The Review and Herald

1517/1902

December 19, 1907

The Return of the Exiles—No. 7

Words of Encouragement

EGW

“Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet,” began to prophesy “in the eighth month, in the second year of Darius”—only a few days after the Lord had assured the Israelites through Haggai that the glory of the house they were building would be greater than the glory of the former temple built by Solomon. Zechariah's first message was an assurance that God's word never fails, and a promise of blessing to those who harken unto the sure word of prophecy. RH December 19, 1907, par. 1

“The Lord hath been sore displeased with your fathers,” the God of Israel declared unto Zechariah: “therefore say thou unto them, Thus saith the Lord of hosts: Turn ye unto me, saith the Lord of hosts, and I will turn unto you, saith the Lord of hosts. Be ye not as your fathers, unto whom the former prophets have cried, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts: Turn ye now from your evil ways, and from your evil doings: but they did not hear, nor harken unto me, saith the Lord. Your fathers, where are they? and the prophets, do they live forever? But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not take hold of your fathers? and they returned and said, Like as the Lord of hosts thought to do unto us, according to our ways, and according to our doings, so hath he dealt with us.” RH December 19, 1907, par. 2

The Israelites has resumed the work of the Lord in faith. The difficulties under which they began to labor were of a most discouraging nature. Adversity had attended their efforts to attain temporal prosperity. Their fields were lying waste; their scant store of provisions was rapidly failing. Yet in the face of famine, and surrounded by unfriendly peoples, they moved forward in response to the call of God's messengers, and began anew to restore the ruined temple. Such a work required great faith, and the Lord gave them special assurances through Haggai and Zechariah that their faith would be richly rewarded, and that his word would not fail. The builders were not left to struggle on alone; “with them were the prophets of God helping them;” and the Lord of hosts himself had declared, “Be strong, ... and work: for I am with you.” RH December 19, 1907, par. 3

The Lord, in mercy, warned his people against the danger of falling back into their old ways of negligence and selfish indifference. He revealed to them the necessity of worshiping him in the beauty of holiness. In former years some whose hearts were polluted with sin had sought to please him with the splendor of many rites and ceremonies in the beautiful temple built by Solomon; but their worship was not pleasing to the God of whom it is written: “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity.” RH December 19, 1907, par. 4

In the dark days of apostasy before the captivity, God had declared to his impenitent people: “I hate, I despise your feast days.... Though ye offer me burnt-offerings and your meat-offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace-offerings of your fat beasts.” “For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt-offerings.” RH December 19, 1907, par. 5

The Israelites who were so diligently engaged in rebuilding the Lord's house, needed to realize constantly that “the Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest?” “Thus saith the high and holy One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” RH December 19, 1907, par. 6

In order that the builders of the second temple might make no mistakes, the Lord plainly instructed them, in the form of a parable, regarding the nature of service acceptable in his sight. About a month after Zechariah began to prophesy, and just three months after the people had resumed work on the temple, “in the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the Lord by Haggai the prophet, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts: Ask now the priests concerning the law, saying, If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy? And the priests answered and said, No. RH December 19, 1907, par. 7

“Then said Haggai, If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, It shall be unclean.” RH December 19, 1907, par. 8

A soul corrupted by sin is represented by the figure of a dead body in a state of putrefaction. All the washings and sprinklings enjoined in the ceremonial law were lessons in parables, teaching the necessity of a work of regeneration in the inward heart for the purification of the soul dead in trespasses and sins, and also the necessity of the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit. RH December 19, 1907, par. 9

“Then answered Haggai, and said, So is this people, and so is this nation before me, saith the Lord; and so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean.” RH December 19, 1907, par. 10

A mere participation in religious services and ordinances does not make a sinner a Christian. A wicked man does not become righteous merely by associating with those who fear God. A man is made holy, and acceptable with God, only when his unclean heart is made clean by the grace of Christ, through faith, and by obedience to words of truth and righteousness. A work of reformation and restoration must take place in every heart. Those who have had great light and many privileges may perform some good works, notwithstanding their impenitence and their refusal to be saved in God's appointed way. But these good works do not cleanse the soul from corruption. Only those who accept the light of God's truth, choosing to obey him, will be cleansed from the defilement of sin. RH December 19, 1907, par. 11

