A Day of Small Things

THE PROPHET ZECHARIAH wrote: “The angel that talked with me came again, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep, 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: and two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof. So I answered and spoke to the angel that talked with me, saying, What are these, my lord? Then the angel that talked with me answered and said unto me, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord.

“Then he answered and spoke 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. 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. Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, 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. 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.”—Zech. 4:1-10

Here is recorded a unique vision given to the Prophet Zechariah by God through an angel. The prophet did not understand the lesson which the extraordinary vision was intended to convey, and so he asked the angel to give him an interpretation. Zechariah was absorbed by the various features of the vision. For instance, he saw two olive trees on either side of a wonderful golden candlestick. Seemingly, these two olive trees supplied the oil to the top bowl of the candlestick, and then this oil ran down into the seven branches of the candlestick, providing the fuel to produce its light.

Zechariah asked, “What are these, my lord?” And the angel said, “Knowest thou not what these be?” And Zechariah replied, “No, my lord.” (vss. 4,5) The angel seemed to put off replying to his question. Instead of answering him, he told him about Zerubbabel, and about a great mountain, and about a headstone, and about a plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel, and seven eyes, and everything else but the olive trees and the candlestick! But the prophet was persistent, and again asked, “What are these two olive trees upon the right side of the candlestick and upon the left side thereof?” Still no reply was forthcoming, so once more he repeated, “What be these two olive branches which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves?” Finally, he got an answer. But even with the receiving of the answer, the prophet did not fully understand the significance of the vision. Nevertheless, it contained a lesson for the prophet which he, in turn, conveyed to Israel at that time.

The background of this prophecy is this: We must understand the situation in which Zechariah found himself at that particular moment in time. The Israelites had left Babylon under the decree of Cyrus. Approximately 42,600 men who were sturdy enough, and willing enough, and who had enough faith to go back to Israel, left Babylon to return to their homeland. These men had a great desire to rebuild the Temple of the Lord. That was their commission. With determination to put forth the required effort to do the Lord’s will, as soon as they arrived they began to rebuild the Temple. Under the leadership of Zerubbabel, who was the governor of the people at that time, and Joshua (in some instances he is called Jeshua), who was the High Priest, the people began the task of laying the foundation for the Temple.

This work was completed in a very short time. When the foundation was finished the people rejoiced to see the beginning of the rebuilding of this wonderful edifice. Some who were along in years could still remember the glory of the original Temple built by Solomon. It had been truly glorious! See I Kings, chapter 6, for a description of Solomon’s Temple.

But about the time that the foundation of this new Temple was completed, neighboring heathen enemies began to hinder the work. When they heard of the progress that the Jews were making in rebuilding the Temple, they feared a resurgence of Israel’s mighty position in the world, as it had been under David and Solomon. They made all kinds of trouble for the Israelites. As a result of their harassment, an impact gradually was made upon the Israelites’ motivation to continue. The men, formerly enthusiastic, lost their spirit, and stopped working on the rebuilding of the Temple. Only the foundation had been laid, nothing more.

The Israelites began to go about their own private business. They started to build comfortable homes for themselves, making themselves contented in their homeland. They overlooked the fact that the mission for which they had been particularly sent back to Israel had gone into neglect. The Lord raised up prophets—not one, but two, Zechariah and Haggai—to urge them to continue the work of the Lord. Quite a period of time elapsed during which no work was accomplished on the Temple rebuilding project; but, in time, the prophets succeeded in arousing the people’s enthusiasm and incentive again.

Turning to Haggai’s prophecy, we will quote a few verses concerning the circumstances surrounding the cessation of work after the foundation of the Temple had been completed. We read, “Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built.” (Hag. 1:2) We see that they had come to this conclusion very readily. Although they had been sent back to the Holy Land for the sole purpose of rebuilding the Temple of the Lord, as soon as some enemies came in to hinder the work, they decided that the Lord thereby was indicating that it was not the right time to continue the work on the Temple. How quickly they forgot their mission!

