What follows is from the editing room floor from my sermon this past weekend. I was given Zechariah 3 & 4, but could only fit chapter 3 into the sermon. So here are a couple of comments and a story reflecting on chapter 4.
In Zech 3, we see how God will deal with the sin of his people. In the vision in Zech 4, we see how God will sustain his people while they carry out the work of rebuilding the temple.
As we read chapter 4 through the lens of the cross of Jesus, God’s people are no longer seeking to build a physical temple, but rather we are part of “being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:4) We build the Kingdom as we join in God’s mission of making disciples of all nations.
1) Kingdom work happens by the power of God’s Spirit.
Check out Zech 4:6
So he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.
It’s easy to think that Kingdom work happens in our strength. But that’s dumb. Zerubbabel was a pretty impressive leader – but God’s word for him was “trust me, not yourself”. Israel needed to depend upon God for God’s work to be completed with the temple. We need to depend upon God as we join him in his mission. Trust him.
2) Kingdom work happens in God’s timing
Check out Zech 4:10a
“Who despises the day of small things? Men will rejoice when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.
This verse is brilliant. The plumb line is the ancient measuring device used to make sure things are vertical. Basically they made sure that buildings didn’t become leaning towers of Pisa! It’s therefore something that would have been used in the very early stages of building, as the scaffolds went up – out went Zerubbabel’s hand with the plumb line. This could be seen as the day of a small thing, yet it’s significant and worthy of rejoicing.
Kingdom work is normally made up of lots of little things, small steps. Most people don’t get the gospel the first time they hear it. It normally takes time.
Most churches don’t experience 1000′s of conversions each year. But one by one, God is adding to the number of disciples in the Kingdom.
Verse 10 made me think of the small things that Robert Morrison was part of 200 years ago in China.
Robert Morrison – The First Missionary to China
In 1807 Robert Morrison, the first Protestant missionary to China, began his ministry with high hopes. After 27 years of hard work all he had were ten converts to Christianity. But during this time of hard spiritual sowing he translated the Bible into the Chinese language. Twenty years after his death another young missionary came to China with high hopes.
Hudson Taylor was used by God for decades, not only to convert the Chinese, but to raise up hundreds of other missionaries. By the time of his death in 1905, thousands of Chinese had been converted to Christianity through his efforts.
During the Chinese Revolution in 1949, all the foreign missionaries in China were kicked out. At the time of their expulsion, there were approximately one million Christians in China. Throughout those last 60 years, the gospel has spread amongst the people. As a result, many experts estimate between 70-100 million Christians in China today.
When Robert Morrison was asked shortly after his arrival in China two hundred years ago if he expected to have any spiritual impact on the Chinese, he answered, “No sir, but I expect God will!” And God did. It started with one man who was willing to pay the excruciating price of hard work to prepare the way for awakening decades and centuries after his death.
(This story is from a previous sermon. I can’t remember the original source, so some of the text may not be mine. If you know the source, let me know so I can reference it!)