Lesson 4: Is It Contagious? Haggai 2:10-14
For 16 years Israel lived in apathy. The Temple of the Lord had remained unfinished. It was only a foundation, an altar, and some temporary structures. The people spent their time and resources improving their homes and businesses. The poor condition of God’s house reflected a self-centered life style. The people had traded the majesty and glory of God for religious mediocrity.
Yet for all their material efforts, something was wrong. They worked hard, but brought in little. What they did bring in did not satisfy them.
The cause of their problem was quite simple. God was no longer first in their lives. They put their own homes and jobs above the work of the Lord. They nicely paneled their houses while God’s place of worship was left shabby. Because of their selfish behavior God had withheld His blessing.
God through the Prophet Haggai called them to correct the problem immediately. They were to cry out in humble confession, and rebuild the Temple.
When their renewed obedience and enthusiasm turned into discouragement, They were reminded about the hope and strength found in the covenant promise. The Lord’s promise and the presence of His Spirit among His people was the resource they needed to restore their confidence and dedication to their Redeemer. Even insurmountable obstacles can be conquered when people stand in reverent awe of the Lord.
This is not just cold theology. It was not an academic curiosity. The reality of a Living and Sovereign God effects our whole lives.
The Lord was about to accomplish a great work. With a great shaking the Jehovah was going to bless their efforts. He would even shake the nations. Messiah would become their desire too. He would bless all who come to the Temple to worship in sincere faith in the redemption the sacrifices foreshadowed. By the yet to occur crucifixion of Jesus the Christ God would bring a greater glory to this Temple, and he would bless his people with true peace.
Another lesson was needed. The Temple was about to be restored representing the Lord’s covenant presence among His people. It was the throne of His Kingdom. They needed to be reminded that holiness is a personal and individual thing. The rebuilt Temple would not be a substitute for personal obedience. The sins of individuals are what pollutes the whole land, even with a restored house of worship.
The Lord spoke again on the 24th of Kislev.
Haggai 2:10, 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, …
Three months had passed since the rebuilding of God’s Temple had resumed. Two months had gone by since the previous prophesy given through Haggai. It was now the middle of the month of Kislev which goes from the middle of November to mid December on our modern calendars. The sowing of their winter crops would now be finished, and the Autumn rains would have set in. This was an obvious sign of renewed divine blessing upon their labors. God’s honor appeared to be first in their lives again.
They were about to learn another lesson from God’s Law.
Haggai 2:11-13, 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.”
The Prophet was now to go the Priests with a question. They are the ones in Israel who should know God’ Law.
First he asked if something common will become holy by touching something holy?
Their answer was a firm, “No”. When Haggai mentions “holy meat” he meant the bodies of the animals slain as sacrifices in the Temple. God ordained that portions of the Priest’s garments and the altar would be holy by being identified with the work God ordered them to do upon it (see Ezekiel 44:19). Beyond that holiness was not passed on by contact. Except in those unique situations relating to the priesthood and the altar, holiness is not contagious to be passed on by touching something that is set aside as holy to the Lord.
Then the Prophet asked if something holy become unclean by touching something unclean?
This time the answer of the Priests was, “Yes”. Certain things were declared “unclean” by God’s designation in the Levitical system (for example a corpse or certain unclean animals – Leviticus 22:4-6). Touching those things would make the person ceremonially unclean. Everything touched by someone defiled in that way was also considered to be unclean. This is made clear in Numbers 19:22, “Whatever the unclean person touches shall be unclean; and the person who touches it shall be unclean until evening.”
These ceremonial laws were to teach the principle of the flow of holiness.
Holiness means that something is special in a particular way. Moral holiness means purity from sin and its guilt so that the person who is holy is specially accepted in the presence of the perfectly holy God. Since holiness is the absence of corruption, a corrupt thing cannot be made holy by association with something else that is holy. It must be pure in itself. When impurity comes into the life of one who desires to be holy, he can no longer be called holy. Holiness can flow out, but it does not flow in. When that which is holy touches something ceremonially unclean, the unclean thing does not become holy. The holy thing becomes defiled.
