1On the twenty-first of the seventh month, the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet saying,
2"Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people saying,
3'Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? Does it not seem to you like nothing in comparison?
4'But now take courage, Zerubbabel,' declares the LORD, 'take courage also, Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and all you people of the land take courage,' declares the LORD, 'and work; for I am with you,' declares the LORD of hosts.
5'As for the promise which I made you when you came out of Egypt, My Spirit is abiding in your midst; do not fear!'
6"For thus says the LORD of hosts, 'Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land.
7'I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations, and I will fill this house with glory,' says the LORD of hosts.
8'The silver is Mine and the gold is Mine,' declares the LORD of hosts.
9'The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former,' says the LORD of hosts, 'and in this place I will give peace,' declares the LORD of hosts."
The people don’t hear from the Lord through Haggai until the twenty-first of the following month. So nearly a month passes as they work on the temple until they hear from God again. God always gives us what we need to know when we need to know it. The temple that the people saw being constructed before their eyes was nothing like the one of Solomon’s day. Those who had lived to see Solomon’s temple wept when they saw this one (Ezra 3:12). Yet God’s command was to take heart and be courageous, believing that He was still with them even though their temple was not all that impressive. The more important factor was that their God was with them, and God is never lacking for power, majesty, and awe, even if His earthly “house” is of mere wood. God reminds the people of Israel of His promise to them from when they left Egypt. His Spirit will always be with them, and His covenant to them is sure. Jerusalem will be a place of blessing in the future, specifically during the millennial kingdom. At that time, the wealth of the earth will flood into the city, for God will be there, blessing it. There will be peace in that place, and its glory in the future will be even greater than it was in Solomon’s day. So the people needed to put their hope in the fact that God’s promises will come true and that the best is yet to come. Even if there was no silver or gold in this particular temple, God is the owner of all silver and gold. He will have what He wants when He wants it. For now, wood would suffice, and His desire was for the people to trust Him and worship Him.
10On the twenty-fourth of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to Haggai the prophet, saying,
11"Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'Ask now the priests for a ruling:
12'If a man carries holy meat in the fold of his garment, and touches bread with this fold, or cooked food, wine, oil, or any other food, will it become holy?'" And the priests answered, "No."
13Then Haggai said, "If one who is unclean from a corpse touches any of these, will the latter become unclean?" And the priests answered, "It will become unclean."
14Then Haggai said, " 'So is this people. And so is this nation before Me,' declares the LORD, 'and so is every work of their hands; and what they offer there is unclean.
15'But now, do consider from this day onward: before one stone was placed on another in the temple of the LORD,
16from that time when one came to a grain heap of twenty measures, there would be only ten; and when one came to the wine vat to draw fifty measures, there would be only twenty.
17'I smote you and every work of your hands with blasting wind, mildew and hail; yet you did not come back to Me,' declares the LORD.
18'Do consider from this day onward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month; from the day when the temple of the LORD was founded, consider:
19'Is the seed still in the barn? Even including the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate and the olive tree, it has not borne fruit. Yet from this day on I will bless you.'"
About two months later, God again spoke to the people through Haggai. The Lord gives the priests a lesson in true religion. First, He has them acknowledge that merely touching food with a holy garment does not make the food holy. Second, He has them acknowledge that touching a corpse and them touching food makes the food unclean. The point is that the people were unclean, and thus God’s blessing was not with them because of their sin. It didn’t matter what they did because their very touch “contaminated” because it lacked the blessing of God. Their vats were never full, and their grain heaps were always small. God sent wind, mildew, and hail to get their attention, but they didn’t come back to Him. Now, however, in the ninth month, things were going to become different. The lack of blessing occurred before the people obeyed in placing the stones at the foundation of the temple. Now the temple was officially founded, and God’s promise to the people was that from this point on He would bless them. They did what He had asked, demonstrating faith, and the blessing and favor of God had returned. This had to be great news for them. They could expect rain once again along with produce and more to eat and drink.
20Then the word of the LORD came a second time to Haggai on the twenty-fourth day of the month, saying,
21"Speak to Zerubbabel governor of Judah, saying, 'I am going to shake the heavens and the earth.
22'I will overthrow the thrones of kingdoms and destroy the power of the kingdoms of the nations; and I will overthrow the chariots and their riders, and the horses and their riders will go down, everyone by the sword of another.'
23'On that day,' declares the LORD of hosts, 'I will take you, Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, My servant,' declares the LORD, 'and I will make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you,'" declares the LORD of hosts.
Also on this same day of the ninth month, God told Haggai to deliver a message to Zerubbabel. Zerubbabel was the leader of the people, and God wanted to honor him for his faithfulness throughout this challenging task. He didn’t give up, but he pressed on to the end. God, speaking of the last events on the earth during the tribulation period, says that kingdoms will fall and horses and riders will perish. Yet, during that time, God will remember Zerubbabel, and He will honor him, reward him, and use him. Just as a signet ring is precious to a king, even communicating his very authority, so Zerubbabel will be a minister of the Most High God, serving under His authority and in His name. He will be blessed for having been faithful, which is consistent with the nature of God (2 Corinthians 5:10).