Ze-rub-ba-bel — what a name.
His name meant “Seed of Babylon (or one sown of Babylon)” but his Hebrew pedigree included the future Messiah, Jesus Christ.
After the Persians conquered the Babylonians, the Persians appointed Zerubbabel to be governor of Judea, and honored his request to rebuild the Jewish temple at Jerusalem. Zerubbabel led fifty thousand exiles out of Babylon with the hope of restoring temple worship in God’s Holy City (Ezra 4).
Amid the ruins of Solomon’s temple at Jerusalem, the Jewish colonists celebrated their return by building an altar to God. It took two years for them to lay a foundation for a new temple, where the former temple had been razed.
As they worked, the situation grew complicated. Jealous residents surrounding Jerusalem intimidated Zerubbabel’s project managers. Samaritan agitators also carried false tales to the monarch in Babylon, accusing the exiles of plotting insurrection!
The Persian king heeded the lies and commanded Zerubbabel to cease construction on the temple altogether.
For 16 discouraging years, Zerubbabel parked his destiny, waiting for political tensions to stabilize. Malaise infiltrated the Jewish community and Zerubbabel’s own apathy weighed upon him like tons of wall debris.
Shouldn’t they build comfortable homes and plant gardens while they waited for circumstances to change? Even their idolatrous neighbors tolerated them. It seemed ludicrous to jeopardize the “harmony.”
A paralysis of analysis (inability to make a decision due to over-rumination) seems to have held Zerubbabel in its grip — until God stirred the prophet Zechariah to tell him:
“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!’” Zech. 4:7
To the naked eye, nothing changed: Rubble still littered the temple mount. Zerubbabel had received no new authorization from the Persians to jumpstart construction on the temple.
But God had spoken:
Zerubbabel would affix the last building block in God’s temple. As an ode to God’s mandate, Zerubbabel would “cut the ribbon” at a celebration with shouts of: “Grace! Grace!” to certify the completion of the work that God assigned.
Zerubbabel determined to follow God’s mandate and immediately revived the temple project without permission from the Persian monarch. The Persians paid little attention to construction of the Jewish temple during their frenetic military campaigns elsewhere. The Hebrew exiles completed construction of the temple at Jerusalem in four years.
Zerubbabel’s “great mountain” symbolized insurmountable piles of trouble. But he believed that the Spirit of God would level it like a plain. Zerubbabel simply agreed with God’s word to him.
Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts.
When the Holy Spirit partners with us to accomplish impossible tasks, we can be assured that our mountain will be demolished too.
Jesus alludes to the brand of faith demonstrated by Zerubbabel and others in scripture, when he said to his disciples:
“Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.” Mark 11:23
To “believe” like Zerubbabel is to agree with what God has already said to you.
Do you have a mountain? I’m very familiar with my own. Time may pass at a snail’s pace. We may grow weary of our responsibility or commission — but BELIEVE that God has not forgotten his promise to move your mountain.