This message is a follow on from last Sunday’s message on Ezra 3, although it is a Bible study rather than a full sermon.
Last Sunday, our church returned to having services, although it was extremely different to normal. We had two small congregations, the service lasted just an hour, there was no singing, people were sitting two metres apart, we were wearing masks (apart from me, as I was leading and preaching), and people had to leave straight after each service was finished.
Will things ever change? How will the church be built in these circumstances (or in any circumstances in western culture). Zechariah 4 is a message of encouragement to those facing a similar but different challenge – how to build a temple with little resources and surrounded by enemies.
God gave them an answer in this chapter, and the same answer can encourage us.
The video message is below, followed by summary notes and suggestions for prayer.
Some thoughts on Zechariah 4
The visions in Zechariah are full of symbolism and it can be tempting to either skip them completely or to spend so much time in the detail that we miss the main message.
In this vision, Zechariah has to ask several times what the olive trees are before getting an answer! It is not that the details are unimportant, but they are there to reinforce the message.
In this Bible study, we will focus on the main message. We also need to look at the context in order to help our understanding.
The context of this passage is a little bit after Ezra 3. In Ezra 4, they stop building because the people around them protest to the king. In Ezra 5, the prophets Haggai and Zechariah bring God’s word to stir up the people to rise and build. Zechariah 4 is one of those prophecies.
So, it is an encouragement to discouraged leaders and discouraged people that God is going to supply all that they need by His Spirit to enable them to build the temple.
And it is true for us, as we seek to rebuild church life within the Covid restrictions. We are weak; there is so much uncertainty; but He will supply all that we need by His Spirit.
I) The source, the Spirit of God
The chapter starts with this vision of a golden lampstand. What the lampstand represents is not defined. It probably points to the temple. The lampstand in the temple represented the light of God’s presence.
The people we saw in Ezra 3 longed for the temple to be restored and for God’s dwelling among them, but with the huge challenges they faced, they must have wondered how they were going to see the temple rebuilt and filled with the light of God’s presence.
In Revelation 1-3, lampstands represent churches. So, we might ask: how can we see local church rebuilt in today’s situation?
The main message comes in v6. It starts with two negatives:
- Not by might – military might or human ability.
- Not by power – not by human strength.
Both these point back to the huge human resources Solomon had to rebuild the temple. But in these people’s lack, He would supply His Spirit, His breath.
We are also small. We don’t have the resources of the big churches do we? Yes, we do. We have the Spirit of God; He is with us. It is through Him that we build.
That isn’t to say we sit around and do nothing. It’s not either our strength or His, but it is His strength through us. We work and pray, but we are dependent on Him. We can serve and preach and pray, but only He can build the church by bringing people to salvation.
II) The extent, the mighty mountain shall become a plain (v7)
That which is impossible becomes possible.
We need to see the impossibility, but we need to also see the possibility with God. We do not seek the Lord if we become secure in our own abilities. But, at the same time, we do not seek the Lord if we just focus on the impossibility and fail to see that nothing is impossible for Him:
- it is not impossible for Him to build His church.
- it is not impossible for Him to save hardened sinners.
- it is not impossible for Him to provide for every need.
III) The purpose, the completion of God’s work (v7b-9)
I often start things but don’t finish them. The Lord starts and finishes (Phil 1:6). Just as He promised the completion of the temple here, so He is building His church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
The completion will bring honour to the Lord (v7b) – grace, grace. While we are responsible for working, in dependence on Him, He must get the glory. Who supplies the wisdom, the gifts, the energy, the finances? It all comes from Him and so He gets the glory. Every service, every time the word is preached, every person who comes to Christ, every baptism. Every ministry, every conversation- to God be the glory. Every need met – to God be the glory. It is not about us or our success, it is all for Him and from Him.
IV) The challenge, despising the day of small things (v10)
He gets the glory in the small things. They all come from His hand.
Also, the Lord turns the small things into greater things. In v10, the NIV says they “will rejoice when they see the chosen capstone in the hand of Zerubbabel.” This is a more likely translation than “plumb line” (ESV).
Those that are saying that this is small and insignificant, who are despising the work, will have their despising turned to joy because they will see the final stone of the temple in place.
And there is the assurance that God’s eyes (“these seven” (v10), which is symbolic of completeness) see all things throughout the earth. Whatever the enemy is doing, He sees. Whatever needs we have, He sees. Whatever His people are facing throughout the earth, He sees.
So, nothing can stop His work. Nothing can surprise Him. His work to build His church will be completed.
V) The object, His church, through the prophet/priest (v11-14)
Zechariah finally gets an answer to his questions about the vision. There are two anointed ones. No names, but it is likely to be the priest, Jeshua, and the leader (who was a descendant of David), Zerubbabel.
God is going to supply His Spirit and, through these leaders, the temple will be rebuilt. So, a weak and frightened people can be encouraged to press on.
We can be encouraged also. As His new covenant saints, the enabling power of the Holy Spirit is for all of God’s people. Also, this vision is fulfilled in Christ. He is both priest and king (as well as prophet) who supplies the fresh oil of His Spirit to His church to enable us to shine as a light in the darkness. He is the One who is building His church.
Therefore, we can be confident in Him even in the day of small things. Therefore, we can pray.
Suggestions for prayer
1) Giving thanks for what God has done
Give thanks for Jesus, the true Anointed One, who has given His life for His people and supplies His Spirit to His church.
2) Confess to Him the areas where you are depending on your own strength
Bring those things to Him and ask Him for His help.
3) Bring the things to Him that seem like mighty mountains
Although the context of this passage is building the church, the Lord is gracious to help us in our own impossible situations. You can spend some time bringing these things to Him now.
4) Pray for your church leaders
Although the olive trees are fulfilled in Christ, the true Anointed One, He does work through the leaders He has appointed. Whatever church you go to, pray for your church leaders to have great wisdom at this time, and for the supply of divine enabling, for spiritual refreshing and physical strength, for dependence upon the Holy Spirit.
5) Pray for the growth of the church
This may be the day of small things, but pray for a mighty work of the Lord in you and through you, and your church, to extend His kingdom.
5) Our brothers and sisters who face the mighty mountain of persecution
Pray for Christians in Iran this week. At the end of June, twelve believers were arrested in different cities after security services infiltrated a network of Christians. Others were beaten although not arrested. Many other Christians are watched by the security services and have their phones tapped. Believers in prison face violence.
Yet the church is growing. Praise the Lord for this growth.
6) Your own church family
Pray for the needs within your church family.