“Hope for a New Day”
Lesson Text:Haggai 2:23; Zechariah 4:1-3, 6-14
Background Scripture: Nehemiah 7:1-7; Haggai 2:20-23; Zechariah 4
Devotional Reading: Psalm 43
Haggai 2:23 (KJV)
23 In that day, saith the Lord of hosts, will I take thee, O Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel, saith the Lord, and will make thee as a signet: for I have chosen thee, saith the Lord of hosts.
Zechariah 4:1-3, 6-14
1 And the angel that talked with me came again, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep,
2 And said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof:
3 And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof.
6 Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.
7 Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it.
8 Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,
9 The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto you.
10 For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the Lord, which run to and fro through the whole earth.
11 Then answered I, and said unto him, What are these two olive trees upon the right side of the candlestick and upon the left side thereof?
12 And I answered again, and said unto him, What be these two olive branches which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves?
13 And he answered me and said, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord.
14 Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.
To describe God’s plan for and revelation to Zerubbabel.
To learn that God sometimes works through small things and unimpressive agents to do His will.
To keep our hope and trust in God, and commit to praying daily that He will use our small things in powerful ways for His glory.
In the January 2012 edition of his newsletter The Encouraging Leader, basketball coach Jamy Bechler comments on the importance of small, daily victories in achieving major goals. If your long-term goal is to pay off a credit card debt, don’t stop at the mall today. If you want to lose 20 pounds, then bypass your usual after-dinner piece of pie. Big goals need to be tackled in small increments. Win the little battles, says Bechler, and eventually you’ll win the war.
The current lesson is the last in this unit of studies that focuses on the rebuilding of the temple in the post-exilic period of Old Testament history. Most of the text comes from the book of Zechariah, who was a contemporary of Haggai. Like Haggai, Zechariah encouraged God’s people to faithfulness in completing the rebuilding project that had been on hold for some 16 years. The day of victory and achievement would come only by means of a day-by-day devotion to carrying out God’s plan. The same principle holds true for Christian service today.
The fact that Zechariah was a contemporary of Haggai is clear from the dates mentioned in their books (compare Zechariah 1:1 with Haggai 1:1). These two prophets are also mentioned together in Ezra 5:1, 2, where they are described as “helping” those who worked on rebuilding the temple.
The first major section of the book of Zechariah (that is, 1:1-6:8) consists of eight visions given at night to the prophet. All were messages to challenge and encourage those involved in rebuilding the temple. As Haggai did, Zechariah conveyed special messages to the leaders of the people, namely Zerubbabel and Joshua. The fourth of the eighth visions, recorded in Zechariah 3, concerned Joshua. The lesson from chapter 4 describes the fifth of these visions and offers a message especially intended to encourage Zerubbabel.
Before we turn to our text from Zechariah, we will consider a single verse from Haggai. The final message in this book is addressed to Zerubbabel, governor of those who returned from Babylonian captivity. The message begins with another promise from God to “shake the heavens and the earth” (Haggai 2:21), repeating an earlier promise found in 2:6. The effect of the shaking is more specifically defined in 2:21, 22: kingdoms and chariots, along with their horses and riders, will one day “come down, every one by the sword of his brother.” Amidst all of this predicted turmoil, a promise was given to Zerubbabel.
A SPECIAL MAN (Haggai 2:23)
1. Who was Zerubbabel and what promise does he receive from the Lord? (See Haggai 2:20-23)
Zerubbabel has been noted previously as governor of Judah (Haggai 1:1, 14; 2:2, 21). Now he is designated by the Lord as my servant. The designation “servant of the Lord” is used of such noteworthy individuals as Moses (Deuteronomy 34:5; Joshua 1:1), Joshua (Joshua 24:29), and David (1 Kings 11:13; superscription to Psalm 18). It also carries important implications regarding Jesus, especially in Isaiah 40-55.
