Have you ever felt discouraged and defeated? Ever given up because you just couldn’t take the pressure any more? Ever caved in to fear? That describes the leaders of the Jews who had returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple and resettle Judah. The fierce opposition to their work had caused them to abandon the Temple rebuild. They constructed their own houses and went about their own business, but they could not get away from the fact that the spiritual life of the nation was in limbo. Every time they passed the half-finished shell of the Temple they were reminded that God had given them a work to do, but they had quit. But while they had given up on God, God had not given up on them!
Sometimes God sends a word, just at the right time, that gives us the motivation we need to begin again — a holy kick in the pants that sends us from the sideline to the scrimmage line. For Zerubbabel (the Jewish governor) and Jeshua (the high priest; sometimes spelled “Joshua”), God sent His word through two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah (v.1). This pair of preachers alternately challenged and encouraged the leaders to get back to work. The Aramaic word rendered “support” in verse 2 carries the idea of sustaining, helping, and comforting. Here are a few samples of the preaching that God used to restart the work:
Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: “Consider your ways.”
Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts, according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not.
Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, O Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you!”
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…The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it.
(Zechariah 4:6, 9a)
As the Temple construction resumed with renewed energy, the opposition reappeared (v.3). But in the letter of complaint they sent to King Darius, you can hear the confidence of the Jewish leadership (v.11): “We are the servants of God, and we are rebuilding!”
You may be going through your own time of discouragement right now. You may have given up on a dream, abandoned a ministry, or been derailed by past failures. But remember this: just as God watched over the Jewish leaders, He is watching over you. He isn’t finished with you and He hasn’t given up on you. So stand up, be strong, and get busy! “Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord.” (Haggai 2:4)