Haggai's fourth message to the community began when he asked the priests for a ruling concerning ritual holiness. The source of holiness is God himself, for he alone in the universe is holy. That which is dedicated to him shares in his nature and becomes holy. This holiness was viewed as a force or charge so that the more holy an object was, the more charged with this power it became. The immediate ruling given to Haggai was that objects that come into contact with holy objects do not themselves thereby become holy, but that objects that are ritually unclean (Lev 11) may defile holy objects so that they are no longer acceptable to place before a holy God. Haggai then proclaimed (v. 14) that the people were considered by God to be unclean and their efforts were unacceptable.
What, then, were the people to do? They were obeying God's word that came through Haggai to build the temple, yet that effort was not acceptable. The answer lay with God and is given in vv. 15-19. Haggai called on the people to remember how poor the previous harvests had been. God had cursed their efforts. How in the ninth month the seed for the new crop lay in the ground. As an unclean people they could not expect the blessings of God; thus the forecast for the next harvest was dismal. The word from God, however, promised a reversal of this situation. He would bless them. God had sanctified his people through his presence and made them clean. They now were proper candidates for his blessings, and work on the temple would be acceptable. Sanctification was the work of God whereby he shared his holiness with his people.