In the remainder of the verse, God reveals His plan involving His servant Zerubbabel. The word signet refers to a signet ring. An important symbol of a ruler’s authority in ancient times, it is used by the ruler to authorize official documents. Note the similarities between the words signet and signature.
The prophet Jeremiah had used signet-ring language to depict how God would treat King Jehoiachin of Judah, who was Zerubbabel’s grandfather: “Though Coniah [another name for Jehoiachin] the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah were the signet upon my right hand, yet would I pluck thee thence; and I will give thee into the hand of them that seek thy life, and into the hand of them whose face thou fearest” (Jeremiah 22:24, 25). God’s removal of Jehoiachin represented His judgment on that evil king (2 Kings 24:8, 9). By contrast, God’s intention to make Zerubbabel as a signet represents the reversal of judgment imposed on that man’s grandfather.
The fact that this is to happen “in that day” (Haggai 2:23a), the day God will “shake the heavens and the earth” (v. 21), makes us wonder exactly what day is in view. The messianic implications of this promise were considered in our lesson two weeks ago, where the predicted shaking of the heavens and the earth is also addressed. Certainly worth highlighting is the fact that Jehoiachin and Zerubbabel are included in the ancestry of Jesus in Matthew 1:12, 13 (with different spellings). As also noted in our lesson two weeks ago, the ancient Near East is subject to much turmoil between the time of Zerubbabel and the birth of Jesus. But God’s promise holds true and is fulfilled in Zerubbabel’s descendant Jesus Christ, God’s chosen one and ultimate servant.
What Do You Think?
When was a time you realized that you would not have accomplished something without God’s help? How does that affect your prayer life now?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
A reconciled relationship | A change in a sin habit | An area of ministry or service
A SPECIAL MESSAGE (Zechariah 4:1-3, 6-14)
2. Why did Zechariah have to be roused from sleep by the angel? (Zechariah 4:1)
An angel is present to serve as a kind of “tour guide” when Zechariah sees the prophetic visions granted to him (1:7-9; etc.). As the fifth of the eight night visions begins here, the angel comes to wake Zechariah as a man that is wakened out of his sleep. Zechariah may be sleeping because of the fact that the visions all come at night; another possibility is that Zechariah sleeps between visions because the intensity of the experience to this point may have worn him out (compare Daniel 8:15-18, 27).
3. Describe Zechariah’s fifth vision? (Zechariah 4:2, 3)
Zechariah describes a candlestick all of gold in answer to the angel’s question. The Hebrew word translated candlestick is menorah, familiar because of its association with the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. An ordinary lamp is a small bowl of olive oil with a wick for the flame, but what Zechariah sees is no ordinary lamp!
The menorah Zechariah beholds has a bowl upon the top of it with seven lamps thereon, but we are not told exactly how these are arranged. Perhaps the menorah of the Jerusalem temple in the first century A.D. offers a possibility. The Arch of Titus in Rome pictures this menorah as part of the spoils that the Roman general Titus brought back after he conquered Jerusalem in A.D. 70
Zechariah also sees seven pipes. Apparently these carry oil from the bowl to the lamps. There were also two olives trees – one to the right of the bowl; the other to the left. The significance of the two olive trees will be addressed in verse 14, below.
4. What did Zechariah see that he did not understand? (Zechariah 4:6)
Verses 4 and 5, not in the current lesson’s text, record Zechariah’s admission that he does not know the significance of what he sees. So the angel proceeds to convey the primary lesson of this vision.As was noted, these were not dreams, but revelations given to Zechariah while he was fully awake. Since God delivered His message in this unusual way, it indicates this was an important oracle for Zerubbabel to hear.
The essence of the message here is the same as when Haggai challenged Zerubbabel to “be strong” (Haggai 2:4). Haggai reminded Zerubbabel and the builders that the Lord’s Spirit remains among them (v. 5), and this assurance is what Zechariah conveys in the verse before us. The oil for the lamps apparently symbolizes the power of God’s Spirit. This symbolism is seen also where the idea of “anointing” (usually done with oil) is linked with God’s Spirit (compare Isaiah 61:1; Acts 10:38).
