Unsung Heroes: Joshua and Zerubbabel

Dr. Mike Ross, Speaker

Zechariah 3 & 4 | August 14, 2022 - Sunday Morning,

Sunday Morning,
August 14, 2022
Unsung Heroes: Joshua and Zerubbabel | Zechariah 3 & 4
Dr. Mike Ross, Speaker

Well, it’s good to see you all again. People have asked us, said to us many times this week, we miss you, and I want you to know that Jane and I miss you a lot. We’ve noticed that a lot of you are getting older. We’ve noticed that. And a lot of you are younger, kind of like Jane and I. I’ll give you one guess which one’s getting older. But our family’s been doing the same. Jane and I have been aging, but we’ve added two new grandchildren since we were here. I baptized one a couple weeks ago and when we leave here we’re heading towards New Orleans, we’ll baptize the youngest one Grey and they’re all walking with the Lord and enjoying the favor of the Church in their life. I

It’s good for us to be here. We’re involved in a little church plant in Columbus, Ohio, has about 50 members. It’s sweet people and a very earnest, faithful pastor, good faithful preacher of the Word. But you know, with 50 people you’re kind of limited in resources, so our music ministry is lacking. So it’s great to some her and to hear what Nathan has put together and all of the musicians and just to hear you sing. I used to say to Bernie when we were on the platform together that I oftentimes would come to the church discouraged about things. I really would. But by the time I heard you sing the second hymn, I was just so lifted up and encouraged. It’s the ministry of the church to the pastor as well as the pastor to the church.

So if you would, please, take your Bibles and turn to Zechariah, one of the Old Testament prophets. One of the least read Old Testament prophets, I might add, but one of the richest messages I think in all of the Scripture. He is one of these unsung heroes.

When Kevin asked me to pick a couple of them, I said, well, I’m going to pick so and so, but somebody already got him, so I thought about this because of a little verse that is in this text where God talks about the day of small things.

Now Joshua and his partner Zechariah were the priest and the governor of the 50,000 people that came back from the Babylonian captivity to re-settle the land of Judah, to rebuild the temple, and reform and revitalize the city of Jerusalem. If you read through Ezra and Nehemiah, you find out that they were really facing a lot of difficult things, very similar to our day. They were facing a lot of problems that we find in America today.

There was great political unrest in the world. The reigning power of Persia was in a very unsettled time. There was a weak king. Their control over their satellite kingdoms and their ability to keep the enemy at bay was waning and things were dangerous in the empire.

They also were in the middle of a great recession. They were experiencing, we know from Haggai the prophet who prophesied alongside of Zechariah, they were experiencing a drought. They had exorbitant prices and their money wouldn’t buy what it did before. They were suffering from, quite frankly, inflation.

They were internally divided. There were some who were thinking about maybe going back to Babylon because it was a lot easier, and some who were wanting to stay, and that caused some conflict among them. There was an older generation that remember the glories of the past, so when the foundation of the Temple was laid, the second temple, they wept. But the young people had never known that first temple, and they rejoiced. So there were some who were looking at the past in terms of their faith and there were others who were looking toward the future.

They were faced with around five times as many Samaritans as there were Jews and they were no friends to the people of Israel. They were spiritually and ethnically half-breeds and they were very opposed to the concept of a Messiah coming through the Jewish people.

So they faced a lot of the same difficulties.

Bryan Gregory has written a little commentary called Longing for God in an Age of Discouragement and he said not surprisingly, this constellation of problems that were social, economic, and political produced cynicism and discouragement among the people of God. In summary, all indications are that life in Judah was difficult to say the least. Its people lived daily with the painful contrast between the glories of the past and the humiliation of present, and very little of what the returning exiles had eagerly expected to find in their holy land had been realized. They were a people of a downward spirit.

So into the situation, into that day of small things, God sends two men, a man named Yeshua, or Jeshua, we call him Joshua, and he was a high priest; and a man named Zerubbabel, a descendant of David. In fact, Joshua was the 24th high priest in line from Aaron and Zerubbabel, if he had been king, he would have been in the 16th dynasty of the Davidic kingdom.

