Monday, September 4, 2017




Reflections on the Old Testament: Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi

The book of Haggai focuses primarily upon the temple of the LORD. In chapter one, the LORD rebukes the people for allowing His house to lie in ruins, while they themselves “dwell in paneled houses,” (see Hag. 1:4). While the LORD, indeed, gives the command for His people to rebuild the physical temple, is He not truly concerned with the spiritual temple?

“’Thus speaks the LORD of hosts, saying: “This people says, ‘The time has not come, the time that the LORD’s house should be built.’”’ Then the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet, saying, ‘Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?’ Now therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Consider your ways! You have sown much, and bring in little; you eat, but do not have enough; you drink, but you are not filled with drink; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes.’ Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Consider your ways! Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified,’ says the LORD. ‘You looked for much, but indeed it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why?’ says the LORD of host. ‘Because of My house that is in ruins, while every one of you runs to his own house. Therefore the heavens above you withhold the dew, and the earth withholds its fruit. For I called for a drought on the land and the mountains, on the grain and the new wine and the oil, on whatever the ground brings forth, on men and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands,’” Haggai 1:2-11, NKJV.

All throughout Scripture, God uses physical elements to typify spiritual truths. In chapter one of Haggai, we are warned against spiritual indolence, to which we, all too often, succumb. We see the Christian who, the foundation having been laid, puts off the building of the Lord’s temple; who, rather, builds up the flimsy “paneled house” of fleshly pleasure—leaving the temple to lie in ruins; who, having received the Holy Spirit and been placed upon the solid rock, is not satisfied—“brings in little,” eats and drinks, but “is not filled,” clothes himself, but is not warm, and “earns wages to put into a bag with holes” (the world)—because he neglects the temple of the Lord. “Consider your ways!” says the LORD of hosts. “Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build this temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified…You looked for much, but indeed it came o little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? Because of My house that is in ruins, while every one of you runs to his own house.” Are we not all guilty of this? Running after the world, while the temple of the LORD lies in ruins? Seeking satisfaction elsewhere, when God has placed all we need—and more—directly before us? Are we not all guilty of, at one time or another, “running to our own house”? And doubtless many of us have seen the LORD blow it away. It comes to little, does it not? Indeed, the Lord warns us against the results of our neglect:

“Therefore the heavens above you withhold the dew, and the earth withholds its fruit. For I called for a drought on the land and the mountains, on the grain and the wine and the oil, on whatever the ground brings forth, on men and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands,” Haggai 1:10-11.

We are not called to furnish our own house—to live for ourselves—but to build up the temple of the Lord, that He may “take pleasure in it and be glorified”; that we may bear fruit. How can we glorify God in spiritual drought?

“Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the LORD their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the LORD their God had sent him; and the people feared the presence of the LORD. Then Haggai, the LORD’s messenger, spoke the LORD’s message to the people, saying, ‘I am with you, says the LORD.’ So the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and worked on the house of the LORD of hosts, their God…” Haggai 1:12-14.

We must obey the voice of the Lord, fear His presence, and He will indeed be with us and stir up our spirit. When our faith is newborn, are we not aflame for our Lord? And how glorious the temple is then! Beware, new believers, lest the following verse be realized in your spiritual walk:

“Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? In comparison with it, is this not in your eyes as nothing?” (Haggai 2:3).

But, as the Lord admonished the Israelites concerning the temple, so He admonishes us:

“’Yet now be strong, Zerubbabel,’ says the LORD; ‘and be strong, Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; and be strong, all you people of the land,’ says the LORD, ‘and work; for I am with you,’ says the LORD of hosts. ‘According to the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, so My Spirit remains among you; do not fear!’” (Haggai 2:4-5).

Even in our indolence, the Holy Spirit remains in us—the Lord simply commands us to be strong “and work, for [He] is with [us].” Then the promise shall be fulfilled:

“For thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,’ says the LORD of hosts. ‘The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,’ says the LORD of hosts. ‘The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,’ says the LORD of hosts. ‘And in this place I will give peace,’ says the LORD of hosts,” Haggai 2:6-9.

