May 18th 2019: Thomas Kitchen

Thomas Kitchen-May19Haggai 2:20-23

Sometimes we read unintentional funny mistakes; a church noticeboard read ‘Our God resigns’ instead of ‘Our God reigns!’ Do we think our God reigns? Does He reign over everything? It may seem like a silly question, but many Christians who say God reigns supreme, when it comes to day to day living, it appears that God doesn’t reign at all – it doesn’t make a difference to their lives. Things are getting worse and worse in our land. Doctrine is becoming washed out until it is not the Word of God. Christians are faced with danger and powerful enemies. This is what Zerubbabel faced. It was a bleak situation. We read in Haggai 1 the Persians were still ruling. People were side-tracked from God. They were called to build a temple with clean and holy hearts (Haggai 2:10-14).

Zerubbabel was given a message (Haggai 2:20-23), a clear message, to trust in God, the sovereign God.

God has a definite plan for history (verses 21-23). We see the use of a personal pronoun for God (NKJV). There is no uncertainty about what God is going to do. He has a plan which will be fulfilled because He is sovereign. His sovereignty doesn’t depend on His people, but rather His command and rule. So why do we retreat into a corner with enemies around us? We know He is sovereign, but we are live another week thinking things are going terribly. But God has a perfect plan which will come to pass. He is in control. There is no need to be afraid because God is with us and is in control.

God’s plan is carried out according to His choosing (verse 23). God chooses Zerubbabel, not Zerubbabel chooses God. God elects His people; there is nothing in us at all that makes God choose us, we are all sinful wretches. He chooses us because He is God, because of His goodness and mercy. God even chose Zerubbabel to cop-operate. He willingly followed God as a servant because God chose Him. We are dead in sin. It is the Holy Spirit that convicts us. A dead person cannot wake himself. God first gives life. Regenerations comes before faith. It is He who tells us He is sovereign: ‘But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the Lord!” (Jonah 2:9).

Was Zerubbabel ignored? For after all, Joshua was the one who would be crowned (Zechariah 6:9-13). No, great things were promised to Zerubbabel; he was chosen as a leader of God’s people. He isn’t called governor but ‘my servant’ (like Moses, David, Daniel and Jesus Christ). This is a title of honour in terms of Christian living. And, of course, we are all servants. God has chosen us to obey and work for Him.

What is the signet ring all about? (verse 23). It’s exciting! A signet ring was a ring a king used to stamp his authority. It was put in hot wax to seal letters. No-one could steal it or use it under a false claim. Zerubbabel was as precious as a signet ring for a king. He was given this exalted position because God had chosen him. He was in God’s own hands, the King’s hands. God has promised us He will never leave us or forsake us. He still has the authority.

God’s plan centres on Jesus Christ. Everything in the Old Testament points ahead to Jesus’ incarnation and death (Luke 24:27). Zerubbabel, in his own way, points to Christ because he is a type of Christ. Why? He led the remnant, the small group of 50,000 people, out of Babylonian exile. God has chosen a small number of His own people for Himself. As Zerubbabel led the remnant out of exile, a terrible place full of sin, so Christ has led us from the tight grasp of sin. He has chosen and led us, everyone who trusts in Him. Secondly, Zerubbabel built the temple, so Christ is building the greatest temple, the church. Thirdly, Zerubbabel was chosen to be God’s signet ring, so Christ is a signet ring that seals every promise and purpose.

Zerubbabel was a sinful man but Christ is a sinless man who came under the authority of God, His Father, who came in authority Himself as God’s Son. The cross is stamped in His authority, as is His Resurrection and coming again. Christ is the greatest signet ring.

We read in Haggai 2 this will happen ‘in a little while.’ To us, a little while may be a few hours, weeks or years. However, to God it is different (Psalm 110, Revelation 19). The promise is not fulfilled in Zerubbabel’s time or in Revelation. But it will be fulfilled!

What is the application of this passage of scripture? God’s servant should be encouraged to trust Him and do His sovereign will, no matter how much sin we see in the world. God reigns and we have to trust His promises, what He will do in the future. He gives us the strength to build His Church, whatever He calls us to do. God’s promises last. He is the Lord of hosts. It is a greatly encouraging book. Are you going to accept the call? Is He reigning in you? ‘And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee’ (2 Corinthians 1:21-22).

alan davison - april18April 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.