Haggai 2:19 and then Zechariah 1:1-3
Is the seed still in the barn? Even including the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree, it has not borne fruit. Yet from this day on I will bless you.
Can I play the role of a mega-church pastor for a while? That’s rhetorical because you know that this is exactly what I intend to do. While I am pontificating from behind my proverbial pulpit remember, this is not how we are supposed to preach the Word or understand the Word or our surroundings but a parody.
Of my many dreams last night, two were very vivid. In one we rebuilt a barn and its surrounding fence, including a gate and in the other dream, there was a great avalanche on a great mountain that reached the barn which was actually the church. In the latter we were camped at the top of the mountain in a wooden, apex lodge, gathering firewood for the fire as we were about to cook a big feast. But then an avalanche came as we had descended partway down the mountain to gather wood. In a feeble attempt to outrun this mighty avalanche, roaring down the mountain, many people perished from the falling trees, bouncing boulders and sliding snow. Yet a small handful retreated upwards at the roaring sound of snow, slamming trees and loosening boulders set in place for centuries. Those who ascended up the mountain were saved and subsequently searched the side of the mountain for survivors, of which they only found a few, some of whom had made it to the only slightly damaged barn but many more perished along the way, some right at the gates. Some of the survivors never ascended the mountain and had stayed in the barn but were trapped in the inner sanctuary by the piles of snow heaped up, blocking their exit. But I am beginning with the conclusion and getting way ahead of myself.
In the first dream, we entered the barn, our goal was only to pass through, as we saw it as a shortcut to reach our destination. To walk around the fence line would take time over rough terrain. But cutting through the barn would not only considerably reduce our travel time, it would keep our feet dry from the marshlands surrounding the fields, hedged in by a rundown and dilapidated fence. The barn was no sight to see either, with its rotting siding and large, damaged doors, half hanging off their hinges. But as we entered the beat up barn, we noticed that it was still occupied and we were asked by the proprietor to stay, and rebuild the fence and gate and barn and were promised a great reward if we labored with the proprietor. While it was difficult to believe that this poor proprietor of a painfully picturesque place could possibly provide any reward at all, we went to work aside from our attitudes. Yet we followed our own desires for design and built the gates too narrow and the doors to small. We adopted our our style and made the barn, fence and gate beautiful to behold but functionally it was full of folly.
The barn, or church, is just like Israel in Haggai. You see, the seed was still in the barn but we rebuilt the barn in such a way that it looked beautiful on the outside but trucks, tractors and trailers could no longer fit in the tiny gates that we had made. We built the barn to keep things in but had no vision of getting more produce and livestock into the barn or the fruit out. We rebuilt the barn for us, with no thought of the original design or the functionality of a barn. We hemmed everything in with no consideration of the future fruit which would need to be stored in the barn as well. But it looked good. After this, the majority of us ascended up the mountain to enjoy our time after building the barn to our specifications. Yet those are the ones who fled. Like in Haggai, as we labored for ourselves God smote the land with pestilence. We thought we had rebuilt the barn well but only realized our folly when the flood came, in this case, an avalanche. Many ran back to a barn, poorly designed to let people in. The people who had wandered too far down the mountain, made it to the gates of the barn but bottlenecked at the bottom of the mountain because the gates were too narrow to let anyone in–the very same gates of which we had built to be beautiful.
The mountain represents the world, the barn we wanted only to pass through, is the church. At first our only desire was to be pew-sitters, but Jesus, the poor proprietor convinced us to stay and work, like he did in Haggai. But we built things our way, based upon our desires and traditions. The avalanche represents the Coronavirus and God’s judgment against what we had built, like he promised in Haggai. There was a barn but no fruit in it, only the labor of those who thought that they were doing the right thing. Remember, I am lying through my proverbial pen. While this may sound good, it is made up from my vivid imagination, much like the pretribulational rapture.