They come in the year of about 520 and what has happened is the people became discouraged and they stopped building the Temple. They laid the foundation and then because of economic problems, because of social unrest, because of division in the community, because of opposition from their enemies, they stopped building it.

So God raised up two prophets, and old man and a young man, like Mike DeOld and Kevin DeYoung, two men who came to preach to the people of God. One was Haggai, the old guy, and he comes on the scene. He’s probably the Old Testament prophet priest who preached the least amount of time. He preached for about four months and his messages came between August 29 and December 18 of 520 B.C. and basically he had one message. He said, “Get busy and rebuild the Temple. God is with you.”

In the midst of his ministry, around October or November, a young man who actually was a priest was given the spirit of the prophet. His name was Zechariah. In December of 517, God gave him visions in the night, eight visions of the night, and we’re going to look at two of them this morning.

Then about 18 months later, in February of 518, he had two oracles, two burdens from the Lord, great prophecies, rather long passages.

So you have these two men talking to people and both of them mention explicitly that they were speaking primarily to Joshua, the high priest, and Zerubbabel, the governor.

Haggai begins with these words: “In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, the governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest.”

Preachers always looking for connections between what’s in the text and what is in the pew. I mean, we’re taught in our homiletic classes to go from the then to the now. I don’t know if I can find a passage in Scripture that is more similar to the things we’re facing today. We’re in a very, very difficult economy, as you know well. In the workforce we have, we’re approaching what’s called a double-digit pain index where we have high inflation and high unemployment. We have supply chain problems. Every time you go to the store to buy anything, a loaf of bread to tires for your car, the price seems to have doubled within a month.

We are uncertain about our jobs. There’s a lot of people who are losing their jobs and moving to other things. They’re working at home through the internet or sometimes going to the office and both of my sons said, “Dad, this is the most confusing time of work that we’ve ever experienced.”

We’re also living in a time of great political unrest. I don’t think in my 73 years have I seen our precious country as divided as it is now. Not just into two camps but those who are the woke people on the extreme left and the make America great people on the extreme right and then between are the moderate liberals and the moderate conservatives and they’re all battling for a different vision of America.

As you know the Church is not doing the best right now. 38%, 38% of all pastors desire to leave the ministry now in the wake of COVID-19. About 29% of them have. In addition to that, a significant number of people who are watching by livestream don’t intend to come back to church, which means that the very essence of the Church, it’s body life together, is going to be threatened by a rather large minority of people.

Then we have two generations, ones who think that when they were young people, and we were experiencing spiritual awakening in the days of James Dobson and Ronald Reagan and Chuck Colson and all these other famous people, was what we ought to have today, and there’s young people who have never known that and said, no, we need something different.

Then we’re longing, just as all of our music indicated this morning, we’re longing for God to revive us again. I don’t know a Christian that I’ve spoken to at any length of time in the last year or two that hasn’t said to me, “Pastor, what we really need is for God to revive us again,” and I agree.

So I wanted to look at these two men, because I think they’re just perfect examples of how you and I ought to live and minister and work together in the day of small things. One is a clergyman, he’s a pastor, a priest. His name is Joshua. And one is a layman. He works out in the workplace. In fact, he’s in government, he’s a magistrate, that would be his official title, under the Darian scheme of things in the Persian Empire, and his name is Zerubbabel.

And in the middle of these eight visions, the middle two visions, visions 4 and 5, are about these two men. I want to look at them one at a time, first this vision about Joshua the high priest, in Zechariah, chapter 3.

“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! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have given you pure vestments.” And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the Lord was standing by.”

“And the angel of the Lord solemnly assured Joshua, “Thus says the Lord of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you right of access among those who are standing here. Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who sit before you, for they are men who are a sign: Behold, I will bring my servant the Branch. For behold, on the stone that I have set before Joshua, on a single stone with seven eyes, I will engrave its inscription, declares the Lord of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day. In that day, declares the Lord of hosts, every one of you will invite his neighbor to come under his vine and under his fig tree.””

