The Day of Small Things

In conjunction with the observance of 1995 National Engineers Week, a group of prominent engineers were designated “All Stars.” This was a diverse team of men and women which included corporate executives, astronauts, elected officials, heads of government agencies, the President’s science advisor, and engineers in non-traditional fields.

These were surveyed and were asked to identify the technological achievement of the last fifty years which had the largest impact on our daily lives. Although several candidates were mentioned, the majority of the engineers selected the integrated circuit, which the public now knows as the microchip.

Some of the comments made were as follows: Gilbert Amelio, president and CEO of National Semiconductor, speaking of integrated circuits, said, “It has revolutionized the everyday world on the same scale as Gutenberg’s invention of movable type, or Watt’s development of the steam engine.”

Arati Prabaker, director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, noted that the solid state transistor, invented almost fifty years ago, “was a big and clunky affair, but it would become the basis for integrated circuitry, including today’s fantastically powerful microprocessors.”

Norman Augustine, chairman and CEO of Martin Marietta, said that the integrated circuit “has made possible cellular phones, home computers, advanced medical diagnostic equipment, life-saving airbags in automobiles, even video games.” He added, “Many devices taken for granted in the modern world, from satellites forecasting the weather, to TV remote controls, to microwave ovens, would not exist without the microchip.”

William Brannen, chairman and CEO of Florida Power and Light, marveled: “The ENIAC, commonly thought of as the first modern computer, was built in 1944. It took up more space than an 18-wheel tractor trailer, weighed more than seventeen Chevrolet Camaros, consumed 14,000 watts of electricity, and could execute up to 5,000 basic arithmetic operations per second. Today’s 4886 microprocessor is built on a tiny piece of silicon about the size of a dime. It weighs less than a packet of Sweet’ N Low, uses less than two watts of electricity, and can execute up to 54,000,000 commands per second.” Commenting further on the great economy of computing power today versus fifty years ago, which is 18,000 times less expensive, he said, “Whole new industries are emerging and continue to revolutionize the way we live and work.”

Several developments have made possible the miniaturizing of the first modem computer. The first necessity was to make available high purity silicon. This is a metal that is found in great abundance in the earth known as the oxide, and which people in general know as the sand of the seashore. However, it is difficult to separate it from the oxide and to purify it. The next development involved the etching of the silicon chip to make an integrated circuit. Finally, all development programs were aimed at making the chip smaller and smaller while etching these to make the integrated circuit, a difficult task as the chip size was shrunk. Today’s smallest microchip is a remarkable achievement.

“Who hath despised the day of small things?” —Zechariah 4:10

MOST PEOPLE STAND in awe of God’s great and marvelous works. The universe is so vast and magnificent, and the Planet Earth is so small in comparison, that the people of earth are as “the small dust of the balance.” (Isa. 40:15) In speaking of God’s greatness, the Prophet Isaiah said, “All nations before him are as nothing.” (vs. 17) That which is small and insignificant is often of little note or concern; yet much that is important and life-sustaining is tiny—even microscopic in size. We are more likely to take note of the mighty creative works of God, and to overlook the small things of his creation.

The human body is an excellent example of the use of small, intricate designs in its many features. As remarkable as the modern microchip may be, it cannot compare to the human brain in its capability to perform many important functions by signals transmitted by tiny neurons—this in spite of the fact that the brain is imperfect. The flow of blood platelets in tiny capillaries that service all the body’s needs is absolutely enthralling, as studied under a microscope. All these and similar features of miniature. design are part of God’s remarkable creation.

We are not to overlook the small things which God has used in his projects, and in carrying out his will. There are tiny microbes in the soil which are performing a yeoman’s service of purifying the air by absorbing noxious components from the air, and produce useful nutrients for growing food for man’s sustenance. Other microbes purify polluted waters, and the oceans are teeming with plankton, which are the beginning of a life-chain in the seas. Such minute organisms, which are not visible to the human eye and can only be seen under a microscope, are performing valuable service in sustaining life on this planet.

