This year we have been having a look at the book of Haggai [P] – a series of five prophecies given over a period of just under four months. The situation, as you recall, was that a godly remnant had returned from exile in Babylon to Judea and Jerusalem with edict to rebuild the temple of יְהוָה there. But the situation changed and due to opposition they stopped this work and, instead, built their own estates. But they encountered frustration; יְהוָה was speaking through circumstances, through frustration and failure in their agriculture; telling them to get back to the task of building His house. And so He sent a message of rebuke [P] through Haggai to tell them to stop their own activities and get on with His business. Praise God, the governor, high priest and people heeded this message and got on with the job, so יְהוָה sent another message through His prophet Haggai, this time commending them [P] and assuring them that He was with them. But as they got on with the job they were discouraged because what they were doing seemed so pathetic compared to the lavish and glorious temple that Solomon had built – and so יְהוָה sent yet another message to them through Haggai, a message to encourage them [P], telling them that He would act, shake all things, fill the temple with His glory and give peace: wholeness and completion. Now another couple of months have past, it is now almost 4 months since the initial message that Haggai delivered (3 month and 23 days). The remnant in Jerusalem had responded to יְהוָה’s word as He spoke to them, they had continued to labour on, working on His house. So this time יְהוָה spoke a word of blessing to them [P]. You know? יְהוָה blesses obedience [P], those who respond to Him when He speaks to them. So let’s read this message of blessing. But as we do, note how the relationship with יְהוָה has changed. At first it was a message of rebuke, יְהוָה speaking a command to His people; now, the nature of speaking has changed: it is a dialogue. יְהוָה speaks through question and answer, there is communication restored. God speaks to them, and they speak back to Him. Through this interchange He brings them to the point He wants to make. He establishes a principle. [Haggai 2:10-19 On the twenty-fourth of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of יְהוָה came to Haggai the prophet, saying, “Thus says יְהוָה of armies, ‘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, “No.” Then Haggai said, “If one who is unclean from a corpse touches any of these, will the latter become unclean?” And the priests answered, “It will become unclean.” Then Haggai said, “‘So is this people, and so is this nation before Me,’ declares יְהוָה, ‘and so is every work of their hands; and what they offer there is unclean. ‘But now, do consider (lay to heart) from this day onward: before one stone was placed on another in the temple of יְהוָה, 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 יְהוָה. ‘Do consider (lay to heart) from this day onward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month; from the day when the temple of יְהוָה was founded, consider (lay to heart): ‘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.’ ”] “From this day on I will bless you” Hallelujah! Wonderful! But the word “blessing” is overused (at least in religious circles): “God bless you” – as trivial as a sneeze. But the blessing of יְהוָה is wonderful, particularly if you have been under His curse as these people had. The blessing of יְהוָה is tangible; it is not just a word, a pious, well-meaning sentiment. I speak the priestly blessing over Hannah every night – not just nice words, but God’s favour imparted from heaven! And יְהוָה brings out how wondrous and significant His blessing is by first establishing a principle, then showing how His blessing overrides this universal principle. He goes through a bit of logic and reasoning to set out the universal principle first. The principle is self evident – at least it was to the priests of Haggai’s day – perhaps not quite so evident to us, at least not at first, but it is really. You all know it intuitively – let me show you. I have some fruit, say some oranges [P], then I notice that one of them is starting to go off [P], it’s got just a little bit of mould. What should I do? I have these nice fresh oranges [P] – perhaps I should put it with them? [P] Maybe it will catch some of their freshness, copy them?! What will happen? It is obvious – the bad orange will make the others go rotten [P], it will keep on getting more rotten, until it is completely rotten through and through [P]. The principle is obvious. Corruption is irreversible, it can only go in one direction [P]. You can slow it down by refrigeration but you cannot undo it – a fridge cannot make a rotten oranges good, but a rotten orange can make a barrel of good oranges, go rotten. So here is the principle [P]: rottenness spreads! It is self evident – if one person with the flu is in a room full of healthy ones, what happens? Bad is contagious! יְהוָה asked the priests for their judgement – if there was something, some food and it came in contact with something holy, consecrated to יְהוָה would it make that food holy – the answer was “No” – the principle is that goodness cannot be caught [P]. But on the other hand if there was someone who was unclean, defiled, they had been in contact with death; when they touched the food, the ruling was that it become unclean also. So corruption is contagious, spreads; but goodness doesn’t. And isn’t that true? I remember my younger sister going to school for the first time, so cute and innocent; within days she was turned into a swearing, mean-spirited monster! Don’t we see it? It is evil that affects others not the good. I remember speaking to a girl at work who was Christian, she was getting married to a non-believer. And Paul, not known for his diplomacy, set about to tell her how wrong it was. But she maintained that she had flatted with non-Christians and kept her faith, going to church regularly. But what tends to happen is that it is the Christian that is dragged down rather than the other made holy. Now the situation is different if someone gets saved after being married but their spouse does not [1 Corinthians 7:14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy.]