On the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet, “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Ask the priests about the law: ‘If someone carries holy meat in the fold of his garment and touches with his fold bread or stew or wine or oil or any kind of food, does it become holy?’ ” The priests answered and said, “No.” Then Haggai said, “If someone who is unclean by contact with a dead body touches any of these, does it become unclean?” The priests answered and said, “It does become unclean.” Then Haggai answered and said, “So is it with this people, and with this nation before me, declares the Lord, and so with every work of their hands. And what they offer there is unclean. Haggai 2:10-14, ESV.
Priests were not only tasked with offering sacrifices to God, but they were also the teachers of Israel (Deuteronomy 33:10). So, with the temple construction finally underway, God sends Haggai to ask these teachers a question. If a holy thing touches an unholy thing, does the holy thing make the unholy thing holy or does the unholy thing make the holy thing unholy? It was a question any priest worth his salt could answer with ease: the unholy thing contaminates the holy thing. God uses this premise to remind them that a new temple will not fix Israel’s real problem: unholy people. These unholy people will pollute the holy temple with their unclean sacrifices.
This Old Testament problem does not disappear in the New Testament. Paul writes, “If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (Colossians 2:20-23).
Would it not be foolish to think ourselves immune to this temptation? Some feel clean only after a great Christian experience at a concert or a conference. Others depend on certain holy rituals for that same feeling. Others find relief only at a church with the right programs and events. In each case, they seek to feel holy by encountering something they consider to be holy. Too few seek relief for the weight of sin in humble repentance and faith, turning to Christ, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). This can be done anytime and in any place—even right now! (1 John 1:9).
I pray that today will find you among the few.