It was easy to see when Assyria had all the power—just look at the trail of ruined cities and butchered people they left behind. It was easy enough to see when Babylon had the power—simply look at how it [with allies] devastated Nineveh and chased Assyrian kings across the Euphrates. And in the book of Zechariah what does Yahweh appeal to as proof of his lordship? A little stone church building that even older Jews wept at and a small town that would later be built by a handful of hard-working people, sitting on top of a hill.
Visibly, it was indeed a day of “small things”. That was the historical setting at its visible best—those were the facts and they say, “You can’t get away from the facts.” But then Yahweh had a way of dealing with “the facts” that one “can’t get away from.” The study of this small book by the prophet Zechariah gives us the heavenly view of who has the power (Jehovah) and who is empowered (His faithful people). Join us in this study of "the day of small things."
EXCERPT FROM PART I OF BOOK:
THE PEOPLE THE PROPHETS SPOKE TO
Like every other nation Israel had a history. Ask an American how America came to be America or an Iranian how Iran came to be Iran or a Chinese person how China came to be China and each would tell you a story. In each story there would be moments and events that distinguished that nation from all others.
The nation all the prophets spoke to was unlike any other nation on the earth. In what way was that true? Here’s a central part of the Moses story in Deuteronomy 4:32-35, “Ask now about the former days, long before your time, from the day God created man on the earth; ask from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything so great as this ever happened, or has anything like it ever been heard of? Has any other people heard the voice of God speaking out of fire, as you have, and lived? Has any other god tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation by testings, by miraculous signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?
You were shown these things so that you might know the Lord is God; besides him there is no other.”
If you had asked an ancient Israelite, “Who are you people?” he would have told you a story like no other nation’s story. (See the credo rehearsed by the Israelite when he came to offer the Firstfruits in Deuteronomy 26:5-10.) The God named Yahweh never entered into a promissory covenant with any other nation through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. No other nation went down into Egypt to be welcomed as resident aliens and then to endure generations as slaves to Pharaoh. No other nation was declared to be Yahweh’s “firstborn son” and delivered as the result of a series of miraculous signs, brought miraculously across the Red Sea, brought into a covenant relationship with Yahweh at Mount Sinai, sustained for more than a generation in a wilderness and settled in a homeland that had been promised centuries earlier. These events wrought by a God who took Yahweh as his covenant name are what constituted Israel as Israel.
“You only have I known of all the families of the earth.” Amos 3:2. “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth.” Deuteronomy 7:6; 26:19; Exodus 19:5-6; Psalm 135:4; see Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 2:9.
Yahweh did all that but why he did it is also part of Israel’s identity. God’s purpose in doing what he did was as much a part of what he did as the acts by which he did it. God created this nation so that they would be a light to the Gentiles who were living in the darkness of polytheistic idolatry, so that Israel would bring light and blessing to all the families of the earth [Isaiah 49:5-7; Genesis 12:1-3; 22:18; 26:4; 28:13-14].
What was happening in Israel’s experience went far beyond Israel. “Israel’s history comprised a drama of God and all men. God’s kingship and man’s hope were at stake in Jerusalem. God was alone in the world, unknown or discarded…Here was one land, one people, cherished and chosen for the purpose of transforming the world.” [Heschel, pages 14-15]
Since Israel has no identity as Israel without her history it follows that to reject Yahweh and go after other gods meant they would have to invent a new history to explain themselves even to themselves; they would have to tell a new and different gospel story every word of which would be no gospel story at all [compare Paul’s treatment of a different story in Galatians 1:6-9]. Israel was hardly out of bondage when they moved in that direction and made a golden calf and said, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” In doing this they not only distorted the truth about God they distorted the truth about themselves and so they couldn’t function as a light and salvation-bearer for the world. In this they became enemies of God’s purpose; they became enemies of the way God chose to bless his entire human family.
Israel’s very existence as a redeemed People was to be the visible embodiment of the gospel they offered to the world and that was to be expressed in their national faith. God’s sons and daughters who honored the Holy One in songs, feasts and offerings, in the repudiation of idolatry and in their God-imaging righteousness in daily life [Exodus 19:4-6; 24:1-8; Deuteronomy 5:1-32] were light in a world of darkness because as his beloved children they imaged God [note Ephesians 5:1-2].
The nation to whom Zechariah and the prophets spoke did not create itself. Isaiah repeatedly speaks of Israel in terms associated with creation.
“But now, this is what the Lord says—he who created you O Jacob, he who formed you O Israel; fear not…everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” (Isaiah 43:1, 7; see also 49:1, 5-6 with Acts 13:46-47, Jeremiah 1:4-5 and Galatians 1:15.)
Texts like these echo the history of Adam and Eve who chose independence from God and threw in their lot with “a god” [2 Corinthians 4:4]. Created to image God they rejected him and would make their own way in the world. In texts like this one Israel as Israel is seen as a new creation, a new beginning and was called to live out her life in a new world. In Ezekiel 37:1-14 we have a picture of Israel resurrected and that picture echoes the creation of Adam with the Spirit of God entering them as it did Adam and generating life out of lifelessness. And that “resurrection” foreshadowed the resurrection of the One in whom Israel’s history is recapitulated but in glorious righteousness and the One in whom Israel’s hope is focused [see Acts 23:6; 24:14-16; 26:5-7].
This small discouraged and very troubled highland “nation” of nearly fifty thousand people who returned under Zerubbabel from Babylon was a brand pulled out of the fire [Zechariah 3:2], charred and dirty, but it was the visible expression of the patient and faithful God’s continued purpose. It was to this small people in a day of small things that Haggai and Zechariah spoke. See Ezra 2:64-65; Nehemiah 7:4 and 11:1-2.
- Additional Information
SKU 4846 Subtitle The Day of Small Things Author/Speaker Jim McGuiggan ISBN 978-1-938335-73-0 Translator No Language English Pages 165 Binding Paperback Publisher Sunset Institute Press Copyright 2016 Edition No Print Date No