After being harassed by the Samaritan Mafia, the returning flock completely stopped working on the temple…and that stoppage lasted for a period of about 16 years – and in that time there’s been a couple of more changes in their government, which was explained in the homework.
1Now the prophets, Haggai and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel who was over them. Ezra 5:1 esv
Turn with me to the very small book of Haggai.
In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest: 2 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord.” 3 Then the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? 5 Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. 6 You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.
7 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. Haggai 1:1-7 esv
The first thing I want you to notice is in verse 1: the second year of Darius the king…
Before captivity, the Jews had dated their history according to the year of their own reigning king. Now their history is dated by the reign of a worldly king to whom they were subject. They were no longer a sovereign nation, and the prophet makes that painfully clear in the way he dates the passage. They are no longer in captivity, but, on the other hand, they really aren’t free either.
Immediately, the prophet begins with a confrontational (tough-love) statement directly from the Lord of hosts – you people took it as a sign that just because it got hard to build My house that it wasn’t the right time to build My house. You made yourselves nice places to live (worldly homes) and yet My house sits in shambles!
But here was the other thing – all of their working and toiling was amounting to about nothing, and the Jews didn’t seem to have a clue as to why. They were throwing their hearts and souls into the things of the world – their food, their drink, their clothing and their wages – but not giving any attention to their spiritual growth. God reminded them, through drought, thirst, cold and poverty that He was still with them, and still wanted their attention. But they did not turn to Him for aid, nor did they rebuild His holy house.
The Jews desired a right relationship with their God, but I think attempting to fight off the Samaritan Mafia just knocked the wind out of them. And apparently, the Samaritans didn’t care that the Jews wanted to build for themselves worldly homes – and these were nice, comfortable homes. The language that’s translated to paneled houses in verse 4 indicates:
…”wainscoted,” or “paneled,” referring to the walls as well as the ceilings; furnished not only with comfort but luxury…
—Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
So they’d been allowed to set up for themselves some really nice homes. Presumably, when the going got tough enough with the Samaritans, the Jews gave up on pursuing their growth in God and His ways and went with their own desires.
And God says, Consider your ways.
I can’t believe how this portion of the Scripture spoke to me when I was working on it. I am going through an extremely difficult period in my personal life, and many obstacles attempt to prevent me from working on this series of lessons. I find myself, daily, considering just chucking the whole project and not teaching at all. I’ve made a few spiritual errors during this time, and many missteps have steered me away from where God wanted me. There have been bouts of time when I very much focused on my comfort, instead of the growth in God that I required in order to finish this particular unit in our Rebuilding the Temple series…and then I came across this statement in a commentary:
Those employed for God may be driven from their work by a storm, yet they must go back to it.
—Matthew Henry Concise
I was in the same place that the Jews found themselves, in the second year of Darius the king. And as I started to study the book of Haggai, it was as if God was speaking directly to me – because, of course, He was!
7 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. 8 Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the Lord. 9 You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house. 10 Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. 11 And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast, and on all their labors.” Haggai 1:7-11 esv
Get your tail to work on learning your God and rebuilding your spiritual life! You can’t make it without Me, and you know it. I won’t bless you if you don’t obey.
About 23 days later, they begin work on the temple again. Verse 12 says that they feared the Lord. They were seeking Him and His ways again. And the Lord promises (verse 13) that He is with them. On the threshold of their obedience, there comes a promise from our good and gracious Creator: I am with you.
6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. Hebrews 11:6 esv
Seeking God and being obedient is always rewarded. And it’s right then that God stirs up the hearts of the people, motivating them to continuing the sacred work of rebuilding the temple.
And as a result of this miniscule act of obedience, blessing begins to pour forth in the form of prophecy, and we learn something that wasn’t clear earlier.
7 And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, 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 shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.’” Haggai 2:7-9 esv
There are easily a couple of prophecies in those verses. The one seems pretty straightforward because the Jews now appear to have been worried about the lack of gold and silver as regards building the temple – so through Haggai, God reassures the Jews that even though the temple doesn’t look like much now, just wait. Very soon, God will see to it that the treasures of all the nations come into this inglorious hovel.