The Prophet Isaiah in the 40th chapter of Isaiah establishes how small and insignificant man is in comparison to the mighty works of God. The attempts on the part of man to liken God to a graven image is shown to be utter foolishness, and totally incomprehensible of the grandeur, power, and glory of God—the Supreme Creator of the universe. “To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One.”—vs. 25

The Lord seeks to find humility in all of us; in other words we must have a sober estimate of our capabilities and limitations. God wants us to be aware of the great accomplishments that can be achieved by his use of small and seemingly insignificant things. Therefore, he caused his prophet, Zechariah, to write the words of our theme text: “Who hath despised the day of small things?” When things are small, they are likely to be overlooked.

The question in Zechariah was prompted by the work which was being done by Zerubbabel—that of rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem. It was not an easy task, and there was much opposition to it. After the Medes and Persians had supplanted the mighty empire of Babylon, “the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus, king of Persia. He made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, “Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.

“Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel, (he is the God,) which is in Jerusalem. And whosoever remaineth in any place where he sojourneth, let the men of his place help him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, beside the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.”—Ezra 1:1-4

Zerubbabel, who was of the royal family of David and Solomon, was appointed governor of the colony of workers that volunteered to return for this task. They numbered over 42,000. Their first assignment was to build an altar for burnt offerings and sacrifices to the Lord. Once this was done, they observed all of the ordinances given to them by Moses, such as the Feast of Tabernacles. Even though the foundation of the Temple was not yet laid, the people kept these ceremonies.

The first year that the colony went to Judea, they built and settled in homes, built the altar, and revived all the rituals of the Law. It was not until the second year that work began on the restoration of the foundation of the Temple. “And when the builders laid the foundation of the Temple of the Lord, they set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise the Lord, after the ordinance of David king of Israel.”—Ezra 3:10

This was such an emotional occasion that the people shouted for joy, and others wept, as they recalled the grand structure which had been built by Solomon, and had been razed to the ground by the Babylonians. This was the beginning—notably a small beginning—of restoring the glorious Temple in Jerusalem.

Then trouble arose fomented by adversaries of Israel. News of the progress made in building the Temple reached the enemies of Judah and Benjamin, and they went to Zerubbabel and asked to join the others in the building work. It is believed that these people could have been the forefathers of the Samaritans, who, in the time of our Lord Jesus, lived north of Judea. They were of mixed nationalities colonized by Assyria and Babylon, to unite the remaining Israelites with these nations. Zerubbabel declined their offer of assistance, stating plainly that Cyrus had given this select group the mandate to do this work, and they intended to follow his command.

These, and other enemies, then sought to disrupt the work of building the Temple by weakening the hands of the builders, and troubling them in every way possible. They sought legal action against the project during the reign of Cyrus. They made accusations against the inhabitants of Judah to King Ahasuerus, and convinced his successor, King Artaxerxes, that these people were a rebellious nation. They contended that the building of the Temple would cause the builders to refuse to pay taxes, and lead to their seceding from the empire. Artaxerxes then commanded that the work cease. The Scriptures tell us that “then ceased the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem. So it ceased unto the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.”—Ezra 4:24

As soon as Darius became king, Zerubbabel resumed the work of building the Temple. His enemies immediately objected to the king, and reported that the claim to have permission from King Cyrus for this work should be substantiated. A search was made for the original decree, and it was found. The king then ordered the adversaries of Judah to cease and desist in their actions to interfere with the building. He said, “Let the work of this house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews build this house of God in his place.” (Ezra 6:7) The penalty for interference would be death by hanging.

Zechariah’s prophecy was written at the time that these events occurred. He was instrumental in inspiring the people to complete the work, as recorded in the Book of Ezra: “The elders of the Jews builded, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo.”—Ezra 6:14,15

The Temple was now completed, and there was great rejoicing by those in Judea. It was a foregleam of things to come. Zechariah’s prophecy foretold of a greater rejoicing that would take place when the church of Christ would be complete, as written in God’s Holy Word. He also showed how important God’s Word is, in the realization of all the precious promises recorded therein.

