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Author:Dr. Andrew J. Pol
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Congregation:Canadian Reformed Church of Carman West
 Carman, Manitoba
 www.carmanwestreformed.com
 
Title:The LORD gives hope in the midst of heaven and earth shaking events
Text:Haggai 2:20-23 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Giving your heart to God
 
Preached:2012-02-14
Added:2016-02-25
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Call to worship
Confession of trust (standing)
God’s Greeting of Peace (standing)
Congregational singing: Psalm 91:1 (standing)
The Ten Words of the Covenant
Congregational singing: Hymn 11:1,2,9
Prayer
Scripture Reading: Haggai 2:20-23; Matthew 24:1-14
Congregational singing: Psalm 50:1,2,8,11 (standing)
Text: Haggai 2:20-23
  Ministry of the Word
  The LORD, who will shake the heavens and the earth, gives hope by having chosen Zerubbabel and making him like a signet ring.
  1. This hope is needed.
  2. This hope is assured.
Congregational singing: Hymn 85:1-3
Announcements
Prayer
Offering
Congregational Singing: Psalm 150:1-3 (standing)
Benediction (standing)
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Andrew J. Pol, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,
 
If you read the news or watch reports on TV or on the internet, you will see that there’s a lot of commotion in the world.
Violence continues to plague the Middle East.
Streams of refugees have entered Europe.
More than one million have ended up in Germany.
Neighbouring countries have opened their borders, offering help.
 
Tens of thousands of refugees are also being brought to the United States and Canada.
Will they find peace on the North American continent?
Will things stay peaceful here?
Or will we find out that we have imported the religious tensions that have fueled conflicts in those countries?
Only time will tell.
 
Nevertheless, we shouldn’t let ourselves be governed by fear.
The Bible has clear things to say about strangers who come to live among us.
Think of Leviticus 19:33, which instructs us, “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”
 
You can only show that kind of love when you resist feelings of fear.
You can only resist feelings of fear if you are confident that your ultimate safety is in the hands of the LORD.
Then you can move forward in faith, seeking his Kingdom and his righteousness in this world.
 
The violence we are hearing about abroad and even violence in our country should not surprise us.
It’s part of what our text is talking about.
In the midst of the turmoil of the nations, our God is at work.
It is a work that will involve all the nations of the world.
It is a work of grace and judgment.
 
The LORD, who will shake the heavens and the earth, gives hope by having chosen Zerubbabel and making him like a signet ring.
1. This hope is needed.
2. This hope is assured.
 
*
The people of God at the time of our text were living in uncertain times.
They had returned from exile to the Promised Land.
The political situation was not stable.
Our text makes it clear that there would be no reason to suppose that in the long run the situation would improve.
On the contrary.
Catastrophic events were on the way with strife between nations escalating to the point of military conflicts.
This Word of the LORD portrays scenes of death and destruction.
 
Was the LORD, who spoke these words through the prophet Haggai, intimidating Zerubbabel?
By having this prophecy recorded, was it to strike fear into the hearts of his people?
No, that’s not the point at all.
The LORD is the faithful God of the covenant.
His intent is to do what is good for his people.
He made that clear in chapter 2:19.
It ended with the promise, “from this day on I will bless you.”
That should shape our perspective on the text for this morning.
 
It’s clear from the outset that the message of our text is not the result of prophetic imagination but of divine inspiration.
This is highlighted by the way the text begins and ends.
The beginning and ending are like book-ends on a shelf.
The emphasis at the outset is that this is a “word of the LORD” (Hag 2:20).
The final words are that this is a declaration of “the LORD of hosts” (Hag 2:23).
 
Let’s take a close look at our text.
Verse 20 begins with the announcement, “The Word of the LORD came a second time to Haggai on the twenty-fourth day of the month.”
Why a second time?
Because unlike the previous message, this word of the LORD is directed especially to Zerubbabel, the governor of God’s people in Judah.
It will be of special significance for him as leader.
He will have to provide direction to God’s people.
 
To give direction effectively, Zerubbabel will need to be aware of what’s going on locally, but also keep the bigger picture in mind.
Events in Judah but also in the surrounding nations could have a profound impact on God’s people.
If he gets taken by surprise and is thrown into confusion, it will not be good for them.
 