. But there is this universal principle that righteousness isn’t contagious but, sadly, evil is. The sin of Adam infected every descendant after him – sin passed to all man. Jesus said a little leaven leavens the whole lump, Paul said the same: (cf. 1 Cor 5:6; Gal 5:9) – corruption spreads. The principle established is that holiness cannot be transmitted. We cannot impart our holiness to another. Food that was holy could not, by touching un-consecrated food, make it holy – it had to be consecrated itself. We cannot carry others with us, nor can we ride on another’s holiness. I remember my Dad preaching, he would say: “I would love to collect you all together in a big net and take you with me – but I cannot.” Those that are set apart to God must be done so individually. יְהוָה asked for a ruling on the case of holy touching neutral things, then He asked a ruling on if an unclean thing touches neutral things. Although holiness doesn’t spread, uncleanness does. Corruption spreads, until all is contaminated – evil has an effect on those around. We cannot but become contaminated by the evil all around us. We live in a sin contaminated world and it affects us – our feet become dirty from walking the streets of this world – that is why Jesus commanded us to wash each others’ feet. Do you ever feel dirty just by what you come in contact with? (Pastor Wayne). We must guard against corruption, avoid contact with it, for it will contaminate us. So יְהוָה set forth this principle that operates and seems to be universal. [P] But why was יְהוָה saying this? What was the application to those building the temple? What has this to do with blessing? Stick with me. The priests gave their ruling, the principle was set forth, now Haggai brings the application: [Then Haggai said, “‘So is this people. And so is this nation before Me,’ declares יְהוָה, ‘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 יְהוָה, 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 יְהוָה.] The contamination had spread! They were unclean! Defiled! And it had its consequences – they were under God’s disfavour. Becoming clean, as it were, would bring YHWH’s favour and constitute a solution to the pressing economic problems among them. The priests gave their ruling in response to יְהוָה’s questions – holiness is not contagious but uncleanness is. Now Haggai applies this ruling, this principle, to the people and nations in this message from יְהוָה. The temple was unclean – desecrated by the Babylonian invaders, it still lay in ruins – it had not been rebuilt and consecrated since its destruction. Therefore the people, the nation, were also unclean – because uncleanness, defilement, spreads – they were unclean by association. So too were all their deeds, the works of their hands, and the offerings that they made there ("there" being at the altar at the temple site which had been rebuilt – cf. Ezra 3:1-6). Unclean people offered the sacrifices so, by association, the sacrifices were unclean – unacceptable before יְהוָה. This explained why their crops failed and they met with frustration at every twist and turn. No matter how much they prayed or sacrificed, it made no difference because their worship was unclean – it was not acceptable to God. Yet we too come to church, sing praises, pray, worship etc. – but have we been in association with the unclean? Are we unclean by association? If so, our worship is defiled [P] – unacceptable to God! [cf. Psalm 15:1-5 O יְהוָה, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill? He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart. Psalm 24:3-6 Who may ascend into the hill of יְהוָה? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood and has not sworn deceitfully. He shall receive a blessing from יְהוָה.]. We will not receive a blessing if we draw near in uncleanness. We are so blasé in our approach to the Holy God! Do we come to worship having been in contact with the world without cleansing ourselves first? [cf. James 4:4-10 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”? Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.]. Is our life of worship a sham? or are we worshipping in Spirit and in truth, with clean hands and a pure heart? They were unclean, they were working on the holy temple – did that make them clean, holy? No! The opposite – the temple was defiled because they were! Where is the blessing? There was none! There was curse – they came to look for grain and found only ½ what they expected, for wine and there was even less, only 40%. יְהוָה says that this frustration and lack, disease and destruction were from Him! – He smote them and the work of their hands. It was יְהוָה’s doing! They were under יְהוָה’s curse! Why? Because they were defiled! [P] Hey, you say, “this is not blessing! I thought you said that this was a message of blessing!” But before you appreciate the good news, the blessing you have to understand the bad news, the seriousness of