Do Not Despise These Small Beginnings! p
Do Not Despise These Small Beginnings! p
As I thought and prayed about what God would have me preach here tonight, I was directed to the same thing I have preached at other small churches recently.
So, like John the Baptizer, I have but one message right now. John was sent with one message: Repent! Message after message, John preached: “Repent! For the Kingdom of God is at hand!” I’m sure people were talking about him. I’m sure folks wanted to know if he had another message. I’m sure people got tired of his preaching. I’m sure he got tired of preaching the same thing. Nevertheless, the words of Jesus concerning John should put all of our misgivings to rest. Jesus said in
Matthew 11:11 (NASB-U), “Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”
This enigmatic statement has puzzled many. The Greek scholar, A. T. Robertson says, “He surely means that John is greater (meizoôn) than all others in character, but that the least in the kingdom of heaven surpasses him in privilege. John is the end of one age, ‘until John’ (Matthew 11:14), and the beginning of the new era. All those that come after John stand upon his shoulders. John is the mountain peak between the old and the new.”
Therefore, whatever you think about my preaching, I pray that Jesus views me like He viewed John, the Baptizer.
(Turn with me to Zechariah 4:8-10. Before we read this text, let me give you the background and the context.)
· In 586 b.c., the armies of Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem, which marked the end of the Kingdom of Judah.
· Most of Jerusalem’s inhabitants were deported to Babylon for a period of about 70 years, as prophesied by Jeremiah.
· When the Babylonian Empire fell to the Persian Empire (539 b.c.), Cyrus the Great decreed that the Jews could return to Jerusalem to rebuild their temple.
· A small minority of about 50,000 Jews… returned under the leadership of Zerubbabel the governor and Joshua the high priest.
· One of those 50,000 was Zechariah.
· Levitical sacrifices were soon reinstituted on a rebuilt altar of burnt offering (Ezra 3:1-6), and in the second year of their return the foundation of the temple was laid. However,
· External oppression and internal depression halted the rebuilding of the temple for about 16 more years of spiritual apathy till the rule of the Persian King Darius.
· In the second year of Darius’s reign, God raised up Haggai the prophet to encourage the Jews in rebuilding.
· Haggai preached four sermons in four months and then disappeared from the scene.
· Two months after Haggai delivered his first sermon, Zechariah began his prophetic ministry, encouraging the people to spiritual renewal and motivating them to rebuild the temple by revealing to them God’s plans for Israel’s future.
(That brings us the prophecy that Jehovah gave through Zechariah.)
Zechariah is the longest and the most obscure book among the Minor Prophets. Minor Prophets are called Minor Prophets because of the length of their prophecies, not the importance of their prophecies. As we come to the fourth chapter of this prophecy, we encounter the fifth vision, which includes a golden lampstand, two olive trees, and accompanying oracles (or prophetic sayings).
Now, the thrust of this fifth vision with its accompanying oracles is clear. Its purpose is to assure Zerubbabel that he will complete the temple through the Spirit of Yahweh, even though the details of the vision and oracles are unclear at times.
(Now, would you notice with me Zechariah 4:8-10? Let me read this aloud for us, in the NLT. Please follow along in what ever translation you have.)
Zechariah 4:8-10 (NLT), “Then another message came to me from the Lord:  ‘Zerubbabel is the one who laid the foundation of this Temple, and he will complete it. Then you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me.  Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand. For these seven lamps represent the eyes of the Lord that search all around the world.’”
· The Word of the Lord came to Zechariah, in some kind of alternate state of consciousness that “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house, and his hands shall finish it.”
Even as the Word of the Lord came to Zechariah, so God has sent me to prophesy, “The hands of Pastor Bennett have laid the foundation of this house and his hands shall finish it!” Somebody, praise God for that right now!
· In Jerusalem, the power of the Holy Spirit would accomplish this.
We gather this from a very familiar verse of Scripture, in
Zechariah 4:6 (NASB-U), “Then he said to me, ‘This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel saying, “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,” says the Lord of hosts.’”
· Strength to finish the temple would not come from man’s physical ability or military might, but would be by the power of the Spirit of Yahweh (4:6).
Likewise, Pastor Bennett, the work that you are doing can only be finished through the power of the Holy Spirit, which is the manifest presence of Jehovah God!
· However, I don’t want you to think that there won’t be any opposition to your work.
When we consider what was going on in the text, “there seems to have been opposition to the rebuilding of the temple. The opposition is referred to as a great mountain (4:7).
§ The opposition might have come from the “adversaries of Judah and Benjamin” referred to in Ezra 4:1–16.
§ The mountain of opposition might have been the discouraged group who despised the day of small things (Hag 2:3; Zech 4:10). Or
§ The mountain of opposition might have been a deep schism within the community concerning the rebuilding of the temple.
Whatever the opposition and regardless of its size or power, Zechariah assured Zerubbabel that he would finish the temple.”
Pastor Bennett, whatever opposition that you may face, rest assured that you will finish the work that God has given you to do!
· Next, Zechariah let Zerubbabel know, “When this prophecy comes to past, then you will know that the Lord of Hosts has sent me to you!
