“I remember the excitement in my boyhood neighborhood when somebody began to build a large home on a vacant lot at the end of our street. A concrete truck rolled up to pour foundations, and for several days we could hear the sound of vigorous pounding as carpenters framed the walls. Then everybody left. I never knew why. Not another nail was pounded. The frame stood winter and summer–as long as I lived there–a house of sticks and little more.” *

4 Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the returned exiles were building a temple to the Lord, the God of Israel, they approached Zerubbabel and the heads of fathers’ houses and said to them, “Let us build with you, for we worship your God as you do, and we have been sacrificing to him ever since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria who brought us here.” But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the heads of fathers’ houses in Israel said to them, “You have nothing to do with us in building a house to our God; but we alone will build to the Lord, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us.”   Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build and bribed counselors against them to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia. Ezra 4:1-5 (By this time the people of Judah had built the foundation—it lay unfinished for 17 years)

“Some of God’s projects stall, too. Five centuries before Jesus was born, the Israelites returned from exile to find Jerusalem in ruins and their beloved temple destroyed. With great enthusiasm they set about rebuilding it. However, Zerubbabel the governor got little farther than laying the foundation before opposition set in. Neighbors fought the project tooth and nail, finally succeeding in getting a restraining order to halt construction (Ezra 4). Enemies mocked. Supporters became discouraged. For years the site stood silent.

Failure. Zerubbabel felt like a failure. Oh, there were plenty of other things to do. Zerubbabel set to work building his own wood-paneled home. But his grand dream had fizzled.

He was probably like the rest of us when failure looms. What little self-confidence we have ebbs away. We seal ourselves from more pain by denial. We meet further effort with skepticism. We protect ourselves from getting our hopes too high again. We look at the ground rather than the sky, at the past rather than the future.

Then… one day a man of God, Zechariah, began to speak words that pierced Zerubbabel to the heart and filled him with fresh hope: “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel,” came the message. “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty.” Zerubbabel could feel his heart pounding as the message continued. “What are you, O mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of ‘God bless it! God bless it!’ The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple, his hands will also complete it” (Zechariah 4:6-7).”

Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No, my lord.” 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. 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 to it!’”  Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “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  For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. Zechariah 4:5-10

“The project had seemed like an immovable mountain, Zerubbabel thought. But now with God at work he knew he could finish the temple.  The final words of the prophecy jolted him. “Do not despise the day of small things. Men will rejoice when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel” (vs. 10).  He had despised that early start. How weak, how insignificant, how naive he had been. Yet, in spite of all that, God had been in those beginnings.

How often our efforts for God are attacked by the enemy. We can get so discouraged we don’t even want to try again. But God delights in taking the insignificant and making something out of it.  What little thing, what dream, what false start, have you despised? Your small church, your tiny Bible study, your hopes of ministry for Christ? Do you despise your failures? Don’t. Surrender them to the God who delights in taking human weakness and showing His strength. Take another look at your discarded dreams, this time through God’s eyes: “Not by might, not by power, but my Spirit says the Lord Almighty” (Zechariah 4:6).

Oh, by the way. When I went back to my old neighborhood, someone had finished that house at the end of the street. It’s beautiful.”

* taken from a devotional by Dr. Ralph Wilson found here

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