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Christmas Sermon from Haggai 2:20-23 December 16, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Christmas, Haggai, Religion, Sermons.
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WAITING FOR THE MESSIAH

Matthew 1:12, Jeremiah 22:28-30, and Haggai 2:20-23

As we continue to look at the genealogy that Matthew gave to prove that Jesus Christ is the Messiah we come to a list of rather obscure names with one name, Zerubbabel, of special significance. Rather than read this list of names, I would like us to read two passages of Scripture. The first is found in Jeremiah 22:28-30. The second in also found in the Old Testament prophets in Haggai 2:20-23. These two passages were written almost one hundred years apart from each other but have a very close connection to each other and to the genealogy that Matthew uses to prove the credibility of the babe born in Bethlehem as the King of the Jews and the Savior of the world.

Jeremiah 22:28 “Is this man Coniah a despised, broken idol––A vessel in which is no pleasure? Why are they cast out, he and his descendants, And cast into a land which they do not know?  O earth, earth, earth, Hear the word of the LORD!  Thus says the LORD: ‘Write this man down as childless, A man who shall not prosper in his days; For none of his descendants shall prosper, Sitting on the throne of David, And ruling anymore in Judah.’” Haggai 2:20 ¶ And again the word of the LORD came to Haggai on the twenty–fourth day of the month, saying, “Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying: ‘I will shake heaven and earth.  I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms; I will destroy the strength of the Gentile kingdoms. I will overthrow the chariots And those who ride in them; The horses and their riders shall come down, Every one by the sword of his brother.  ‘In that day,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘I will take you, Zerubbabel My servant, the son of Shealtiel,’ says the LORD, ‘and will make you like a signet ring; for I have chosen you,’ says the LORD of hosts.”

THE BLACK SHEEP IN THE LINEAGE OF JESUS

We already know that Jesus is the fulfillment of the promises that God made to Abraham and David. We also know that Jesus as part of the royal family has a legal right to the eternal throne of David. The prophecy of Jeremiah that we have just read indicates that God removed the right to the throne from Jeconiah and his descendants, which presumably would include Jesus. The signet ring of God (Jeconiah and his descendants) has been removed. Israel is now at one of the lowest points of its history. God has made great promises to them but because of their sin, He has passed judgment on the nation. They are no more a political entity. They are a race of people scattered throughout the world, separated from their promised land, from their temple, and from their kingdom.

THERE IS HOPE!

However, the prophets have predicted and promised that a Messiah is coming. This Messiah is to restore Israel both nationally and spiritually. He will restore them to their land and their kingdom. He will destroy the adversaries of God and of Israel and will enforce peace on the earth. He will be Israel’s God and they will be His people and all the world will come to Jerusalem to worship God.

Humanly speaking though there is no hope. Israel is waiting for the Messiah but there is no hope in their hearts. At the time Haggai writes, a small remnant has been back in Jerusalem for sixteen years and yet they are still incapable of even finishing the temple of their God. Haggai in these two short chapters exhorts them to finish the building of the house of God.

THE SELF-CONFIDENCE OF GOD 

God continues to work His plan. God does not react. He knows what He’s doing at all times and knows at all times what the results will be. Look at what God says to Zerubbabel through Haggai in these verses. “I will shake heaven and earth.” Six times God says, “I will” accomplish this. Zerubbabel, you do not have to depend on yourself. You do not have to depend on these people or these prophets that I have sent. I will do what is necessary to set things in order.

God knew He would have to accomplish the fulfillment of the covenants He made with Abraham and David. Abraham was incapable of making from Isaac a great people. David was incapable of making his throne eternal. Zerubbabel was incapable of reestablishing Israel and defeating the enemies who surrounded them. This is something that only God can accomplish. Israel was a sinful people from its leaders down to its slaves but despite all the difficulties that His people caused for Him because of their sin, they did not hinder Him for one moment from accomplishing His purposes.

God brought Israel out of captivity just as He had predicted. Jeremiah, the same prophet who pronounced the curse that God made on the royal line through Jeconiah was also inspired of God to predict how long the captivity would last, seventy years (Jeremiah 29:10-14). Now verse 11 is well known and often quoted but we miss the point of it. God is not saying “I like you, you please me, I’m going to bless you.” In fact, it is almost the opposite. God is saying, “You are wicked and ungodly, deserving of judgment and you will be judged but I will not, I cannot, I shall never forget my promises to you. I will bring you back to you land and ultimately back to your glory.