What a famous, what a famous moniker. He is a brand plucked from the fire. That’s the first thing of three things I want us to see about Joshua. He was a man who was saved by God’s grace. He was redeemed. The angel of the Lord, who is the pre-incarnate Christ, the second person of the Trinity, He says, “Satan, shut up. You don’t know who you’re talking about. This is a redeemed of the Lord. This is a brand plucked from the fire of hell and judgment. This is a sinner saved by my grace who belongs to My Father.”

That was a title, you know, applied to John Wesley in February of 1709 when he was just 9 years old or so. The manse he lived in caught on fire and everybody got out except for John Wesley. He was up on the second floor in his bedroom and he couldn’t get out and finally some brave men came and actually got a horse to stand against the wall and reached up and got him down. His brother said, “My brother John Wesley is a brand plucked from the burning, not once only, but more,” because there were three other house fires that John Wesley escaped from so that he wrote in his journal in 1753 that he wanted this put on his tombstone: “Here lieth John Wesley, a brand plucked from the burning.”

Now that little phrase comes from the prophet Amos, who said to Israel, “I overthrew some of you as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you are a brand plucked out of the burning, yet you did not return to me.”

Even the New Testament uses that language. Jude says we are to save others by plucking them, or rescuing them, out of the fire.

So here’s a man like you and me who deserves God’s judgment. He’s a sinner. He deserves to go to hell. But for reasons neither he nor you and I can explain, God chooses that that will not be the case. He will reach down with His sovereign grace and He will take this man because he’s one of God’s elect, because he’s a saved soul, because he’s a redeemed sinner, and take him out of the fires of judgment and bringing into the presence of Jesus Christ.

You know, folks, whenever we’re facing the day of small things, when we’re really discouraged by things, we always have to go back to square one. We have to go back to the fact that of all of the billions of people in the world, I think it’s almost 8 billion now, we are among the few who are brands plucked from the burning. For reasons we will never be able to explain, God has chosen to save us. To be quite blunt, He’s chosen not to send you and me to hell but to heaven, despite the fact that we don’t deserve to be there. Amen?

We just don’t deserve it, but we have it. That’s our starting point, that God because He has plucked us from the judgment. Because we are the redeemed of the Lord, because He has delivered us from the domain and darkness and transferred us to the kingdom as His beloved Son, we have redemption in the forgiveness of sins. We can never be forsaken. We belong to God. Because we have been redeemed by Jesus Christ. Brands plucked from the fire. We are born again.

And for something to be born again, it has to first be born. That’s what the “re” means before a word. Before a person is revived, they have to be vived, I guess. Before they’re restored, they have to be stored up by God. Before they’re renewed, they have to be new creatures in Christ.

So there’s always this hope, always this hope, always this starting point, that what God began to do in our life by plucking us from the fire of hell, saving us, forgiving us, He will bring to fruition. Isn’t that what Paul says? I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you, He saved you, will continue to perfect it until the day that Jesus comes again.

What a glorious ground to stand on.

Martin Luther used to be tempted by the devil and he would say, “Devil, leave me alone. I’m a baptized man.” He said, “Devil, leave me alone. I belong to God. I’m a brand plucked from the fire.”

But not only that, here’s a second thing about Joshua, he was a man clothed in a righteousness that wasn’t his own. You notice that in the text. He’s standing in a courtroom situation. There is at his right hand, which would be God’s left hand, Satan, who is accusing him. Now that’s why Jesus calls him the accuser of the brethren. And on his left hand, which would be God’s right hand, is the defending attorney. As John said, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous.

And the devil says, well, look at the way he’s dressed. Look at him. He’s got this white turban and this white ephod and these beautiful vestments and they’re all covered, literally in Hebrew, they’re covered with feces. He’s filthy.

And Jesus says, “Not a problem. Take those garments on and put on new vestments.” And little Zechariah, who is a priest, gets in the act. He says, “Yeah, put a new turban on him, too.” And so they do. They clothe him in garments of splendor. They give him a righteousness that’s not his own.

Now you know what this is the doctrine of, it’s the doctrine of justification by faith. That we are declared righteous not because of what we have done, but because of the hero of it all, Jesus Christ, what He has done for us. And He, in God’s sovereign and masterful wisdom and mercy, takes His own righteousness and covers us with it so that when God looks down on you and me, He doesn’t see a filthy sinner, He sees the beauty and the precious purity of His own son reflected back to Him.

