Stepping out and Finishing Well continued.
The angel who walked with Zechariah brought him this message concerning Zerubbabel, the governor of the returned exiles ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty (Zech. 4:6).
God sent this word to encourage ‘a man with a mission’ – someone who was working flat out to try to bring about the restoration of God’s temple, despite the economic depression that Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of Jerusalem had left seventy years previously.
Morale is everything when we are working for the Lord. One word of encouragement can give us just what we need to get started again, even if, like Zerubbabel, we are facing a huge clear-up operation in the aftermath of war. God was calling His people to work together – priests (as symbolised by the high priest Joshua), prophets (Zechariah and Haggai) and leaders (the governor Zerubbabel) – and to proceed one step at a time.
Whatever the size of the task we are called to undertake; and however daunting the circumstances we find ourselves in, the Lord has planned our next step, and it will be within reach. It is these small beginnings that we are focusing on here. Full marks to Zerubbabel for being willing to acknowledge that God was promising to do the seemingly impossible. As a result of prophetic encouragement and people’s willingness, the temple of the Lord was rebuilt in less time than it took to rebuild Coventry Cathedral after the War.
It is worth pondering the words used in the verse above. Might refers to military strength, and power to human achievements. Notwithstanding today’s Trident nuclear submarines and intercontinental ballistic missiles, Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian army and Sennacherib’s Assyrians were formidable fighting forces, brimming with massive military might and human endeavour. But here was the angel of the Lord impressing on the prophet that he must impress on the people of Israel their need to focus on the sovereignty of the Spirit of God, rather than fretting about their own lack of strength and wherewithal.It is the Lord alone who gives the power to bring about the outcome that really matters.
The Lord went on to say to Zechariah, “Who dares despise the day of small things, since the seven eyes of the Lord that range throughout the earth will rejoice when they see the chosen capstone in the hand of Zerubbabel?” (Zech. 4:10)
Not by might, not by power but My Spirit . . . The Lord loves it when He sees us putting what He has given us to good use. It may sound humble to protest as Jeremiah did, “I’m far too young and insignificant to do anything like that” (Jer. 1:7), but such comments usually stem not so much from humility but from fear, or a reluctance to pay the cost.
‘Don’t let anyone look down on you because of your youth’ (1 Tim. 4: 12) – and don’t allow any sense of weakness to hold you back from taking steps of faith and obedience. He really does notice and honour them – and He misses us when we aren’t prepared to be faithful with what He has given us to do, to be or to pray. Indeed, everyone misses out. But when we offer what He has given us back to Him, He takes great delight in finding ways to put these things to good use – and to thwart and forestall the efforts of apparently far superior forces.
May we heed the words of those who, having vision and knowing the mind of God, stir us up to attempt great things for Him! I’m so glad our church had the courage to step out on a limb recently and to construct a new building; it is way better than the original one.
Most of us are probably only too well acquainted with the temptation to feel as Israel so often did – just too small. After all, God had set it in the midst of fierce and very much larger surrounding nations, just as it is to this day. But that is the very point: God had set it there. There is nothing casual or unthought through about His appointments. It is He who commissions and appoints His servants the prophets, just as it is He who decrees and appoints the key spiritual events and experiences in our lives. Praise God that when He calls He also enables!
“Even though you feel as weak as a worm, Israel, [and far too few in number] don’t be afraid; I Myself will help you. I, Your redeemer and protector, the Holy One of Israel am the One who saves you (Is. 41:14).
Fast forward a moment to what can happen if we don’t believe this. A man who felt utterly lacking in fruitfulness in his ministry stood one evening on the platform of a tube station ready to end it all. Two things saved him. Firstly, the Lord helped him think of the train driver and how much it would affect that poor person were he to throw himself under his wheels. Secondly, the Lord encouraged him that he would never know how much God might use him to help someone that night – provided only that he was there to be used! Praise God that man heeded those warnings. Sure enough, something special did happen that night. It is so important to give God the chance to come through for you!
Even if you feel as though you are getting little or no reward for your labours, the Lord would say to you, keep going! Don’t give in to those howling prowling feelings of inadequacy! Overcome the excuses, determine your priorities and take whatever small steps you can.
Jesus will be to us what He declared Himself to be for Israel: our redeemer and protector – just as the Lord encouraged Zerubbabel through the prophet Haggai that He would make him like a signet ring (Hag. 2:23). A signet ring is something that you wear on your finger as a permanent reminder. It is a lovely picture. Are we not engraved on the palms of His hands and jewels in His crown (Is. 49:16, Zech. 9:16, cf Phil. 2:15)? The fact that we cannot do everything doesn’t mean we can’t do anything. Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty (Zech. 4:6).
Even if we really are engaged in major things, as opposed to small ones, there will still be many small steps and choices that need to be taken every day. May we dedicate every one of these to the Lord. After all, enough small steps make a dance!
Doing this is all the more commendable if we have to make these steps in a hostile critical environment. Whether we find ourselves faced with a barrage of criticism or indifference the temptation is to feel that it is all a complete waste of time. But nothing we attempt for the Lord is every wasted. As St Teresa of Calcutta urged us, ‘Do small things for the love of God’. I wonder what these ‘small things’ might correspond to for you today?
PS Why not revisit Do it anyway, the thoughts made famous by Mother Teresa of Calcutta. You are sure to find it refreshing!