Hosea 6:1

Come and let us return to the Lord

For He has torn, but He will heal us;

He has stricken, but He will bind us up

We cannot do great things on this earth, only small things with great love - Mother Teresa

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sealed With His Image: The Significance of the Signet Ring

Haggai 2:23 “In that day,” says the LORD of hosts, “I will take you, Zerubbabel, My servant, the son of Shealtiel,” says the LORD, “and will make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you,” says the LORD of hosts.

Recently, I decided to take a journey through the prophetic book of Haggai. I admit that I had never given it much consideration before. In fact, I considered it of very little significance in my Christian walk, but in my recent journey through this short book, I found many relevant and wonderful truths. One of the most intriguing verses was the one above – the final verse of the book. In it, God uses the imagery of a signet ring to convey to Zerubbabel, the governor of Israel, the divine authority given to him in governing God’s people. In our modern culture, the concept of a signet ring is a foreign one, and probably doesn’t convey much meaning; yet in the ancient world, it conveyed a very personal and powerful image.

What, then, as modern-day believers, can we glean from this image, and how does it apply to our own lives?

Scripture tells us that all men, saved and unsaved, are created in the image of God. Also called the Imago Dei, it is what separates us from all other living creatures (even angels), and enables us to have deep and abiding fellowship with God, an innate sense of right and wrong, and a spiritual perspective, which includes an awareness of life beyond death.
While all men have been created in the image of God, we as Christians bear another image. We have been literally re-created into the image of Christ.

Typically, the idea of Christ-likeness is associated with the process of sanctification, a gradual transformation which happens as we mature in the Lord. The deeper our fellowship with the Lord, the more Christ-like we become. While this is true, we also know that 2 Cor. 5:17 tells us that if any man is in Christ, he is a new creation. God’s word tells us that at the moment of salvation, we are taken out of Adam and placed in Christ. This happens when we put our faith in Christ and are “sealed” by God. It is at this moment that we become a “new creation” – old things have passed away, and all things become new.

2 Cor. 1:21,22 Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

In this beautiful passage of Scripture is displayed the awesome work of the Holy Trinity in our lives. God (the Father) has established us in Christ, and given us the Spirit as a guarantee. God has anointed us and sealed us. I just love the idea of God sealing us, but what does this mean to us as believers?!

Song of Solomon 8:6 Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm

Gill’s Bible expository describes being sealed as follows:

These are still the words of the church, speaking to Christ as she walked along with him, as the affixes in the Hebrew text show; in which she desires to have a fixed abiding place in his heart; to continue firmly in his love, and to have further manifestations of it; to be always remembered and supported by him; to be ever on his mind, and constantly under his care and protection; and to have a full assurance of interest in his love, and in his power.

Ephesians 1:13 says that, when we are saved, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit. We are constantly under the care and protection of the Lord, and have full assurance of His love and His working in our lives. The word sealed here indicates ownership and security. The Lord has set His seal upon us, which is the Holy Spirit. Hebrews 7:25 says that Jesus Christ is continually making intercession for us to God the Father. This is because we have been sealed, and the eye of the Lord is constantly upon us, lovingly and carefully interceding on our behalf, and guiding us in our walk with Him. What a wondrous picture of God’s love for us. We are never outside of His care.

The book of Haggai ends with this beautiful image of the signet ring. Although God was speaking directly to Zerubbabel, there are also some wonderful truths that can be applied to our own lives, and our walk with the Lord.

The signet was like an identification card or badge in the ancient world. It symbolized status or position and the binding nature of the authority attached to the items sealed by the ring. The signet in Old Testament times was an engraved stone set in a gold or silver ring or bracelet. When pressed upon wax or soft clay, the ring left the impression of the personal insignia of the bearer, and the object sealed carried the image of the one who sealed it.

In like manner, when God seals us, and puts His Spirit in us, we become image-bearers. The imagery conveys the idea of God stamping His signet upon our hearts, and leaving His impression upon us. We bear the image of the living God through the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. In the book of Ezekiel, God describes how He will work in the lives of His people, after the coming of the Messiah:

Ezekiel 11:19 Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God

Ezekiel 36:26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh

God tells His people that He will literally give them a “heart of flesh” – a heart that is soft and malleable and sensitive to God’s Spirit. Before we accept Christ, we have hearts of stone. Romans 2:14 tells us that, at this point, we cannot even receive the things of the Spirit. We bear the image of God, of course, because we have been created in His image....but when we put our faith in Christ, God stamps his signet on our hearts, and we consequently bear the image of Christ.

