(Haggai Chapter 1 & 2)
“……..I will honor you ……. I will treat you like a signet ring on my finger, says the LORD…..” Haggai 2: 23
Haggai is a minor prophet and a contemporary of Zechariah, who lived before Christ (B.C.). Haggai’s message to the remnants of Israel in Judah, specifically, Zerubbabel, Governor of Judah and Jeshua, the high priest, as recorded in the Jewish Bible (aka Old Testament), is from the first day of the Jewish sixth month, or Elul (about August 29, Gregorian Calendar), of the second year of King Darius’ reign, to the twenty-fourth day of the Jewish ninth month, or Tevet (about December 18, Gregorian Calendar) of the same year, in about 520 B.C.[i] As a result, the remnants of Israel were encouraged and completed the new Temple in 516 B. C.[ii]
The LORD promises to honor Zerubbabel in the second message through Haggai on the twenty-fourth day of Tevet (about December 18), of the second year of King Darius’ reign. Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel and Jeshua, son of Jehozadak, were leaders of the remnant of Israel in rebuilding Jerusalem. Discouraged, the Israelite had abandoned God’s vision at this point and were back pursuing their own interests – taking care of their own businesses. The LORD sent Haggai to spur them on and remind them of why He had withheld His blessings from them (Haggai 1: 1ff).
On the twenty-fourth day of Tevet, the LORD promises to give Zerubbabel, and the remnant, victory, after they had started rebuilding the Temple in obedience to the LORD’s directive. He also promises to make Zerubbabel as a signet ring on His finger.
What does it mean to be treated as a signet ring on the LORD’s finger? What were signet rings used for?
Initially, signet rings were used by sovereigns, or monarchs, such as pharaohs, kings and queens, then the nobility who had a lot of power. It carried the official seal, the crest, showing the status of the owner. When signet rings had more clout, sovereigns could give their rings judiciously to favored royal subjects, to transfer their power to the selected subject, or representative, as they will. This gave the representative power to act on behalf of the sovereign.
To wear a monarch’s signet ring elevated the recipient to a position of authority, often only below that of the sovereign of the kingdom, or very high in the ranks. It signified authority. The bearer had absolute power on behalf of the king, or queen, and had the sovereign’s protection.
Pharaoh gave his ring to Joseph and made him second in command (Genesis 41: 42 – 44). King Ahasuerus (or Xerxes) gave Mordecai his signet ring and elevated him above Haman’s household (Esther 8: 2), again only second in command to him.
A signet ring was a tool to convey the sovereign’s power and execute his, or her, command, without the physical presence of the sovereign. God promised that after He had defeated the foreign powers, He would honor Zerubbabel and treat him as His signet ring. Zerubbabel would become like His right-hand man.
Today, entrepreneurs create rings for various reasons. Anybody can put in a special order, or buy one. In addition, other means are now used to bestow power, the most significant of these, is the personal signature. Despite the plethora of rings today, official documents still carry a seal, along with the official signature. There are also fewer monarchs today. Some of their power, if not most of it, has shifted to their heads of states. Depending on their type of government, heads of states too can bestow power on whoever they choose, with, or without accountability to anyone. Sometimes the entrusted official may prove to be untrustworthy, as in the case of Haman.
From a spiritual and historical perspective, the prophecies to the remnant of Israel focused on rebuilding a physical temple. Two things the LORD required of the Israelite in order for Him to bless them:
1. To refocus their attention from personal business to completing rebuilding the LORD’s house that was in ruins.
2. To do so immediately.
The prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah, as did prophecies of other prophets in the Jewish Bible (aka OT), also allude to Christ, the Messiah and the New Jerusalem.
“The future glory of this Temple will be greater than its past glory, says the LORD Almighty…” Haggai 2: 9.
