Haggai 2

1 After working for less than a month, the people were discouraged and God sent Haggai to them to give them a word of encouragement. It was the last day of the "Feast of Tabernacles," the last and greatest feast of the year (Lev 23:34-36). It was to be a joyful celebration, but the people felt sad.
2 Again, the message is to apply to everyone, whether in government or priesthood, whether great or small.
3 Ezra 3:12 records the mix of emotions when the foundation was laid several years earlier. They compared their little Temple with the glorious Temple that Solomon built. The new Temple seemed inferior to them, and they expressed their opinion openly. Undoubtedly, this was discouraging to others, despite the fact that this was a wondrous time of renewal and rebuilding.

These older people would have been at least in their mid nineties. Judah was in exile for 70 years, and this was 16 years after their return. To have remembered the Temple meant that they were likely in their teens or early twenties at the most when they last saw the former Temple.

4 God does not directly rebuke the old people for discouraging others by comparing the two Temples. He basically tells the people to ignore that and simply "take courage." This was not merely a pep rally where people were to generate courage out of nothing. They could have courage because God was backing them. It was far better for the Jews to have a small Temple with God than no Temple with God against them.

The other main point is that they were to continue to work. Coaches continually have to push their athletes on. They encourage them to keep going when they want to quit, and to push further when they do not feel they have reached their limit. God would make it possible for the Jews to succeed in this task, but they had to believe in Him.

The same still applies today. God has given the Body of Christ many tasks. We need to put effort into our work and trust in Him to accomplish the desired outcome. We may not accomplish the most or the best as individuals, but the point is that we can reach many goals in the Christian life with God backing us. God combines all of our small efforts to achieve His larger goals.

5 God assures them that His promise to be among their ancestors still applied to them today (Exo 29:45-46). God tells them that they should not fear, which told them indirectly that He would protect them and see that this task was completed successfully.
6 The author of Hebrews explains that the previous shaking occurred when God spoke to Israel from Mount Sinai (Exo 19:18, Heb 12:27). While it is possible that the "once more" was at the death of Christ (Mat 27:54, Mat 28:2), it might refer to the remaking of the earth or the earthquakes that accompany the Great Tribulation (Rev 16:18-21, Rev 21:1).
7 The shaking of the nations undoubtedly refers to political upheaval. Regardless of how the governments shape themselves during the end times, God will uproot them all and replace them with His eternal kingdom.

There has been disagreement about what, exactly, will be brought into the Temple. One possible interpretation of the verse has Gentiles brining treasures into the Temple in homage of God. Another interpretation is that the Messiah is the "desire of nations" entering the Temple, whether those nations recognize their longing or not. Some argue that the latter is less likely since the noun is feminine and the verb is plural in the original language. Others disagree, saying that other examples of this grammatical structure, along with the abstract nature of the noun do not rule out the messianic interpretation.

8 In context with this verse, the previous verse would seem to be better interpreted as referring to the wealth of the nations. Silver and gold are the desire of nations because it gives them power. However, it, along with everything else in the universe, belongs to God.
9 God refers to the "Temple" as a single entity, although it was represented by several buildings.

The Israelites were discouraged by the relative lack of richness and grandeur of the Temple they were building. God tells them here that the physical construction is far less important than the glory that indwells it. Looking ahead, we see that this temple is eventually replaced with Herod's temple. At that time, Christ, the Prince of Peace, would appear, and God's glory would be in the Temple in a more powerful way than even the glory that appeared in Solomon's Temple.

Eventually, Herod's Temple was also destroyed, and the Church serves as the Temple today (Eph 2:19-22). Looking into the future, Daniel appears to indicate that the Temple will be rebuilt in the latter times, but it will be desecrated, not glorified (Dan 9:27, 2 Th 2:3-4). After that, Christ will return and establish His kingdom. After the New Jerusalem comes down from heaven, there will be no Temple structure on earth because God will be the Temple for His people forever (Rev 21:22).

10 About two months later, God had another message for His people.
11 In Deu 17:8-11, God said that if a situation arose which not specified in the Law of Moses, and no one could decide what the best action to take would be, the matter could be brought to a priest, who would make the final decision. In Israel, the priests acted like the Supreme Court found in many modern countries.

Here, God instructs Haggai to ask for a ruling on two questions not specifically answered in the Law (although there are many similar questions that are addressed there). God will use the pronouncement and apply it to Israel's current situation.