Now we don’t live that way. Let’s be honest. Sometimes we look at ourselves in the mirror, or a wife or a husband or our children or friends, say, “You know, you’re really not living like a Christian should.” And the truth is painfully obvious, we’re not. But whether we live like that or not, we are saints. We are hagioi, holy ones, sanctified ones, who rest in a righteousness that is not our own. That’s what our beautiful little confession says, the Confession of Faith: “Faith is thus the receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness alone as the instrument of justification. Yet it is never alone in the person justified, but in every case is accepted with all the other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but always works itself out in love.”

So here’s this brand plucked from the fire, this redeemed sinner, clothed in the righteousness of Christ, who’s given this hope. Because you are righteous in your position in Christ, you can become and you will become righteous in your practice of your faith.

I often said to you when I was pastor here that what you need to do often to encourage yourself is go back to the day when you were saved and compare yourself between that day and where you are today, and you will be amazed at how much God has done in your life to make you more of a holy person, more of a righteous person, more of a sinner who is becoming a saint, and is living and loving for the sake of God.

That’s always an encouragement to us. Christ is never going to take our righteousness away. He’s going to build on it. In fact, in the Reformed faith, we rightly teach that the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ is not just a legal transaction, gets us out of trouble, it is a living, activating power that empowers us to live a more righteous and godly life. We have a future in the righteous presence of Christ because of Christ’s righteousness in us.

That’s obvious in this text in the third thing it says about him. This little guy became a sign of Jesus Christ to other people. Now this is where the symbol becomes a little bit difficult, but let’s read it again.

“And the angel of the Lord,” verse 6, “solemnly assured Joshua, “Thus says the Lord of hosts: If you will walk in My ways and keep My charge, then you shall rule My house and have charge of My courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here. Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who sit before you, for they are men who are a sign, a sign of this: Behold, I will send My servant the Branch. For behold, on the stone that I have set before Joshua, on a single stone with seven eyes, I will engrave its inscription, declares the Lord of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day. On that day, declares the Lord of hosts, every one of you will invite his neighbor to come under his vine and under his fig tree.””

Now here’s what he’s saying to Joshua. If you will remember that you were saved by God’s grace, if you will remember that you live in and walk in the power of Christ’s righteousness, and if you are faithful as a minister to serve Me, then three things are going to happen. Number one – I’m going to fill you with all the powers and privileges of a priest that you have direct access to God. You will go into the holy of holies. You will offer the sacrifices. You will atone for the sins of Israel on the day of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. No one will be closer to Me, physically and spiritually, than you and the men who sit here with you, the priesthood, the priests and Levites.

Secondly, you will be a sign. You will be a symbol of Jesus Christ. You will be a sign of this truth, “Behold, the branch is coming.” Now we know from Isaiah chapter 11 and other places that the branch is Jesus Christ. If we had time this morning we could read from Isaiah, chapter 11, that says that a branch of David is coming and He will be filled with the sevenfold wisdom and power of the Spirit. He will be a person who in a single day, on a Friday afternoon at Calvary, He will wash away the sins of His people. One afternoon. One day. And your ministry, Joshua, and those of the priests, will remind the people of that truth, that coming final Day of Atonement again and again and again, they’ll be raised to a new level of hope, knowing that you and your ministry are pointing to the eternal high priest yet to come.

Thirdly, you’ll be a witness to other people. You will have a stone that’s there, and we know that stone is a symbol of Christ, the cornerstone, talked about in the New [sic] Testament in Psalm 118, and that stone has seven eyes, seven ayin in Hebrew, which can mean an eye, an opening, or a fountain. Now we don’t know if it means that the Holy Spirit’s wisdom, the seven eyes of the Lord, or that there will be a flood coming out of the stone. I think it’s the latter, that out of the stone, seven being the number symbolic number of fullness and completion, out of this stone, Jesus Christ, will come a flood of cleansing mercy and blood for the whole world.

Just as the last vision of Ezekiel is this little trickle that comes out from the stone under the Temple’s seat, it becomes a river that covers the whole world, a river of redemptive grace that makes everything new.