Now, instead of treasures of all the nations, it says: the desired of all nations niv 1984 (Haggai 2:7) and I think that works better here because I believe this is a tectonic prophecy about the salvation that God has planned for all people, and verse 9 follows up:
9 The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.’” Haggai 2:9 esv
Remember, Solomon’s temple was filled with the cloud of glory, the cloak of God:
10 And when the priests came out of the Holy Place, a cloud filled the house of the Lord, 11 so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord. 1st Kings 8:10-11 esv
So I think this second temple will be filled with the “glory” of God when Jesus comes cloaked in flesh:
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 esv
God cloaked in flesh, just as He was cloaked in the cloud of glory, at Jesus’ first coming, when He enters the temple:
21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation 31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” Luke 2:21-32 esv
And many of the Jews of that time assumed that the Messiah would appear in the second temple. But His coming wouldn’t be for about 520 more years.
Haggai hasn’t finished with all he’s been given to say when another prophet, Zechariah, is called to supplement the current message. Haggai won’t speak again until the 9th month, but Zechariah’s beginning is dated for the 8th month, and he’s going to say the same thing as Haggai has said.
And then Zechariah falls quiet for a few months. In the meantime, Haggai (2:10-19) finishes his message from the Lord. In that message, he reiterates in a way what Zechariah is saying to the people – that they must put their sin away and be obedient people of God.
Even though the people were still sacrificing to the Lord God Almighty, they were still bound in their sinful ways. They were still breaking the Law of Moses, and through Haggai God warns the Jews that their sinfulness will defile that which God intends to make holy in His house. Sacrifice and work won’t make holiness. Their disobedience is going to contaminate that which is holy.
…the presence of God excludes evil; and when He is acknowledged, the power of His presence banishes defilement and brings blessing.
—George Williams, The Complete Bible Commentary
But how is God going to make all this happen?
20 The word of the Lord came a second time to Haggai on the twenty-fourth day of the month, 21 “Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I am about to shake the heavens and the earth, 22 and to overthrow the throne of kingdoms. I am about to destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations, and overthrow the chariots and their riders. And the horses and their riders shall go down, every one by the sword of his brother. 23 On that day, declares the Lord of hosts, I will take you, O Zerubbabel my servant, the son of Shealtiel, declares the Lord, and make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you, declares the Lord of hosts.” Haggai 2:20-23 esv
This sounds to me like God is preparing for war, especially if we immediately read the next verses of Zechariah:
7 On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, which is the month of Shebat, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, son of Iddo, saying, 8 “I saw in the night, and behold, a man riding on a red horse! He was standing among the myrtle trees in the glen, and behind him were red, sorrel, and white horses. 9 Then I said, ‘What are these, my lord?’ The angel who talked with me said to me, ‘I will show you what they are.’ 10 So the man who was standing among the myrtle trees answered, ‘These are they whom the Lord has sent to patrol the earth.’ 11 And they answered the angel of the Lord who was standing among the myrtle trees, and said, ‘We have patrolled the earth, and behold, all the earth remains at rest.’ 12 Then the angel of the Lord said, ‘O Lord of hosts, how long will you have no mercy on Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, against which you have been angry these seventy years?’ 13 And the Lord answered gracious and comforting words to the angel who talked with me. 14 So the angel who talked with me said to me, ‘Cry out, Thus says the Lord of hosts: I am exceedingly jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion. 15 And I am exceedingly angry with the nations that are at ease; for while I was angry but a little, they furthered the disaster. 16 Therefore, thus says the Lord, I have returned to Jerusalem with mercy; my house shall be built in it, declares the Lord of hosts, and the measuring line shall be stretched out over Jerusalem. 17 Cry out again, Thus says the Lord of hosts: My cities shall again overflow with prosperity, and the Lord will again comfort Zion and again choose Jerusalem.’” Zechariah 1:7-17 esv
This man among the myrtle trees, the Angel of the Lord, is Jehovah – the second person of the Trinity manifested in a man’s form.
Being at once divine and human, He must be God and man in one person.
—Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Now that was an awesome thing to behold. God was no longer speaking through the prophets, but to the prophet Zechariah in person – and that hasn’t happened for a while.
