A Lesson in Holiness


When you see the word defilement, what comes to mind? Does it strike you as an outdated or foreign concept? Is it something relegated only to the behavior of nonbelievers in God? The dictionary defines defilement as “an act of great disrespect shown to God or to sacred ideas, people, or things.” Today’s passage ventures into these waters. In an effort to engage in a deeper way with these particular words of Haggai, take some time to mull over the following questions.

  • Would you consider yourself a person who shows (or has shown) great disrespect to God?
  • Have you caused anyone to think less of God because of your example?


10 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, 11 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Ask the priests about the law: 12 ‘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.” 13 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.” 14 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.

English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


  1. Whom did God want Haggai to address, and about what (vs. 11)? 
  2. God presented two scenarios concerning the Mosaic Law for the priests to explain (vss. 12-13). In your own words, paraphrase these conundrums and the priests’ answers. 
  3. To which scenario did God compare the Israelites (vss. 13-14)? How did God describe the people, the nation, their work, and their offerings (vs. 14)? 
  4. Would you consider yourself, your work, and/or your offerings to God as unclean? Would God? Why or why not?


Although moving forward in the temple restoration process, the Israelites needed to acknowledge that their present obedience didn’t override the defiance of their past. They had neglected the temple, given shoddy sacrifices, and turned a deaf ear to God. In who they were, what they did, and how they worshipped, they had profoundly profaned the sacred. By using examples of ceremonial sacrifice and ritual uncleanness, God delivered a blistering indictment: The impurity of your heart has debased your offering. Because we aren’t ancient Israelites, it’s tempting to disassociate ourselves with God’s charge.  But our words, actions, and worship reveal the same capacity for heart defilement.

  • Prayerfully evaluate how the state of your heart is affecting what you offer to God.
  • Pray that your life’s sacrifice to him is pure and clean.