Often Christians are stumped by the Minor Prophets. The distance, the strangeness, the historical peculiarities can make the text seem inapplicable. The last two sections of Haggai look to be particularly difficult for the Christian preacher:
Haggai 2:10–23 (ESV)
10 On the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet, 11 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Ask the priests about the law: 12 ‘If someone carries holy meat in the fold of his garment and touches with his fold bread or stew or wine or oil or any kind of food, does it become holy?’ ” The priests answered and said, “No.” 13 Then Haggai said, “If someone who is unclean by contact with a dead body touches any of these, does it become unclean?” The priests answered and said, “It does become unclean.” 14 Then Haggai answered and said, “So is it with this people, and with this nation before me, declares the Lord, and so with every work of their hands. And what they offer there is unclean. 15 Now then, consider from this day onward. Before stone was placed upon stone in the temple of the Lord, 16 how did you fare? When one came to a heap of twenty measures, there were but ten. When one came to the wine vat to draw fifty measures, there were but twenty. 17 I struck you and all the products of your toil with blight and with mildew and with hail, yet you did not turn to me, declares the Lord. 18 Consider from this day onward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month. Since the day that the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid, consider: 19 Is the seed yet in the barn? Indeed, the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have yielded nothing. But from this day on I will bless you.”
20 The word of the Lord came a second time to Haggai on the twenty-fourth day of the month, 21 “Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I am about to shake the heavens and the earth, 22 and to overthrow the throne of kingdoms. I am about to destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations, and overthrow the chariots and their riders. And the horses and their riders shall go down, every one by the sword of his brother. 23 On that day, declares the Lord of hosts, I will take you, O Zerubbabel my servant, the son of Shealtiel, declares the Lord, and make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you, declares the Lord of hosts.”
How then could one preach this text? Here are some ideas:
1) If something holy touches something unclean, the holy thing becomes unclean. Contrast that with Jesus, who when he touches the unclean leper (Mark 1), the leper becomes clean.
This directly translates to the initial Gospel proclamation.
His blood can make the foulest clean
His blood availed for me.
The dying thief rejoiced too
That fountain in his day
There may I as, though vile as he
Wash all my sins away
2) Worship: Only proper worship can be undefiled. Trying to worship through the “corpse” of the uncompleted temple (ESV study Bible notes: “they permit a ‘corpse’ (the unfinished temple) to remain in their midst”) defiles the worship and blocks the blessing. Jesus is the temple, the sacrifice, the priest. All worship must in and through him.
Purpose of the proposition is to warn against false worship & encourage true worship.
All outside of Christ, cannot worship rightly at all.
Yet those inside of Christ can still worship wrongly when we attempt to offer our gifts in our own name. E.g., moralism, service — anything we do which think makes us more acceptable to God.
3) I will shake heavens; overthrow kingdoms.
The language of overthrow is all through the Gospel proclamation. Look at the songs of Mary & Zechariah in Luke 1. Psalm 2.
“Above all earthly powers”
The contrast between Caesar is Lord & Christ is Lord (Caesar is pronounced Kaiser in Latin).
Fearfulness about earthly powers.
My kingdom is not from this world.
There is an eschatological angle: Hebrews 12:26 which quotes Haggai 2:6 & 21. Notice that the Hebrews passage also concerns “acceptable worship”.
Purpose here is to warn everyone Psalm 2:10. Incidentally, in every Psalm which concerns the kingship of Christ, the application is “worship in fear” (the worship “serve” Psalm 2:11, is also translated worship in other places).
Our Christ is the “dread sovereign” to use the old fashioned phrase.
4) How does God fulfill his promises? God had cursed the Davidic line; but here there is a promise of the restoration of the Davidic line, which is made permanent by the New Covenant & the indestrucible life of Christ.
The wisdom of God, the power of God, the faithfulness of God.