I’m not worried so much about teaching or preaching tonight. I am worried about delivering this word that the Lord has given me. I’m the holy UPS man tonight! Moreover, Pastor Bennett, when it comes to past, then you will know that the Lord of Hosts has sent me tonight!
(Nevertheless, we now come to the major word for tonight.)
It is stated in verse 10 of the NLT,
“Do not despise these small beginnings!”
In the other translations, this statement is rendered as a question. However, the NLT has captured the true import of the statement. Zechariah, through the word of the Lord,
1. Reproves their ungrateful unbelief, which they felt because of the humble beginning, compared with the greatness of the undertaking; and
2. Encourages them with the assurance that their progress in the work, though small, was a down payment on the great and final success.
Those who despised the day of small things may have been older Jews who thought this temple was insignificant compared with the former temple. God speaks of this through Haggai in
Haggai 2:3 (NASB-U), “Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? Does it not seem to you like nothing in comparison?”
Pastor Bennett, there may be those who despise the small beginnings of the present! They may despise or think little of what God doing for you right now. Nevertheless, I’m here to prophesy to everyone, “Don’t despise the day of small beginnings!” Thirty-two years ago, we began with four members, and look at what God has accomplished.
· You cannot measure the greatness of a church by numbers alone.
You don’t have to be a mega-church to be a major church!
(What is a major church?)
· A major church is a healthy church!
It is not important that you are a mega church, measured as 1800 to 2000 in average attendance on a Sunday morning, but it is important that you are a healthy church.
· If you are a healthy church you will be a growing church. Moreover,
· A healthy, growing church, no matter the percentage of its growth, is a major church.
(Now, when we use the term “healthy,” what do we mean?)
Christian Schwarz, in the book Natural Church Development, gives the results of a worldwide survey of churches, which identifies eight characteristics of church health:
· Empowered Leadership
· Gift-oriented Ministry
· Passionate Spirituality
· Functional Structures
· Inspiring Worship Services
· Holistic Small Groups
· Need-oriented Evangelism; and
· Loving Relationships.
In addition, the worldwide survey debunks the myth that a mega church is automatically a healthy church and a smaller church is necessarily an unhealthy church.
In fact, Schwarz was able to demonstrate that based upon 170 variables large churches compare disfavorably with smaller ones, i.e. smaller churches score healthier than mega churches. Therefore, if we are looking for model churches, we should look at the countless small churches manifesting high quality, strong growth, and innovative multiplication. This does not mean that no large churches are doing an excellent job, but they are the exception to the rule.
Christian Schwarz states, “The research results confirm what many leaders have known intuitively—that healthy churches are growing churches, making more and better disciples in loving obedience to Christ.” Isn’t this a great definition for a major church?
Therefore, I say not only to you, but to everyone here tonight, “Do not despise the day of small beginnings!
(Now, the prophecy gives the reason why no one should despise the day of small beginnings. Do not despise the day of small beginnings, because:)
· The Lord rejoices to see the work begin!
For those of you who are reading other translations, the KJV reads, “For they shall rejoice,” and the NASB reads, “These seven will be glad when they see,” referring to the seven eyes of the Lord. Therefore, the NLT translation is an excellent translation!
Jehovah rejoices to see the small beginnings of a work that He has ordained. God regards “small” beginnings much differently than people do! Men “despised” the work in its early stage: God rejoicingly regards it, and shall continue to do so.
(There is also another possible translation.)
· Those who despised such small beginnings would rejoice when they saw it completed.
That is the nature of church work. There are those who have been skeptical at every move that I have made, who also rejoice and shout at the dedication of each building!
Therefore, people will rejoice at the completion of your work; or God will rejoice at the beginning of your work and God will rejoice at the completion of your work. Any way that you look at it, rejoicing is coming!
(We come now to the final truth of this short passage of Scripture.)
· The eyes of the Lord run to and fro, throughout the earth or around the world, to protect, support, and favor those who are doing His work!
Pastor Bennett, the eyes of the Lord are upon you!
§ You are the apple of His eye!
§ You are the pupil of His eye!
§ He is watching you to protect you!
§ He is watching you to support you!
§ He is watching you to favor you with His favor!
(Before, I finish, let me read you one more verse of Scripture.)
Ezra 6:15 (NASB-U), “This temple was completed on the third day of the month Adar; it was the sixth year of the reign of King Darius.”
· We have here the fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophesy!
Consequently, even as Zechariah’s prophesy was fulfilled, so shall this prophecy be fulfilled.
Therefore, “Do not despise these small beginnings!”
Smith, R. L. 2002. Vol. 32: Word Biblical Commentary : Micah-Malachi. Word Biblical Commentary . Word, Incorporated: Dallas
 Christian A. Schwarz, Paradigm Shift In The Church, ChurchSmart Resources, Carol Stream, Illinois, 1999, pp. 46-48.
 Christian A. Schwarz, Paradigm Shift In The Church, ChurchSmart Resources, Carol Stream, Illinois, 1999, p. 3.