the situation. If someone drives into the back of you and shunts your car violently, you are liable to be rather annoyed with them. But if your car is stalled on a railroad crossing and you see a freight train, just metres from your window; you will be extremely appreciative of that shunt. We only appreciate the blessing when faced with how desperate our situation is. They were defiled, and everything they touched became defiled. Furthermore no matter how righteous and holy someone was, they would not become holy by contact with them. The principle was that rottenness spreads, and goodness cannot be caught. How can they become pure?!! They were under יְהוָה’s curse, He sought to get their attention through discipline (blighting their crops) but they did not come back to Him, they did not repent, turn from their way! That is the response that יְהוָה is looking for: REPENTANCE! [P] But "NOW" – this day was to be a turning point – the people had shown their obedience and determination to rebuild the temple in response to יְהוָה’s word. יְהוָה directs them to “lay to heart” (cf. Hag 1:5, Hag 1:7; Hag 2:18), to take special note, for this day is a turning point – they were to take note how things were prior to it (Hag 2:16,17) compare to how they will be after it (Hag 2:18-19). Before this day they were under יְהוָה’s curse because they were unclean and their worship was defiled. But from now on, instead of a curse of frustration and lack, there would be a blessing – the land would produce bountifully. The turning point came because they laid the foundation of יְהוָה’s house – they set their heart on building the temple. Instead of seeking their own things they sought יְהוָה’s ways and will. The same turning from curse to blessing came on the day that I was baptized – ceased from seeking self and obeyed יְהוָה and started to walk in His ways – build His temple – the curse was broken and blessing was poured into my life. Hallelujah! Not that the construction is completed but on the day the foundation was laid, the turnaround (repentance) took place, the blessing came. יְהוָה directs them to take note before stone was laid on stone – i.e. before they started reconstructing the temple there was a curse on the land. There was lack. יְהוָה’s hand was against them. Chronic and consistent lack is a sign of a curse – we should take note "lay it to heart" – something is out of order in our relationship with יְהוָה. But they did not take note! It did not attract their attention, bring them to seek the reason why and return to יְהוָה. This lack was not coincidence – it was יְהוָה’s doing. Not "the enemy", but יְהוָה! "I struck you"! All they did was struck, the work of their hands was cursed – came to nothing. Whatever they did was destroyed! At every twist and turn they met calamity: scorching winds, disease (mildew, withering), hailstorms. In every way יְהוָה was against them. In utter frustration everything they tried to achieve themselves was thwarted. יְהוָה was trying to get their attention! His reason was to cause them to turn back to Himself! But they did not come to Him! They battled on in their own strength – don’t we often do the same? We will rebuild Christchurch! May we be quick to see God’s hand in our situation, responsive to His works in our lives when He is trying to get our attention. May we not stubbornly continue on in our own strength but quickly return to Him in humility, that He may lift us. They were deservedly under יְהוָה’s curse. So too were we! [Galatians 3:10 For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.”] What a hopeless and desperate situation! Do you sense it? – because that is the boat that we are in! Once defiled, how can we ever be pure again? [P] Once under the curse, how can you ever be blessed?! But יְהוָה says that they will be blessed: “Yet from this day on I will bless you!” So here we are: living in a sin contaminated world where that corruption inevitably spreads and makes us defiled. We can’t help it! Rottenness spreads. [P] Holiness isn’t transmitted, but impurity is?! What can we do?! Israel was cursed, they were defiled – no contact with the unclean would make them clean – how then could they be blessed? How could they not be defiled and cursed? But prophecy says they will be blessed, it doesn’t say how – the wonder of how it can come to be is found elsewhere: the wonder of how curse is transformed into blessing! [P] The priests gave the ruling that a clean coming in contact with something would not make that object clean, rather, that the defiled would contaminate the pure. Yet, wonder of wonders, there was One that was clean, that had contact with the defiled and yet did not become defiled Himself! Hallelujah! Of course, I am speaking of Jesus. We know, that He came to this sin-ridden world, lived among us, yet was uncontaminated by it; He remained holy, pure, righteous, undefiled – without spot or blemish! Praise His Name! Of course, we all know this – but do we appreciate the wonder of it! That it goes right against this principle that seems to be universal?! Some have gone to extreme lengths to explain how Jesus remained undefiled, how He didn’t really touch the leper, or that the leper was healed instantaneously before He made contact! – ridiculous theological speculation! The Scripture tells us plainly: [Mark 1:40-42 And a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.] [Luke 7:11-14 Soon afterwards He went to a city called Nain; and His disciples were going along with Him, accompanied by a large crowd. Now as He approached the gate of the city, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a