Haggai 2: 20 - 23
Instead of putting you all in a time capsule to send you back 2500 years to the time of Haggai, I decided to travel into your time. My name is Zerubbabel.
I’ve got to tell you that I felt very alone, discouraged and disappointed. I was in a dead-end job with no future. I had been promised promotions but they never came. When I tried to motivate my co-workers they ignored me and did what they wanted...for 16 years! They were fickle, not faithful.
I was born in another country and never felt like I belonged anywhere. I was embarrassed about my family and was trying to do all I could to break the cycle of spiritual unfaithfulness. Whenever someone would bring up what my great grandfather and grandfather did I would just cringe. On top of all this, I had a name that people made fun of. Even I had a hard time spelling it and just to pronounce it reminded me of my unholy heritage.
Zerubbabel means “son of Babel” because I was born in Babylon. I was from the land of losers as far as I was concerned. Do you ever feel like a failure? Ever get down and discouraged? Are you disappointed with the way things are going? As you look at your family tree do you ever wonder if you can break generational dysfunction? Do you feel like giving up? Is your marriage a mess? Is your confidence shaken?
I can’t wait to tell you what God taught me and how he poured courage back into me. I don’t want to bore you with my family background but it’s important that you know that I come from a line of kings. My grandfather was one of the kings of Judah.
When the offer was made to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple, I was all in. This was my opportunity to make up for all the failures in my family. What a privilege to go and build! This wouldn’t be so bad. After all, the king was providing money, materials and safe passage. I was also going to be with guys I really looked up to – Ezra and Nehemiah, Haggai and Zechariah, among others.
We jumped in and tackled the task when we arrived. We worked hard for about 2 years. We finished the foundation and built the altar so we could reinstitute sacrifices and start celebrating some feasts again. But you know how easy it is to start off strong and then hit a wall, don’t you? My teammates started getting bogged down by all the opposition we were facing.
Then they started whining about how they never got a chance to design and decorate their own homes. So they just stopped working…for 16 years! God’s house was in ruins but their own homes were beautiful and even opulent. The people even used the materials designated for the Temple to panel their lounges spaces! In the interest of full disclosure, I need to say that I became very self-centred as well, thinking I could do life without God at the centre. Does that ever happen to you?
I was frustrated that they wouldn’t listen to me and I felt like a failure. I also started to feel sorry for myself. Here I was the governor, but really, what did I govern? My relatives were royalty but here I was in this remote land, staring at unfinished work, feeling like a lame leader, knowing that another king in another country was really in charge.
God’s Word at the Right Time
Some of you know to how wonderful it is to encounter God’s Word at just the right time. When hope had almost evaporated, God spoke to me. It was the same day that Haggai preached the sermon you heard last weekend. That message really motivated the people to persevere in the task, knowing that God was going to bless them.
This time God singled me out in the sermon. At first I was afraid that the Almighty was going to clobber me and continue the curse on my life. But it wasn’t like that at all:
“Tell Zerubbabel governor of Judah…” I was surprised when I heard my name but grateful that God was thinking about me and had a message for me. Some of you need to know that God loves you no matter what you’ve done or where you’re from! I didn’t want to be reminded that I was governor but God knew that’s what I was. Likewise, God knows what situation you are in right now. Then He said some things that really got my attention. God wasn’t done with me! He had a plan! Judah was just a tiny spot in the world but the Saviour of the world would trace His roots from there! Babylon was big but God was bigger. Persia was powerful but the God of the Angel armies was omnipotent. God was weaving His way and His will for His glory…as He always does.
I was really struck by the forcefulness of the words. There were no “maybes” or “mights” about it. What God says He will accomplish: “…I will shake the heavens and the earth. I will overturn royal thrones and shatter the power of foreign kingdoms. I will overthrow chariots and their drivers; horses and their riders will fall, each by the sword of his brother. On that day, declares the LORD Almighty, I will take you…”
The first thing that came to my mind was this: He’s God and I’m not. It’s all about the Almighty because He wins in the end. This made me think of how the Sovereign One shook the heavens when He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. I also remembered what the Almighty did to the Egyptians when the waters of the Red Sea wiped out their chariots and drivers. Everywhere I looked I saw reminders of the power of Persia, but God was way more powerful. I was encouraged to hear that God was going to shake things up and shatter kingdoms.
God’s Future Plans
Then I heard the Lord Almighty say, “On that day…” I knew that this was a reference to the coming day of the Lord. Many of the prophets used similar words to refer to the “last days.” This is a signal that what follows has do with future fulfillment.
What God said next made me quickly realize that while he used my name He was referring to me as a representative of the kingly line from the tribe of Judah. Let me explain by walking through the phrases found in v. 23: “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 bounced me from Babylon to rebuild the temple but I think he had more in mind because this word was also used of kings being anointed for kingship. That certainly couldn’t apply to me personally, could it? Then amazingly, God referred to me in 4 ways:
1. Servant - “Zerubbabel my servant…” When He called me a servant, I got spiritual goosebumps because “servant” was used in many passages to refer to the coming Messiah, or Promised One.