We used to sing this in a church that I attended, wasn’t very Presbyterian, and Presbyterian would never sing this, it sounds too Baptist, but we used to sing about victory in Jesus. He plunged us to victory, beneath His cleansing flood.

And he’s saying you will be a witness to the work and the wonder of Jesus Christ and you will say to people, “Come, sit under my vine. Come to church. Come to the Temple. Join Israel.” And they will. From everywhere, they will.

This isn’t anything that’s rocket science. This is a minister who is redeemed by the grace of God, who is righteous in Jesus Christ, and faithful in his ministry. And God works through him in amazing ways as He does the people in the pew.

But to speak more specifically to you, the Holy Spirit gives Zechariah a second vision, now about Zerubbabel, the layman in this story, in chapter 4.

“And the angel who talked with me came again and woke me, like a man who is awakened out of his sleep. And he said to me, “What do you see?” and I said, “I see, and behold, a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it, and seven lamps on it, with seven lips on each of the lamps that are on the top of it. And there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.” And I said to the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?” Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” and 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. 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 are also to complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.”

““These seven are the eyes of the Lord, which range through the whole earth.” Then I said to him, “What are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the lampstand?” And a second time I answered and said to him, “What are these two branches of the olive trees, which are beside the two golden temple [sic] from which the golden oil is poured out?” He said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No, my lord.” Then he said, “These are the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.””

This is the prophecy about Zerubbabel. He’s an enigmatic character. We don’t know much about him. We don’t really know what his title and function was. But we know he led the first wave of people back to the holy land and he was the one who kind of governed them or at least oversaw what they were doing and reported back to Babylon, to the king. He was given charge and permission to rebuild the house, so he laid the foundation of this house. He’d seen in a previous vision with a plumb line he’s measuring the city of Jerusalem and figuring out the perfect place to put the Temple.

We don’t know much about his family life. In 1 Chronicles we’re told that he’s the son of Pedaiah, but in Ezra and Haggai and Matthew, he’s called the son of Shealtiel, which probably means that his biological father was Shealtiel, who died, and some other family member, a man named Pedaiah, performed the levirate responsibility and married his mother and took him as his legal son.

But either way he’s here, and here are three things about him that the Lord God wants us to know.

First of all, he’s a man full of the Holy Spirit. He’s standing in the sanctuary as if it’s already completed in the Temple, and he’s standing before a huge menorah. You know what a menorah is, it’s that lamp that symbolizes Judaism that has seven different lamps or lights or founts, on them. But this is a unique menorah. Not only does it have the seven lamps but on each of the little lamps of the menorah is another menorah. So there are 49 lights. And on each side of it there are two olive trees with a golden pipe that is going down into the center bowl providing the olive oil to burn the lamps.

God says of this man, “It is not by might and not by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of Hosts.” It’s not going to be for any natural abilities of leadership, for any exceptionally wonderful IQ, not for his ability to charm people and talk them into something, that Joshua’s going to accomplish this very difficult job of rebuilding the Temple in hostile places and difficult times. It will be by the fact that he will be full of the Holy Spirit.

Now we know the lamp is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, because Jesus Christ, the angel of the Lord, interprets it that way. It’s not by might or power, it’s by the Spirit that he’ll do these things. We also know in the New Testament, in the book of Revelation, that the menorah, the lamp, symbolizes the Holy Spirit. There’s a menorah or lamp that stands before the throne of God in chapter 4 in the heavenly throne room in the book of Revelation, but it also symbolizes the Church. There are seven lampstands, like the seven churches of Revelation. It’s a picture that Joshua is in the Church and the Church and he are full of the Holy Spirit so that they can do the things that he wants to do.

You know, it’s interesting, folks, that in the day of small things, we always look for big people. We think if we’re falling in numbers or if the money is down or if we’re facing difficulties, we really need some super-duper guy to come along and rally us. But God is saying you don’t need that. You just need the people in the pew to be filled with the Holy Spirit and that’s all you need. It will not be by your might, a word that can mean your wonder. It cannot be that you’re dazzling or that you have dynamis, dunamite, power. It’ll be because of the Spirit who lives in you.

