Summary: The blessing is not the encouragement to begin, but the progress of the work.
Wouldn’t it be great if good health was contagious? All a well person would have to do is breathe on a sick person and he would get better. A person without AIDS could give a blood transfusion to a person with AIDS and they would be healed. The contagion of meningitis would work the opposite way, instead of the well person getting a life threatening disease, the endangered person would be made safe.
Unfortunately that isn’t the way it works. It is easier to catch a cold than it is to catch good health.
That was then, this is now
Turning points are important. Just as important as the turning points are the demonstrations that you are continuing in the direction you have turned.
Decisions are great, but follow through is better.
• The whole building project started in September
• By October, some were getting discouraged and were ready to quit
• But two months after that, the enterprise is moving forward
So God is going to address the way things are, based on the past
And then He is going to address the way things will be, based upon the present
That was then ...
A good thing does not improve what it touches
This message from Haggai is a build up. The point is delayed. He begins with a discussion about how corruption and consecration works:
Consecration is hard to catch
Corruption is easy to catch
It is like sickness and health. You can catch a cold, just being in the same building with someone. It is much harder to catch health.
In the Law of Moses, consecration could be transferred to one degree. If a consecrated offering touched something, say, your clothes while you were handling the offering, your clothes would be made holy. However, your clothes could not then pass that holiness on to anything else.
When a sacrifice was prepared, it went through a great deal of care and attention. The holiness of that consecrated item came intentionally. A recognition of the intention and purpose of the owner toward that item had to be declared and cultivated.
For example, a lamb chosen for an offering was
• separated from the flock for many days
• butchered a certain way
• roasted a certain way
• handled a certain way
All that consecration was not easily transferred.
However, a bad thing corrupts what it touches
On the other hand. If something was unclean, say a dead animal in your yard, and you touched it, just as with the offering, you would take on the ceremonial property of the thing you touched. Through your carelessness, you became unclean. However, unlike consecration, corruption continues to another degree. If you, having become unclean by touching the corpse, touch something else, say your daughter when she needs her shoes tied, also becomes unclean. You have passed on the corruption.
Here is Haggai’s point. The corruption has dominated the ceremonial condition of the people. All this time, they have been bringing offerings to the altar, but their offerings have been corrupted.
They were corrupted by the attitudes of the people.
It is ironic that the first thing they built was the altar, while their attitudes kept the offerings from being effective.
Haggai is telling them, in the form of this little conversation, that their attitudes have slowed their spiritual progress. And their spiritual condition has affected everything else. But now, something has been changing.
That was then ...
Economically, things were bad
God reminds them, though I doubt they needed reminding, that their economy had been in a pit. Actually, I don’t think that God is reminding them of the bad economy so much as He is reminding them of the essential cause and effect.
Remember Haggai’s first message. You would put two coins in your pocket, but when you took them out there would only be one. Your trees didn’t bear fruit. Your crops rotted on the vine.
Essentially, God was indicating that they were working hard, but their hard work was not bringing the expected results. This "invest 2, withdraw 1" system should have made them look for a reason, but the one direction they did not look was at their own spiritual condition. It did not even occur to them to examine the spiritual facets of their lives to figure out what was wrong in other areas.
It wasn’t about the activity surrounding a building project, or not surrounding the building project. It was more about the attitudes that kept the building from being attempted.
From this day on ...
Haggai is a master of fine oratory. In this short message, he is building the suspense of his hearers by tagging them along on stuff they already know. He is essentially repeating his first message.