I am to the point where I am baffled by the beliefs of the prophecy pundits. Especially because I agree with them on almost every aspect of the bizarro world in which we live but they can’t stop saying that Jesus is coming any moment to rescue us and they attempt to back it up Biblically but that dog just won’t hunt. Contextually speaking, where does Jesus say, things will get worse and worse and then I will rapture you? He doesn’t, anywhere, ever. They cut and paste verses together, out of context to come up with their dubious dogma.
Obscure movie reference: Who’s Harry Crumb. I love John Candy films. In this particular movie, John Candy plays a dimwitted, private investigator, searching for an abducted young lady. As is customary for movies about kidnapping, the kidnappers sent a ransom note, using words cut out of various periodicals, explaining their demands. Harry Crumb, after being called lazy and inept, explains that in order to find the kidnappers, all they had to do was find the crazy typewriter. To any millenials or Gen-Z’ers, a typewriter was the predecessor of the word processor, which was the predecessor to texting and driving. Harry Crumb represents the dubious dogma of the prophecy pundits. From now on, we will call ripping verses out of context, the crazy typewriter syndrome.
Dogmatic Dispensationalism begins with the assumption that God has two distinct people with two distinct plans. We have covered this thoroughly through looking at the olive tree in Romans, amongst many other texts. God made “the two into one, breaking down the dividing wall.” They also promote a pre-tribulational rapture rescue, which they see in Enoch, Elijah, Jesus, John, Philip and Paul. The mega-church pastors proclaim that you are David but we are not David, nor Enoch, Elijah or the rest. These were types of Jesus and we certainly are not Jesus. Philip was “raptured” on earth to earth and Paul and John never claimed to have been “raptured.” Paul admits that he didn’t know what happened to the Corinthians when he saw heavenly things. Yet we think we know. The biggest problem with the prophecy pundits is that they assume things get worse and worse. They claim this and cling to Paul writing to Timothy and Peter writing to the first-century church. Nothing could be more ripped out of context, other than my dreams.
What we believe about the future is at which we will aim and that at which we will aim, we will usually hit. If we assume doom, gloom and he is coming soon, we will likely disengage from that to which we were called; gathering the elect from the four corners of the earth. An unfollowed hermeneutic, leads to flawed philosophy on eschatology. That is, eisegesis rather than exegesis, distorts the lens through which we see the eschaton. That is, without careful consideration of the context and sublime string, connecting the dots of the Covenants, exploring examples and jiving with the genre, letting Scripture interpret Scripture, we miss the parousia. That is, ripping verses out of context, adding one’s preconceived notions onto the text of the Bible, gives one a distorted view of Jesus’ comings. Yes, that’s correct, his comings, plural. He clearly came in the first century, based upon his promise to come in the first century in judgment against Jerusalem and those who crucified him and persecuted his people; apostate Israel, after giving them 40 years to repent by; “sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Truly I say to you, all these things shall come upon this generation.”
Therefore while Haggai may seem to speak to us, we have to keep it in its context, although we do get to know the Lord through his dealings with the people present in Haggai. Nevertheless, Haggai was written to a specific people for a specific purpose and recorded for us, so that we would see the sublime string and understand that the Lord was progressively revealing himself and his plan for redemption to the world. But we don’t want to know about Jesus, we want to know about the Coronavirus and why God sent it. We want to know why God is shaking the earth once again. Is it, as my dubious dreams suggest, that he is shaking up the church to be more focused on outreach than on in-reach? No one could claim that churches are not suffering. Or is God shaking the sinners to realize he is in control? Is Covid19 a sign of the end of the world? Is the Lord sending signs, like pestilence, famine, loss of income and the like as he has in Haggai to usher in and harken to his coming kingdom? In my humble opinion, based upon taking a long view of Scripture, considering the context and sublime string, God did not send the Coronavirus at all. Rather he has manipulated what man has done, whether on purpose or by an accident.
