upon those who have repented and expressed sorrow for their sins. There is a story told of a little boy who was sitting in a Sunday school class where the teacher asked a question. “What is repentance?” This little boy piped up; “Being so sorry for sin that you stop doing it!” While it is the Spirits work to impart God’s holiness to us, which in reality is the holiness of the Lord Jesus Himself who is our holiness, our spiritual walk with God can be hindered, when, as the LORD’s consecrated people, we indulge in something the Bible considers sin and we are spiritually defiled. All of us struggle with the desires of our sinful nature which are constantly at war with the desires of our new regenerated nature that has been imparted to us through God’s Spirit living in us, but we also know that He that is in us through His Spirit, our Lord Jesus, is greater than he that is in the world being Satan (Galatians 5:16-27) (1 John 4:4).

The writer to Hebrews understood this struggle that all the redeemed saints of God down through the ages have wrestled with being the desires of the sinful nature, and yet they became the heroes of faith, heroes, because they walked by faith and availed themselves continuously of the grace of God that provided for their cleansing and forgiveness and brought them to their everlasting reward (Hebrews Chapter 11:1-38).

The author of Hebrews then writes; “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of faith. For the joy set before Him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 11:39-12:1-3). And then we read…

 (Vs.15-19) “‘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. 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. I struck all the work of your hands with blight, mildew and hail, yet you did not turn to me,’ declares the Lord.” ‘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: 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.’”

Once again God says to His people two more times that they are to give careful thought from this day on. In other words what has happened in the past happened because of their disobedience in failing to complete the work of the Temple. Even though God understood why this had happened, and partly due to the opposition they had experienced, He still expected them to have continued their work. God always wants to bless His work and the lives of those who by faith keep doing what He requires of them despite opposition, and to do His work with a desire to be obedient to His will, which is good, acceptable and perfect to all of those who give their whole being and body into His hands without reserve to use them as He wills (Romans 12:1-2). If He gets control of our bodily appetites then He gets the contents as well!

Before they had started to build the temple God had allowed them to experience shortages of grain and wine and had struck their crops with blight, mildew and hail. He wanted them to get to work on building His temple. Now here in these verses where God has reminded them of what had happened in the past the people had been at work on the temple project for some three months now and there had been undoubtedly many indications of God’s gracious presence among them, but they had not as yet experienced the abundant harvests that result from God’s blessings. This was due to the fact that they were between harvests.

Their fields had been ploughed and the new seed planted in anticipation of a rich harvest, but their barns and their wine vats still showed the effects of their former disobedience. They contained only half of what they should have contained.  However, the people were to mark this day being December 18th by the Hebrew Calendar as the beginning of a new era. Their barns were still empty and the vines had not as yet born any fruit. But from this day on they would begin to see the visible results of their obedience as their experienced eyes observed the beginnings of a new and abundant harvest. Previously,  to a certain extent, they had obeyed in faith up to this point in time but from this day on being December 18th the words “I will bless you” from the LORD Himself would become a tangible reality.

Our faith as New Covenant believers in the Messiah our Lord Jesus is a faith that is expressed by obedience to what we believe and confess from the Word of God. What we actually believe will result in what we say and do, so our belief or faith must be the Biblical definition of faith (Hebrews 11:1, 6). It is a trust in God that is shown by our desire to be obedient. God calls it “the obedience of faith” or “the faith of obedience” (Romans 1:5 and 16:26). In both Testaments the word for “faith” in the Hebrew and Greek texts of the Bible has the idea of “faith” or “belief” but also contains the idea of “faithfulness” or “being faithful to what we believe.” (James 1:22-25; 2:14-26).

We all struggle to be obedient to the LORD and our obedience is by no means perfect because we are still in the process of being set apart to Him for His exclusive use and severed from the lusts and desires of our sinful nature by the indwelling Spirit of God (Romans 8:6-11). While we live in this body of flesh there is a spiritual outlaw out there whose fiery darts are constantly aimed at the shield of our faith in that he seeks to destroy our trust and confidence in God, especially in times when we are physically tired or struggling with the flesh or experiencing difficult circumstances (Ephesians 6:16).

Never the less, if our deep desire is to be obedient children and continue to walk by faith and in step with the Holy Spirit moment by moment, and with a deep desire to do all of God’s will, then God will bless our lives and others we come into contact with, whether friends, relatives or with one’s own immediate family members. Not only this, but in whatever God has called and gifted us to do we will produce spiritual fruitfulness in our lives and in the lives of others, both the saved and the unsaved.

Scarcity and lack of their daily necessities was the experience of the remnant of Israel who were back in Jerusalem and had the task from God to rebuild His temple. They had a partial blessing from God because of His great mercy and because He knew they had also suffered quite a deal of resistance from their implacable enemies when they had first arrived in Jerusalem. In the same way we all suffer opposition in our spiritual warfare when daily we are seeking first the kingdom of God and the righteousness that is bestowed upon us through faith (Romans 3:21-26). While we are made righteous in God’s sight by faith He expects us to act upon what we believe. When we do this God’s blessings will overtake us in His time and in His way. In the Old Testament we see clearly that God’s material blessings were given when His people sought to be obedient to His commands. There were blessings and curses attached to His law (Deuteronomy 28).