Is this sometimes true with us, as followers of the Master? When we first engage in a service for the Lord we have great enthusiasm for it. As we make some progress in our task, what happens? The Adversary sends enemies to hinder our advancement, and immediately we conclude that it is not his will for us to continue the project. We will wait till some other more appropriate time. Perhaps God will indicate to us when this better time arrives. If we were certain when we began this service that it was in accordance with God’s will, we should not allow the Adversary to discourage us from doing God’s task. It is too easy for the flesh to conclude that the ‘time has not come’ for us to continue working, just as the Israelites did back in days gone by. This is true, of course, with our consecration. When we first made a decision to offer up our justified earthly life as part of the sin-offering sacrifice, we were thrilled with the thought that the Lord had called us to such a high purpose. We struck out along the narrow way with great vigor and enthusiasm. But it was probably not very long before the Adversary put some trials and temptations in our path.

The devil knows just exactly where our shortcomings lie, and takes advantage of them to tempt us through the world, the flesh, or our family, or our job—whatever our weaknesses happen to be. We must listen very carefully to the words of the prophets the Lord has sent to us, and we must analyze our responses to them. Are we putting forth the necessary zeal to complete the magnificent task the Lord has presented to us? We can know where the message is coming from by the principles which it inculcates. The Adversary’s message is to “be comfortable—do not sacrifice so much!” The Lord’s message is: “I have given you a task to complete, and the necessary grace and strength to complete it!”

The Prophet went on to say, “Then came the word of the Lord by Haggai the prophet, saying, Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in ceiled houses, and this house lie waste?” (Hag. 1:4) In other words, “Look at your homes—they have roofs and ceilings. You have made yourselves very comfortable! But my house has only a foundation. It has no roof, no walls. You are thinking of yourselves more than you are thinking of honoring the Lord by properly rebuilding his house.” Then he goes on, “Now therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways. Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes.” (vss. 5,6) With these words the Lord indicated that Israel had forgotten their covenant with him. They were overlooking Jehovah’s will concerning them. Therefore, he told them that he would withhold the temporal blessings that they so much sought.

Is it possible for us, too, to somehow miss the Lord’s blessing? Have we ever failed to follow closely the providential leadings of our Lord? Have we, as the footstep followers of Jesus, kept close to our guide, and been zealous and faithful to the mission on which we have been sent? Or do we sometimes turn aside from our calling, and yearn for the diversions and comforts of this world? Perhaps at times we neglect the work for which we have been called—the building of the spiritual temple of the Lord. If this should be the case, we cannot have the fullness of the Lord’s blessing which we so much crave.

When we made a full consecration to do the Lord’s will, we promised the Lord that we would serve him with all our strength, give him our very best until the end of our lives. The Lord promised to supply all our needs, as we endeavor daily to fulfill our covenant by sacrifice to follow wherever he leads us, presenting the Gospel of salvation to others whenever, and wherever, we have the opportunity. This is the work of building the spiritual temple of God. There is so little time left to build the temple of the Lord—we know by the prophetic signs that the Gospel Age is coming quickly to a close. Let us be diligent and enthusiastic in this work.

We are glad for the work of the two prophets in Israel’s midst. Zechariah was the younger prophet, one who was just coming upon the scene. And Haggai was a gray-haired old man. Notice how beautifully they worked together in doing the Lord’s will, and as a result the Lord blessed their ministry. Eventually Israel returned to the Lord and again, under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Joshua, they began to rebuild that Temple. In time it was finished. The vision that was given to Zechariah evidently was used by the Lord as a means of stimulating the Jews to go back to the work of rebuilding the Temple.