He says a second thing about him. He’s a man who is an overcomer. He talks about this mountain. In fact, he speaks to the mountain – “Who are you, great mountain, before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain.” That mountain is a symbol of all of the huge things that poor Zerubbabel and Joshua faced, but like the prophets that Isaiah talked about, the voice of the Lord crying in the wilderness, “Make a way for the Lord for every valley shall be litted up and every hill be made low and a plain will be there, and on that plain will be a highway, the highway of holiness, and only the redeemed will walk on it.”

Zerubbabel simply because he perseveres, because he won’t give up, he’s able to move this mountain of problems away and finally finish the building of that Temple. We are reminded of this in our lives and in our own Scriptures in the New Testament. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation or distress, or persecution or famine, or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written, for your sake we’ve been slaughtered all day long, we are guarded as sheep to be killed. No, no, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us, for I am convinced that neither death nor life, that neither things present or things to come, nor powers nor principalities, nor angels or demons, height nor depth, nor any other thing under all creation, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Nothing will be able to stop us. The Church will not be able to be stopped even by the gates of hell, Jesus said. They will not prevail against it.

You know, it the New Testament, in the Pastoral Epistles, there are five trustworthy statements. They actually begin with the statement, “It is a trustworthy thing.” The very last one, the fifth one, is about the power of perseverance. It says, “It is a trustworthy thing that if we died with Him, we will also live with Him; if we endure, we will also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He will deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful. For He cannot deny Himself.”

You know, we talk in the Christian Church a lot about the virtues of faith and hope and charity and joy and peace and goodness and self-control. You know the one that we neglect the most, in my opinion, is perseverance, and yet it’s mentioned all through the Bible. We are living in an age, quite frankly, loved ones, where Americans don’t like to do hard things. And if it gets too hard, they quit.

But Joshua and Zerubbabel were not going to do that. I have learned through 40 years of ministry that sometimes the best thing you can be is just dog-eared stubborn. You look at your opposition and say, “One of us is going to get worn down and quit and it ain’t gonna be me.” God blesses that perseverance. After all, it was Jesus who said the one who endures to the end will be saved. We just need to keep pressing on. If we’re the right kind of people in the righteousness of Christ, headed in the right direction that the Holy Spirit’s indicated, doing the right things, we just need to persevere. And after you’ve suffered for a little while, Peter says, the God of all grace will bless you.

The last thing we learned about him is that he was able to do this, he was able to persevere, because he was a man united to Jesus Christ through faith. The prophet is given this little word and he says, as he looks to these trees, he asks a second time, ““What are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the lampstand?” And a second time I said to him, “What areas these two branches of the olive trees which are beside the two golden pipes from which the golden oil is poured out?” He said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No, Lord.” Then he said to me, “These are the two anointed ones,”” listen carefully, ““These are the two anointed ones [Joshua and Zerubbabel] who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.””

These are two men who have experienced union with Christ, just as you and I do. They were men who lived with this reality, “I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. And the life that I now live in this flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me. He loved me and gave Himself up for me. And I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

It was because they were united to Christ, because Christ was actually living and speaking and working and leading and praying through them, that they were able to do things not by their might, not by their power, but by the Spirit of the living Christ who lived in them and who had united Himself to them, so that whatever true of Christ was true for them, whatever God had promised Jesus Christ He had promised them, whatever Jesus would end up with in glory, so would they. Because they were part of Christ and they could never be separated from the love of Jesus Christ. Never. Never.

You know, I’m thinking that COVID-19 is really a blessing. I believe, you know this, I’ve said it a hundred times to you, that everything that happens in the world in a week is always happening for the benign of Christ’s Church. He causes all things to work together for our good. That means that COVID has come for the benefit of Christ’s Church. It’s what we might call a severe mercy. It doesn’t feel like a blessing at first, but it is. Because one-third of all of the pastors who weren’t really called by the Lord, who are not really walking in the Spirit, they don’t want to persevere, they want to do things in their own power and strength and not by Christ, and perhaps they’ve not even been saved or justified. They’ve left. They’re not coming back.

