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Do Not Despise These Small Beginnings 1

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Do Not Despise These Small Beginnings 1

Zechariah 4:10a

       I come tonight with a prophetic word for Pastor Schlabach and all of you who are laboring with him.

Zechariah is the longest and the most obscure book among the Minor Prophets. It has fourteen chapters and 211 verses, while Hosea the second longest book of the Minor Prophets has fourteen chapters and 197 verses.  At the beginning of the fifth century a.d. Jerome called Zechariah “the obscurest and longest of the twelve prophets” (J. Steinmann, Saint Jerome, trans. R. Matthews [London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1950] 298).[1]

Zechariah’s name, which he shared with about 30 other men in the Old Testament, means “Yahweh (niv, ‘the Lord’) remembers” (Bible Knowledge Commentary).

Zechariah was a contemporary of Haggai the prophet, Zerubbabel the governor, and Joshua the high priest (Ezra 5:1-2; Zech. 3:1; 4:6; 6:11). Zechariah returned to Jerusalem from Babylon with almost 50,000 other Jewish exiles.  He was probably a relatively young man at the beginning of his prophetic ministry (cf. 2:4) while Haggai might have been considerably older (Bible Knowledge Commentary).

The fall of Jerusalem to the armies of Nebuchadnezzar in 586 b.c. marked the finale of the kingdom of Judah, much as the earlier defeat at the hands of the Assyrians in 722 b.c. brought to an end the Northern Kingdom of Israel.  Most of Jerusalem’s inhabitants were deported to Babylon for a period of about 70 years, as prophesied by the Prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 25:11; 29:10).  During this Exile the Prophet Daniel received the revelation that Gentile kingdoms would be dominant over Judah and Israel until God would set up His kingdom on the earth under the rule of the Messiah (Dan. 2; 7).  This period was referred to by Jesus Christ as “the times of the Gentiles” (Luke 21:24).

When the Babylonian Empire fell to the Persian Empire (539 b.c.), Cyrus the Great decreed that the Jews could return to Jerusalem to rebuild their temple (Ezra 1:2-4; cf. Isa. 44:28).  However, only a small minority of about 50,000 Jews (including Haggai and Zechariah) returned under the leadership of Zerubbabel the governor and Joshua the high priest (Ezra 2). Levitical sacrifices were soon reinstituted on a rebuilt altar of burnt offering (Ezra 3:1-6), and in the second year of their return the foundation of the temple was laid (Ezra 3:8-13; 5:16).  However, external oppression and internal depression halted the rebuilding of the temple for about 16 more years of spiritual apathy till the rule of the Persian King Darius Hystaspis (522-486 b.c.).  In the second regnal year of Darius (520 b.c.) God raised up Haggai the prophet to encourage the Jews in rebuilding (Ezra 5:1-2; Hag. 1:1).  Haggai preached four sermons in four months and then disappeared from the scene.  Two months after Haggai delivered his first sermon, Zechariah began his prophetic ministry (cf. Hag. 1:1; Zech. 1:1), encouraging the people to spiritual renewal and motivating them to rebuild the temple by revealing to them God’s plans for Israel’s future.  With this prophetic encouragement the people completed the temple reconstruction in 515 b.c. (Ezra 6:15).  The dated portions of Zechariah’s prophecy fall within the period of the rebuilding of the temple. The undated prophecies of Zechariah 9-14 were probably written much later in his ministry (Bible Knowledge Commentary).

A. Outline of Zechariah 1–8

1.     Superscription and first oracle 1:16

2.     Eight night visions and oracles 1:7–6:8

a.     First vision—A man on a red horse and an accompanying oracle 1:7–17

b.     Second vision—Four horns and four smiths 2:1–4 (Eng. 1:18–21)

c.     Third vision—The man with a measuring line and an accompanying vision 2:5–17 (Eng. 2:1–13)

d.     Fourth vision—The accusation of the high priest and accompanying oracles 3:1–10

e.     Fifth vision—A golden lampstand, two olive trees and accompanying oracles 4:1–14[2]

The thrust of this fifth vision with its accompanying oracles is clear.  Its purpose is to assure Zerubbabel that he will complete the temple through the Spirit of Yahweh.  The details of the vision and oracles are unclear at times.[3]