How much more glorious is the Lord’s temple in a mature Christian than in an inexperienced one! So the Lord will strengthen us to overcome our flesh and rebuild the temple, that He may be glorified. After all, the seed is still in the barn.

“Consider now from this day forward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, from the day that the foundation of the LORD’s temple was laid—consider it: is the seed still in the barn? As yet the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have not yielded fruit. But from this day I will bless you,” Haggai 2:18-19.

 

“Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Now, ask the priests concerning the law, saying, “If one carries holy meat in the fold of his garment, and with the edge he touches bread or stew, wine or oil, or any food, will it become holy?”’ Then the priests answered and said, ‘No.’ And Haggai said, ‘If one who is unclean because of a dead body touches any of these, will it be unclean?’ so the priests answered and said, ‘it shall be unclean.’ Then Haggai answered and said, ‘”So is this people, and so is this nation before Me,” says the LORD, “and so is every work of their hands; and what they offer there is unclean,”’” Haggai 2:12-14, NKJV.

If holy meat touches other food, that food will not became holy; but if an unclean person touches that food, it will become unclean. God uses this as an illustration of Israel. They carry “holy meat”—i.e., the covenant of the LORD, His law, etc.—but they are not holy. Rather, they have allowed the ways of the Gentiles to enter their midst and have become unclean. True holiness is transferrable only by the blood of Christ, but if we allow uncleanness to enter our midst, we become unclean. And who is this “who is unclean because of a dead body”? Did not Adam sin, becoming spiritually dead and thus unclean? And did he not “touch” us with his curse? Therefore we are unclean! Nevertheless, the Lord Jesus became unclean for us, that we might be made holy. The Law was holy, but its holiness could not be transmitted to the Israelites. Neither can it be transmitted to us—save by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

“Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him. And the LORD said to Satan, ‘The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?’ Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and was standing before the Angel. Then He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, ‘Take away the filthy garments from him.’ And to him He said, ‘See I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes.’ And I said, ‘Let them put a clean turban on his head.’ So they put a clean turban on his head, and they put the clothes on him. And the Angel of the LORD stood by. Then the Angel of the LORD admonished Joshua, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts: “If you will walk in My ways, and if you will keep My command, then you shall also judge My house, and likewise have charge of My courts; I will give you places to walk among these who stand here. Hear, O Joshua, the high priest, you and your companions who sit before you, for they are a wondrous sign; for behold, I am bringing forth My Servant the BRANCH. For behold, the stone that I have laid before Joshua: upon the stone are seven eyes. Behold, I will engrave its inscription,” says the LORD of hosts, “And I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day. In that day,” says the LORD of hosts, “Everyone will invite his neighbor under his vine and under his fig tree,”’” Zechariah 3:1-10, NKJV.

Here we see the awesome work of the LORD: we see Joshua, clothed in filthy garments, standing before the Angel, with Satan at his right hand to oppose him (the Lord Jesus stands at the right hand of God to intercede for us, while Satan stands at our right hand to oppose us!). We see the LORD remove Joshua’s filthy garments and clothe him with rich robes, and proceed to admonish Joshua—that, if he keeps the LORD’s commandments, he will walk among the heavenly beings in the presence of the LORD. Are we not all as Joshua? Filthy, we stood before the Almighty, but He has rebuked Satan, cleansed us, and clothed us with the rich robes of His righteousness! In the final verses written above, He gives Joshua the promise of redemption: the prophecy of Christ.

 

The book of Zechariah is chiefly prophetic of the Messiah—as chapter 3 indicated. Note the following verses, taken from nearly every chapter:

“Therefore thus says the LORD: ‘I am returning to Jerusalem with mercy; My house shall be built in it,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘And a surveyor’s line shall be stretched out over Jerusalem.’ Again proclaim, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts: “My cities shall again spread out through prosperity; the LORD will again comfort Zion, and will again choose Jerusalem,”’” Zech. 1:16-17, NKJV.