The LORD informs Zerubbabel what he is going to do.
“I am about to shake the heavens and the earth…”
That sounds very similar to a message of the LORD to his people two months earlier, recorded in chapter 2:6-9.
However, there is an important difference.
Then, however, the promise sounded very positive.
“For thus says the LORD of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts. The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts” (Hag 2:7-9).
What a glorious future!
 
In our text, however, it seems that this future will not only be filled with light.
There will also be great darkness.
Again the LORD announces his intention to “shake the heavens and the earth,” (Hag 2:21), but this new message doesn’t speak about peace.
It announces there will be conflict.
Violence will break out between the kingdoms of the nations.
Chariots and their riders will head out to battle each other.
Armed horsemen will charge at each other seeking to kill each other.
There will be civil wars where parties that once regarded each other as brothers will be pitted against each other.
It will seem as if the heavens are shaking with the noise of the conflict and the earth is trembling under their feet.
The rulers of nations will be struggling for the upper hand.
 
Although Zerubbabel and the people of God may feel helpless in the commotion of the nations around them, there will be no need to feel hopeless.
Nothing will happen by chance.
The thing to keep in mind is that God is in control.
He makes that clear in this prophetic message.
 
The LORD is the one who will be shaking the heavens and the earth.
These heathen nations could potentially be uniting their forces to overwhelm the people of God.
Instead, they will be exhausting their energy in fighting each other.
The LORD will be directing these events for the destruction of the forces of darkness and the preservation of his people.
He announces this in advance in order to give hope to Zerubbabel and to the people he is called to govern.
 
Why this special word of hope?
Because the LORD wants the rebuilding of the temple to continue until its completion.
Rebuilding the temple had previously been delayed because the people felt the time was not yet ripe.
The argument against rebuilding the temple immediately was one based on personal circumstances.
They wanted to establish themselves economically before undertaking this project.
Those were wrong priorities.
 
The Kingdom of God should come first at all times (Mt 6:33).
The LORD was teaching his people to honour him first and above all.
Then they would be able to count on him to take care of them.
After all, he is the LORD of hosts.
He is the Ruler of creation.
 
Because God’s people failed to acknowledge that he rules over all things, he confronted them with his sovereignty.
He showed them he could bless his people with rich harvests but also that he could deprive them of harvests.
This illustrated the truth that no amount of work would be successful without his blessings.
 
So what was the point?
The point was that God’s people had to learn to live by faith, trusting in him and in his promises.
The sacrifices in the temple would serve to remind them that they could only live by grace.
The shed blood of animals testified of their guilt and their need for atonement.
Without atonement for sins, sinners would never be able to live in fellowship with God, who is holy.
His willingness to accept such sacrifices demonstrated that he is a forgiving, merciful God who is willing to live in the midst of his sinful people.
 
Looking to Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who sacrificed himself on the cross for our sins, we understand more of the depths of God’s mercy and love.
We learn to honour him, seeking his kingdom and his righteousness above all.
We do that while trusting in his power as the Ruler of creation and as our heavenly Father to provide for our needs.
The personal circumstances of God’s children always have his attention.
Therefore, such circumstances can’t form an excuse not to give priority to spiritual matters.
 
Circumstances in society and in the world should never prevent God’s people from putting him first either.
The LORD God, Creator of heaven and earth, is also the Ruler of human history.
Zerubbabel and all the people of God would have to keep this in mind.
They should not delay rebuilding the temple because of concern about events in the world around them.
Yes, there would be violence and conflicts.
But this should not never be reason to question the value of their work for the LORD.
Nothing that is done out of faith in obedience to him will be in vain.
 
That’s something we should remember too.
Time has gone on since our text.
The temple was rebuilt despite much opposition.
The people of God witnessed times of relative peace and times of conflict in the centuries that followed.
With the passing of all those years, the temple remained standing as a visible testimony of God’s declared intent to dwell with his people.
The work of Zerubbabel and those with him was not in vain.
 
About five centuries later, Jesus Christ, a descendent of Zerubbabel, was born.
Like Zerubbabel, he was of the line of David.
But he was much more than Zerubbabel and even David himself.
He is the Messiah, the promised Saviour of his people.
 
Through Jesus Christ, the LORD God continues to fulfil his promises.
The earthly ministry of our Saviour culminated in his death on the cross to atone for the sins of his people.
People would remember him as “Immanuel,” “God with us” (Mt 1:23; see also Jn 1:14).
He arose from the dead and ascended into heaven, from where he poured out the Holy Spirit on the church.
He continues to be with us through the Holy Spirit.
 