1 And the angel speaking with me returned and waked me as a man that is wakened from his sleep. 2 And he said to me, “What do you see?” And I said, “Behold I see a lampstand all of gold, and a basin upon the top of it and seven lamps upon it and seven spouts to the lamps which are on top of it. 3 And two olive trees were beside it, one on the right of the basin and one on the left.” 4 And I answered and said to the one speaking with me, “What are these, my lord?” 5 And the angel speaking with me said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” And I said, “No, my lord!” 6 And he answered and said to me saying, “This is the word of Yahweh to Zerubbabel saying, Not by might and not by power, but by my Spirit says Yahweh of hosts. 7 Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain, and he shall cause the top stone to go up amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’” 8 And the word of Yahweh came to me saying, 9 “The hands of Zerubbabel founded this house and his hands shall complete it, and you shall know that Yahweh of hosts sent me to you. 10 For who has despised the day of small things? They shall rejoice and see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel.[4]

The section 4:6–10a can stand where it is if the reader is aware of the break in the discussion about the lampstand and the two olive trees. What follows in 4:6–10 is not an answer to the question, What are these? (4:4–5), but a word of Yahweh concerning the temple and Zerubbabel’s role in rebuilding it.  There are really two words from Yahweh here (4:6–7 and 8–10a) but they both say essentially the same thing. One, the temple will be built.  Zerubbabel started the rebuilding and he will finish it.  Two, strength to finish the temple will not be man’s physical ability חיל or military might כּחֹ, but will be by the power of the Spirit of Yahweh of hosts (4:6).

There seems to have been opposition to the rebuilding of the temple.  The opposition is referred to as a great mountain (4:7).  The opposition might have come from the “adversaries of Judah and Benjamin” referred to in Ezra 4:1–16.  The mountain of opposition might have been the discouraged group who despised the day of small things (Hag 2:3; Zech 4:10).  Or the mountain of opposition might have been a deep schism within the community concerning the rebuilding of the temple.  Paul Hanson believes that in the early post-exilic community there was a bitter struggle between two groups for control of the restoration cult.  Before the beginning of the restoration of the temple the conditions were described as a time when “there was no wage for man or any wage for beast, neither was there safety from the foe for him who went out or came in; for I set every man against his fellow” (Zech 8:10).  Whatever the opposition and regardless of its size or power Zechariah assured Zerubbabel that he would finish the temple.  At the midnight hour when the opposition appeared to be a mountain the word of God to Zerubbabel was that the mountain would become a plain מישר.  The similarity of the language of Zech 4:7 and that of Isa 40:4 and 42:16 is unmistakable.  The language is eschatological. Zechariah was speaking about more than just rebuilding the temple.  He was thinking of the coming of the kingdom of God. The idea of moving mountains of opposition to the kingdom of God is prominent in the NT (Matt 17:20; 21:21–22; Mark 11:22–23; Luke 17:6; 1 Cor 13:2).[5]

b. The significance of Zerubbabel (4:5-10a)

4:5-10a. Before identifying the “two olive trees” (v. 3) with “the two who are anointed” (v. 14), the angel prepared for this conclusion by relating the vision to Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah (cf. Hag. 1:1, 12, 14; 2:21).  The angel suggested that he would finish the temple (Zech. 4:9) through the abundant supply of the Spirit of God.  Thus the oil for the lamp is associated with the Holy Spirit. By His enabling the temple would be completed (v. 6) and every obstacle (mighty mountain, v. 7) to rebuilding would be removed.  Military strength (might) and human manpower (power) could not accomplish the task, but Spirit-empowered workers under the direction and leadership of Zerubbabel would do so.

The Lord explained to Zechariah (vv. 8-10) that Zerubbabel’s finishing the restoration temple would drive the critics to silence for they would know God had sent the prophet and the reconstructionists (God bless it! [v. 7] Men will rejoice [v. 10]).  (Because Joshua the high priest was the subject of the preceding vision, no specific mention is made of him in this vision, but the two visions go together).

As Zerubbabel… laid the foundation of this temple (v. 9; i.e., he began the work of rebuilding on the ancient foundations), so he would also complete it, epitomized by his laying the capstone (v. 7). The word translated plumb line (v. 10) is disputed and possibly refers to this final crowning stone (cf. Baldwin, Zechariah, pp. 122-3).  Others say it symbolizes Zerubbabel’s supervising the rebuilding project.  Those who despised the day of small things may have been older Jews who thought this temple was insignificant compared with the former temple of preexilic times (cf. Ezra 3:12-13; Hag. 2:3) (Bible Knowledge Commentary).

