Summary: God is able to encourage and enthuse us even when we are living in an unholy way
I have most of my report cards from grade 2 through to grade 12. In all of the reports there is a distinct pattern. I was much better at Maths and Science then I was at Spelling and English. Which is kind of ironic.
I hardly ever use any of the Maths and Science I learnt at school.
My whole job revolves around using English.
Which proves the point I am going to make really well.
You see we live in a world where people feel that they need to be good at everything.
And there are some people who feel like real failures when they struggle in one way or another.
Which makes life really hard and can really drain you if that is what you feel.
Because everyone always fails at something. In fact a lot of us fail in all sorts of ways.
But, when I was younger, my parents didn’t place unrealistic expectations on me. They gave me encouragement even in my failures. So even when I failed I could still feel energised.
My point here is that we can still be energised even when we fail.
That is a lesson so many of us need to hear and be reminded of.
And that is the focus of our message today because it is the focus of our Scripture passage.
Read Haggai 2:10-23
Now it might be a little difficult to see at the beginning. But what is happening here is that God is pointing out the weaknesses and the failures of the people.
The specific weakness God is focussing on is a lack of holiness.
How do we know holiness is the issue?
Because of the two questions which are asked about how the OT law works.
If a person carries consecrated (holy) meat in the fold of his garment, and that fold touches some bread or stew, some wine, oil or other food, does (that which has been touched) become consecrated (holy)?
In those days when sacrifices were made, part of the sacrificial meat was saved and eaten either by the priests or the Israelite bringing the offering. That meat would be holy because it had been part of the sacrifice – and to bring it home the meat would be carried in a fold in one's garment. When you get home you literally have something holy entering your house.
If that thing which is holy touches something else can that holiness be transferred? The priests answered, “No”. Holiness was not transferable in such a way. The priests are correct – or course – there is no law in the Bible where holiness is transferred.
So we come to the second question.
If a person is defiled (unholy) by contact with a dead body touches one of these things, does that which has been touched become defiled (unholy)?
Holiness is not transferable. What about being defiled … being unholy … is that transferable? The answer is easy to find.
Anything that an unclean person touches becomes unclean, and anyone who touches it becomes unclean till evening.
Lack of holiness, uncleanness, being defiled … it can all be transferred.
In one way that doesn’t make sense – think about it in terms of sickness and health.
If you're sick and you go out among people, you spread your sickness as you come in contact with people.
But if you're healthy, you don't spread around your healthiness when you come in contract with sick people.
Just like sickness spreads but health doesn't, so unholiness spreads but holiness doesn't.
So we are using maths! Here is the formula.
holiness + touching ≠ holiness.
unholiness + touching = unholiness.
But what has all that got to do with the building of the temple and the people who were working there?
The temple is a holy place.
The people would reason that, because they were working at this holy place, or they were helping in some way, or because they were part of the nation that was doing the project … because of that they might think that somehow they were also holy.
They looked the part didn’t they? They were working hard.
But was their heart really in it?
Had they really made a core-deep change in their lives?
Had they really changed?
We have good reason to suspect they had not.
Have a look at the first chapter of next book – Zechariah.
Read Zechariah 1:1-4
In the eighth month of the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berekiah, the son of Iddo:
“The Lord was very angry with your forefathers. Therefore tell the people: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Return to me,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty. Do not be like your forefathers, to whom the earlier prophets proclaimed: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Turn from your evil ways and your evil practices.’ But they would not listen or pay attention to me, declares the Lord.