There is little doubt in my mind that Covid19 is a result of man attempting to manipulate and manage nature. Whether or not it was to help or harm humanity is still up for debate but consider the source. Nevertheless, this could have been a very bad situation and I don’t want to discount those who have died, gotten sick, lost their jobs or even their entire livelihood but as always, this could have been much worse. We all know this but it is difficult when you are the small business owner who lost loved ones and the business of which you labored night and day to build. Understand though that this is not the end but a good time to swim in the ocean of the Bible, considering the context and sublime string that says God came to us and dwelt among us and established his eternal kingdom during that time–a kingdom progressively promised through the Law and prophets and inaugurated in Christ’s coming, which starts small but grows over time.
We have to remember how specific were the happenings in Haggai and to whom the Lord spoke and how he spoke. Don’t be like the dogmatic dispensationalists and prophecy pundits who slam preterism as replacement theology–though some are, the most well spoken and articulate are emphatic about the church being grafted in to Israel. Also notice that the new Covenant is much better (gross understatement) than the first. Notice also that Hebrews states, without a shadow of doubt, “When He said, ‘a new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.” In the same way that the prophecy pundits attempt to explain away the plain and literal text in Hebrews, they also believe that when John wrote to the literal, seven churches in Revelation, he was actually writing to a Jewish remnant living in a far-future generation, after the church is abolished. Like the imaginary, crazy typewriter in Who’s Harry Crumb, the only way to come up with the Coronavirus being a precursor to a great tribulation, after the church is raptured, is to cut and paste words from the Bible together, out of context and change the meanings of words and plain grammar.
Haggai is no different. Consider the specific situation; watch and notice: “On the twenty-first of the seventh month, the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet saying, ‘Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people saying, “Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? Does it not seem to you like nothing in comparison? But now take courage, Zerubbabel,” declares the LORD, “take courage also, Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and all you people of the land take courage,” declares the LORD, “and work; for I am with you,” says the LORD of hosts.'”
CAGED method of Hermeneutics:
- Author’s aspirations to his audience
- Expository Exegesis of Examples
- Divide Rightly
To understand the context, including the historical context, the first question is alway what’s the author’s aspirations to his audience? But in asking about author’s aspirations to his audience we have to know who the author and audience are. It sounds simple enough but it is ironically, the initial ignoring displayed by the dogmatic dispensationalists and prophecy pundits. Just as John wasn’t really writing to seven, literal churches, Haggai wasn’t writing to the returned remnant, Joshua and Zerubbabel, it was written to the church. Of course it was not written to us, but to them. And I realize how even some great pastors have trouble with this. As I have stated before, we love and learn from the Declaration of Independence but it wasn’t written to us but to king George III. Nevertheless, it has been well preserved. We need to see what God says to them, take a long view and ask how to apply it to us. Unfortunately our insatiable appetites are always inflating the applicability of the Old Testament to our age. We don’t need the Old Testament to tell us what is coming–he came, but we do need the Old Testament to see our sin and the promise of purification found in Jesus.
Therefore we look for Jesus in Haggai and go from there. “On the twenty-fourth of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to Haggai the prophet saying, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, “Ask now the priests for a ruling: If a man carries holy meat in the fold of his garment, and touches bread with this fold, or cooked food, wine, oil, or any other food, will it become holy?”‘ And the priests answered and said, ‘No.'”
That is, the garment doesn’t take holiness from the Holy meat, hold it in itself and then transfer the holiness to something else placed in proximity to the garment. For instance and on the contrary, if I had a wet sponge and placed it in my pocket then took out the wet sponge and placed a dry sponge in my pocket, the dry sponge would likely pick up some of the residual moisture. Very little, most likely but there would be some transfer of water. This was not so in the case of holy meat. None of the holiness would transfer from the meat, to the garment and then to something else–the priests ruled rightly, the holiness remained in the meat.
“Then Haggai said, ‘If one who is unclean from a corpse touches any of these, will the latter become unclean?’ And the priests answered and said, ‘It will become unclean.'”