The Ezekiel passage tells us that God places His spirit in us. Jeremiah 31:35 takes this concept further:

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law in their minds, and write it on their hearts, and I shall be their God, and they shall be my people

This is a part of the beautiful transformation that happens when we come to the Lord in faith. God seals us with His Holy Spirit, and stamps His signet on us, thus making us image-bearers of the Lord Jesus Christ. What a beautiful picture we have here – that the Lord impresses His image upon out soft and pliable hearts. Moreover, He writes His law upon our hearts, and we have intimate fellowship with Him. We bear His image, because we have His very Spirit inside of us, and in time, we become more and more like Him.

In my desire to become like Christ, I find myself falling so short. In so many areas, I fail, and it is easy to get discouraged. Much of the time, I do not see myself as an image-bearer of Christ, but as a fallible human who fails Him time and time again. That is because I am not looking to Christ, and His victory on the cross, but to myself and my own shortcomings. It is so easy to forget that God has set His seal upon me, and placed His Spirit within me.

When God wrote His law upon the tablets, and gave them to Moses, the law was set in stone, but it was not set in the hearts of His people. They were outward commandments, and dictated how the people should live, but it did not change them from the inside. Only when God removed their hearts of stone, and gave them hearts of flesh, could the inward transformation be set in motion, and God could write their law upon their hearts.

The Bible says that when we come to Christ, He seals us. He puts a new heart, a heart of flesh, inside of us. In ancient times, when a person sealed something, they placed their signet upon it. The Lord does the same thing with us. He places His image upon us, and we become identified with Him. He lays claim to our lives, and the enemy no longer has any authority over us. We are sealed and anointed.

I pray that when others look at me, they see Christ in me. It is so easy to look at our shortcomings and our struggles, and identify with them. Even so, the Bible says that God has sealed us, and we bear His image. I have come to the realization that what I identify with is what identifies me. The image of Christ has already been stamped on our hearts, although this image is often marred by our own sin. Learning to identify with this image is what takes time.

In the ancient world, the signet ring was a symbol of authority and ownership. In the Haggai verse, God also uses the imagery of the signet ring to signify Zerubbabel’s God-given authority in his leadership of the people of Israel. Zerubbabel was the governor of Jerusalem at the time of the prophet Haggai’s ministry, when the Israelites were returning to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon.

Here, we learn that Zerubbabel was God’s chosen instrument – the representative of His authority over the people. In like manner, the signet ring can be seen as a symbol of God’s authority over us. When He seals us, He places His authority over our lives, and nothing can touch us without His permission. The Holy Spirit in us is a mark of God’s authority over us. We are under the protection and provision of God, and just as no one could tamper with a sealed object without the permission of the owner of the signet, no one can tamper with us unless God allows it.

In John 15:16, Jesus says to His disciples:

You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you......

In 1 Peter 2:9, we are called a “chosen generation.” Like Zerubbabel, we are God’s instruments, elect and chosen to carry out His will upon the earth. As such, we have been given authority by Christ as representatives of His eternal kingdom:

Mt. 28:18 All authority has been given to Me, in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Here we see Christ designating authority to His disciples to carry out the Great Commission and baptize others in the name of Jesus.

John 6:27 Do not labour for the food that perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.

God has also set His seal upon us. We are under the authority of God, who has also given us authority as ambassadors of His eternal kingdom. In Matthew 8, we are given the account of Christ healing the centurion’s servant. When Christ tells the centurion that He will come to his home and heal his servant, the centurion replies:

Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed, for I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one “Go,” and he goes; and to another, “Come,” and he comes........

The centurion knew and understood that, not only did Christ have the authority to heal sickness and disease with just a word, but that He was also under the authority of one higher than Him – the Father. I can imagine that he also understood that the authority that Christ had was given Him by the Father.

In the same regard, we have been given authority by the Lord, under whose authority we also stand, and we have no authority that does not come by the authority of Christ.

The imagery of the signet ring conveys that we have been sealed by God, as bearers of His Son’s image and objects of His special care and provision. It conveys that we are under the sole authority of the One who has all authority under heaven and earth. He has removed the heart of stone from within us – the heart which, prior to our salvation, was unreceptive to the things of God – and replaced it with a heart of flesh, upon which He has stamped His image and written His perfect law. We are light-bearers and image bearers, so that others see Christ when they see us.

What a blessing to know that God’s seal is upon us, and that we have been entrusted with such an awesome responsibility. What an encouragement to know that, despite our failures and faults and struggles, the image of Christ has been impressed upon our hearts, and we bear the image of our blessed Lord and Saviour.

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