“Thus says the LORD of hosts “Behold the Man whose name is the BRANCH! From His place He shall branch out. And He shall build the temple of the LORD. Yes, He shall build the temple of the LORD. He shall bear the glory. And He shall sit and rule on His throne. He shall be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.”’ Zechariah 6: 12 – 13 (NKJV)
Another translation reads,
“Tell him the LORD Almighty says: Here is the man called the Branch. He will branch out where he is and build the Temple of the LORD. He will build the LORD’s Temple, and he will receive royal honor and will rule as king from his throne. He will also serve as priest from his throne, and there will be perfect harmony between the two.” (Zechariah 6: 12 – 13. The Book)
The LORD foretells through Zechariah of the day coming when the role of the king and priest would be combined into one Man – that One Man was revealed as Jesus, the Christ (Hebrews 4: 14; Rev 19: 16).
The glory of the new Temple foretells initially the glory of the physical temple which the Jews rebuilt gradually from the ruins, but it also foreshadowed the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit (John 2: 19 – 22; Acts 7: 48ff; I Corinth. 6:19-20), and ultimately, the New Jerusalem. (Rev. 21: 1 – 2, vs10 – 27).
Zechariah prophesied the coming of Christ, centuries before Christ came:
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold your King is coming to you;
He is just and having salvation,
Lowly and riding on a donkey,
A colt, the foal of a donkey.”
Zech. 9: 9 (a)
This prophecy was fulfilled when Jesus entered Jerusalem at the beginning of the Passover week, riding on a colt (John 12: 12 – 16).
When Christ accomplished His work on earth, and God raised Him from the dead, God seated Him in the heavenly places in the place of honor at His right hand, placing Him above all rulers, authority, powers, or kingdoms in the present world and in the world to come. God made Christ the ultimate authority. (Ephesians 1: 19 – 23). When Jesus was still here on earth, He told the crowd that He only spoke whatever the Father directed Him to say and did His Father’s command. He lived a life of absolute obedience (John 8: 28 – 30; 12: 44 – 50). It is befitting that when His work was done, God, the Father, would exalt Him to the highest place.
Anyone who commits to Christ and His transforming power, becomes the living temple of the Holy God, with all the privileges thereof, through His grace. Christ entrusted to us the task of fulfilling His mission. As Zerubbabel and Jeshua obeyed the LORD and led the remnant to rebuild the Temple, if we obey the prompting of the Holy Spirit, we too can do the LORD’s work and finish the job Christ delegated to us to complete before His return. As a believer, you become the tool via which the Gospel can reach others who need to know, the signet ring to spread the message of salvation and prepare the flock for the Second Return and the ultimate New Jerusalem.
Christ entrusted us with the power to preach the Gospel, the power to heal, the power to release the captives and set the oppressed free in His Holy Name (Acts 1: 8). As with any power, it is both a privilege to receive the power and a responsibility to use it honorably.
We have power to act on the LORD’s behalf, to fulfill His mission on earth, while the Son is still up and the day is still young. At the appointed time, the Son will return to gather His people. The field is ripe but the harvesters are few. The harvesters are few for at least four main reasons:
1. Fewer people are dedicated to serving the LORD, compared to the number of those who profess to be Christians. Some may think they would not make a difference, and some may not connect their lives with ministry. According to Pew Research, at least a third of the world’s Christians live in the Americas, including the US. Of the 79% of US Americans who affiliate with the Christian faith, over 60% profess to be nominal Christians. Among this group may be those who have yet to commit their lives fully to the Lord. If you believe you’re in this group and you’re willing to allow God to continue transforming you from inside–out, God can use you.
2. Some who consider themselves believers are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Those who come to Christ are looking for a better life, a changed life. They are motivated to serve, but when they join what they believe to be the Body of Christ, they find no difference between the church and the world they’re trying to leave behind, discouraged, they continue searching (Acts 20: 28 – 32; 1Timothy 4: 1ff). As long as the Church models and teaches the Truth, and avoids diluting the Gospel, Christ is the answer to the world (John 8: 32). If you have been discouraged, continue praying and looking for a church that teaches the Truth and get plugged in and involved in ministry service.