Zechariah, like the Apostle John, received many revelations from God. God’s angels were used to communicate with him, and to show him visions. In Zechariah 4:1-3 we read: “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.”

No doubt, Zechariah, being a priest as well as a prophet, recognized the golden candlestick of the Tabernacle, and of the Temple, but he may have wondered about the two olive trees. So he asked the angel, “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 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.”—vss. 4-6

Zechariah did not receive an answer to his question. Rather, his attention was diverted to Zerubbabel and the work he was empowered to do as directed by the Lord’s Word. Later, Zechariah went back to the same question, “What be these two olive branches which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves?” (vss 11:12) The angel thought that Zechariah should know who these were, but he professed ignorance. “Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.” (vs. 14) It is generally believed by Bible students that these represent the Old and New Testaments of God’s Word. This is the same symbolism that is used in Revelation 11:3,4, where they are called God’s “two witnesses,” and are described as “two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the Earth.”

The Bible adorns the pulpits of every Christian church, but few people, either serving or attending, comprehend its message. If they could, they would realize the greatness and beauty of God’s wonderful plan. Everything God has done and purposes to do for mankind is contained in that wonderful Book. The world will be amazed in the near future when God’s plan is revealed, and mankind in general will see the mighty, noble, wise, and blessed features of it. Who would have thought that those possessing Bibles had access to these stupendous revelations! This has been the case for those now privileged to have this plan revealed to them. But God has chosen to hide his magnificent plan from the majority during this ‘day of small things’. A most wonderful feature of that plan of God is, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:27) This feature has been called a mystery, or a sacred secret—a “mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints.”—Col. 1:26

As God’s great plan of the ages unfolds, we see that he has selected his Son, Jesus, to be the principal character in his purpose for all the universe. We can understand why, because “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 such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, and I heard them saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power of the Almighty, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever” (Rev. 5:12,13, Tischendorf’s Codex Sinaiticus), and God has “highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow.” (Phil. 2:9,10) But what is extremely difficult to understand is how members of Adam’s family should be invited to share in his sufferings, and in his glory! The promise is, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” (Rev. 2:10) How could such insignificant, little creatures be given such great honor? But, again, this is the ‘day of small things’!

As we go back to the vision which Zechariah saw, and reread his conversation with the angel in the 4th chapter, we recall that the angel’s first answer to the prophet’s question was that he should take note of the work of Zerubbabel, who was a picture of our Lord Jesus. As Zerubbabel was commissioned to build the Temple in Judah, so, during the Gospel Age, Jesus has been commissioned to build the antitypical temple of God.—Eph. 2:19-22

This, then, is the great work which God is performing in the world today. As the angel told Zechariah, this work would not be done by the might or power in the world, “but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.” (Zech. 4:6) The only way that this work could be accomplished would be by the knowledge of the Lord’s Word, and the Spirit of truth. In Zechariah’s time the Lord guided the workers by his Spirit, to attain his purpose. Likewise, the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost was poured out upon the apostles and the Early Church, and has continued to be received by those chosen of God to be the ‘living stones’ of the antitypical temple.

The work faces many obstacles. As was true of the roadblocks and interferences to the work being done by Zerubbabel, so also the Adversary tries to stop the work from proceeding in our time. In Zechariah’s prophecy the opposition is pictured as a great mountain of difficulty, which we recognize as the kingdom of the Evil One. But the angel asks, “Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain.” (Zech. 4:7) Nothing can stand in the way of the completion of the work of the antitypical Zerubbabel. The kingdom of the Evil One will be removed and made a plain.