When a lost human is made holy, it is not by proximity to or association with holy things. It is by the payment of the guilt by the only One able to remove the corruption, our Savior who fully paid the penalty for the sins of His people, and who then clothes them with His own righteousness declaring them to be holy by covenantal representation.
God’s way is the standard, the norm for the universe. He created it to declare His nature and glory. It’s the way things were designed to work. Health is not caught, disease is. Bacterial and viral infections bring disruption to the body. There is no “germ” of health.
While personal holiness cannot come by being near things blessed by the Lord, ungodliness is a very disruptive and contagious disease. Defilement spreads and brings its curse very easily.
Haggai applied this principle to the people
Haggai 2:14, 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.’ “
Now that the Temple was being restored, it was time to look at the real problem. It wasn’t just the condition of the building. It was the condition of those called to rebuild it and to properly worship in it. It was time to look back upon what corrupted their hearts to begin with. A beautiful Temple does not make an offering acceptable to God. He is concerned about the heart that brings the offering.
The restoration project was a good obedience, but what about those material temptations that are still there? Were they working to get the obligation out of the way so their businesses will flourish again? Were they counting the hours when they could say the Temple was done, now back to what’s really important?
They should not consider the material work of the Temple as what makes them holy. They need to bring their lives into full submission to the revealed promises and ways of God.
If the work of their hands was done putting their own benefits first, then even what they bring as an offering at this reconstructed Temple is morally unclean. Israel was like these examples in the Law of God.
Israel is like that which touches the garment of the man carrying holy flesh.
The Temple was again about to be fully restored in her midst, on her land. However, what grows in the land, what comes in contact with the Temple would remain common and may still be corrupt. Just because the Temple was God’s meeting place with the people does not make the land holy, the crops holy, and those living on it holy.
Israel is also like the man defiled from touching a corpse.
A curse had come upon the promised land because of disobedience. Israel was unclean because of the spiritual neglect which showed itself in their neglect of the house of the Lord. While the common does not become holy by touching something holy, something holy can become corrupt by contact with the unclean.
Holiness does not come by touching something holy. Fallen humans often tend to be very religious and superstitious. They hope that the things around them will make them acceptable to God. They go on pilgrimages where they clamor to touch statues, kiss the hem of a priest’s robe, get sprinkled with “holy water”, or visit holy shrines. They attend church meetings, hang Scripture verses on their walls, or carry a Bible around imagining that being near these things will make them holy.
But Holiness never comes this way. What they catch is not holiness. They only come down with a spiritual disease. Disobedience can bring great suffering upon those the disobedient infect.
Defilement quickly spreads and brings its curse.
If we follow false ways, we will receive false blessings. Some substitute the objects of lust for God’s blessings. Israel thought that if they put their time and money into their homes and businesses they would be more happy, but it made them miserable.
The Bible warns us to flee from sin and its influences. Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 2:22, “Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”
Today, we dare not fool ourselves about what God expects. Satisfaction cannot come by putting our temporal goals first. It doesn’t come if we merely take care of the outward things in our lives. What people see of us outwardly is not always a good indicator of what’s in our hearts.
Take a good inventory of where you invest your time, talents, money, and thoughts. Consider how much you look to the material things you accumulate and treasure. They will fade away and someday will be gone.
You are not called upon to despise nice things or to live in poverty. But before material gains will ever satisfy you, God demands personal obedience and holiness. He calls you to put His Kingdom work at the top of your list. You are called upon to put God first. Have you? Jesus reminded us in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
Has your time, your money, your effort, your best, been invested first in the Kingdom work of Christ? Or is that awaiting a time when you are satisfied with your personal achievements? That time will never come if God is not put first.
(Bible quotations are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)