The sacrificial blood of the spotless lamb that atoned for the sins of the people was their covering and their spiritual provision from the LORD. The sins of the people were laid upon the lamb when it was sacrificed for their sin. However, the lamb’s blood had to be shed every year and its blood sprinkled upon the mercy seat in the Temple by the High Priest, who represented our great High Priest, mediator and intercessor before God, the Lord Jesus, and the lamb’s blood splattered on the mercy seat in the temple represented the Messiah’s blood that once and forever atoned for our sins and for the sins of the whole world when He died on the sacrificial altar of the cross (1 John 2:1-2) (Hebrews 9:-14). The Lord Jesus is our Passover Lamb who has been sacrificed for us (1 Corinthians 5:7). At the cross the curses attached to the law and their power were broken by the substitutionary death of the Messiah our Lord Jesus who became that curse and bore the weight of it upon His own shoulders (Galatians 3:13).  

His redeeming blood resulted in forgiveness of sin to all who truly repent with a willingness to turn from their sins and to turn to Him for forgiveness and cleansing from their sins by His blood (Ephesians 1:7) (1 John 1:9). When any man, woman, boy or girl turn to the Lord Jesus through repentance and faith in Him to save them and to cleanse them from all sin, the power of the curse of the law hanging over their lives is broken. It is only the blood of Messiah our Passover Lamb that can loose us from our sins and make us a priest in His spiritual temple (Revelation 1:5b-6).

Now His blessings in the New Testament are primarily spiritual ones, however, we are also promised material blessings according to our needs and not according to what we want. As Rabbi the apostle Paul writes; “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also, along with Him, freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:31b-32).

Sometimes, not always, a lack of material provision is not due to disobedience but to opposition and persecution, when, what we have, is taken from us by wicked and unprincipled men who do not have faith but are servants of Satan and directed by him to attack God’s people (Hebrews 10:33-34). Sometimes God will allow us to experience lack of material comforts to keep us from becoming contaminated by the world and all that it offers, yet He will never see the righteous ones living by faith in Him forsaken or their children begging for bread. As King David in his old age wrote; “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, And He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the LORD upholds him with His hand. I have been young, and now am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, Nor his descendants begging bread” (Psalm 37:23-25).

Like the people in the time of Haggai, we too have the tendency to sit back and to take things easy in serving God wholeheartedly due to the material affluence of the world, or because of opposition we have faced in the past when we were working for God in building His kingdom on earth and serving our brothers and sisters in God’s spiritual temple. We may have wealth and possessions for a time and to a degree living in our panelled houses and enjoying our lives and by this not putting God’s work first, but in these last days the wider Body of Messiah in the western democracies is going to experience a time of persecution, alienation and marginalization from society, and even being deprived of one’s material possessions because of their loyalty to the Lord Jesus.

Usually when a revival breaks out in any assembly of New Covenant believers Satan will up the ante on trying to put out the spiritual fire that has been ignited by the Holy Spirit within that part of God’s spiritual temple. We see this throughout the Bible and especially documented for us in the Book of Acts. Whether it was the people of God working on His physical temple in the Old Testament, or the living stones, being New Covenant believers in Messiah working together in God’s spiritual temple, there will always be opposition. However, God will, always supply what His people need because of His covenant promises sealed in the blood of His Son the Messiah our Lord Jesus. God always remembers His covenants! As it is written; He has remembered His covenant for ever, the word which He commanded to a thousand generations” (Psalm 105:8).

This portion of our text here in Haggai ends with God saying to them; “From this day on I will bless you.” God all along wanted to bless them but they had their part to play in this sanctifying process. There are conditions attached to receiving His full blessings (Proverbs 3:5-6) (James 4:7-8) (Matthew 6:33) (1 John 1:9) (Psalm 37:4) (Isaiah 40:31) (John 15:7) (2 Chronicles 7:14) (Matthew 6:14-15) (James 4:10).

While God in His unmerited, unearned favour and love towards us does bless us in despite of those times when we say or act in ignorance as His children, even when we might have the best of intentions, He will also have to use adversity to bring us back to relying upon Him in every spiritual and temporal matter. When He has taught us what we need to know He then says “From this day on I will bless you.” As God’s spiritual Temple on earth He is saying to us “get on with building My kingdom, don’t look back, or to the right or to the left. Cast off spiritual laziness and seek the help of My Holy Spirit to lay aside every weight of the sinful passions of the soulish fallen nature that can so easily beset you. Continue to work in and for My kingdom, seeking My will and to do it right, not perfectly, but according to what I have clearly revealed in My Word, and in seeking first My kingdom and My righteousness that I  bestow, and the field of your lives will yield a spiritual harvest, and the wine vats of your regenerated heart or spirit man will overflow with the new wine of the Spirit filled life!” In experiencing this work of God in our personal walk with Him then His words “I will bless you” will become for us a tangible reality!

Go to Study No.6