12 The first question is this: If an object which has been set apart and specially prepared for a sacred purpose touches an ordinary object, will the latter become sanctified? The answer is no. In general, holiness is not transferable. The ordinary object would have to meet specific criteria and go through a sanctification process before it became holy. This can be illustrated with the following example. If you add a drop of distilled water to a glass of dirty water, will the dirty water become pure? Obviously, no.
13 The second question is this: If a ceremonially unclean object touches an ordinary object, will it defile the latter object. The answer is yes. Uncleanness is transferable. To illustrate again: If a drop of dirty water is added to a glass of pure water, it becomes contaminated.

Touching a dead body made one ceremonially unclean (Num 19:11). Being unclean limited one's participation in religious activities. In some cases, it even limited one's activity with other people, since uncleanness was transferable in this way.

14 God applies this analogy to the Jews who had returned from exile. They had been disobedient, and this disobedience made them unclean in God's sight. They had tried to offer sacrifices (Ezra 3:3), but the sacrifice could not purify their hearts (i.e., the holy would not sanctify the ordinary or unclean). The work that they had done could not make them clean because an unclean person could only defile anything he touched (i.e., the unclean contaminates the ordinary and sanctified). Therefore, because they had been disobedient, and all their work was unclean, God would not bless them.
15 Again, God reminds the Jews of what life was like when they neglected their relationship with God, and were not rebuilding the Temple.
16 Their expectations were constantly frustrated. Their livelihood came from their crops. When they went to harvest crops they produces only half (at best) of what they were expecting.
17 God devastated their crops using several methods in the hopes that people would turn to Him, even if it were out of frustration. However, because of their spiritual blindness, the people did not see the cause and effect. Their spiritual negligence lead to their physical deprivation.
18 However, on this day, the Jews demonstrated that they were turning back to God. They had begun rebuilding the Temple, and God would improve their entire situation.
19 The crops had been so bad that the Jews had little, if anything stored up. They were living "hand to mouth." However, they would see evidence in the years ahead that God was blessing them because their barns would be full of grain and other crops.
20 A little later in the day, God had Haggai give another message.
21 This message was specifically for Zerubbabel. God had promised agricultural prosperity for everyone, and for the civil authority, He was explaining the political importance of Israel and the Jews in the future.
22 Most scholars agree that this verse does not describe any battle that Zerubabbel would have seen, or any battle that has yet occurred in history. In Revelation, it is clear that Christ will overthrow all the nations, which will have united to oppose God. At least part of that mechanism, as described here, is that the armies will end up fighting each other.
23 This was probably a confusing time for Zerubbabel as he considered the past prophesies about the Messiah. Zerubbabel was in the royal line of David, but he was a governor, not a king. It seemed as though the promise that the line of David would always have a king on the throne would end because of Israel's disobedience. However, God reassures Zerubabbel that his line would continue, and that in the End, Zerubbabel (referring to his final descendant, the Messiah) would have the very authority of God.

God makes it clear that this is not because of any special merit of Zerubbabel, or even Israel, but because God chose them to carry out this purpose through. Implicit in this choice is the responsibility that Zerubbabel, the Jews, and Israel had to live up to the standard that God set. The entire message of this book is that the people were responsible to follow God, whether they wanted that or not. Obedience would bring about blessing because they would be participating in God's purpose. Disobedience would bring punishment because they would be opposing God's work.

Of course, the responsibility to follow God will ultimately be placed on every person whether Israelite or not. God made each one of us, so we are all responsible to obey Him. Israel has a special part in God's plan, so they have more responsibility to be compliant to God's will. So much of what is recorded in both the Old and New Testaments works off this principle.

The signet ring was used to "sign" documents. The decorated part of the ring was typically pressed into soft clay or sealing wax. Every signet ring was different, and if a document was stamped with it, it was considered official regardless of who had the ring at the time. In this case, it is significant that the Messiah would have the authority of God. It was clear that He would be a man, but it was also clear that He would have the Divine nature. Jesus was the embodiment of this dual Being. The Son, a member of the Godhead, was wrapped in flesh as a man, and came to earth to teach and redeem people for God. Jesus has the full authority of God because He is God. Thus, the line of David, and the line of Zerubbabel, now has the "signet ring" of authority in the person of Christ Jesus.