It’s All About Grace…. One comment on Zerababbel and the “signet ring” The last word is a word of grace… A signet ring is more than asthetic, the signet ring carried with it the authority of the King ~ an official letter or decree would be sealed with wax, and then the King, would take the signet ring and impress the wax before it dried... “I will treat you like a signet ring on my finger.” Zerabbabel should never have been chosen to be the governor, or God’s signet ring, yet God, in his infinite grace chooses a most unlikely person.
Now, in the final verse of Haggai, God says to Johoiachin’s grandson Zerubbabel, “I will make you like a signet ring.”…. Because of Zerubbabel’s faithfulness, the curse on his family has been lifted. The signet ring is back on God’s finger. historians tell us some people thought Zerabbabel was the Messiah, they linked Zerabbebel to that wonderful title of Jesus found in Hag. 2:7, “The desired of all nations.” Fast forward 520 years. In Matt. 1:12, Zerabbabbel is listed in the genealogy of Jesus Christ. Zerubbabel never sat on the throne of David. He was not “the desired of all nations.” But his descendant fulfilled the promises of God: Zerubbabel’s great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson is Jesus Christ. It’s all about grace. Zerabbabel deserved none of it, but he was chosen by God to be part of the most wonderful story the world has ever known, the story of Jesus Christ, the signet ring of God. There is no more important message than the message of grace…
Back to the beginning … 2 points Destined to be Holy and Draw a line in the sand….
Destined to be Holy //some of you think you are destined to be a loser…. Nothing ever good happens. Change your thinking… I love Oswald Chambers words: “We must continually remind ourselves of the purpose of life. We are not destined to happiness, nor to health, but to holiness…. God has only one intended destiny for mankind— holiness. His only goal is to produce saints. God is not some eternal blessing-machine for people to use, and He did not come to save us out of pity— He came to save us because He created us to be holy. Atonement through the Cross of Christ means that God can put me back into perfect oneness with Himself through the death of Jesus Christ, without a trace of anything coming between us any longer. Never tolerate, because of sympathy for yourself or for others, any practice that is not in keeping with a holy God. Holiness means absolute purity of your walk before God, the words coming from your mouth, and every thought in your mind— placing every detail of your life under the scrutiny of God Himself.”
Destined to be Holy. It’s a foreign idea. Holy is to be set apart for God. Let me explain the idea of Holiness with a couple of examples. #1 The first is perhaps a familiar joke: Miniature Schnauzer Rules of Ownership:
#2 You are browsing for clothes in the Clothesline. You see a shirt that at first is a bit wild for your style; you hold it up, look at it, try and imagine you wearing the shirt, but you put it back on the rack because the print is a bit too bright. You walk away a few feet and think, “that shirt is going to look great on me” and as you turn to boldly put the shirt in your bag, another person is holding it up and looking at it. That’s the idea of holiness and unclean, it is set apart for you, and another person has possession of it.
You are set apart for God. When you stray from him, through impure thoughts, sinful behavior, destructive words, it’s as if you are in the hands of Satan. You belong to the Lord, and the evil one is enticing you. Holiness is what these funny questions are about in the first part of today’s scripture. READ Hag. 2:12. Haggai doesn’t care about the purity of food, he cares about the purity of the people. If you have a pound of spoiled hamburger, can you make it edible by taking a pound of good hamburger and mixing the two pounds together? Can a healthy person kiss a person with a cold and cure the other person? // This is a lesson about the pervasive power of sin. Just as it’s hard to keep a house clean, it’s hard to keep a life clean because sin stains everything. One person said “Sin is like spaghetti sauce ~ It stains everything it touches.” God wants you to be without stain.
In the days of Haggai, a few years earlier the people were captive in Babylon. The temple that had been built by Solomon 100’s of years earlier was destroyed. The Persians defeated the Babylonians and the Jews were sent back to their homeland. The people built their homes, but the temple lay in ruins. The temple symbolized the ruins of their relationship with God. After 16+ years, the people were inspired by Haggai, to begin to rebuild the temple. The temple was started in Sept. of the year 520 b.c., a month later (last week’s message) the people needed encouragement to keep going, and now it is Dec., 2 months later; Haggai, once again, speaks to the people to focus them on the ultimate purpose of building the temple: to be holy, to be set apart for God. Your relationship with God is more important than anything else.
I had a friend in high school whose life was a mess. One day he announced he was a Christian. A week later his life was still a mess so he quit being a Christian. Some people try church, it doesn’t really do that much for them, so they quit. It’s about relationship. It’s about being set apart for God. You belong to God. Haggai says to the people: it’s time to start living for God, live Holy lives. Hag. 2:14 is a declaration that the people have not changed.
You are destined to be Holy… now is the time to draw a line in the sand.
“Now give careful thought to this from this day on.” (Hag. 2:15). READ Hag. 2:18.