Right again–even if the Holy meat was touched by anything unclean, it would also become unclean. Sin spreads but righteousness must be imparted. The unclean will make anything it touches unclean including holiness but holiness does not spread the same way, according to levitical laws. The unclean makes anything of which it comes in contact defiled. On the contrary, according to levitical laws, the holiness of an item is not transferable and itself will become defiled if it comes in contact with an unclean item.
“Then Haggai answered and said, ‘”So is this people. And so is this nation before Me,” declares the LORD, “and so is every work of their hands; and what they offer there is unclean. But now, do consider from this day onward: before one stone was placed on another in the temple of the LORD, from that time when one came to a grain heap of twenty measures, there would be only ten; and when one came to the wine vat to draw fifty measures, there would be only twenty. I smote you and every work of your hands with blasting wind, mildew, and hail; yet you did not come back to Me,” declares the LORD. “Do consider from this day onward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month; from the day when the temple of the LORD was founded, consider: Is the seed still in the barn? Even including the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree, it has not borne fruit. Yet from this day on I will bless you.”‘”
Who then is the seed? That’s a trick, Sunday-School question to see if you have considered the context. Is the seed Jesus? Look closely at the context–“it has not borne fruit.” Could Jesus be a seed that hasn’t borne fruit? I know what you are thinking, “Russell P, you said to look for Jesus in Haggai and now you’re saying that the seed isn’t Jesus?” Let’s continue to consider the context before we jump to any conclusions. As we continue, remember that the seed hasn’t borne fruit.
“‘Consider: “Is the seed still in the barn? Even including the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree, it has not borne fruit. Yet from this day on I will bless you.”‘ Then the word of the LORD came a second time to Haggai on the twenty-fourth day of the month saying, ‘Speak to Zerubbabel governor of Judah saying, “I am going to shake the heavens and the earth. And I will overthrow the thrones of kingdoms and destroy the power of the kingdoms of the nations; and I will overthrow the chariots and their riders, and the horses and their riders will go down, everyone by the sword of another. On that day,” declares the LORD of hosts, “I will take you, Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, My servant,” declares the LORD, “and I will make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you,” declares the LORD of hosts.'”
Do we see a far-future fulfillment in a far-future generation after a rapture of the parenthetical church? Do we see terrors and tribulations to come, such as the Coronavirus? Do we see a promise to prosper and provide pleasure to Zerubbabel and the remnant or do we see Jesus? This is why we take our vitamin e and explore examples using an educated exegesis of said examples rather than cutting and pasting like the magic typewriter, taking a long view and seeing the sublime string. We are several missives into the short book of Haggai, without really reading or referencing Zechariah, Haggai’s contemporary. The best way to get an accurate account of a certain people at a certain time is to read books written to the same, said people at the same, said time. Therefore we examine examples in Zechariah and let the Scripture interpret Scripture.
Therefor we will turn our attention from Haggai to Zechariah, with the liberty to return to Haggai as the context suggests.
In the eighth month of the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to Zechariah the prophet, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo saying, “The LORD was very angry with your fathers. “Therefore say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, “Return to Me,” declares the LORD of hosts, “that I may return to you,” says the LORD of hosts.
Remember that Haggai began to prophesy before Zechariah and his purpose was for the people to return to building the temple. Yet Zechariah begins by urging the people to return to the Lord so that he can return to them. Much like the Holy meat in the fold of the garment and the unclean corrupting everything around it, they had become unclean. I believe that this is old Covenant verbiage–hear me out.
Like my dream and the magic typewriter, we want to be front and center in the Bible. We desperately desire answers to the Coronavirus but don’t know how to interpret the Bible. We see things in Haggai and Zechariah and apply it to our somewhat severe situation. But when we do this, we are actually reverting back to an old, obsolete Covenant. My dreams suggest that the church needs to return to the Lord and we certainly do. Here is the irony of our situation: we need to repent and return to the Lord and the Coronavirus exposes this but God didn’t send the Coronavirus and doesn’t tell us to return to him through Haggai or Zechariah.