When John the Baptist began his ministry to prepare the way for Jesus, he fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 40:3,4. He not only prepared the way for Jesus’ ministry, but he predicted indirectly that verse 4 would be fulfilled: “Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth.” (Luke 3:5-7) John knew that Jesus would gain control of the kingdoms of this world, and they would be brought low in due time. This, too, was forecast by the Apostle John: “The kingdoms of this world are become [in the Millennial Age] the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever.”—Rev. 11:15

The angel speaking to Zechariah continued to say, “So shall he bring forth the headstone, with thundering shouts, Beautiful! Beautiful! thereunto.” (Zech. 4:7, Rotherham Translation) Immediately there is projected for us the geometric figure of the pyramid with the headstone or capstone put into place signifying the establishment of God’s Kingdom with Jesus as the chief cornerstone at its apex. But then the angel’s message is interrupted, and the word of the Lord comes to Zechariah 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.”—vs. 9

From here we are brought back from the time of triumph, the laying low of the mountain of the Evil One, and the exaltation of the chief cornerstone to the present time of building the Temple. In Zerubbabel’s time a major step forward in this work was realized when the foundation of the Temple had been laid. There was great rejoicing, and ceremonies were instituted that eventually would take place when the Temple was completed. Some may have been inclined to make derogatory remarks about the lack of completion of the Temple, with only the foundation in place! But the Word of the Lord to Zechariah was that none should despise ‘the day of small things’. Rather, they should rejoice as they saw “the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel.”—vs: 10

The plummet is an important builder’s tool. The line and plummet are used to insure that the structure being built is perfectly perpendicular to the foundation and upright. The significance of this tool is described by Isaiah in his prophecy. (Isa. 28:16,17, RSV) “Thus says the Lord God, Behold, I am laying in Zion for a foundation, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: He who believes will not be in haste! And I will make justice the line, and righteousness the plummet; and hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, and waters will overwhelm the shelter.”

Notice how Isaiah combines the thought of the laying of the foundation with the line and plummet. We know that the foundation represents our Lord Jesus Christ. First because the precious cornerstone is identified with it, and, in turn is identified by the Apostle Peter’s words. (I Pet. 2:4-6) Secondly, because the Apostle Paul says, “Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (I Cor. 3:11) Likewise, the foundation for the temple of God has to be Jesus Christ. This temple is being built to meet the requirements of the line and plummet, where justice is the line, and righteousness is the plummet.

As the work of the Lord in his selection of the living stones for this temple continues even with so much crookedness, corruption, and evil in the world, the latter is cause for rejoicing in the present time. God selects those who appreciate and accept the ransom sacrifice of his Son, Jesus, and who walk in his steps. They “walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit,” and as a consequence “the righteousness of the Law” is fulfilled in them. (Rom. 8:1-4) No stone can be used in this temple that does not conform to the line and plummet held in the hand of the antitypical Zerubbabel.

The scripture in Zechariah 4:10 continues, “Those seven; they are the eyes of the Lord, which run to and fro through the whole earth.” In pondering the meaning of this phrase, we note that a similar description is given of the Lamb which was the only one found worthy to open the book sealed with seven seals, described in Revelation 5. In that account the Lamb is said to have “seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.”

It is believed that this symbolism of this book refers to the plan of God, and that of the seven eyes, the complete and perfect wisdom of God which holds survey of all the earth, supervising the work essential to that plan. Likewise, this is the thought in the message given by God to Zechariah. How glad we are that this wonderful plan will be accomplished, and that the testimony of the two faithful witnesses described in Zechariah’s prophecy as olive trees, will be revealed to be true. They cannot be slain. Their message is sure.

Just as it is written concerning the Word of the Lord, “So shall my Word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” (Isa. 55:11) As the Lord’s people look ahead with the eye of faith, we rejoice in all the evidences of his preparation for his kingdom. Small beginnings are appreciated by us. We do not despise the day of small things. But the world does.

If the world knew that God was selecting ‘a people for his name’ at this time, they would wonder at his selection! Their expectation would be that the most prominent people in the world—the mighty—the wise and the noble—would be selected. The Apostle Paul knew otherwise. He revealed God’s strategy in calling his people in I Corinthians 1:17. They would not be attracted by the wisdom the world reveres. What we believe is ‘foolishness’ to them. As Paul says, “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.”—vs. 21

Paul tells us: “Ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not [insignificant items], to bring to naught things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.” (vss. 26-29) The world does not know that God will use this poor, despised company to bless all the earth; when they do, they will no longer despise ‘the day of small things’.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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