Their task seemed impossible. After returning from the Babylonian exile, the Jews began to rebuild the temple. Yet almost immediately difficulties arose. The older Jews mourned as they compared the smaller temple they were building to the glories of Solomon’s temple (Ezra 3:12). And then to make matters worse, the nations around Israel began harassing and “frightening them” (Ezra 4:4). And when those efforts didn’t stop the rebuilding of the temple, the nations accused the Jews of rebellion (Ezra 4:6, 12-16). In answer, the king ordered the work to stop, and these nations enforced the command “by force of arms” (Ezra 4:21-23). As a result of all these pressures, “work on the house of God in Jerusalem ceased” (Ezra 4:24).
But God did not want the work to cease. So He raised up Haggai and Zechariah to encourage and support the builders (Haggai 1:12-14; Ezra 5:1, 2). God moved the heart of the Persian king so that he ordered the work on the temple to continue, and warned the other nations to “keep away from there” and not hinder the work on pain of death (Ezra 6:6-12). And so, the work carried on without persecution.
Yet even still, there were internal problems. Despite all that God had done in bringing the people back and allowing the work to resume, the people still felt discouraged because they remembered Solomon’s temple (Haggai 2:1-3). This new temple seemed so small and unimpressive in contrast. As a result, the people began to be disheartened.
Once again, God raised up His prophets so that the work would be accomplished. In one prophetic vision given to Zechariah, we read the following:
“Then he [an angel] said to me, ‘This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel saying, “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,” says the Lord of hosts. “What are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become a plain; and he will bring forth the top stone with shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it.’”’ Also the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house, and his hands will finish it. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. For who has despised the day of small things? But these seven will be glad when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel—these are the eyes of the Lord which range to and fro throughout the earth.’” (Zechariah 4:6-10)
There are so many encouraging words here, but the first and last promises are the two that really stand out. The work Israel was doing may have seemed small and insignificant in comparison to the “glories” of the old days. However, God was calling them to faithfully serve in “the day of small things” (v. 10). And though the task may have seemed insurmountable, they relied upon the Lord’s “Spirit,” not their own “might” or “power” (v. 6). They were to confidently go forth in God’s strength and be faithful even in what seemed insignificant.
Now these may seem contradictory—insignificant and insurmountable at the same time? But if we are honest, we say the same thing about our lives. With everything being done to the extreme and epic proportions, living a faithful, simple life that honors God seems insignificant. And with all the pressures of the world, living such a life for seventy, eighty, or ninety years seems insurmountable. Being faithful in a small, struggling church seems insignificant, and the challenges can seem insurmountable. The list goes on.
But God’s word to us is the same as it was to Zerubbabel. What may seem insignificant to us is not insignificant to Him. Though man may despise “the day of small things,” He is rejoicing because He knows the final outcome (v. 10). We may not know wat that outcome may be, but we don’t have to. Our job is to be faithful.
And that is what I want to encourage us to do. In the small things and in the face of insurmountable odds, let us be faithful. Remember, this is not our strength we are relying on. No one thought David could defeat Goliath either. But he went forth in faith, saying, “The Lord will deliver you up into my hands” (1 Samuel 17:46). He relied upon God’s strength to carry out the task God called Him to, and God brought the victory. And what did Jesus say about the widow who put a seemingly insignificant amount into the offering? She gave more than all the rich combined (Luke 21:1-4).
So no matter what is set before us, let us also be faithful. Other people may say it is not worth it or it is too hard, but man does not always have the right perspective. If God has called us to something, it is not impossible and it is not meaningless. We must steadily walk with Him and be faithful—even in the small things.