2. Son - “Son of Shealtiel.” Some wonder if Shealtiel was my real dad or if he was really my uncle who adopted me because my birth dad’s name was Pedaiah. Here’s something that will blow your mind. If I was adopted then I had all the rights of being Shealtiel’s son but that means I avoided the curse that came through my grandpa Jeconiah. Again, I’m not sure about all this because I could never get a straight answer. It sure felt like my life was under a curse.
3. Signet - “I will make you like my signet ring.” 3 words were now ringing in my ears: shake, take and make. God was going to shake things up, take me from being a lonely leader and make me into a signet ring. The word signet means “a seal.”
A signet ring was used to sign and seal documents by pressing it into hot wax. A king would guard his ring carefully because it represented his reign. Just 3 years ago archaeologists discovered a royal seal containing a Hebrew inscription that reads, “Belonging to Hezekiah, son of Ahaz, king of Judah.” This is really cool because Hezekiah served about 700 years before Christ. This particular royal seal was used to secure the strings tied around rolled-up documents.
There were 3 purposes of a signet ring: • It was the personal signature of a king • It validated royal authority • It was a guarantee to fulfill a future promise.
Unbelievably, God was telling me that he was going to turn me into a signet ring! Somehow I represented the dynasty of King David and God was resuming the messianic line interrupted by the exile as a consequence of the sins of my great grandfather and grandfather.
My great grandfather was Jehoiakim. When confronted with Scripture, instead of believing it, he decided to burn it. That’s not much of a family blessing, is it? Ok, now I’m ready to tell you about my grandpa. He only served as king for 3 months and then was deported to Babylon because of his disobedience. My grandpa was told that he was like a signet ring that was pulled off. Now God is reversing the curse by making me into a signet ring. Could God actually be restoring the line to the Messiah through me? Hold on…I’ll explain more in a bit. Here’s the 4th thing I’m called:
4. Select - “For I have chosen you.” I was now convinced that while God was speaking to me, He must have someone else in mind. The word “chosen” was used when appointing kings. This term was also used of the Messiah - Jesus Christ.
Well, that’s my story…and I’m sticking to it, because God has stuck with me. Before I depart I’d like to pass along some life lessons that I learned.
1. Let God’s Word come to you. If you want to hear a word from God, you must be in the Word of God. Don’t wait for a feeling or an experience. If you’ve ever said, “I wish God would speak to me,” He already has. He put it in a book called the Bible.
In Zechariah 4: 6 God singled me out again with a wonderful promise and reminder because I’m prone to try to do things in my own strength: “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD Almighty.” This was directed to me but I’m happy to share it with you.
Haggai only preached 4 sermons but I understand that this is your pastor’s 8th sermon from this book. He sure knows how to stretch out a series, doesn’t he? But there are so many lessons to learn. You can find all the lessons on the church website.
2. Trust God’s timing. Have you noticed that we almost always have to wait for God to do something? That’s OK. That’s the way He set it up. The words He said to me didn’t come to fulfillment for 500 years! But God’s timing is perfect and He will perfectly carry out His plan. In the midst of your problems, you can trust His purposes. Even when things are shaking, submit to His sovereignty.
3. It’s all about Jesus. Did you notice that I just disappear from the scene after having a minor role in 2 of the Minor Prophets? Do you know why? Because it’s not about me; it’s all about Jesus. This passage was not personally fulfilled in me because I never sat on the throne of David but the Son of David fulfilled it. God was reversing the curse beginning with me and my descendant, Jesus the Christ, who will sit on the rightful throne of David! The angel Gabriel announced it this way in Luke 1: 32, 33 “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; his kingdom will never end.”
Check this out. It’s mind-blowing. Both Matthew and Luke list my name in the genealogy of Jesus! A failure like me is in the family tree of Jesus!
4. God can deliver you from dysfunction. God can reverse your curse and save you from your sins so that you can do things differently than your parents or grandparents did. God can start a new family tree of faithfulness beginning with you! Jesus died in our place, taking our punishment, so that we might be free. Jesus took the curse of sin for us so that we are no longer condemned. Maybe you think you don’t qualify because you’ve messed up too much. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done; what matters is what Jesus has done. There is grace for everyone. Jesus has promised us freedom - John 8: 36 “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
5. Join God’s team if you want to win. Once you’re saved, you will be sealed with the Holy Spirit - Ephesians 1: 13 “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.” If you are saved, God’s signature is on your soul!
Check out the last 4 words of the book: “…declares the Lord Almighty.” It’s not about me…and it’s not about you. It’s all about the God of the Angel Armies. There’s a battle going on between good and evil but the battle has already been won because of what Jesus has done on the Cross.
Well, it’s time for me as Zerubbabel to head back or Haggai will wonder where I went. I will meet you again next week in the genealogy of Jesus. I turn it back to Pastor William…
Let’s stand and declare in song that God is able. He will never fail because He is Almighty God.
He is greater than all we seek and greater than all we ask.