Not by might . . . but by my Spirit—As the lamps burned continually, supplied with oil from a source (the living olive trees) which man did not make, so Zerubbabel need not be disheartened because of his weakness; for as the work is one to be effected by the living Spirit (compare Haggai 2:5) of God, man’s weakness is no obstacle, for God’s might will perfect strength out of weakness (Hosea 1:7; 2 Cor. 12:10; Hebrews 11:34).  “Might and power” express human strength of every description, physical, mental, moral.  Or, “might” is the strength of many (an “army”); “power,” that of one man [Pembellus] God can save, “whether with many, or with them that have no power” (2 Chron. 14:11; compare 1 Samuel 14:6).  So in the conversion of sinners (1 Cor. 3:6; 2 Cor. 10:4). “Zerubbabel” is addressed as the chief civil authority in directing the work (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown’s Commentary on the Whole Bible).

7. All mountain-like obstacles (Isaiah 40:4; Isaiah 49:11) in Zerubbabel’s way shall be removed, so that the crowning top-stone shall be put on, and the completion of the work be acknowledged as wholly of “grace.”  Antitypically, the antichristian last foe of Israel, the obstacle preventing her establishment in Palestine, about to be crushed before Messiah, is probably meant (Jeremiah 51:25; Daniel 2:34, 44; Matthew 21:44).

bring forth the headstone—Primarily, bring it forth from the place where it was chiselled and give it to the workmen to put on the top of the building. It was customary for chief magistrates to lay the foundation, and also the crowning top-stone (compare Ezra 3:10).  Antitypically, the reference is to the time when the full number of the spiritual Church shall be completed, and also when “all Israel shall be saved” (compare Romans 11:26; Hebrews 11:40; Hebrews 12:22-23; Rev. 7:4-9).

Grace, grace—The repetition expresses, Grace from first to last (Isaiah 26:3, Margin). Thus the Jews are urged to pray perseveringly and earnestly that the same grace which completed it may always preserve it. “Shoutings” of acclamation accompanied the foundation of the literal temple (Ezra 3:11, 13).  So shoutings of “Hosanna” greeted the Saviour in entering Jerusalem (Matthew 21:9), when about to complete the purchase of salvation by His death: His Body being the second temple, or place of God’s inhabitation (John 2:20-21).  So when the full number of the saints and of Israel is complete, and God shall say, “It is done,” then again shall “a great voice of much people in heaven” attribute all to the “grace” of God, saying, “Alleluia! Salvation, and glory, and honor, and power, unto the Lord our God” (Rev. 19:1, 6).  Psalm 118:22 regards Him as “the headstone of the corner,” that is, the foundation-stone. Compare the angels acclamations at His birth, Luke 2:14. Here it is the top-stone.  Messiah is not only the “Author,” but also the Finisher (Hebrews 12:2).  “Grace” is ascribed “unto it,” that is the stone, Messiah.  Hence the benediction begins, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 13:14) (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown’s Commentary on the Whole Bible).

9. Zerubbabel . . . shall . . . finish it— (Ezra 6:15) in the sixth year of Darius’ reign.

Lord . . . sent me unto you— (Zech. 2:9).  The Divine Angel announces that in what He has just spoken, He has been commissioned by God the Father (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown’s Commentary on the Whole Bible).

10. who . . . despised . . . small things—He reproves their ungrateful unbelief, which they felt because of the humble beginning, compared with the greatness of the undertaking; and encourages them with the assurance that their progress in the work, though small, was an earnest of great and final success, because Jehovah’s eye is upon Zerubbabel and the work, to support Him with His favor.  Contrast, “great is the day of Jezreel” (Hosea 1:11) with “the day of small things” here (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown’s Commentary on the Whole Bible).

they shall rejoice . . . with those seven; they are the eyes of the Lord—rather, “they, even those seven eyes of the Lord (compare Zech. 3:9), which . . . shall rejoice and see (that is, rejoicingly see) the plummet (literally, the ‘stone of tin’) in the hand of Zerubbabel” [Moore]; the plummet in his hand indicating that the work is going forward to its completion.  The Hebrew punctuation, however, favors English Version, of which the sense is, They who incredulously “despised” such “small” beginnings of the work as are made now, shall rejoicingly see its going on to completion under Zerubbabel, “with (the aid of) those seven,” namely, the “seven eyes upon one stone” (Zech. 3:9): which are explained, “They are the eyes of the Lord which,” &c. [Pembellus].  So differently do men and Jehovah regard the “small” beginnings of God’s work (Ezra 3:12; Haggai 2:3).  Men “despised” the work in its early stage: God rejoicingly regards it, and shall continue to do so.