When Solomon built the temple which the Babylonians destroyed, he had almost unlimited resources at his disposal. His father David had fought many battles and collected spoil to be used in building the temple (1 Chron. 26:20, 27-28), but the remnant didn’t have an army. Solomon was monarch of a powerful kingdom that ruled over many Gentile nations and took tribute from them, but the Jews in Zechariah’s day had no such authority.
It is clear that this second temple will not possess the grandeur of Solomon’s renowned temple. But those engaged in the important task of rebuilding do possess the most important “building material” of all: the power of the Spirit of God. This will more than compensate for whatever material resources or manpower the people seem to lack as they rebuild.
5. What would become of the mountain (obstacles) that Zerubbabel and the builders faced? What would be the response? (Zechariah 4:7)
In previous lessons, we saw Haggai’s challenge to the people to go to the mountains to obtain timber for the rebuilding effort (Haggai 1:8). Here, however, the term mountain may picture the various obstacles being faced during the work. We are reminded of Jesus’ teaching about the power of faith to move mountains (Mark 11:23).
One impediment would be the opposition of surrounding nations. A second obstacle would be the apathy felt among the returnees. The negatives mentioned in verse 6 (“not by” and “nor”) pointed Zerubbabel to the only true source of enduring power, namely, God’s Spirit. Once the obstacles represented by the mountain are leveled, Zerubbabel is then pictured as bringing forth the headstone. This is the topmost stone, the last stone to be set in place. When this is done, the building is finished! No wonder this step will be accompanied by a shout of triumph: Grace, grace unto it. The reference to grace highlights the special favor of the Lord, blessing His completed house.
What Do You Think?
What have you learned from overcoming obstacles? How does that help you face other challenges?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
Educational pursuits| Vocational pursuits | Spiritual pursuits | Family plans
6. What other reassurance did God give Zerubbabel through the prophet Zechariah? (Zechariah 4:8, 9)
Next, the Lord had Zechariah declare another important oracle to Zerubbabel (Zech. 4:8). He was the civil leader who (along with Joshua) oversaw the initial foundation of the temple being laid in 536 B.C. (see Ezra 3:8-11). Also, with the Spirit’s help, Zerubbabel would witness the completion of the sanctuary rebuilding project. This did not mean all external opposition and internal hindrances would suddenly disappear. Instead, the Spirit would enable Zerubbabel to overcome these obstacles. When what was foretold eventually came to pass, Zerubbabel would realize that the all-powerful Lord had sent Zechariah (along with Haggai) to encourage the civil leader in his efforts. According to 6:15, the undertaking was successfully ended on March 12, 516 B.C.
What Do You Think?
What have you seen leaders do to lead a congregation through a building project successfully?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
In casting the vision of the project | During the planning stage
When encountering unexpected problems | In wrestling with the financial element
7. What was the message to those who saw the new temple as a small thing? (Zechariah 4:10)
Zechariah then receives a rhetorical question to pass along: Who hath despised the day of small things? It can be restated, “Who has the nerve to despise the day of small things?” The question is aimed at those doubters who question the worth of a rebuilt temple, since it obviously will be inferior to Solomon’s temple. Size, however, should not be the standard by which success is measured in God’s work (compare Matthew 13:31-33).
A plummet, or plumb line, is a weight suspended on a string so that the string will hang straight. It is used to ensure that a wall is perfectly vertical. To see this item in the hand of Zerubbabel is similar to seeing him bring the headstone of verse 7. In both instances, he is carrying out his role as primary leader of the rebuilding project, here as an inspector of the work.