Perhaps one-third of all the people who won’t come because of COVID, but really stay home because it’s more convenient to have a cup of coffee and be in their jammies and slippers and go to church than it is to come and do life on life and rub up against you folks and do life the hard way, but the way God intended. They’re gone. And they’re not coming back.

But John said of these kinds of people, they went out from us because they were not of us, for if they had been with us, they would have remained with us and continued.

It’s kind of like Gideon’s men, I think. God is boiling down a fluffy church with a lot of dead weight to a remnant. Remember, I told you at the beginning 50,000 people went back to Jerusalem, out of 2.4 million. 50,000. But that’s the ones God wanted back there. Mordecai and Esther didn’t go. There were others who stayed in all of the places that were bigger and richer, had better economies and easy lives, and they became comfortable living in a pagan world with their Judaism on the side, but not these 50,000.

Even though they are not as famous as the people in Hebrews 11, the hall of faith, they were like them, for they were looking for a city that has foundations whose architect and builder was God. They were looking to the city of God and they were willing to sacrifice everything, even their lives and the lives of their children, by taking this dangerous journey back to Judah and being part of a little remnant that rebuilt a temple and then a city, a religion, and a way of life.

Joshua and Zerubbabel had this vision in their mind. They probably didn’t know it as clearly as we do, but they were building this little temple, just a shadow of what Solomon’s great temple had been, because they believed that God would visit it again. That little temple was later enlarged by a man named Herod the Great so that into that temple one day would walk the Lord Jesus Christ, God in the flesh Himself, and say, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and I will give you rest. I am the living water, I am the light of the world, I am the bread of life. There is no way to God except through Me.”

His name, by the way, was Joshua. Jesus.

They were building a city that probably was, as I’ve read, about 27 acres in size. It would soon become a much larger city. And it would be used as a symbol of the Church of Jesus Christ, Zion, the city of God. That little temple and that little city would grow both spiritually and figuratively into this great image that we read about in the New Testament today, the city of God in which there is Jesus Christ, the living temple.

These two little guys and the people with them had this vision on their mind. They were saying to you and me it’s not important that we’re in the day of small things because the day of greater things is coming. It’s not important that I feel discouraged today because one day I will worship with God in His presence. It’s not important whether people think that my ministry is successful or that I’m the greatest Christian that ever walked, because there will come a day when I won’t have to do any of that and I’ll be in the presence of the hero of it all and nothing else, nothing else will matter on that great day.

I want you to be encouraged, my little saints, encouraged with me that God has for us a great future planned. He has redeemed us from the fire, clothed us in His righteousness, put His Holy Spirit within us, called us to a Church and given us a ministry, and put us in a body of believers that are a remnant of the Lord in an unfaithful world.

You want to know an interesting fact about these men? About the time they died, 58 years later than this prophecy, into that temple and into that city there came a great revival under the ministry of another priest and governor, Ezra and Nehemiah. Revival, my friends, is coming, and the Lord is boiling down the remnant for that day to encourage us with another surge of the Spirit to go another decade or two, another generation or three, until we keep going forward and forward and forward and one day we hear the trumpet sound and Jesus says, “Enough. I’m coming again.”

Let’s pray. Father, we live because of what is in our future. We die with a vision of what is yet to come. The greatest reality we face is not the things we experience, but the promises of Your Word and the presence of Your Son. He has told us that He’s coming again, and all the earth will be full of His glory. He has told us on that date there will be billions of saints from every nation, people, tribe, language, every group of people that could ever dwell on this earth, they will all be there. He will come into His Temple, the Church. Out of the sky behind Him will come the great city of God, dressed out like a bride adorned for her great day with jewels and pearls and gold, glory, and we will be there. The Church will arrive. We will have reached our home, the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is You. In these days of small things, strengthen us in what You’ve already given us, salvation, righteousness, and the Spirit. Empower us for what lies before us, worship and witness, perseverance and walking with Christ. And in it all, keep our eyes focused on the One who is the star of the show and the centerpiece of the story, our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, the hero of it all. Do this for us, we pray, for Christ’s sake, as we ask it is His name. Amen.