run to and fro, &c.—Nothing in the whole earth escapes the eye of Jehovah, so that He can ward off all danger from His people, come from what quarter it may, in prosecuting His work (Proverbs 15:3; 1 Cor. 16:9) (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown’s Commentary on the Whole Bible).

You don’t have to be a mega-church to be a major church!

Just as quickly as I do that, let me restate the fact that a church is not necessarily a major church just because of its size.  Churches grow by more reasons than God’s blessings.  Marketing strategies can grow large churches.  Not to mention the fact that cults can grow large too.  So, size alone is not an accurate indicator of the blessing of God or that a mega church is carrying out God’s will in its sphere of influence.


One characteristic of a major church would be the health of the church.  It is not important that you are a mega church, but it is important that you are a healthy church.  On the other hand, if you are a healthy church you will be a growing church.  And a healthy, growing church, no matter the percentage of its growth, is a major church.

Research shows that the lack of quantitative growth in most cases indicates a qualitative problem.  Above a certain qualitative level, there are no stagnant or declining churches at all!!![6]

Now, when we use the term “healthy,” what do we mean?  Well, there is a must read book called Natural Church Development, by Christian Schwarz.  In this book, Schwarz gives the results of a worldwide survey of churches, which pinpoints eight characteristics of church health.  We shall get to these characteristics before I am done, but one of the things that Schwarz does is debunk the myth that a mega church is a healthy church and a smaller church is an unhealthy church.  This myth is what causes us, i.e. pastors and those who give seminars, to only look at large churches as model churches.

       I don’t want to take a lot of time with this, but he was able to demonstrate that based upon 170 variables large churches compare disfavorably with smaller ones.  So, we should look at the countless small churches manifesting high quality, strong growth, and innovative multiplication.  If we need models, we should look for them in this category.  This does not mean that there are not large churches that are doing a very excellent job, but they are the exception to the rule.[7]

       I have already mentioned Natural Church Development, by Christian Schwarz.  Christian Schwarz has verified the link between church health and church growth through an extensive, statistically valid, worldwide church growth research project.  [Picture 19] This project included more than 1000 churches on five continents.  This does away with studies that are “true” only for certain segments of the Church of Jesus Christ.  We are now dealing with universal truth, i.e. truth that is true for all people, in all places, at all times.  “The research results confirm what many leaders have known intuitively—that healthy churches are growing churches, making more and better disciples in loving obedience to Christ.”[8]  Isn’t this a great definition for a major church?


----

[1]Smith, R. L. 2002. Vol. 32: Word Biblical Commentary : Micah-Malachi. Word Biblical Commentary . Word, Incorporated: Dallas

[2]Smith, R. L. 2002. Vol. 32: Word Biblical Commentary : Micah-Malachi. Word Biblical Commentary . Word, Incorporated: Dallas

[3]Smith, R. L. 2002. Vol. 32: Word Biblical Commentary : Micah-Malachi. Word Biblical Commentary . Word, Incorporated: Dallas

a 2.a. MT ויאמר “and he said,” but next line has 1st. per. ראיתי.

b 2.b. מְנוּרַת menuraṯ comes from נוּר “lamp.”

[4]Smith, R. L. 2002. Vol. 32: Word Biblical Commentary : Micah-Malachi. Word Biblical Commentary . Word, Incorporated: Dallas

NT New Testament

[5]Smith, R. L. 2002. Vol. 32: Word Biblical Commentary : Micah-Malachi. Word Biblical Commentary . Word, Incorporated: Dallas

[6] Christian A. Schwarz, Paradigm Shift In The Church, ChurchSmart Resources, Carol Stream, Illinois, 1999, p. 21.

[7] Christian A. Schwarz, Paradigm Shift In The Church, ChurchSmart Resources, Carol Stream, Illinois, 1999, pp. 46-48.

[8] Christian A. Schwarz, Paradigm Shift In The Church, ChurchSmart Resources, Carol Stream, Illinois, 1999, p. 3.

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