Less than 40 years after the death of Jesus Christ, the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the armies of Rome.
The efforts of the Jews to seek political independence was crushed.
For those whose hopes were linked to the earthly temple, this was an earth-shaking event.
It represented the end of many dreams and hopes.
However, those who put their trust in LORD and in his unfolding plans for the history of this world and for his people saw his work continue.
God now dwells in what is a living temple.
The existence of the church of Jesus Christ is evidence of this.
 
Remember what our Saviour said to Simon Peter after Peter’s statement, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16).
Jesus assured him, “you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mt 16:18).
The church is indeed “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone” (Eph 2:20).
It is now a church composed of people of all nations who confess Jesus as the Christ, the promised Messiah.
In him, we also “are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Eph 2:22).
 
Zerubbabel and the people with him who once built the temple in Jerusalem have died, but God’s work through Jesus Christ goes on.
As the apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 4:11-12, our ascended Lord “gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”
That work continues to this day.
Jesus Christ still gives office bears to the church in order to equip God’s people for the ongoing work of building up the body of Christ.
As members of the church of Jesus Christ, join in that work, confident that God’s purposes will prevail.
 
Nations in this world are still in turmoil.
The LORD God has continued to shake the heavens and the earth with a view to the coming of his Kingdom.
When he overthrows “the throne of kingdoms,” their influence comes to an end.
When he destroys “the strength of the kingdoms of the nations,” they become weak.
When “chariots and their riders” are overthrown and “horses and their riders… go down,” the military might of those nations is obliterated.
 
The word pictures in our text reminds us of the triumphant song that Moses and the people of Israel sang after the LORD led them through the midst of the Red Sea on dry land and then used the waters of that Sea to destroy the military might of Pharaoh.
“I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea” (Ex 15:1, see also 15:21).
 
The word of the LORD through Haggai also brings to mind how the LORD gave victory to Gideon and his men by causing the Midianites to panic at the sound of trumpets and breaking jars.
We read in Judges 7:22 that “when they blew the 300 trumpets, the LORD set every man’s sword against his comrade and against all the army.”
The theme of “every man’s sword” being “against his brother” surfaces repeatedly in connection with the LORD saving his people (Jdg 4:15; 7:22; 1 Sa 14:20; Eze 38:21).
 
Reflecting on the Word of the LORD to Zerubbabel therefore gives us much-needed hope.
The LORD will continue to be the Saviour of his people.
He shakes the nations, destroying their power when he decides to do so.
This serves his goal of bringing people from all the nations into his temple, which we now know as the church of Jesus Christ (Hag 2:6-7).
In this way their treasures will serve for the preservation, continuation, and completion of God’s work of grace in this world.
As he foretold through Haggai, “The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the LORD of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the LORD of hosts” (Hag 2:9).
 
The LORD gives assurance of this hope by choosing Zerubbabel and making him like a signet ring.
This is our second point for this morning.
 
**
No matter how dark events may seem as they unfold, the LORD is in control.
Our text closes with a threefold reminder that he is speaking through Haggai.
“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” (Hag 2:23).
 
The “LORD of hosts” is the Almighty, faithful God of the covenant.
He no longer refers to Zerubbabel as the “governor of Judah,” but describes him as “my servant.”
That’s significant!
In God’s providence, Zerubbabel was “governor of Judah” (Hag 2:21).
This means that he had political authority.
The people of God were to submit to him and to follow his leadership.
However, Zerubbabel’s title as “governor of Judah” also reminds us that this descendant of the line of David was not a king, but only an administrative official of the Persian Empire.
 
By referring to him as “my servant,” the LORD is directing us to look beyond Zerubbabel and the Persian Empire to himself, the Almighty God.
The title “my servant” means something for Zerubbabel himself as well as for the people of God.
First of all, it is a reminder to him not to lord it over the people like a worldly ruler.
Servants of God need to know their place as instruments of God among his people.
Their lives and the tasks he gives them involve serving him.
Zerubbabel’s purpose in life is ultimately a spiritual one.
As a “servant” of the LORD he is to be responsive to the Word of the LORD.
Only in humbly doing so will he be able to function effectively as an instrument of the LORD.
 