sizeable crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, “Do not weep.” And He came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise!”] Jesus touched the unclean and the dead and remained undefiled – totally amazing! It is like putting one good orange in a barrel of rotten ones and it not going rotten. But it goes further than that – it is like that orange making the whole barrel of rotten oranges fresh! Not only did Jesus remain uncontaminated, He imparted righteousness, holiness, cleanness, moral purity! – totally contrary to this universal principle! Sin spreads, Adam’s sin passed onto every man, corrupting every single person after Him. Yet Jesus’ righteousness made many sinners righteous! [Romans 5:12-21 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned. But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification (many were rotten but were made righteous). So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.] That passage speaks of “one act of righteousness” – it is speaking, of course, of Jesus giving of Himself over to death in our place – the death of the cross. This is how the blessing could come, the blessing that Haggai said would come. They, and we, were cursed and justly so. The consequence of sin is God’s curse – the curse must be carried out. And that is what happened! [Galatians 3:13-14 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”— in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.] The curse was carried out – carried out on Jesus! Bless His Name! He became a curse for us, because being hung on a wooden pole was a curse. How did the blessing come? By the curse being carried out on Jesus! Then, and only then, could God bless us. That is the wonder of the curse being transformed into blessing! Haggai foretold it, but only in Jesus could it come about! All glory be to Him and the grace of God made available through Him! Once you see the desperateness of the situation, you appreciate the wonder of the blessing. I think that is why we don’t overflow with thanksgiving and praise – it is because we don’t realise the desperateness of the situation that we have been rescued from. [Luke 7:41-47 “A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. “When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?” Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have judged correctly.” Turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. “You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet. “You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume. “For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”] יְהוָה turns to after this day [P] – now they had proved their determination to build the temple. Now that the temple was founded, instead of curse there would be blessing. You could look backward from this day and forward from this day and notice a fundamental change in the nation’s situation – because there had been a fundamental change in יְהוָה’s dealings with them as a consequence of their obedience. It was a watershed. Three times the people are called to "consider" – “lay to heart" "place in our heart". They were to take careful note of the change before and after this – meditate on the consequences of living for themselves: CURSE; and the consequences of obedience: BLESSING. It all depended on the founding of the temple – the decision and determination to build יְהוָה’s house, not their own. We too, ought to "lay to heart" – for the vast majority are living for themselves, to build their own home, get the latest acquisition, promotion, raise etc. – we are building our own house and not יְהוָה’s. When we work to build a dwelling place for Him (His Church – Eph 2:19-22; 1 Peter 2:4,5) then there is a fundamental change in God’s dealings with us and consequently in our situation. This change comes, not when the temple is completed, but when its foundation is laid. The temple is not yet finished, but the blessing comes when we establish that work – set this as our firm goal for which we live (cf. Matt 6:33). We turn to God in repentance, and He turns to us in pouring out blessing; blessing that enables us to carry out His purpose for us: the building of His temple. Five times from (Hag 2:15-19) יְהוָה refers to "from this day" – they came expecting much and found little. Now they are not even at the point of expecting produce – the grain is in the barn (already harvested), the vine, fig, olive and pomegranate have not yet borne fruit. It is not the season yet to harvest but nevertheless from that day יְהוָה would bless them. He doesn’t have to wait for the natural season, He is not restricted to it – He can make His blessing known and flow at any time He chooses! Hallelujah! Even before the harvest came the curse would be changed into blessing – the change would be discernable from this day. Just as יְהוָה had struck them ("I smote ..." – Hag 2:17) so it was He who would bless them ("I will bless ...") – it is the Divine hand of יְהוָה at work – both in the curse and in the blessing. All glory be to Him alone! Hallelujah! He turns the curse into the blessing because He made Him who knew no sin to become sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. He became a curse so that the blessing might come to us! Hallelujah! Blessing can come – but only because of what Jesus did on the cross. All glory be to His Name! Are you under a curse, suffering frustration? From this day, there can be a turn-around; God can bless if you turn to Him in repentance and place your faith in the One who became cursed with the curse due to you, so that the blessing of God may be given by His grace.