First Things First! (Haggai)
SABBATH SCHOOL INSIGHT #10
"First Things First! (Haggai)"
June 8, 2013
Haggai preached three messages to the returning Jewish remnant from their Babylonian captivity. The time of the three messages corresponds with our months of August, October and December. His first message was in regard to their hands; the second, to their hearts; and the third, to their heads.
The August Message (1:1-15). This was directed to the people’s hands. God said, build the Temple (1:2, 4–11). The people’s complacency is recorded in verse 2. “This people says, ‘The time has not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built.’ ” But the Lord pointed out two things (1) The people’s materialism (1:4,5). They were living in luxurious homes while the Temple lay in ruins. (2) The people’s misery (1:6, 9–11). They planted much, but harvested little. Attempting many things, they failed in everything.
Nevertheless, God reassured them that if they would build the Temple, He would bless them abundantly. (1:7,8). He spoke through three of His servants: one from public life,
Zerubbabel (Judah’s governor), one from the church, Joshua (Judah’s high priest), and the third, Haggai (Judah’s prophet). (1:1, 3, 12–15).
The October Message (2:1-9). This message was directed to the people’s hearts. There was both weeping and rejoicing at the second Temple’s dedication. Some of the older men remembered the glories of the first temple (Solomon’s) wept as they compared the second building with the first one. In light of this, Haggai attempts to encourage everyone as he speaks of the coming of the Messiah (verse 7).
The prophet tells them to take courage because God’s presence among them is far more important than the size and glory of any earthly Temple. Although the outward splendor and glory of Solomon’s temple was greater than the one built after the captivity, this second one would be far more glorious than the first. “‘The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,’ says the Lord of hosts” (2:9). This was to be because Jesus, “The Desire of All Nations” would come and fill this second temple with the presence of heaven (2:7).
The December Message (2:10-23). This final message was directed to the people’s heads. It involved thinking, pondering and reasoning. There were facts Haggai wanted the people to think about, especially Judah’s contamination (2:10–19). He reminded them of past problems, giving them concrete examples (2:10–17).
The questions were designed to get the people to think. The first question had to do with the person who carried a holy offering. If that person brushed his garment against an object, will the object become holy? The priests pondered and said, “No.” This is because holiness cannot pass to other things or even to other people. Holiness is embodied in Christ. It cannot be separated from Him. The only way holiness comes to us is by receiving Him by faith.
The second question through Haggai is: “If one who is unclean because of a dead body touches any of these, will it be unclean?” The priests answered, “It shall be unclean” (verse 13).
God was illustrating the spiritual condition of His people. They did not believe. They were unrepentant. They were dead in sin; so everything they did was contaminated. They were unclean because of the deadness of their hearts and minds (verse 14). Haggai applied this principle to the people. He told them that their sinful ways contaminated their consecrated offerings to God, resulting in crop failures, famine, and all the rest of the calamities that befell them. (verses 14-17). The lesson for all time is this: work and worship do not sanctify sinning, but sinning always contaminates work and worship.
The good report is that head, heart and hands responded to God’s call through Haggai. The people repented, believed and began building with their hands. And so, from the laying of the foundation of the temple, God promised to abundantly bless them (2:18,19).
The last promise of the book is to Zerubbabel. God honored him in this life, but there was something even more for him. He was given the assurance of life eternal (2:20-23). We too can have this assurance here and now.
Let’s return to the October message, especially the part regarding “The Desire of All Nations” who was to come and who would fill this second temple with the presence of heaven (2:7). That heavenly presence is the very righteousness of God, for salvation, and comes to the fallen race through the faith of Jesus (Rom 3:22, KJV), the Desire of All Nations. But before Christ came the first time, God would shake the nations according to Hag 2:7. And before the coming of Christ, the second time, there will be another shaking as pointed out by Joel 3:16; Heb 12:26-28; and Rev 6:14. The approaching shaking of the world will be much more violent; it will affect both the heaven and the earth in all their parts, the sea and the solid ground, as well as the nations. The condition of the visible creation and the whole world of nations will be altered.