The remnant would also be invigorated by the truth that the seven lamps on the lamp stand represented the all-seeing, all-knowing eyes of the LORD (see Zech. 3:9). He was completely aware of what took place throughout the planet (see 2 Chron. 16:9; Revelation 5:6). This suggests watchful protection. Thus the Spirit, who has already been described as the one empowering Zerubbabel’s efforts (Zech. 4:6), is now pictured as taking great joy in seeing Zerubbabel’s work completed (compare 3:9).
8. What questions did Zechariah ask the angel concerning the vision? (Zechariah 4:11-14)
This is the second time Zechariah asks the angel about the two olive trees, one on either side of the candlestick in his vision. The first time is in verse 4, not in today’s text.
In addition, Zechariah queries the angel about some details not noted in the earlier description of the candlestick: there are two olive branches that are the source of the oil in the bowl (v. 2, above). Zechariah also observes that the oil itself is golden, meaning that it is obviously of the finest quality.
The Lord’s angel rhetorically asked whether Zechariah knew the meaning of what he had seen in his vision. In response, he stated that he was unable to interpret the significance of the objects in question (v. 13). Then, God’s messenger provided the crucial explanation. To be specific, the olive trees represented the priestly and kingly offices in Israel. The two branches represent Zerubbabel and Joshua, the primary leaders of God’s people at this time (Ezra 3:2, 8; 4:3; 5:2; Haggai 1:1, 12, 14; 2:2, 4). Both men are specifically challenged and encouraged by both Haggai and Zechariah. The latter has already seen a vision concerning a special promise given to Joshua, the high priest, in Zechariah 3; the focus is on Zerubbabel and God’s promises to him in Zechariah 4.
The important roles carried out by Zerubbabel and Joshua are captured in the description of them as anointed ones. The Hebrew word translated anointed is not the one from which comes the term Messiah. In this case, it is literally “sons of oil.” This seems to highlight how both Zerubbabel and Joshua are instruments of the Lord through whom His “oil” (the Holy Spirit) flows in order to accomplish His holy purposes. The Lord empowers each man for his special task, and because of that neither man will fail.
POINTS TO PONDER
1.God chooses us, and it is up to us to serve Him and fulfill His purpose for our lives. (Haggai 2:23)
2.Let us arouse from any spiritual sleep to be attentive to what God will reveal to us by His Spirit. (Zechariah 4:1-3)
3.If we find ourselves facing dejection, frustration, or anxiety, chances are that we’re not tuned in to God’s plan and that we’re failing to depend on His Spirit. One temptation we may have is to try to do things “for the Lord” that we feel others expect of us. God will not demoralize us with what He requires of us. When we are walking in His plan and purpose, He always provides what we need by His Spirit to carry out what is in His will (vs. 6-9)
5.Humble beginnings should not be despised. Little is much if God is in it. (vs. 10-14)
Big Blessings in Small Places
“For who hath despised the day of small things?” The question from Zechariah 4:10 has great relevance to Christian service today. Often we see much attention paid to the megachurches and the impact of their ministries. Certainly other churches and their leaders can learn much from what these congregations have achieved (as long as these churches and leaders are careful to measure everything by the standard of Scripture).
However, we dare not “despise” or overlook the efforts of smaller churches or ministries. We dare not consider their endeavors as being in some way inferior to what larger churches are doing. As both Haggai and Zechariah emphasized to their audiences, size is not a measuring stick as to whether a given work is pleasing to God or is being empowered by His Spirit.
“Small things,” especially small churches, have played a big part in this writer’s life and Christian walk. The church where I grew up in south central Indiana has never been and likely will not become a megachurch. It is a country church, blessed over the years with faithful people who have served the Lord diligently. Their influence helped mold and shape me and encouraged me to consider full-time Christian service.
Heavenly Father, in the midst of our attempts to do big things for You, help us not to forget the importance of small things! Use us, we pray, as instruments through which the oil of Your Spirit flows. In Jesus’ name, amen.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER
As Zerubbabel’s hands accomplished God’s purpose, so may ours.