Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: God loves you and values you. You are an important part of His kingdom work.

The blessing takes an additional facet

On December 18, 520 BC God came to Haggai and announced to the people the end of the economic decline and crop failures. He said, "from now on I will bless you."

On the same day, God sent a personal word to the governor, Zerubbabel. To Zerubbabel, when he heard this prophecy, it must have sounded like the end of the world. A couple of months ago, Haggai had told him that God was going to shake the heavens and the earth, and now he is saying it again.

What is a Signet Ring?

For us, in these days of DNA and fingerprints, signatures, endorsements and notaries, the idea of a signet ring is kind of odd. Different cultures have done different things to set official approval on documents. In China, today, they still use a chop. A chop is a rubber stamp that is uniquely designed for an individual. In order to "sign" something, instead of a written name, a chop is used.

My Chinese name is Tang Rong-Drew (though I could not spell it or write it). For a gift, a close Chinese friend had my name and Dawn’s Chinese name (Tang Chen-Xei) made into our own chops. If we were in Taiwan we would use these to endorse official documents, and it would carry the weight of a signature. We would guard these very carefully, because stealing one would be a powerful part of identity theft.

Signet rings in ancient days were used in a similar way. The raised design on the ring was used to stamp the king’s sign in clay on official documents. Signet rings were signs of power and affluence. They were used by kings and high officials to conduct official public business, but they were also used by rich merchants and powerful business concerns. In Moses’ day the wealthy gave up their signet rings as part of a great offering to God. In Isaiah’s day, signet rings were part of the luxury driven arrogance that God promised that he would take away. So, just like fine cars and big houses today, they became status symbols, owned by people who had no use for them.

In Biblical times, signet rings worked both ways too. Proud posers could have one made and try to look good. But a true person of power had signet rings and used them to exercise that power with care. An official of the king might be given the king’s ring, but it was a high honor and a sign of special trust. Joseph was given the signet ring of the pharaoh.

The most significant use of a signet ring in the Bible is in the book of Esther. The king gave his ring to Haman who used it to order the genocide of the Jews. He took it back from Haman and gave it to Mordecai who used it to save his people. When Daniel was placed in the lion’s den, the den was sealed with the king’s signet. These high level policy decisions were reserved for the king and his most trusted advisors and representatives. Haman and Mordecai served as prime ministers in their time and, like Joseph, were trusted so much that their word was like the word of the king himself.

Haggai is the only time that God ever named a person as his own signet ring as a sign of His own power among people. It was a well known image. He actually said of one king, that even if he were the signet ring on God’s hand, He would pull him off his finger.

So for Zerubbabel to be called "God’s Signet Ring" was a significant thing, not to be ignored.

Now consider this

David’s throne has ended. The last king was carried off into Babylon and a governor had been set in his place then assassinated. After the 70 year exile, Cyrus the Persian sent the Jews back to their homeland and made Zerubbabel the new governor.

Zerubbabel was not a king, though he was the "Son of David." He was a foreign emperor’s underling. He was missing the natural legacy, the assumed power and respect due to the heir of David, because he was not a king.

When the project of continuing work on the Temple began, Zerubbabel was one of the first to become discouraged. No surprise since Zerubbabel was pushing the envelope of his power. Haggai’s second message was directed partially at him.

Zerubbabel would have struggled for the following he needed to lead. He would have lacked the people’s confidence, which was at a low point anyway, since the economy was bad, they were refugees in their own land, and struggling to make ends meet.

• Who was this guy who was no king, but just a government lackey for a foreigner?

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