9 “The hands of Zerubbabel
Have laid the foundation of this temple;
His hands shall also finish it.
Then you will know
That the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you.
10 “For who has despised the day of small things?
For these seven rejoice to see
The plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.
They are the eyes of the LORD,
Which scan to and fro throughout the whole earth.”
These days it seems like hardly a month goes by without some public figure–a statesman, a sports star, a preacher, an actor–making a well-publicized fall from grace. Adultery seems to be the theme of their disgrace, and in almost every case, the person says he or she is taking time out from public life to focus on renewing their relationship with their spouse, their family, and with God. I think the public takes all of that with a bit more than a grain of salt, because so many of those people who fall have been preaching a “holier-than-thou” line of supposedly superior morality. And with each such fall from public grace, the enemies of Christ seem to gain more ammunition for attacking our faith.
But some other stories seem to fly under the radar at the same time, stories about hope and the strength of faith. For example, there is a German couple whose Christian beliefs led them to home-school their children. In their home country, German authorities do not allow home-schooling, and so the couple was harassed for keeping their kids out of public school–even having their children forcibly taken from them and bused to a public school. A US judge in Tennessee has just granted the family political asylum on the grounds that they have been persecuted for their religious beliefs. Such a victory for people of faith gives one hope, does it not?
The Jewish governor of Judah, Zerubbabel, had a daunting task ahead of him: rebuilding the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem. The Jews had returned from seventy years of captivity, and they had hurriedly rebuilt the outer wall with the help of the Lord. Many naysayers had scoffed at their rebuilding efforts, but with the wall and gates rebuilt, Jerusalem was starting to look like it did once before. But the temple itself was utterly destroyed, not one stone left upon another. The priest Ezra had led the people in laying the foundation, but shortly after that the people had lost faith in their ability to rebuild the temple, and so the rebuilding languished for sixteen years. Despair and doubt began to creep in, and the people of Judah wondered if their enemies would at last prevail. Then along came Haggai and Zechariah to inspire the people with new hope and new reason for finishing the work they had started.
In today’s verses, we see Zechariah encouraging the governor with a vision showing Zerubbabel that the Lord is watching over him, that the Spirit of the Lord will enable him to finish the work. Zerubbabel will finish what others think could not be finished. With God’s help and supervision, Zerubbabel will take something that seems so insignificant and make it something glorious for the Lord.
2 “Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people, saying:
3 “‘Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? In comparison with it, is this not in your eyes as nothing?
4 “‘Yet now be strong, Zerubbabel,’ says the LORD; ‘and be strong, Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; and be strong, all you people of the land,’ says the LORD, ‘and work; for I am with you,’ says the LORD of hosts.
5 “‘According to the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, so My Spirit remains among you; do not fear!'”
In our modern age, there are many who disparage the church of Christ, many who say it cannot return to its former glory of being true to the Word and the will of God. Some say that our whole world is on a downward spiral toward chaos and unbelief, that the skeptics are winning and that attempts to rejuvenate God’s church are hopeless. With each public disgrace, the enemies of God gloat and the faithful despair. There are many among us who remember what America itself was like in the days when more families attended church together, when the laws of the land were based more on the Word of God than on the personal whims of politicians trying to win votes. And some of those people raise their voices to wail, because today they see the foundation laid but have no hope for seeing the rebuilding of God’s people. They wring their hands and say “The End is Near!” because they can see no other alternative. It is far easier for them to despair than to live in faith and hope.
But I see something different. I see a day of small things, a day when the memory of former faith does indeed make our modern churches look small and broken. And yet I also see the eyes of God upon us. I see the hand of the Holy Spirit moving worldwide to re-establish God’s “ecclesia”–the gathering together of His people, the church of Christ. I see stone being laid upon stone as people of great faith rise up to take a stand in elections and in missions and in ministry. I see a great reconstruction of hope and glory, all pointing toward our Savior and all driven by His Holy Spirit. I see a plumb line in the hands of people who never thought of themselves as builders, and yet they are people who are unwilling to see God’s glory trampled underfoot by despair and doubt.
Today is a day of small things, when the people in God’s churches have little memory of living true lives of faith. But it is also a time when the worship of God in Spirit and in truth is growing in tiny courses, each row of stones laid upon the Rock of Christ. It is a time when people who see things as God sees, people who KNOW God cares and is watching, will rise up without fear but with a stone in one hand and a sword in the other, rebuilding and defending God’s church with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength.
A time is coming when God’s people will have rebuilt His church to greater glory than before, when Christians throughout the world will look at this new edifice and shout “Grace, grace to it!” The faithful will draw all eyes upon the glory and majesty of the Lord God by living good lives among the unbelievers. They will no longer fall from grace but RISE in grace. They will no longer need restoration, because they will have already been restored through the mercy and grace of God.
16 “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes.
Cease to do evil,
17 “Learn to do good;
Rebuke the oppressor;
Defend the fatherless,
Plead for the widow.”
16 “‘These are the things you shall do:
Speak each man the truth to his neighbor;
Give judgment in your gates for truth, justice, and peace;
17 “‘Let none of you think evil in your heart against your neighbor;
And do not love a false oath.
For all these are things that I hate,’
Says the LORD.”
The foundation of Christ has been laid. Will we lament and mourn and weep, despising this day of small things, believing that it is easier to face the Second Coming of our Lord than to take a stand for Him BEFORE He comes? Or will we, knowing that the Lord’s Holy Spirit is with us, strengthen ourselves in the Lord to rebuild His church and His people? “‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ Says the LORD of hosts.” (Zechariah 4:6b) Let us not let small things get in the way of the awesome power of “El-Shaddai”–God Almighty. Let us rise in His might and in His power to do this thing He has called us to do, preaching the gospel to the ends of the earth with conviction and with authority and with love.
Who is this who comes from Edom,
With dyed garments from Bozrah,
This One who is glorious in His apparel,
Traveling in the greatness of His strength?–
“I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save.”
Almighty God, Gracious Lord, You are indeed mighty to save. This rebuilding of Your church is not something we can do alone. It is something that can only be accomplished by Your Word and Your will. Strengthen me, O Lord, to be Your servant, to be the mason who lays the bricks, to be the watchman on the walls, to be the scribe who instructs and encourages the people who serve You. Let this temple be raised in Your name. Let this people rise up in Your grace and in Your mercy. Hosanna in the highest! Amen.