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An impossible task – The gospel in Zechariah 4:6-10

July 2009 | by Roger Ellsworth

An impossible task – The gospel in Zechariah 4:6-10

 

We know what happened. After the long reigns of David and Solomon, the nation divided into two parts – Israel and Judah – and each part went headlong into idolatry.

     God sent them prophet after prophet to call them to repentance, but they refused to listen. So God finally sent judgement. The Assyrians invaded the land of Israel in 722 BC and carried most of its citizens into captivity. The Babylonians invaded the land of Judah in 586 BC with exactly the same result.

     We are going to focus on the Babylonian captivity, which lasted for 70 long years. It came to an end when God put into the heart of King Cyrus of Persia (which nation had conquered Babylon) to release the Jews.

     We can rest assured that there was tremendous rejoicing when the Jews got the news, but that joy was tempered by what they found when they got home. Things were a mess! Homes had to be reconstructed. The wall around what was left of Jerusalem had to be restored. And, on the orders of Cyrus, a new temple had to be built.

 

An impossible task

 

The task seemed impossible to the Jews who had returned home, especially the task of rebuilding the temple. They started on it and then quit, and nothing was done for 14 years. But God took matters in hand.

     He sent the prophets Haggai and Zechariah to encourage the people in the work of rebuilding the temple. Did the task seem impossible? God assured the people that it was not. He had raised up a man, Zerubbabel, to lead them in successfully completing the job!             Did the people seem to be too feeble to accomplish the task? God assured them that it would not be done by their might or power but rather by his Spirit (Zechariah 4:6).

     Did the rebuilding seem to them to be like scaling an impossibly high mountain? Zerubbabel would level that mountain! (v. 7).

     Then that glorious day would arrive when everything would be done except for the finishing touch. Zerubbabel would bring out the capstone and put it in its place. And as the people saw the setting of that capstone, they would cry, ‘Grace! Grace!’

     We are familiar with spectators responding in various ways at athletic events. They might shout ‘Hooray!’ or ‘Way to go!’ But here is something quite different. Zerubbabel does something great. He puts the capstone of the temple in place.

     The impossible task is now complete. And the people don’t shout ‘Hooray!’ but rather ‘Grace! Grace!’ Doesn’t that seem to be a peculiar shout? What was behind it? Why would they shout ‘Grace! Grace!’ instead of ‘Hooray!’?

     Why would they consider that particular word to be the appropriate expression for that occasion? This is why – the setting of that capstone would be to them a powerful reminder that they deserved no credit for the rebuilding of the temple. It was all due to the grace of God.

     It was grace that gave them the opportunity, the desire and the interest to build. It was grace that gave them the strength and wisdom. It was grace that enabled them to persevere when they were discouraged beyond description. It was all of grace. How I would like to be able to hurl myself back through time and witness that event!

 

Another impossible task

 

But now I want to tell you about another impossible task and another Zerubbabel. I am not talking now about a ruined city and a demolished temple. I am talking rather about you and me.

     You and I are not as God first made us. We come into this world in ruins. The ruin is due to sin. I am not going to argue it with you because I think you know it to be true.

     You haven’t obeyed the commandments of God. You have entertained thoughts you should not have had. You have said things you should not have said. You have done things you should not have done. And you have failed to think things that you should have thought, to speak words you should have spoken, and to do things you should have done.

     You also know that you were not meant only for this world. There is in you a consciousness of eternity. You know that you must meet God some day, and you know that God is the righteous judge of all the earth.

     So here you are in your sins on a collision course with God in his awesome holiness! Have you thought about this? Have you ever wondered how a guilty sinner can ever stand acceptably in the presence of the holy God?

     There are some very foolish people who seem to think that this is a very small matter. Just do a few good things here and there, and, presto! – you are ready to meet God. But most of us know that meeting God is much more serious than that. It is like being asked to scale an impossibly high mountain! What, then, is the hope for ruined sinners?

 

The new Zerubbabel

 

Our hope lies in a new, a second, Zerubbabel. No, that was not his name. I only call him that because he is so perfectly pictured by the first Zerubbabel. His name is Jesus. He came to this earth to do for ruined sinners the very things that they could not possibly do for themselves. He came to make it possible for them to stand acceptably in the presence of God.

     What did Jesus do? The answer is that he lived a special life and he died a special kind of death. The thing that made Jesus’ life so special is that he did not sin. He perfectly obeyed God in every respect.

     The thing that made his death special is that he actually received on the cross the punishment that we deserve for our sins. By his life Jesus provided the righteousness we need; by his death he took the penalty we deserve.

     When we realise our sin and guilt before God and come to him, God can and will forgive us on the basis of what Jesus did. Christianity essentially comes down to this – Jesus gets our sins and we get his righteousness. And it is the infinite, matchless grace of God that provides all of this.

 

Tired old world

 

This tired old world has seen some grand things down through the centuries, but a day is coming such as it has never seen before. The Lord Jesus who came to live and die for sinners will put the capstone of salvation in place. He will come again and take his people home.

     Not one of them will be missing. And when the redeemed throng see the capstone of salvation dropped into place, they will join together in this triumphant cry: ‘Grace! Grace!’ They will know then, as they never knew before, that their presence in heaven is not due to anything that they have done. It is all due to the grace of God in Christ.

     They will realise that the opportunity for salvation came by the grace of God. They will understand that their interest in salvation was due to the grace of God. They will realise that their desire for salvation came to them from the grace of God. They will know that the faith with which they received salvation came to them from the grace of God.

     They will realise that every good work they did came from the grace of God. They will realise that their perseverance in the things of God came to them because of the grace of God.

     As the cry of ‘Grace! Grace!’ echoes through the halls of heaven, the people of God will be lost in wonder, love and praise. What a day that will be!

Roger Ellsworth