By using examples from the Law, the prophet Haggai speaks loud and clear on what God alone can see written on the hearts of the people. God has certain expectations, and He intends to bless the people, but they need to first take His correction to heart and initiate change. Let’s see how the Lord brings the people to understand through this object lesson.
We read Haggai in Chapter 2 making reference to two profound elements in the Mosaic Law which any good Jew and certainly their priests would be careful to observe. Perhaps the most well- known law among everyone was the one concerning contact with a dead body and the consequence of becoming unclean.
According to the law, if you touched a dead body, on purpose Verses about purity or by accident, then, everyone and everything you touched would also become unclean until you were ceremonially cleansed. It resembles spreading a cold virus around! Cover your cough, yes, but then, please wash your hands!
On the contrary, Haggai asks if, after the holy sacrifices were completed and the priest carried home his portion of consecrated meat under his robe, if the robe then touched other food on his table, would the “holiness virus” spread around making all of his food holy? The answer was, of course not.
I guess they got the point: it is much easier to spread sin and that which is unclean, like laziness, wickedness, carelessness, disinterest and dissatisfaction.
Holiness is not as infectious as is sinfulness.
The Lord speaks plainly in Haggai Chapter 2 verse 14: “So it is with this people….what they offer is unclean.”
You see, even though the people were back at work rebuilding the temple, a couple months of hard work could not erase the 16 years of neglect. Yet, they were expecting blessing from God. God was reading their hearts that said, “OK, Lord. We’re back on the job. Now, it’s Your turn. It’s time for the rain to fall”.
Remember, they had been suffering from drought as a punishment from God. Now, it is somewhere between mid- November and mid- December and they EXPECTED God to send rain since they were being OBEDIENT! And they were thinking that He sure better hurry up while they still had hope of planting winter vegetables to end the famine. But, it wasn’t yet sprinkling.
They were becoming dissatisfied. “Hey, God, we’re holding up our end of the bargain! What about You? We want results!”
Hmmm. The good work of their hands was being spoiled by still going about it with unholy hearts and hands. The impurity of their hearts, their presumptuous and dissatisfied attitudes made all their work and sacrifices unclean before God. The motivation for their obedience was not pure love and glory to God but personal profit, needs met, and hardship eliminated. Wow!
The people still lacked reformed lives.
When I started studying these verses, I just didn’t get it. It took some digging and praying to hear God’s message here. I must admit, it is a struggle for this poor sinner. But, this lesson really speaks to me about trusting God’s timetable, focusing not so much on results and expectations, but on serving Him out of love, with sincerity, leaving the rest to Him.
Purity of heart is critical. (Matthew 5:8) This may seem obvious, but is it? Our motivations to serve, worship, obey, trust and work, must be all about God’s glory, not personal gain. Remember, we can’t earn God’s blessings. His blessings come as gracious gifts from a giving God who loves us, sees our needs, and responds with compassion and kindness.