What could this vision have meant to them? To Israel, this golden lampstand, this candlestick, would no doubt have represented themselves—the nation of Israel. Were they not to have been the light-bearers to all nations? That was the promise made by the Lord, that he would use them as instructors to all the surrounding heathen nations. Then these two olive trees, one on either side of the candlestick, might have represented the leadership of their people as represented in Zerubbabel—the civil arrangement—and in Joshua—the priestly or spiritual arrangement. The Lord’s blessing coming through these two administrative agencies would bless the nation of Israel itself, and through them, as lightbearers and leaders, all people would receive the blessing of the Lord!

This vision stimulated them. They thought it was fine that the Lord’s promise as he gave it originally through Abraham still held true on their behalf: “I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” (Gen. 12:2,3) With this stimulus they renewed their efforts to complete the building of the Temple. We can readily see that there is a greater fulfillment of this vision on behalf of spiritual Israel, greater blessings, greater lessons. We, too, receive encouragement from God’s prophets and teachers, and their messages stimulate us to more zealous work in the Lord’s service. Let us go through this prophecy, verse by verse, and see just how, in more detail, we can get a lesson from it.

We read, “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.” (Zech, 4:6) The Lord told Israel through the prophet that the work he commissioned them to do would not be accomplished by their own physical might, or by their ability to overpower their enemies who were attacking on every side to hinder them. No, the Lord assured them, it was to be accomplished only by Jehovah’s Spirit and by his power! He promised them that he would overrule each incident, and if they cooperated with him and with the leadings of his Spirit, even those things which seemed impossible to accomplish, would be done most easily.

“Who art thou,” he said (vs. 7), “O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain.” The enemies which attacked them seemed as large an obstacle as a mountain would seem in the path of an individual. These hindrances were seemingly insurmountable. But the Lord’s estimation of the situation was expressed in his words, “Who art thou, O great mountain?”—you are nothing compared with My mighty power!

Zerubbabel, the governor of Israel, was a type of the great Zerubbabel, Jesus, who will govern the people when his kingdom is established upon this earth. The Bible is full of prophecies concerning his great reign. The Prophet Micah spoke about him in Micah 5:2-4, as a great “ruler.” “Thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. … And he shall stand and [‘rule’, Marginal Translation] in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God; and they shall abide: for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth.”

This ‘Zerubbabel’ is again referred to in Matthew 2:6: “Thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, art not the least among the princes of Judah: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.” Jesus will be that governor or ruler of the people whom the Lord will raise up in due time to lead all people along a just and righteous pathway. And before the antitypical Zerubbabel, all mountain-like obstacles and enemies will be done away with. Remember that Jesus referred to some of these ‘mountains’; he said if we had as much faith as even a tiny mustard seed, that we could say to this mountain, “Be removed” and it would be removed.—Matt. 17:20

Before our Zerubbabel, any great obstacle to our growth as Christians, or to following the pathway which has been laid out for us, will just vanish, and the way will be as a plain, as a flat tableland. Again, this will be true, not by our power, not by our might, not by any influence that we can exert as human beings. No, we will overcome by looking to our Zerubbabel for his power and might. This victory, which we cannot accomplish in any other way, will be accomplished for us by him.

In the ninth verse, we read, “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it.” What a comfort these words must have been to the Jews at the time of our lesson. Zerubbabel superintended the building of the foundation, and he promised to remain with them until that Temple was finished. To the Israelites this ensured the completion of the project. Our Zerubbabel laid the foundation of his church nineteen centuries ago, and he will be here supervising the work until the final stone and timber is laid. We read: “Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (I Cor. 3:11) So let us do our part in the work with great enthusiasm, to help in the building!

Zechariah goes on, “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.” The finishing of the Temple’s foundation was a meager accomplishment—the work of a “day of small” achievements. The major portion of the rebuilding lay ahead. The framing, the roofing, the walling in, the decorating, the carving to make the Temple beautiful; the addition of gold, silver, and precious stones to make the Temple splendid and magnificent; the laying of soft carpets and hanging of embroidered tapestries; the setting in of windows; the revival of the priesthood to walk in and out of those walls, performing their ceremonies and acts of worship and sacrifice; these all must still be added. Yes, it was indeed a day of small things. But the Lord did not think of it in that light. It was the first step. The last step cannot be taken without the first step having been completed.

