The Restoration Stumbles
“On that day, declares the Lord of hosts, I will take you, O Zerubbabel my servant…and make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you, declares the Lord of hosts” (v. 23).- Haggai 2:20–23
Restoring vice-regency in His kingdom to a chosen portion of mankind has been our Lord’s goal since the fall made us unwilling to exercise righteous dominion over the earth (Gen. 1:28; 3:14–19). Starting with Abraham’s family, the nation of Israel, our Creator began working earnestly to this end, promising the patriarch that his children would be the rulers God made humans to be (17:5–6; 22:17–18). Knowing that even Abraham’s progeny would break covenant, the Lord chose a king to guide His people in holiness (Deut. 17:14–20). David’s line would represent Israel (2 Chron. 33:1–20) as the vehicle through which God would again manifest clearly His kingdom on the earth (Ps. 89).
But even David’s line could not exercise the righteous rule that reveals the kingdom of heaven to the whole earth. Due to the unrepentant sin of king and people, God exiled Israel into Assyria (722 BC) and Judah into Babylon (586 BC, see 2 Kings 17:7–23; 25:1–26). Nevertheless, our Lord did not abandon David’s throne, so determined was He to restore dominion to His own — first to David, then Israel, and then His elect among the Gentiles. He returned the Israelites to their land around 538 BC, and soon David’s descendant Zerubbabel was in charge (Hag. 1:1; Matt. 1:1–17). God promised through Haggai the prophet to make Zerubbabel His signet ring, His crown jewel through whom Israel’s restoration would occur (Hag. 2:20–23).
God’s promises through His prophets, however, often have implicit conditions that can alter how these promises come to pass (see Jer. 18:1–10). For disobedience the Lord will send curses instead of blessing, and for obedience He will bring life instead of destruction. That such alterations occur do not mean that God has changed His mind like human beings do (Num. 23:19), and He always knows how we are going to respond to His Word before we actually make the response. In fact, the response we make is ultimately governed by His sovereign will (Eph. 1:11).
Clearly, such conditions were part of the promise to Zerubbabel, for Zerubbabel vanished from history without establishing David’s throne once and for all. Once more, the Davidic ruler and the people somehow broke covenant. The restoration promise would have to be kept in one of David’s other sons.
God’s promise to restore the vice-regency in His kingdom to human beings is fulfilled finally in Jesus Christ, the holy Son of David who graciously allows His people to share in His reign over the world (2 Tim. 2:11–13). As we anticipate that day in which the restoration will be consummated, we are ambassadors of Christ to a fallen world who are to treat people with the dignity they deserve as being in God’s image. Do you strive to treat all people in this way?
Passages for Further Study