Near the end of that seventy year period, there was an old man by the name of Daniel. Daniel had seen kings come and go and had given his life to writing down how that God controls the kingdoms of the world. In Daniel 9:1-2, we find that Daniel read the Scriptures that Jeremiah had written down and realized God had everything in hand before He even sent the Jews into captivity.

Before that, God through Isaiah had not only predicted when it would happen but who would make it possible (Isaiah 44:28-45:4). Isaiah wrote down the name Cyrus. Cyrus had not yet been born but God already planned to move on the heart of this Persian king to bring His people back to the Promised Land. God had everything well in hand.

GOD’S SOLUTION TO THE CURSE ON JECONIAH 

There was, however, still the problem of the curse on Jeconiah. As a remnant of Jews moved back to Jerusalem, they had over them a governor, appointed by the Persian king. This man Zerubbabel was a grandson of Jeconiah. Jeconiah had been on the throne. As the king of Judah, he was the representative of God but God as punishment for His sin removed the throne from Him. He took the signet ring off of His finger. God did not, however, destroy Jeconiah’ seed nor the family of David. He had promised that there would remain seed to David to sit on the throne and God intended to keep His promise.

God renews His promise through a chosen man. There are three things that are interesting in these verses.

First, God does not in these verses refer to Zerubbabel as governor of Judah but as the son of Shealtiel. Zerubbabel’s political position was of no importance to God. Zerubbabel was important to God because of his royal bloodlines. He was the heir to David’s throne and God wanted to renew His covenant to David.

God also calls Zerubbabel “servant.” This title is use by the prophets to refer to the Messiah. Although Zerubbabel was not the Messiah, this title emphasizes that He was important to the plan of God.

Finally, God says, “I have chosen you.” There are no accidents with God. He knew when He cursed Jeconiah that there would be a grandson with whom He could reaffirm and reestablish His relationship with the sons of David. The wonder of Christmas is not just that God chose to accomplish His plan this way. The wonder of Christmas is that not one thing went wrong in God’s preparations for Christmas. Everything came together perfectly. Persian kings and captive prophets. Wicked rulers and righteous men of God all played their part in God’s great plan to send a Savior to the world to save His people from their sin.

This should encourage our hearts. God knows exactly why you were born and how you are going to participate or not participate in the purposes that He has set for you. The people He brings into your life are exactly the people who need to be in your life. If you are within His covenant that Jesus provided through His blood, you can be assured, no matter how bad the circumstances are in your life, He will never forget you and will accomplish His purposes in and through you.

THE SILENCE OF GOD 

God falls silent for four hundred years. After Zerubbabel passed off the scene and Haggai and Zechariah had ended their prophecies, God sent one more prophet. His name was Malachi. Malachi’s main message was to call Israel to repentance but He closed His book with a reminder that the Messiah was coming (Malachi 4:1-6). The time from the captivity until the time that Jesus came was a time of great anticipation but for most of that time, there was no direct word from God.

God was still working His plan. Galatians 4:4 tells us “…when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son…” At just the right moment, precisely as God arranged it, God sent His Son. God provided that the balance of power in the world switch from Babylonian to Persian to Greek under Alexander the Great to the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire under Caesar Augustus and He did all this so that the child would be born in Bethlehem, Judaea, just as His prophet, Micah had said it would happen.

“Although Joseph and Mary were of Nazareth in Galilee; miles away, in those times, days apart, God used a required Roman census to force the young couple to travel on a Roman built road. Thanks to good roads, a decision in Rome, and a bothersome census, God prepared a place and a time for Christ to be born. (from Swindoll, I believe)” When God prepared for Christmas, He prepared every political, economic, and logistical necessity needed to make it happen exactly as it should.

