God Accomplishes His Purposes Through Small Things
A Day of Small Things
The prophet Zechariah ministered to God’s people in a very fragile time. The people nostalgically remembered Israel’s former glory. The hopelessness of the exile was turned into great expectation with the prophets who prophesied about worldwide restoration through a restored Israel including a rebuilt temple. Excitement and expectations increased exponentially with Cyrus’ proclamation for the exiles to return and rebuild the temple. However, high expectations were soon crushed as the rebuilding of the temple was met with fierce opposition and the work stalled many times. Lies began to creep in among the people. Some looked back at Israel’s former glory and wept at the sight of a temple that paled in comparison to Solomon’s grand building. Others looked forward and mocked the rebuilding efforts as pathetic when compared to the vision of worldwide restoration calling it a “day of small things.” Into this situation the LORD spoke to the governor of Judea, Zerubbabel, through the prophet Zechariah to bring a word of encouragement to persist in the work the LORD had given him to do no matter how small it appeared. Appearances can be deceiving as God uses even small things to accomplish his great purposes of redemption.
Zechariah 4:6-10 - Then 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 of hosts. 7 Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace!’” 8 Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 9 “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. 10 Who is he who despises the day of small things? They all shall rejoice when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.
The temple reconstruction became an object of scorn despite clear validation of God’s call to perform this task. The task at hand seemed small and insignificant. Certainly, it wasn’t bringing about any great noticeable change. Israel had not returned to its former glory. The Persians still ruled. Worldwide restoration seemed like a pipe dream. So, the LORD first reminds Zerubbabel that just because a thing does not seem impressive does not mean it is not from God. God’s ways are not our ways. God does not accomplish his purposes through worldly might and power but through the power of his Holy Spirit (4:6). Furthermore, when they see God accomplish his purposes among them they can be assured of his grace to them (4:7). Faith in the goodness, grace, and promises of God gives us eyes to see God’s greater purposes even in the small things and so God’s people are free to celebrate even if the world looks on in scorn or indifference.
We Have a God of Small Things
We also are tempted to dismiss the small things. A turning from sin here, a comfort amidst sorrow there, truth spoken and often rejected, love given and sometimes unreciprocated, service rendered and seldom noticed. We can start to wonder if walking in God’s ways really has any real meaningful purpose. We might start to believe that God only works through the big and flashy, the strong and powerful. We may believe the lie that what at first glance seems insignificant can’t possibly make much of a difference in our world. We may start to doubt our place and identity in our church, our families, our jobs, and our neighborhoods. We may start to despise the small things!
And so, the LORD’s word through Zechariah brings hope to us as well! The good news is that we have a God of small things! Don’t despise all the small things that God calls you to do by faith in him for his glory. The Holy Spirit can do more than we think or imagine with small things whether or not the world ever takes notice. In a world of imperial power ruled by Caesar from the magnificent capital city of Rome, what could seem more insignificant than a baby born 1400 miles away in a dirty manger to a teenage girl?!? The world looked at this as such a small thing that it could not even make room for this boy to be born in an inn. God entered the world on a day of small things. Jesus lived and walked this earth for 30 years prior to beginning his 3 years of public ministry. Jesus, the oldest son, the big brother, the carpenter, the citizen of a small disparaged village, did not despise the many days of small things. What could be more insignificant than the execution of a criminal on a cross in a remote Roman province two thousand years ago? Yet, God took a “small thing,” not even a blip on the radar of human history, and transformed it into human history’s very center through the power of the Holy Spirit raising Jesus Christ from the dead! Jesus’ followers over the next few hundred years turned the Roman Empire upside down through radical obedience in small things – caring for widows and the poor, adopting orphans, burying the dead, refusing to put a pinch of incense into the fire to honor Caesar as lord, gathering together weekly to hear the gospel proclaimed and celebrate the sacraments to honor Christ as Lord.
God demonstrated his joy in using small things to accomplish his great purposes so that we can take joy in the small things he calls us to do each and every day. It is easy to get discouraged when we see meager results and little progress, but don’t judge God’s work by human standards. In the Lord your labor is never in vain even in the day of small things.
“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days…And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. And he shall be their peace.” - Micah 5:2, 4–5
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”” - John 16:33