WE beseech thee, Almighty God, mercifully to look upon thy people; that by thy great goodness they may be governed and preserved evermore, both in body and soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.1
Haggai 2:20-23 God’s Choice is Perfect
20 The word of the LORD came a second time to Haggai on the twenty-fourth day of the month, 21 “Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I am about to shake the heavens and the earth, 22 and to overthrow the throne of kingdoms. I am about to destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations, and overthrow the chariots and their riders. And the horses and their riders shall go down, every one by the sword of his brother. 23 On that day, declares the LORD of hosts, I will take you, O Zerubbabel my servant, the son of Shealtiel, declares the Lord, and make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you, declares the Lord of hosts.”
This is the second prophecy Haggai received from God on twenty-fourth day of the ninth month of King Darius. Each of the prophecies has been to the people of God, as does this one, but this one is first given to one individual, “Zerubbabel, governor of Judah”.
Zerubbabel and Joshua, the priest, are credited in Ezra 3:2 with rebuilding the altar in Jerusalem following the nation’s return. In Zechariah, Joshua (alternately spelled Jeshua in some places) received specific prophesies (Zech. 3,6). And remember Haggai and Zechariah are the “post-exilic prophets” along with Malachi—they are all prophesying in the same time period, to the same circumstances of God’s people.
Haggai is told by Yahweh to speak to Zerubbabel, “I am about to shake the heavens and the earth, 22 and to overthrow the throne of kingdoms. I am about to destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations, and overthrow the chariots and their riders. And the horses and their riders shall go down, every one by the sword of his brother.” We’ve seen this language before, back in 2:6, “For thus says the Lord of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land.” This is the language of Theophany (God appearing), similar to His descent on Mt. Sinai in Exodus 20, but God has expanded it here.
Not only will he be “shaking heaven and earth” and the nations, now kingdom, nations and their armies are referred to specifically. The inclusion of these specifics intensifies God’s plan, making his resoluteness clear to those who have “ears to hear”. Not only will God be removing the foundation of the kingdoms so that will totter and fall, but he is going to throw them into such turmoil that they will crumble from within—“every one by the sword of his brother” (cf. Ezekiel 38:19-23, Zech. 14:13-14). But God’s kingdom will last forever, as the writer of Hebrews reminds us, “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”
Which brings us to the security of God’s perfect choice. That’s what we’re seeing here in this prophecy concerning Zerubbabel. “Zerubbabel my servant, the son of Shealtiel, declares the LORD, and make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you, declares the LORD of hosts.”
God’s choice of His people isn’t based on anything in and of themselves—it’s based on and continued in His love. Deuteronomy 7:6-7, ““For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you.”
His choice is according to His plan, which He is always trustworthy to fulfil. God had made a covenant with David many years before that his descendent would be king of Israel, which pointed to the immediate future as well as the distant future and true fulfilment in Jesus. But, because of Judah’s reckless sin and idolatry, God sent His people into exile. Before Jerusalem was destroyed, Jeremiah came and prophesied to the King, ““As I live, declares the Lord, though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, were the signet ring on my right hand, yet I would tear you off and give you into the hand of those who seek your life, into the hand of those of whom you are afraid, even into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and into the hand of the Chaldeans.” God’s signet ring had figuratively been removed and given to Babylon, leaving the Davidic promise of King left up in the air, so to speak.
Now, in Zerubbabel, God was declaring that thought it looked bleak His promise would never be broken. Zerubbabel would be God’s signet; Zerubbabel would be the one through whom the righteous seed2 would be spared and eventually come to deliver God’s people. This is confirmed in Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew 1:12, “And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel.”
This doesn’t make our situations any easier, but it reminds us who is in charge. God controlled Babylon as an agent of punishment for His people. God also controlled Persia as an agent of positive change for Judah. God directed Judah’s steps, He had chosen this nation, and this leader, Zerubbabel, and this priest, Joshua to show them his love. Our God’s choice is perfect, we can and should take comfort in that. We should also understand that He understands us. He knows our frames, He knows we are nothing more than dust, so He understands our weakness. Cry out to him, He’s promised to love you, and as we’ve seen His word never fails.
I pray today that each of you are blessed with the divine comfort, hope, and presence of God. I leave you today with the peace of God, and this passage from Psalm 105.
Oh, give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works!
Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!
Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered, O offspring of Abraham, his servant, children of Jacob, his chosen ones!
1The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. (1976). The Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church (p. 132). New York: The Seabury Press.
2 Zerubbabel means the seed of Babylon. He was born in exile in Babylon, but the word seed points back to Gen. 3:15 and ultimately forward to Jesus.