Volume 20, Issue 36 (September 9, 2018)
At the Heart of Haggai and Zechariah
By Tony Mauck
Discouraging circumstances? Imagine yourself among the remnant of Judah returning from Babylonian captivity. Jerusalem is in ruins and the splendid temple of Solomon is no more. Rebuilding will not be an easy process. Temple reconstruction is halted by opposition and then distraction. Along comes Haggai the prophet telling the people, “Consider your ways!” The people show reverence and continue the project.
With inferior materials, limited manpower and minimal wealth, how could this new temple even closely resemble the previous temple? What about those who were old enough to remember Solomon’s glorious edifice? “Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? Does it not seem to you like nothing in comparison?” (Haggai 2:3). God is not now concerned about matching Solomon’s temple with all of its golden magnificence. If He had wanted all of those things, He could provide them. “‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord of hosts” (Haggai 2:8).
God’s leaders – Zerubbabel, David’s descendant & Joshua, the high priest – are admonished to “take courage.” These two “olive trees” are the focal point of Zechariah’s night visions. Coupled with the spiritual direction and instruction of these two prophets, they must lead God’s people in this critical time of rebuilding. God raises an important question: “For who has despised the day of small things?” (Zechariah 4:10). An idolatry-purged people emancipated, God has even more glorious things in store for the future. Small beginnings will precipitate greater things. This meager house in comparison to the former one still symbolizes God’s dwelling among His people. “I am with you,” He affirmed (Haggai 1:13; 2:4). “In a little while,” God is going to: 1) shake all the nations; 2) bring the wealth of nations; 3) fill His house with glory; 4) give peace; 5) bring in My servant the Branch; 6) remove the iniquity of the land in one day (Haggai 2:6-9; Zechariah 3:8-10).
These people would not see the events these texts anticipate. Or would they? While these prophets speak of the Messiah’s coming and the era of grace that is still over 500 years away, are not the faithful of that time much like Abraham? “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56). While they would not see the fruition of God’s eternal plan during their earthly sojourn, they could rejoice with the throng of heaven in their glorious completion. And they played a part. They did what God wanted them to do in their time. Like their revered king of old, “For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep” (Acts 13:36). It didn’t appear glorious and perhaps didn’t feel very glorious but it fulfilled God’s intentions for them.
God has always wanted and still wants the same things from His people — simple obedience, loyalty, humble worship, diligent service, compassion for others – things all men and women can do in their peculiar circumstances. Whether those things are perceived as great by others is irrelevant. They bring glory to God and advance the Messiah’s great cause.
Jehosheba was just doing what any sensible and righteous person would do. She wasn’t thinking, “I can be a hero!” What she could do is save one of the king’s sons from the murderous intentions of Athaliah (daughter of Jezebel — “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” demonstrated). She took Joash and hid him (2 Kings 11:1ff). Her husband, Jehoiada the priest, would ultimately present Joash to the people as their king. Jehosheba’s act preserves the lineage of David and the promise of 2 Samuel 7.
And as long as we measure things by the way they appear outwardly, we will never accurately assess their true value. So often, brethren fail to see the significance of their role in the local church. Perhaps the church is not large in size or seemingly that influential in the community. But doing God’s will with zeal, love and dedication is always significant even if only a handful of people are involved. Someone is being influenced. Someone is seeing the example of Christ. Someone is affected by truth lived. And perhaps, the tentacles of that faithfulness reach further and accomplish something greater than we could ever know.
Fellowship with God is the key and it always has been. After all, He gives the increase or causes the growth (1 Corinthians 3:7). One should never underestimate what a single individual in a right relationship with God accomplishes. The principle was echoed long ago, “One of your men puts to flight a thousand for the Lord your God is He who fights for you, just as He promised you” (Joshua 23:10). Do not fear the devil’s obstacles that can appear at times to be mountains in our path. Zerubbabel is encouraged and so should we be also, “What are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become a plain; and he will bring forth the top stone with shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’” (Zechariah 4:7). The previous verse declares, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel saying, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts” (4:6). With God’s help, victory is certain. We can achieve His purposes for us in our place and time. Faith the size of a mustard seed can move a mountain (Matthew 17:20).
In the previous vision, Joshua’s filthy garments are removed and festal robes replace them. God can take the likes of us and make something useful in His cause. This is not dissimilar to Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 4 about not preaching ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as bond-servants for His sake, and he says so beautifully, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves” (2 Corinthians 4:7). We may be afflicted, perplexed and even persecuted but as we carry about in our bodies the dying of Jesus a great paradox unfolds. The life of Jesus is manifested. While the outer man undergoes decay, the inner man is enlivened as Jesus and the Spirit indwell us/are allowed to control us (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:14, 17, 21).
Focus your attention on the following phrases: “consider your ways...I am with you...not by might or power but by My Spirit...take courage...in a little while.” We need not seek to accomplish great things but simply God’s things. With His help, and with a desire to exalt only Him and not ourselves, we can advance His great cause in our time. And in a short time, unimaginable glory will be ours and God will be all in all.