As my Bible study group makes its way through the Old Testament prophets, I have been fascinated by the historical context of each prophet’s ministry. Today I taught an overview of Haggai and Zechariah, contemporaries who proclaimed the word of the Lord late in the prophetic period, around 520 B.C.
At this point in Biblical history, the Jews have been in exile for several decades. Upon the defeat of Babylon, Cyrus, the ruler of the Medo-Persian Empire, allows some of the Jewish exiles to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. About 50,000 take him up on the offer and, under the leadership of Ezra, begin the rebuilding process. Opposition arises, however, and the rebuilding effort is abandoned. Thus Haggai and Zechariah begin their series of proclamations exhorting the people not only to resume the temple project but also to return to the Lord and to place their hope in Him.
Zechariah 4:10 speaks directly to those exiles discouraged by living in “the day of small things,” and we can certainly understand their desperation. The invasion of the Babylonians, the fall and destruction of Jerusalem, the decades in exile, the return to the land of promise, the rebuilding effort met with opposition, not to mention the inability to reproduce anything remotely like the splendor of the temple Solomon built. A day of small things, indeed, the sort of day easy to despise and doubt. What about the glorious promises of the prophets? Has the Lord forgotten? How far their reality seemed from the prosperity of that promised future!
And yet through His prophet Zechariah the Lord promises that those who have despised the day of small things will rejoice. The Lord will act. He will be faithful. His promises are sure.
We know that, as the ministry of the Old Testament prophets comes to an end not long after Haggai’s and Zechariah’s accounts, any further revelation from the Lord is nonexistent for nearly four hundred years. How urgent Zechariah’s encouragement becomes! To the believing remnant who will cling tightly through the silent years to come, Zechariah speaks: Don’t doubt the Lord’s working in what seems like small and negligible ways. He will keep His promises. Believe Him. Persevere. Hope. Trust. Wait. You will rejoice.
The years of the Lord’s silence are broken with the voice of one in the wilderness crying, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” The Lord does indeed keep His promises of peace and rest when He comes as a Suffering Servant, the promised One who is pierced for our transgressions, the Messiah, Jesus. He brings peace through His life, death, and resurrection, satisfying the wrath of God and offering His righteousness to those who who would believe.
Because of Christ, we too can hope even in the day of small things. These light and momentary troubles, Paul assures us, prepare for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. The Lord is faithful. He will keep His promises. Believe Him. Persevere. Hope. Trust. Wait. You will rejoice!