Having admonished the builders not to fall into the same error that had brought their forefathers into trial and captivity, and had resulted in the destruction of the first temple, Haggai continued: RH December 19, 1907, par. 12

“And now, I pray you, consider from this day and upward, from before a stone was laid upon a stone in the temple of the Lord: since those days were, when one came to an heap of twenty measures, there were but ten: when one came to the press-fat for to draw out fifty vessels out of the press, there were but twenty. I smote you with blasting and with mildew and with hail in all the labors of your hands; yet ye turned not to me, saith the Lord. Consider now from this day and upward, from the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, even from the day that the foundation of the Lord's temple was laid, consider it. Is the seed yet in the barn? yea, as yet the vine, and the fig-tree, and the pomegranate, and the olive-tree, hath not brought forth: from this day will I bless you.” RH December 19, 1907, par. 13

Wonderful promise! Wonderful assurance of divine favor! Never, never, by their own efforts, could the Israelites have become pure and holy. But when, sinful and polluted as they were, the sport of their enemies, and suffering because of a terrible drought, they turned to the Lord in humility of heart, confessed their sins, and chose to obey the testimonies of his messengers, God recognized their effort to carry out his instruction, and he accepted them as his obedient children. He accepted them not because of their zeal and good works, but because of their faith in the power of the coming Saviour to cleanse from sin. RH December 19, 1907, par. 14

On the day when rich blessings were promised the Israelites because of their faith and their willing obedience, a message was given to Zerubbabel, their leader. “The word of the Lord came unto Haggai, ... saying, Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I will shake the heavens and the earth; and I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen; and I will overthrow the chariots, and those that ride in them; and the horses and their riders shall come down, every one by the sword of his brother. In that day, saith the Lord of hosts, will I take thee, O Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel, saith the Lord, and will make thee as a signet: for I have chosen thee, saith the Lord of hosts.” RH December 19, 1907, par. 15

This personal testimony to Zerubbabel has been left on record for our special encouragement in time of trial. Zerubbabel had been sorely tried through all the years since he had led the Israelites forth from Babylon. God has a purpose in sending trial to his children. He never leads them otherwise than they would choose to be led if they could see the end from the beginning, and discern the glory of the purpose which they are fulfilling. He subjects them to discipline to humble them,—to lead them, through trial and affliction, to see their weakness and to draw near unto him. As they cry to him for help, he responds, saying, “Here am I.” RH December 19, 1907, par. 16

Christians are Christ's jewels. They are to shine brightly for him, shedding forth the light of his loveliness. Their luster depends on the polishing they receive. They may choose to be polished or to remain unpolished. But every one who is pronounced worthy of a place in the Lord's temple must submit to the polishing process. Without the polishing that the Lord gives they can reflect no more light than a common pebble. RH December 19, 1907, par. 17

Christ says to man, You are mine. I have bought you. You are now only a rough stone, but if you will place yourself in my hands, I will polish you, and the luster with which you shall shine will bring honor to my name. No man shall pluck you out of my hand. I will make you my peculiar treasure. On my coronation day, you will be a jewel in my crown of rejoicing. RH December 19, 1907, par. 18

The divine Worker spends little time on worthless material. Only the precious jewels does he polish after the similitude of a palace, cutting away all the rough edges. This process is severe and trying; it hurts human pride. Christ cuts deep into the experience that man in his self-sufficiency has regarded as complete, and takes away self-uplifting from the character. He cuts away the surplus surface, and putting the stone to the polishing, wheel, presses it close, that all roughness may be worn away. Then, holding the jewel up to the light, the Master sees in it a reflection of himself, and he pronounces it worthy of a place in his casket. RH December 19, 1907, par. 19

“In that day, saith the Lord of hosts, will I take thee, ... and will make thee as a signet: for I have chosen thee, saith the Lord of hosts.” Blessed be the experience, however severe, that gives new value to the stone, and causes it to shine with living brightness. RH December 19, 1907, par. 20