We meet many who think of the work of the Gospel Age as a “day of small things.” The work is humble. It is foolishness in man’s sight. “The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” (I Cor. 1:18,21) The work of God in this age is not carried out by important or prominent men whose names and acts are in the public eye. It 1s a humble work, carried on by humble people, in whatever way they can conceive to carry the wonderful Gospel message to their neighbors. A tract or booklet given at a propitious time; a word of hope to a family who has lost one of their dear ones; a volume offered to one who seems to be seeking after the Lord. It is just a small work, but it is God’s work for this day and age. Jesus taught us in a parable that by and by we may hear his commendatory words: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” (Matt. 25:21) Luke’s account says: “Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities.”—Luke 19:17

Look at the work of creation. God could have used some miraculous way to create the universe. In just a few miraculous moments and by the waving of a wand, Hollywood-style, he could have made the earth ready for man’s habitation. Did the Lord do it that way? No, our Heavenly Father took a very long period of time—many thousands of years long which he designated “days”(Gen. chapter 1)—to prepare the Planet Earth for man’s home. As the angels watched the slow progress, they no doubt wondered if it would ever be completed. But eventually the finished product was pronounced, “very good” (Gen. 1:31) by the Creator. We must learn never to despise the day of small things.

Then when Jesus came upon earth’s scene, he was the promised Messiah. All men were in expectation of his arrival. His coming had been predicted by prophets throughout the centuries. Surely great things would begin to happen in Israel. This great leader, this marvelous governor, this powerful general would conquer all their enemies and restore Israel to its former glory! And so too, the angels watched him. Remember how he was introduced to this world? The angels sang their joyous message to the kings and the mighty men of earth! No? No! They sang to poor shepherds watching their flocks upon a hillside outside Bethlehem. Remember how he was born? In a palace, surrounded by eager attendants? No. He was born in a stable. Could a more lowly place have been found to bring the savior into the world? It was a day of “small things.” Who has despised the day of small things?

When Jesus reached manhood he began to preach the Word of the Lord. How many followers joined him? Did the great men of Israel espouse his cause and join with him? No; they despised him and rejected him and tried to thwart his purposes continually, and finally succeeded in putting him to death, hanging him upon a cross among thieves. Nevertheless there were with Jesus, twelve humble men. Look at them—a few fishermen, a tax gatherer, a net mender—just the common folk. Was this poor, humble man the Savior of the world, the great one whom we have been expecting? Was it a day of small things? Yes, it was.

The leaders of Israel despised that day of small things. But the Prophet Zechariah said, “He shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it.” (Zech. 4:7) This prophecy had a partial fulfillment in Jesus’ day—yes—but in just a very small sense. When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the foal of an ass just a few days before his death, the people cried out, “Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest,” in fulfillment of the words of Zechariah: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.”—Zech. 9:9

When the shouting gained momentum, and began to rise in volume, some of the Pharisees said, “Master, rebuke thy disciples. And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out,” in fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy. But that shout was not the complete fulfillment of this prophecy. This headstone will yet be brought forth in glory.

Christ is that headstone. Zechariah identified him as such in the third chapter, saying: “Behold, I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH. For behold the stone that I have laid before Joshua; upon one stone shall be seven eyes: behold, I will engrave the graving thereof, saith the Lord of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.” (Zech. 3:8,9) We know that the BRANCH of this prophecy is Christ, head and body. When the Lord “in one day” removes the “iniquity of that land,” then will all the world cry out, “Grace, grace be unto it.”

The identical picture is given in the Book of Revelation: “I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.” (Rev. 5:11-13) Every intelligent creature will take part in the universal anthem, praising the Lamb—the BRANCH—the headstone—forever and ever. They will cry out, “Thank you Lord! Grace, grace be unto you!”