“’Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,’ says the LORD. ‘Many nations shall be joined to the LORD in that day, and they shall become My people. And I will dwell in your midst. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you. And the LORD will take possession of Judah as His inheritance in the Holy Land, and will again choose Jerusalem,’” Zech. 2:10-12.

“This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts,” Zech. 4:6.

“The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands shall also finish it. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you,” Zech. 4:9.

“Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH! From His place He shall branch out, and He shall build the temple of the LORD; yes, He shall build the temple of the LORD. He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule on His throne; so He shall be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both,” Zech. 6:12-13.

“Thus says the LORD: ‘I will return to Zion, and dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Jerusalem shall be called the City of Truth, the Mountain of the LORD of hosts, the Holy Mountain,’” Zech. 8:3.

“Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you,”’” Zech. 8:23.

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the horse from Jerusalem; the battle bow shall be cut off, He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion shall be ‘from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.’ As for you also, because of the blood of your covenant, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. Return to the stronghold, you prisoners of hope. Even today I declare that I will restore double to you. For I have bent Judah, My bow, fitted the bow with Ephraim, and raised up your sons, O Zion, against your sons, O Greece, and made you like the sword of a mighty man,” Zech. 9:9-13.

“I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph. I will bring them back, because I have mercy on them. They shall be as though I had not cast them aside; for I am the LORD their God, and I will hear them,” Zech. 10:6.

“Then I said to them, ‘If it is agreeable to you, give me my wages; and if not, refrain.’ So they weighed out for my wages thirty pieces of silver. And the LORD said to me, ‘Throw it out to the potter’—that princely price they set on me. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the LORD for the potter,” Zech. 11:12-13.

“And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me who they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn,” Zech. 12:10.

“’Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, against the Man who is My Companion,’ says the LORD of hosts. ‘Strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered; then I will turn My hand against the little ones,’” Zech. 13:7.

“And the LORD shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be—‘The LORD is one,’ and His name one,” Zech. 14:9.

 

“’Say to all the people of the land, and to the priests: “When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months during those seventy years, did you really fast for Me—for Me? When you eat and when you drink, do you not eat and drink for yourselves? Should you not have obeyed the words which the LORD proclaimed through the former prophets when Jerusalem and the cities around it were inhabited and prosperous, and the South and the Lowland were inhabited?”’ Then the word of the LORD came to Zechariah, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Execute true justice, show mercy and compassion everyone to his brother. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart against his brother.” But they refused to heed, shrugged their shoulders, and stopped their ears so that they could not hear. Yes, they made their hearts like flint, refusing to hear the law and the words which the LORD of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets. Thus great wrath came from the LORD of hosts,’” Zech. 7:5-12, NKJV.

“’For thus says the LORD of hosts: “Just as I determined to punish you when your fathers provoked Me to wrath,” says the LORD of hosts, “And I would not relent, so again in these days I am determined to do good to Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. Do not fear. These are the things you shall do: speak each man the truth to his neighbor; give judgment in your gates for truth, justice, and peace; let none of you think evil in your heart against your neighbor; and do not love a false oath. For all these are things that I hate,” says the LORD.’ Then the word of the LORD of hosts came to me, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts: “The fast of the fourth month, the fast of the fifth, the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be joy and gladness and cheerful feasts for the house of Judah. Therefore love truth and peace,”’” Zech. 8:14-19, NKJV.

Note the contrast here: in the first case, the Israelites adhered to religious ceremony but did not obey the word of the LORD—therefore, the LORD’s wrath came upon them. In the second case, the LORD is “determined to do good to Jerusalem and to the house of Judah.” Is not the LORD ruler of the hearts of men? Therefore, if He is determined to do good, He will see to it that His people heed His commandments—that, in obeying His word, their ceremonies may become no longer fasts and mourning, but “cheerful feasts.”