3. As the Apostle Paul and the early Disciples of Christ initially did, many followers of Christ work full-time jobs, in addition to serving in the ministry. Being gainfully employed, so we can be financially responsible, also honors God (John 21: 1 ff; Acts 18: 1 – 3; Ephesians 4: 28). Understandably, some dedicated servers get burnt-out due to getting their family lives, work and ministry service out of balance. The challenge of living a balanced life may be exacerbated by the Pareto principle, the 20/80 rule. Applying this principle to church ministry means twenty percent of the church members do eighty percent of the work.
Exhausted servers need the healing hand of the Gentle Master to restore them. Exhausted servers may also include those in full-time ministry. Jesus sometimes slept little, as the crowd demanded a piece of Him.
If you stopped serving the LORD due to exhaustion, after you have been revived and restored, prayerfully consider committing to one area of ministry that is a best-fit for you, your talents and calling (Galatians 6: 9). If 30% of believers got involved in ministry, the ratio for the Pareto principle would be 30/70; if 40% got involved, the ratio would be 40/60, etc.
4. Another reason that the harvesters are few is self-interest. Let’s face it, serving others often requires going the extra mile. God sees into the heart (Galatians 6: 7 – 9). While it is good that all the physically fit should work, if you seek first His kingdom, everything else will fall into place (Matthew 6: 31 – 34).
The Israelites in Haggai’s time had lost the vision for serving God and had returned to pursuing their own interests, as a result, the LORD had withdrawn his blessings (Haggai 1: 6). Their pursuits for wealth were hollow and empty. Many factors try to distract us, or lure us away from serving God as Christ had commissioned. Lest we become discouraged, Christ sent the Holy Spirit, the Comforter and Counselor, to renew us daily and spur us on to finish the work.
As Haggai encouraged Zerubbabel and the remnants of Israel to obey God and rebuild the Temple, so we must exhort one another to remain obedient to God’s vision. God can use you, if you are willing to walk in obedience and let His power transform you. As signet rings empowered by the Holy Spirit, we must focus on the Great Commission to prepare the Body of Christ and those who have yet to come in, to become holy, living, fruitful temples of God, destined for the New Jerusalem, the Holy City, a city that’s founded on the Risen Lamb and the sovereign grace of the Holy God (Rev 21: 1 – 3).
Bible versions used: The NKJV, NAIV, The Book
Haggai, Chapters 1 & 2
Genesis 41: 42 – 44
Esther 8: 2
Zechariah 6: 12 – 13
Hebrews 4: 14 ; Rev 19: 16
John 2: 19 – 22; Acts 7:48ff; 1 Corinth 6: 19 – 20; Rev. 21: 1 – 3, vs10 – 27
Zechariah. 9: 9
John 12: 12 – 16.
Ephesians 1: 19 – 23
John 8: 28 – 30; 12: 44 – 50
Acts 1: 8; 20: 28 – 32; 1Timothy 4: 1ff; John 8: 32
John 21: 1 ff; Acts 18: 1 – 3; Ephesians 4: 28
Galatians 6: 7 – 10
Rev 21: 1 – 3
1. Joseph M. Juran (applied the 80/20 rule to quality control and named it after Vilfredo Pareto)
2. John J. Parsons. Introduction to the Jewish Calendar. www.hebrew4christians.com
3. Dr. John Maxwell.The Five Levels of Leadership. 2011
4. NYU – Department of Media, Culture and Communication. Signet Ring. http://cultureandcommunication.org. March 4. 2010.
5. Vilfredo Pareto (economist – observed the 80/20 principle). Lived from 1848 – 1923.
6. Stats on Christian population (derived from www.pewresearch.org)
7. The Works of Josephus complete and unabridged. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MS, 0191-3473. The Antiquities of the Jews: Book 11, Chapter 4, pg 291 – 292. First printing 1987. Translator: William Whiston. c1737.
i, a, Haggai 1: 1 and 2: 20; b, John J. Parsons. Introduction to the Jewish Calendar. www.hebrew4christians.com
ii, The works of Josephus. (Josephus, a well educated Jewish historian from a Jewish priestly line, lived from A.D. 37 – A.D. 100. He later took the Roman name “Flavius”, a family name of his close friends Emperor Vespasian and Emperor Titus.)