April 29th 2018: Alan Davison
Background reading: Ezra 4:1 – 5:3
Sermon: Haggai 2:21-23
The Bible is often seen as a collection of different books which each having a separate entity. However, there is a connection between the books, for example Haggai and Zechariah were contemporaries of Ezra.
In Ezra chapter 4 we are told the temple was being rebuilt and of the opposition to this. At the end of the chapter the building stopped. But in the first two verses of chapter 5 we see a complete reversal of the situation.
The last two verses of the book of Haggai tells us this oracle recorded in Ezra is specifically for Zerubbabel, governor of Judah. Zerubbabel was of royal blood. Zerubbabel is also referred to a ‘My servant’ (Haggai 2:23). This is a Messianic prophecy (see also Isaiah 42:1 and Isaiah 41:8). Zerubbabel was chosen to be God’s means of restoring the temple. He is also seen in a Messianic role, appearing in the genealogy of Christ (Luke 3:27).
The whole of this oracle comes to a climax in Haggai 2:23, ‘“In that day,” declares the Lord Almighty, “I will take you, my servant Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel,”declares the Lord, “and I will make you like my signet ring, for I have chosen you,” declares the Lord Almighty.”’ God will make Zerubbabel His signet ring. This shows God is restoring His favour (see also Jeremiah 22:4).
A signet ring is a mark of authority and authenticity used to seal proclamations. The value of the ring depended on the status and role of its wearer. There are three aspects of Zerubbabel’s status of becoming God’s signet ring, which also apply to us:
- We are in God’s hands.
This can be a negative thing, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31). This applies to those who woefully sin against God.
To be God’s signet ring is to be under God’s protection. Eternal security is guaranteed by God. “Salvation belongs to the Lord!” (Jonah 2:9). Can we undo what God has done? Can someone fall away? No! Jesus Himself declared, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of Him who sent me. And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given me, but raise it up on the last day.” (John 6:38-39). You cannot be lost again.
Jesus knows who His sheep are, He gives them eternal life, “My sheep know my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:27-29). No-one can snatch believers out of God’s hands, not even ourselves. See also 1 Peter 1:3-5. We are “being guarded through faith for a salvation” (1 Peter 1:5). God works through our faith – even that has been gifted to us. We are kept, guarded and protected from our own failures. This shows the grace of God. In John chapter 5 Jesus twice states that He does the Father’s will (John 5:19, John 5:30). They are in total unity.
- To be God’s signet ring is to be highly valued.
We are precious to Him, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” (Psalm 116:15). Why are our deaths so precious to God? The death of His saints is the promotion of them to glory. The Lord Jesus Christ was precious to His heavenly Father, ‘And behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17). Jesus is not only precious to Him but precious to us as well. God has set His seal on His Son, He has the Father’s seal of approval, “For on Him God the Father has set His seal.” (John 6:27).
Jesus’ tomb was sealed, “So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.” (Matthew 27:66). Such a seal did not physically close the opening but in order to open it, someone needed authority to do so. “And a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel.” (Daniel 6:17).
- To be God’s signet ring is to represent God’s authority.
In our lives we will be represented in lots of different ways, for example, by MPs, sporting teams representing our nation. Spiritually, we share in the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. If a king trusts someone completely he gives them his ring. In Genesis 41:41-43 Joseph was given the Pharaoh’s signet ring so he could act on Pharaoh’s behalf.
In a sense, any Christian who has received Jesus in their lives is Jesus’ signet ring. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8). Jesus’ final words on earth show we are to act in His name in proclaiming His name to the world. How do we do this has an impact. Every true Christian is in Christ, we are heirs. We too can be used by God as His signet ring, held firmly and safely in His hands. He does this because we are all precious before Him. We are considered legally righteous before God. Jesus Himself said we are His witnesses. We are appointed by Him. The last verse in Haggai states, “For I have chosen you, declares the LORD of hosts.” (Haggai 2:23). God sets His seal of approval on all He has saved, we are all as a signet ring to God.