What should the people do during those four hundred years when God sent no prophet to speak to them? God expected His people to trust the promises of His word that He had already made. As Jesus said once, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign.” If you are waiting for a miracle or a sign or a vision or a dream or a leader or a church or a book or an experience or an event or anything to bring you to God, you may be waiting forever. When God gives His promises, when He gives His word; He expects it to be believed and obeyed. God expected His people to look for the prophet Moses had promised. God expected His people to look for the Messiah-King promised through David. God expected His people to look for the one who is “Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace”, the one known as Emmanuel, “God with us.”

God expects no more and no less of us today. He expects us to trust the promises of His word that He has already made. God does not want us to look for a sign but to look into His word for in it is revealed, as Peter once said to Jesus, “the words of life.” We are to trust His word, wholly and completely. It is only through His word that we can know what is right or wrong, what we should embrace and what we should avoid. It is only through His word that we can grow to be more like Jesus Christ. It is only through His word that the Holy Spirit can illumine our hearts and mind to spiritual things.

ARE YOU READY AND WAITING? 

God expected His people to be ready. Prophet after prophet promised the coming of the Messiah and demanded that people turn to God in order to be ready to receive them. A few were ready for Him when He came but most were not.

Most people were not ready when Christ came. This is one of the great themes of Matthew.

The existence of Matthew’s gospel shows that many needed to be convinced of the credibility of Christ as the Messiah. This is why this gospel is begins with a genealogy and is even entitled “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.”

The story of the wise men points out that the rulers of Jerusalem were not ready for the coming of the Messiah and even as a baby, Jesus had powerful enemies ruling the Jewish nation.

The Sermon on the Mount points out that the Jews hearts were not prepared for the coming of the Messiah.

The Life, the Crucifixion, and even the Resurrection showed that many were not ready for the Messiah.

But He came. He came for the Jewish nation as Matthew points out in this chapter. He also came for you. Is it not time that you believed Him? Is it not time for you to say, I am going to trust Christ alone as my salvation. Would you do that today?

HE WILL COME AGAIN

Jesus came once but after His resurrection He returned to His Father and sat down in the exalted place of position at the right hand of God. Before He left, He promised that He would return. You see, the work of the Messiah is not yet finished.

Haggai 2:21b-22, “I will shake heaven and earth. I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms; I will destroy the strength of the Gentile kingdoms. I will overthrow the chariots And those who ride in them; The horses and their riders shall come down, Every one by the sword of his brother.”

When will this happen? When the Prince of Peace comes to establish His eternal throne. When Jesus the son of Abraham, the son of David, and the son of Zerubabbel established Himself for all time as God’s signet ring, as God’s authority on this earth.

JESUS WAS BORN A KING. HE NEVER WAS A PRINCE.

Have you ever thought about this? Jesus was born the King of the Jews. That is not the way a king normally ascends to the throne. He has to wait. “Born Charles Philip Arthur George Windsor on November 14, 1948 at Buckingham Palace, Prince Charles was the first child of then-Princess Elizabeth, and her husband Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. Three more siblings followed – Princess Anne, Prince Andrew, and Prince Edward.After the death of his grandather, King George VI -and the ascension of his mother to the British throne as Queen Elizabeth II, Charles at age 4 became the royal heir apparent.” (http://www.chiff.com/pop-culture/news-people/prince-charles.htm) For around fifty-five years, Prince Charles has been the heir to the throne, but he has not been king for one second. Jesus Christ, however, has been God from the beginning and was born King of the Jews. It was because of God’s promises to David and Solomon and Zerubbabel that Jesus was born the signet ring, the King of the Jews, the Messiah. Will you bow before Him or will you live for yourself, for your best interests? Will you make Him Lord of your life and follow Him without reservation this Christmas season? Will you serve the season or the Savior? Will you serve King?

CHRISTMAS WILL COST YOU. 

There is a story told in Matthew about the pearl of great price. In that story Jesus tells about a man who found a pearl, recognized its worth and went and sold everything that he had in order to purchase that pearl. What is it going to cost you to get ready for Jesus Christ? What is it going to cost you to accept Him as your Savior? What is it going to cost you to serve Him. Some of you it will cost you your anger. Some of you it will cost you your religion. There are arguments about whether that parable is talking about salvation from hell or about discipleship but there can be no doubt that to serve Jesus Christ it will cost you something. If you would like to trust Him today, you can?

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