Hag. 2:15-19 is all about before and after. We humans don’t do well with ambiguity. We need definitive moments. Consider the traditional wedding vows: I, Carl, take you Sally, to be my wife… to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.
There’s a line. Whatever happened yesterday, it is part of my history. My past may help explain me and how I got here, but it is no longer going to orient this moment on. We need to change the game. Draw a line in the sand.
Hag. 2:15-17, God reminds the people of yesterday. When you draw a line in the sand to go forward with a new commitment, learn from yesterday. READ.
In these verses God reminds them of how things were before they began to rebuild the temple. They were going broke—economically and spiritually. Every time they made a buck half of it disappeared. Everything they touched turned sour. The nation was in an economic decline—all because they had disobeyed God. notice the last phrase: “But still you did not turn to me.” That’s all God wanted all along. He wanted his people to turn to him with a whole heart. They had pushed God to the edges and as a result, God has sent blight to their crops and mildew to their souls. More than one person has wondered if God is still breaking us as a nation, allowing our nation to crumble, so that we will turn back to the Lord Jesus Christ! God disciplines in order to restore, not to punish. God was behind their hard times, he wanted to get their attention and turn their hearts back to him.
I read about a couple in the ministry who lost their position in a humiliating way. The wife was angry and was bitter over how she and her husband were treated. She resented the fact her former friends wouldn’t even speak to her. Her greatest anger was reserved for God: “I have given my life to be in full-time Christian service. How dare you treat me this way?” That night she told God never to speak to her again. The next day she tried to not speak to God. Later that day, God spoke to her anyway and said, “You trusted me with your death. Why don’t you trust me with your life?” So she decided to see what God could do. And that was the turning point. From that moment on, she was a changed woman.
When you draw a line, you learn from the past, and find encouragement for the future: READ Hag. 2:18-19. Draw a line in the sand: “From this day on.” Like the wedding vows. It’s as if God is saying, “The past is the past and we can’t change that. But things are going to be different from now on.” From this day forward, I will put aside the past and go forward to become Holy.
If your life is a mess today, remember you didn’t get where you are overnight. You got there by taking a zillion steps in the wrong direction over a long period of time. Like the proverbial bad day: One story: “I drove to the courthouse to go to work. It's pouring, windy and cold. I park the car, open the door and the wind catches the door. The door snaps so far back a spring comes flying out of the hinge area. I think to myself, "Well, THAT'S not good...." I pick up the spring, put it in my car so I can go into work and worry about it later. I try to shut my door. It doesn't budge. I am pushing with all my weight against the door. I'm soaked because it's pouring. I'm panicking…. Should I call my roadside? No, what are they gonna do? Oh wait, there's a mechanic just down the street. I get in the car, drive to the mechanic, in the pouring rain with my door WIDE open //and he tells me he can't do anything. He sends me to a body shop down the road. In the pouring rain. With my door wide open. The body shop fixes it, sends me on my soaking wet way and I go to work. Soaked. My jeans were sticking to me. I got home and my legs were blue from the dye in the jeans. Is THAT why they tell you to wash before wearing? When your life is a mess, it’s never just one thing, but a series of stuff, a way of life…
The Israelites were on the wrong path for decades… don’t be surprised if it takes you quite a few steps to get your life back in order again ~ Haggai keeps coming back to remind the people. You normally don’t change your thinking overnight and you don’t break bad habits in one week. Historically we know it took the Jews four more years to finish rebuilding the temple. That’s a lot of days… Each decision/day will lead you towards God or away from God. God wants you. That’s what it means to be holy. Keep taking tiny steps of holiness, steps that will lead you towards God.
When you draw a line committing yourself to walking towards the Lord, it means the day of fulfillment is coming. The vision of fulfillment is promised while the seed is in the barn ~ Hag. 2:19. It has not yet been planted, but the harvest is coming. The way of holiness is a journey, a thousand steps… When I plant the corn seed in my garden I envision eating a fresh corn cob…. The moment you make a commitment from this day forward, you will see the Lord’s blessings; in the days/years to come, you will reap a harvest.
Paul declared in Gal. 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Do Not Give Up. Those simple words will give you hope to keep going. Never give up. Just keep on making good decisions, holy decisions, serving the Lord, helping others, keep on living for Christ, and in the end you will reap a bountiful harvest. When I used to climb Mt. Baker, the mountain looked so daunting when you stood at the bottom, gazed clear to the top, and wondered how far. How much easier to imagine simply making it up the slope right in front of you, the ridge nearby, and then a single step, one at a time. Before the day is over, the summit is attained. Never give up.
It’s all about grace. The destiny is to be holy. God wants you for himself. Draw a line in the sand and make a commitment for each of the thousand decisions you make each day to put you on a forward path, the way of holiness. Amen.