The signet ring at God’s right hand

Advent reflections from Haggai 2:20-23

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. (Haggai 2:23)

The book of Haggai ends by tying together many of the themes already raised throughout the book as a whole in a few astoundingly dense verses.

The Lord speaks again to Zerubbabel, stating his intent to shake the cosmos and the kingdoms of the earth. He had previously foretold that he would shake the nations to gather in their silver and gold, to glorify his restored temple. Now he declares that he will shake the nations in order to defeat their war machines, which had been a source of instability and fear for Israel ever since the kingdom had split in their former days. God assures Zerubbabel that these latter-day wars will come to an end.

The Lord also confirms to Zerubbabel the governor that he will have a central role in all this. We should recall that Zerubbabel is a descendant of David. His father, Shealtiel, was one of the sons of Jehoiakim, the penultimate king of Judah who disobeyed God resisting his appointed king, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Jehoiakim’s own son, Coniah—a.k.a., Jeconiah, a.k.a., Jehoiachin—was a wicked king, and had the indignity of being carried off to captivity in Babylon:

As I live, saith the Lord, though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah were the signet upon my right hand, yet would I pluck thee thence… (Jeremiah 22:24)

However, God now graciously promises this son of Coniah that in the Day that he restores peace to his embattled people, he would restore the Davidic dynasty to rule once again.

While the conception of Christ in the womb of a virgin is of course no minor miracle, these great promises of God should also draw our attention to God’s other miracle wrought in the household of Joseph at that same time: he is raising the line of David from the dead.

In his declaration that this holy child would be born, God was declaring to Israel that he would now begin to shake the heavens and the earth around them. The Lord of hosts was announcing to a besieged nation that the Day was near in which he would cut off the chariots and war horses surrounding them. God was fulfilling his promise to the house of David that he would raise up his Servant to speak peace to the nations and give them rest on every side.

It is with these hopes in her heart that the blessed virgin exulted that God had shown strength with his arm, and scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. It is with these promises in mind that Zechariah rejoiced of Israel's deliverance from all their enemies.

And we, mindful of God’s unfailing faithfulness to his people, should assure our hearts once again this year: God has raised up the lowly son of David to be a signet ring at his right hand, to subdue all our enemies, that we might serve the Lord without fear.