However, at His second coming, Jesus will still be “the Desire of All Nations,” but because of the desire for, and the cultivation of, sin by the lost, the desire for heaven’s righteousness will be destroyed in the hearts of the lost. They will despise and hate the “the Desire of All Nations,” who is the Desire of All Ages, before He comes to claim His own.
The message of Christ’s righteousness that will be despised and hated is the message that came to us in Minneapolis in 1888. Just as people did not like the second temple that was built in Haggai’s day; just as Herod despised the Desire of Nations and attempted to kill Him when Jesus was born into the human family; so the lost at the end of days will make war against Christ and His faithful followers (Rev 17:14). But the lost will lose that war. The cause of the lost will be traced to their unremitting resistance to the Holy Spirit as He brings to them “the Desire of All Nations.”
I want to end this study by quoting from the Preface of The Desire of Ages:
In the hearts of all mankind, of whatever race or station in life, there are inexpressible longings for something they do not now possess. This longing is implanted in the very constitution of man by a merciful God, that man may not be satisfied with his present conditions or attainments, whether bad or good or better. God desires that the human shall seek the best, and find it to the eternal blessing of his soul.
Satan, by wily scheme and craft, has perverted these longings of the human heart. He makes men believe that this desire may be satisfied by pleasure, by wealth, by ease, by fame, by power; but those who have been thus deceived by him (and they number myriads) fin all these things pall upon the sense, leaving the soul as barren and unsatisfied as before.
It is God’s design that this longing of the human heart should lead to the one who alone is able to satisfy it. The desire is of him that it may lead to him, the fullness and fulfillment of that desire. That fullness is found in Jesus the Christ, the Son of the eternal God. “For it was the good pleasure of the Father that in him should all the fullness dwell;” “for in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” And it is also true that “in him ye are made full” with respect to every desire divinely implanted and normally followed.
Haggai calls him “the Desire of All Nations,” and we may well call him “the Desire of All Ages,” even as he is “the King of Ages.”
It is the purpose of this book to set forth Jesus as the one in whom every longing may be satisfied. There is many a “life of Christ” written, excellent books, large funds of information, elaborate essays on chronology and contemporaneous history, customs, and events, with much of the teaching and many glimpses of the many-sided life of Jesus of Nazareth. Yet it may be truly said, “the half has never been told.”….
[E]ven as by the attraction of his own goodness of character Jesus drew disciples unto himself, and by his personal presence, by his sympathetic touch and feelings in all their infirmities and needs, and by his constant association, transformed their characters from the earthly to the heavenly, from the selfish to the sacrificing, from small hearted ignorance and prejudice to large hearted knowledge and profound love for souls of all nations and races, even so it is the purpose of this book so to present the blessed Redeemer as to help the reader to come to him face to face, heart to heart, and find in him, even as did the disciples of old, Jesus the mighty one, who saves “to the uttermost,” and transforms to his own divine image all those who come unto God by him. Yet how impossible it is to reveal his life! It is like attempting to put upon canvas the living rainbow; into characters of black and white the sweetest music.
In the following pages the author, a woman of large and deep and long experience in the things of God, has set forth new beauties from the life of Jesus. She has brought many new gems from the precious casket. She opens before the reader undreamed-of riches from this infinite house. New and glorious light flashes forth from many a familiar passage. The depth of which the reader supposed he had long before fathomed. To state it in brief, Jesus Christ is revealed as the fullness of the Godhead, the infinitely merciful Saviour of sinners, the Sun of Righteousness, the merciful high priest, the healer of all human maladies and disease, the tender, compassionate friend, the constant, ever-present and helpful companion, the prince of peace, the coming king, the Everlasting Father, the culmination and fruition of the desires and hopes of all ages.
Is Jesus the Desire of your heart?