When rebuilding is so much harder than starting afresh…
The Book of Haggai concludes with a message specifically for Zerubbabel, governor of Jerusalem. Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, is of royal descent, being a descendant of David and the grandson of Judah’s King Jehoiachin.
I am about to shake up everything, to turn everything upside down and start over from top to bottom—overthrow governments, destroy foreign powers, dismantle the world of weapons and armaments, throw armies into confusion, so that they end up killing one another. And on that day, I will take you as my personal servant and I will set you as a signet ring, the sign of my sovereign presence and authority. I’ve looked over the field and chosen you for this work. Haggai 2:21-23, The Message
I love that we serve a God who promises to shake everything up, to turn everything upside down, overthrow governments, destroy foreign powers, dismantle the world of weapons and armaments. Our world could do with a whole load of this right now.
He starts here by talking about His work in the whole world and then zooms right in to focus on this one man, Zerubbabel. This one man has been chosen from amongst all men for this role – to lead God’s people in this specific task of rebuilding the temple: and so much more than that – rebuilding lives, rebuilding a community, rebuilding a relationship with God, rebuilding a nation. Rebuilding is so much harder than building from scratch. My husband informs me that this is the whole issue behind brown field and green field sites, in a very physical sense. On a spiritual level, I guess it’s why there are so many new churches popping up all over the place. A new project has all the optimism of uncharted territory. When there’s a whole history of pain and exile and ruins and desecration and betrayal and distrust and smashed hopes and vision, then building again is so much harder. You need a special person to lead the people through this process and God has chosen Zerubbabel to be that man.
The mention of the signet ring is important. It’s the sign of God’s sovereign presence and authority, but also a sign of God’s redemption and restoration. You see, years before, Zerubbabel’s grandfather Jehoiachin had lost his throne when he was deported to Babylon and in prophecy of Jeremiah, God pictured Jehoiachin as a signet ring being removed from God’s finger.
‘As surely as I live,’ declares the Lord, ‘even if you, Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim king of Judah, were a signet ring on my right hand, I would still pull you off.’ Jeremiah 22:24
Now, God calls Zerubbabel the ‘signet ring’. Ancient kings used signet rings to designate authority, honour, or ownership. A signet contained an symbol unique to the king, used to create an imprint in soft wax on official documents. It proved ownership, that this document was the real thing, a genuine document from the king.
Zerubbabel has been chosen by the one true God.
He belongs to God.
He can lead with the authority bestowed on him by the Almighty God.
He’s the real deal.
He should not develop too high an opinion of himself, however. He’s been chosen to lead the people, yes, but God reminds him that he is also to be God’s servant. He is there to serve God and to serve God’s people. That’s the challenge for all leaders, isn’t it, to maintain the right balance between authority and service.
This final prophecy in the Book of Haggai is designed to give Zerubbabel encouragement and hope, a confidence and a sense of perspective. His role is not going to be an easy one to fulfil. He’s going to need all the encouragement and hope he can get.
God has placed His seal on each one of His people. We are His people. We too have been chosen. We too have a specific role to fulfil.
How will you be serving God in your life today?
What areas of rebuilding is God calling you to work on today?
Receive God’s encouragement and hope for your day ahead.