First we’ll tackle why I don’t think that the Lord sent the Coronavirus because he didn’t have to, we are quite capable of causing calamity. The tower of Babel in Genesis was man’s sinful suggestion and God dealt with it. In Asia apparently, people are trying to play God and messing with viruses. Accidentally released or not, it is clear that this virus is more than a result from a fallen, sinful world but also from the sins of man manipulating microbes. But beyond the tower of Babel we remember reading in Luke the following: “Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And He answered and said to them, ‘Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.'”
Second God doesn’t tell us to return to him through Haggai or Zechariah because he tells us to return to him through his son. He told them to return to him through Haggai and Zechariah. He had a different, progressive purpose for them. In Haggai it’s a return to build the temple and in Zechariah a return to the Law of the Lord but both are in preparation for the coming of the Messiah, Jesus. Before I am accused of using a magic typewriter myself, look at the historical context and examine New Testament fulfillment before presupposing that Haggai and Zechariah were written for us.
Back to Haggai: God reminded them of the promise he made when they came out of Egypt and then reminded them of the former glory of the temple as they gaze on the pretty pitiful work of their hands. Then he makes a promise, concerning the placement of the first stone on this new temple. He promised to bless them and a future, greater glory of the temple, through Zerubbabel. In Matthew chapter one we read; “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. To Abraham was born Isaac; and to Isaac, Jacob; and to Jacob, Judah and his brothers…and Obed by Ruth; and to Obed, Jesse; and to Jesse was born David the king. And to David was born Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah; [he built the first temple] and to Solomon was born Rehoboam; and to Rehoboam, [he divided the kingdom] Abijah; and to Abijah… And after the deportation to Babylon, to Jeconiah was born Shealtiel; and to Shealtiel, Zerubbabel… and to Jacob was born Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.”
In the promise we see Jesus. In the progressive revelation we see Jesus. We also see types and shadows but we also see Jesus plainly in the text, because he is the “Lord of Hosts.” John explained that Jesus explains God because no one has seen the father in John 1:18. We are the fortunate ones who have the completed Scripture and it’s about time we act like it instead of believing that most prophecies have yet to be fulfilled. Jesus promised himself to Haggai and the people present although to them the promise was veiled but to us the promise has not only been unveiled but fulfilled. Revelation literally means an unveiling and when one considers the context it is much more than an idealistic unveiling and certainly not a promise to return to the levitical law and temple worship.
As for the reason God allowed Covid19 to escape Asia, I don’t know. My dream could be partially correct but it’s just a dream. I actually believe that the Coronavirus is not as bad as it could have been based upon the prayers of the saints, whether preterists, dispensationalists, amillenialists, posttrib, pretrib, midtrib or postmil. Despite what we believe about the end of the world, we do find unity in asking God for mercy. Nevertheless I would argue that we have a long way to go but have made great strides as people of God. I honestly believe that the Coronavirus is proof of both of these facts. We found a way to slow a pandemic but not being able to gather together during said pandemic. Like we look back on the Civil War in America and can’t believe that people were willing to die for slavery, a future generation will look at us and wonder how we ruined our economy by quarantining the healthy, because we didn’t know how to treat viruses. They’ll wonder how we could have listened to a bunch of quacks who hold high degrees but knew little more than a dark-age, medieval barber. That my be hyperbole but it should shock your system into seeing that things are getting better and not worse. We’re simply reading our Bibles wrongly. Forget the dark days of the early medieval-times, look at what we romanticize as the “renaissance.” The average lifespan was around 35 years and barbers were still surgeons. Then look back at Haggai and see the sins of the people as God sees them. Now we can look at ourselves and wonder what future generations of christians will say about our current cultural climate and the prophecy pundits and our appearance of apathy on abortion. We’ve come a long way but we have a long way to go.