If we are tempted to despise the day of small things, let us look not at what is happening today, but let us look forward to the glorious finished results. When the beautiful Temple in Israel was completed, what joy there was to see that remarkable edifice! From mere stone and wood, with mighty effort and strength and wisdom provided by the Lord it had become a place of worship where Jehovah could dwell. How much greater the joy will be when the antitypical spiritual temple eventually is completed, and becomes the meeting place between God and men throughout the whole Millennial Age. What rejoicing, what joy, there will be! What shouts of “Grace, grace” unto the headstone of that temple. No longer will it be a day of small things!

If we learn just this one lesson, it will mean so much to us in everything that we undertake in the days to come, in the carrying out of our consecration vows. We must never despise the day of small things. We are just small people. No matter if we combined all of our efforts together, we will never set the world on fire. If every saint, the world over, suddenly became fired with all the fullness of zeal and love that it is possible for a human being to muster, to work together in one concerted effort to make the Word and plan of the Lord known throughout the whole earth, do you think they would set the world on fire? No, their efforts would hardly be noticed. Some few people might stand up and take an interest. But this is not God’s time to convert the world. Still, we should do everything that we can. Let us make known his plan as far and wide as we can—the Lord will do the rest. It is his work. We can go no farther than the Lord’s power through his Holy Spirit will take us. He will complete the work as he has promised, much to our joy, and to the joy of the whole world.

Next the angel mentioned the “seven; they are the eyes of the Lord, which run to and fro through the whole earth.” These eyes represent the complete wisdom of God which is revealed to us through his overall plan of the ages. Through these “eyes” we can see and understand his ways, and we can see his character revealed therein. This knowledge stimulates us to continue the work at hand, the building of the spiritual temple of the Lord.—II Cor. 6:1

The eyes assisted Zerubbabel in his work as the “plummet” man—the director of the work. Together they would see to it that nothing was out of line—not a corner nor a wall. Our Zerubbabel is also holding the plummet. Every stone in the antitypical temple is being measured by our Zerubbabel, Christ. If any are not in line with his truth and righteousness, and in line with his will, that stone will be rejected and set aside. Peter spoke of these stones, saying, “Ye also, as lively (living) stones, are built up a spiritual house [or temple], an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.”—I Pet. 2:5

The angel, speaking to Zechariah, finally told him the answer to his question: “These [two olive trees] are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.” It is through these two trees that the oil is supplied into this candlestick. In complete fulfillment of this prophecy, the candlestick represents spiritual Israel of this Gospel Age. They are the lampstand of the Lord. They are the candlestick, the light of the world. Jesus told his disciples, “Ye are the light of the world. … Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”—Matt. 5:14-16

From whence comes the supply of oil, or the Holy Spirit, that is continually flowing into this lampstand to allow it to continue to be the light of the world? It comes from two sources only—from the Old and the New Testaments. They are the source of the Holy Spirit from which God’s influence and power can enlighten his people. The Bible is the only means by which the church is enabled to be the lightbearer to the world. The Lord has provided these two witnesses—the Old and the New Testaments—to supply the oil, the enlightenment, the power, which enables the church to be the lightbearers to the whole world, in this day of gross darkness which covers the earth.—Isa. 60:2

We are glad that the angel finally gave Zechariah the answer concerning the two olive trees. And we are glad, too, that the Lord has sent another angel to us in this harvest period to help us interpret this vision. How glad we are that in order to understand the visions of the Old and New Testaments the Lord has given gifts to the church—the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the teachers, the pastors. They mightily assist us to understand the dark sayings; they assist us through the power of the Holy Spirit to get all the good from the two witnesses that is possible.

We thank the Lord that we find ourselves practically at the end of this harvest period of the Gospel Age, still rejoicing, still being deeply filled from the source of God’s Word through the power of the Holy Spirit, which enables the church to continue to be the lightbearer to the world, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.”

Dawn Bible Students Association
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