 

“’Who is there even among you who would shut the doors, so that you would not kindle fire on My altar in vain? I have no pleasure in you,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘Nor will I accept an offering from your hands. For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles; in every place incense shall be offered to My name, and a pure offering; for My name shall be great among the nations,’ says the LORD of hosts. ‘But you profane it, in that you say, “The table of the LORD is defiled; and its fruit, its food, is contemptible,”’” Malachi 1:10-12, NKJV.

The LORD set His glory upon Israel—but they despised it. We see their rejection of him all throughout Scripture—building up from the days of Moses and culminating in the days of Jesus, who “came unto His own and His own received Him not.” Therefore, the LORD, through Jesus Christ, sets His glory upon the Gentiles (see Mal. 1:11). God forbid that we should despise His amazing gift! God forbid that we should profane His name!

“’But you profane it, in that you say, “The table of the LORD is defiled; and its fruit, its food, is contemptible.” You also say, “Oh, what a weariness!” and you sneer at it,’ says the LORD of hosts. ‘And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick; thus you bring an offering! Should I accept this from your hand?’ says the LORD. ‘But cursed by the deceiver who has in his flock a male, and takes a vow, but sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished—for I am a great King,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘And My name is to be feared among the nations,’” Mal. 1:12-14.

Rather, let us “take to heart” the commandment He has given us:

“’And now, O priests, this commandment is for you. If you will not hear, and if you will not take it to heart, to give glory to My name,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have cursed them already, because you do not take it to heart,” Mal. 2:1-2.

And, in verses 6-7, we see the LORD’s desire for us, as Christians:

“The law of truth was in his mouth, and injustice was not found on his lips. He walked with Me in peace and equity, and turned many away from iniquity. For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, and people should seek the law from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts,” Mal. 2:6-7.

Is it not our duty to keep the law of truth? To turn many away from iniquity? Are we not messengers of the LORD of hosts? Ambassadors of the kingdom of heaven? Sadly, many modern Christians fall into the following verse: “’But you have departed from the way; you have caused many to stumble at the law. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi,’ says the LORD of hosts,” (Mal. 2:8).

Corruption in the church—sounds familiar, does it not? Note Malachi 2:10-12:

“Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously with one another by profaning the covenant of the fathers? Judah has dealt treacherously, and an abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem, for Judah has profaned the LORD’s holy institution which He loves; he has married the daughter of a foreign god. May the LORD cut off from the tents of Jacob the man who does this, being awake and aware, yet who brings an offering to the LORD of hosts!”

For shame, if we, as the church, marry into the world! As the body of Christ, have we not one Head? Yet we are divided. God calls it “profaning the covenant of the fathers”; “profaning the holy institution which He loves,” and “an abomination.” We attempt to marry the “body of Christ” to the daughter of a foreign god—then bring an offering to the Lord and expect Him to accept it! “May the LORD cut off from the tents of Jacob the man who does this!” Have we not one Father? One God? Are we not “awake and aware”? Then let us keep the covenant! God forbid that it be said of the church: “And this is the second thing you do: you cover the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping and crying; so He does not regard the offering anymore, nor receive it with goodwill from your hands,” (Mal. 2:13).

But note Malachi 3:3-4, which say of the LORD: “He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer to the LORD an offering in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasant to the LORD, as in the days of old, as in former years.”

The Lord has purified us with His blood—let us then keep His commandments, that He may take pleasure in our offering.

“’Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, so that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,’ says the LORD of hosts; ‘And all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a delightful land,’ says the LORD of hosts,” Mal. 3:10-12.
“Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who meditate on His name. ‘They shall be Mine,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘On the day I make them My jewels. And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.’ Then you shall again discern between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him,” Mal. 3:16-18.

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