International Sunday School lesson
For June Sunday 22, 2014
Purpose: To find comfort in the assurance that God works out his long-term purposes in the lives of his faithful people.
Background: Nehemiah 7:1-7; Haggai 2:20-23; Zechariah 4
Haggai 2:20-23 (CEB)
(20) And the Lord’s word came to Haggai a second time on the twenty-fourth of the month, saying: (21) Speak to Judah’s governor Zerubbabel: I am about to make the heavens and the earth quake. (22) I will overthrow the thrones of the kingdoms; I will destroy the strength of the nations. I will overthrow chariot and rider; horses and riders will fall. Each one will fall by the sword of his companion. (23) On that day, says the Lord of heavenly forces: I will take you, Zerubbabel, Shealtiel’s son, my servant, says the Lord; I will make you like a signet ring because I have chosen you, says the Lord of heavenly forces.
Zechariah 4: 5-14 (CEB)
(5) The messenger responded to me: "Don’t you know what these are?" I said, "No, sir. I don’t." (6) He answered me: "This is the Lord’s word to Zerubbabel: Neither by power, nor by strength, but by my spirit, says the Lord of heavenly forces." (7) Who are you, Great Mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become a plain. He will present the capstone to shouts of great gratitude. (8) The Lord’s word came to me: (9) The hands of Zerubbabel laid the foundation of this house, and his hands will finish it so that you will know that the Lord of heavenly forces has sent me to you. (10) Those who despise a time of little things will rejoice when they see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand. These are the seven eyes of the Lord, surveying the entire earth. (11) I responded to him, "What are these two olive trees on the right and left sides of the lampstand?" (12) Then I responded a second time, "What are these two olive branches that empty out golden oil through the two gold pipes?" (13) He said to me, "Don’t you know what these are?" I said, "No, sir." (14) He said, "These are the two anointed ones standing beside the Lord of all the earth."
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
During the first three weeks our lessons have been from the Book of Haggai, a prophet during the time of rebuilding in Jerusalem. Today we also look at the prophet Zechariah, who prophesied in the same time period and about the same things as Haggai. Both Haggai and Zechariah were delivering God’s message.
Our first meeting with these two prophets comes in the Book of Ezra 5:1-2 (1) Then the prophet Haggai and the prophet Zechariah, Iddo’s son, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of Israel’s God who was over them. (2) Subsequently, Zerubbabel, Shealtiel’s son, and Jeshua, Jozadak’s son, began to rebuild God’s house in Jerusalem. God’s prophets were with them, helping them.)
The rebuilding of the temple had gotten stalled shortly after it was originally begun. It is now almost 17 years since the first exiles started returning to Jerusalem under supervision of the Persian king Cyrus. Cyrus appointed a descendant of the throne of David (Zerubbabel) as the governor of the territory that included Jerusalem. (Just a footnote: Cyrus and Darius the Mede they are likely the same person, just differing translations, Cyrus was both a Mede and a Persian. There is no Darius mentioned in secular history.)
God was using these four individuals, Governor Zerubbabel, chief priest Joshua/Jeshua, Haggai and Zechariah the prophets, to inspire and accomplish the rebuilding of the temple.
Haggai’s prophecy may have been for a much longer period of time than Haggai realized. Much of this prophecy comes true when a descendant of David is born in Bethlehem some 520 years later. It is Jesus that causes nations to tumble and kingdoms to be overthrown. It is Jesus that is given the “signet ring” taken from Zerubbabel’s grandfather. Maybe even more has become fact since the restoration of Israel since WWII.
Zechariah’s prophecy, if read, is much more complicated and harder to understand, since it deals with visions and dreams that Zechariah doesn’t understand. Which explains why our text talks about a messenger. God has to send a messenger to Zechariah to help him interpret his own visions.
The mountain referred to in verse 7, could be a mountain of rubble, left over from the destruction of the temple. Other visions presented are open to interpretation. My choice for the two olive trees would be Moses and Elijah, as seen on the mount of transfiguration. But that may only be me romanticizing.
One thing we know for sure is; “... Neither by power, nor by strength, but by my spirit, says the Lord of heavenly forces." God will use whomever is available to accomplish his will and His prophecies will always come true.