Previously, the term “servant” applied to men such as Abraham, Moses, and the prophets.
It is, however, especially significant in connection with King David and those born of his line (2 Sa 7:5,8,12).
Zerubbabel would never become a king.
However, his title as “servant” in the midst of the people of God would remind him and them that God had not forgotten his promise once made to David.
The use of this term in connection with Zerubbabel would rekindle the hope of God’s people for the coming Messiah, through whom the LORD of hosts would one day fulfil his purposes.
 
In verse 23 of our text, Zerubbabel is also referred to as “the son of Shealtiel.”
Don’t overlook that.
The name “Shealtiel” literally means “I have requested (him) from God.”
The very name indicates the fulfilment of a prayer for the continuation of the line of David.
In our text, we therefore see the LORD deliberately laying a link between the line of David, through Shealtiel, to Zerubbabel.
He works through the generations and his plans will never fail.
By the time of Zerubbabel, nothing was left of the royal glory of the line of David.
Nevertheless, the LORD made it clear through our text that he would be continuing his work.
 
The LORD goes on to compare Zerubbabel to a “signet ring.”
Such a ring bears an imprint that identifies the owner and also represents his authority.
It could be put on a person’s finger or worn on a chain around someone’s neck.
The ring was used to put a stamp of the owner onto clay or wax.
In this way, important documents could either be sealed or given a seal of ownership.
A signet ring was therefore a very valuable item.
 
Previously, his grandfather Jeconiah, also known as Jehoiachin, king of Judah, had also been referred to as a “signet ring” (Jer 22:24).
However, he and the people of God ended up in exile because of their sins.
Referring to Zerubbabel as a signet ring establishes a renewed link between God and this descendant of David.
The LORD is promising to use him as an official instrument in carrying out his purposes.
 
This was not because Zerubbabel was so exceptional as a person.
Just look at the final words of our text, which is at the end of the book of Haggai: “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” (Hag 2:23).
In other words, God has singled him out simply because he wanted to do so.
This is God’s sovereign good pleasure at work!
 
Our God has continued his work since Zerubbabel.
You can find Zerubbabel’s name in the genealogy of Jesus Christ (Mt 1:12-13).
Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah, born of the line of David.
He is the living embodiment of what it meant to be “like a signet ring.”
We read in Hebrews 1:3 that as the Son of God, “he is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.”
Through Christ, God puts his stamp of ownership on us.
He makes us image-bearers of God and specifically of Jesus Christ in this world.
 
United by the power of the Holy Spirit with Jesus Christ, we are therefore now called Christians.
He is our Chief Prophet and Teacher, our only High Priest, and our eternal King.
It should be clear through what we say and do that we belong to him.
As people who share in his anointing through the Holy Spirit, we have a mandate to fulfil.
As prophets, confess his name; as priests, present yourselves as living sacrifices of thankfulness to him; and as kings, learn to fight against sin and the devil!
Do this in the expectation of reigning with Jesus Christ over all creatures.
 
We have been listening to the word of the LORD, spoken through the prophet Haggai.
We heard the LORD calling out to his people, “Consider your ways!” (Hag 1:7).
That call continues to resonate through the centuries and also reaches us.
Where are you headed?
Don’t just think of the immediate future.
Think of the direction of your life.
Are your goals in line with God’s goals?
God is leading his people along the path of everlasting life.
All other paths lead to the condemnation of hell.
 
We have heard the promise and command of our God: “Work, for I am with you, declares the LORD of hosts” (Hag 2:4).
How comforting to reflect on the explanatory words that follow: “My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not” (Hag 2:5).
The LORD continues to be with his people and calls us to be active as well.
What we do for him, relying on his grace, will be fruitful and have everlasting value.
After all, as we have seen in this book of Haggai, the LORD is working toward a future determined by him.
 
The heavens and the earth will shake, and terrible things will happen, but remember that the LORD is in control.
Don’t let catastrophic developments in this world distract you from your task in his life.
Take courage and remember to put the LORD first.
Pray and keep working.
 
Remember the blessings of the LORD!
Be active in seeking to build up the church of Jesus Christ, the living temple of our God.
Do this, looking forward to the day when God’s work of grace in us and through us in this world will be complete.
Then our God will shake the heavens and the earth for the last time and bring us to our final destination.
“According to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pe 3:13).
Amen!



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Andrew J. Pol, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2012, Dr. Andrew J. Pol

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