The Lord’s patrol (the heavenly host) is there with Him.
Think about it, if Satan walks to and fro on the earth (Job 1:7) making trouble and trial for God’s people, how much more so does the heavenly host protect and guard God’s people? Their protection and valor in the defense of God’s favored creation surpasses anything we could ever imagine.
13 And to which of the angels has he ever said,
“Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”?
14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation? Hebrews 1:13-14 esv
11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. 12 On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. Psalm 91:11-12 esv
20 Bless the Lord, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word! 21 Bless the Lord, all his hosts, his ministers, who do his will! Psalm 103:20-21 esv
Nonstop, perpetual counterwork is happening all around us, keeping us safe from the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12b esv
The Angel of the Lord intercedes for the Jews at verse 12: O Lord of hosts, how long will you have no mercy on Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, against which you have been angry these seventy years?
He interceded for them 520 years before He came in human flesh, and He intercedes for us now:
… he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7:25 esv
And my favorite:
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 1st John 2:1 esv
An advocate – one who pleads the case of another. That’s our Lord Jesus Christ, Savior and King.
In response to our Advocate’s pleading, the Lord reveals that He is not happy with how His people have been treated. Judgment was intended, yes, but not the complete obliteration of their national identity. He is planning to bring back His national treasure, His peculiar people and His City. He’s returned with mercy and a measuring line – recall from the prophet Isaiah that the measuring line was a symbol of judgment, but now that measuring line will be a symbol of rebuilding, growth, blessing and the glory that is to come back to the Jews.
18 And I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, four horns! 19 And I said to the angel who talked with me, “What are these?” And he said to me, “These are the horns that have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem.” 20 Then the Lord showed me four craftsmen. 21 And I said, “What are these coming to do?” He said, “These are the horns that scattered Judah, so that no one raised his head. And these have come to terrify them, to cast down the horns of the nations who lifted up their horns against the land of Judah to scatter it.” Zechariah 1:18-21 esv
There are several theories, albeit similar, on what these four horns mean. Here are just a few:
To a pastoral people like the Jews the horns of the strongest in the herd naturally suggested a symbol of power and pride of conscious strength: hence the ruling powers of the world (Rev. 17:3, 12). The number four in Zechariah’s time referred to the four cardinal points of the horizon. Wherever God’s people turned, there were foes to encounter (Ne 4:7); the Assyrian, Chaldean, and Samaritan on the north; Egypt and Arabia on the south; Philistia on the west; Ammon and Moab on the east.
—Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
…the four empires of of Babylon, Greece, Persia and Rome; or Syria, Assyria, Nineveh and Babylon.
—George Williams, The Complete Bible Commentary
The complete fulfillment of the second vision is still future. The four horns are identified as the four nations which have scattered Judah, Israel and Jerusalem—in other words, the four Gentile world empires: Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome.
—William McDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary
And then the Lord shows Zechariah how He will deal with them, and the prophet sees 4 craftsmen. The KJV calls them carpenters…and that made me really curious so I looked up the word in my Strong’s Dictionary and it’s a word that also means artificer, which means a skilled or artistic worker or craftsman (Webster’s Desktop Dictionary) – so someone with a great amount of talent. And I thought craftsman or artificer was a really weird word to use to describe these Divine agents of justice, but then I came across this little tidbit in my commentary:
The several instrumentalities employed, or to be employed, in crushing the “Gentile” powers which “scattered” Judah, are hereby referred to. For every one of the four horns there was a cleaving “artificer” [something with a tremendous amount of skill] to beat it down. For every enemy of God’s people, God has provided a counteracting power adequate to destroy it.
—Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
After I read that, all I could think of were Paul’s words to the Philippians:
19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19 esv
No matter what wickedness and injury that Satan has planned, God has a counterplan to encourage and strengthen us for our good and His glory. Our Lord God Almighty and His heavenly host are all around us, fighting for our justice and His glory. He only asks us to obey, and He’ll take care of the rest. The battle rests with Him, and He never loses.
© 2016 Ta`Mara Hanscom
Worksheet to prep for October 16, 2016 3-back-to-work-part-ii-zechariahs-night-visions-worksheet
This is part of our continuing series: