Chapter 2:10-19 (ESV) - On the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet, “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Ask the priests about the law: ‘If someone carries holy meat in the fold of his garment and touches with his fold bread or stew or wine or oil or any kind of food, does it become holy?’” The priests answered and said, “No.” Then Haggai said, “If someone who is unclean by contact with a dead body touches any of these, does it become unclean?” The priests answered and said, “It does become unclean.” Then Haggai answered and said, “So is it with this people, and with this nation before me, declares the Lord, and so with every work of their hands. And what they offer there is unclean. Now then, consider from this day onward. Before stone was placed upon stone in the temple of the Lord, how did you fare? When one came to a heap of twenty measures, there were but ten. When one came to the wine vat to draw fifty measures, there were but twenty. I struck you and all the products of your toil with blight and with mildew and with hail, yet you did not turn to me, declares the Lord. Consider from this day onward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month. Since the day that the foundation of the Lord's temple was laid, consider: Is the seed yet in the barn? Indeed, the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have yielded nothing. But from this day on I will bless you.”
Question to consider: Why are our own works considered “unclean” without God?
Yesterday I wrote about the treasure coming in from all the nations as a reference to Christ building His kingdom, the church, with people from every tribe and nation on earth. The New King James translates it a bit differently saying that people would come to the “Desire of all the nations,” and that the Lord of hosts would fill the temple with His glory. From that perspective, we can think of Christ being the desire of all the nations who would fill the temple with His glory. Whether this vision pointed to Christ or His body, the church, (or perhaps both?) is not really important. The important thing is to know that Jesus fulfilled this promise of God.
In light of this knowledge, we read today of another word given to Haggai to pose as a question to the priests. The first is related to the flesh of the sin offering in Leviticus 6:24-30. The priest who handled the flesh was made holy in the handling of it. He brought it out in the fold of his garment to the other priests in the Holy Place (the place outside of the Holy of Holies). All of the priests who touched the flesh and ate of it were also made holy. This is a type and shadow which points to the communion meal in which we receive Christ's flesh and blood for the forgiveness of sins. Although the touching and consuming of the flesh made the priests holy before the Lord, the holiness provided by the meat did not “spread” holiness to all that it touched. Holiness was given by God’s word and mercy and not by the meat itself.
In fact what was instead contagious, was unclean flesh. If someone came into contact with a dead body or a person with a skin disease, it immediately defiled them. The Lord applied these truths to the work of Israel. In themselves, the work that they did was unclean and came to ruin, struck with blight and mildew and hail in an effort to turn them back to God. As Isaiah once wrote, “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” (Isaiah 64:6)
However, when God would dwell among them - first in the temple and then through His Son, God would bless them in the fruit of their labor. Today, the world considers works by how they affect other people, but as Paul wrote to the Roman church, “...whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23) Consider for a moment someone who feeds the poor or heals the sick outside of their faith in Christ and the revelation of the gospel. They would be treating a temporal, physical need while not letting them see their need for Christ’s righteousness. Although the person may have intended a blessing, removing the very thing the Holy Spirit was using to let them see their need for Christ is in fact an act of cruelty.
Dear heavenly father, help us to see our actions through Your eyes and give us a desire to bring You glory in all that we say and do. Thank You for dwelling among us and giving us Your Holy Spirit who daily works in us to conform us to the image of Christ. Amen.