The Day of Small Things

Who [with reason] despises the day of small things? Zechariah 4.10 (AMP)

“Don’t despise the day of small things!” is simultaneously a piece of encouraging advice and a warning rooted in the conviction that greatness often starts out small. The nuclear physicist was once learning simple addition and subtraction as a four year old. The builder who built the stadium or the thousand foot high tower one day had to lay the first brick. Noah began building the ark when he chopped down a tree and turned it into a piece of timber. Everyone has to start somewhere and everyone usually has to start small.

However, it is easy to despise the day of small things because the basic arithmetic, the first brick or the first piece of timber seem so distant from the finished product. It is even easier to despise the day of small things when the day of small things is at a time in your life when you thought you would be doing greater things!

That might well have been the case in the time of Zechariah and his contemporaries, Zerubbabel and Joshua. They had returned from exile in 538 B.C. with the intention of rebuilding the temple. Twenty years later, they had only got as far as laying the foundations. Through a mixture of opposition and political upheaval in the Persian empire, the building project had ground to a halt. In addition, the people, perhaps because of the slowness of the progress had begun, according to the prophet Haggai, to focus on building their own houses, neglecting God’s house in the process.

At some point God sent along the prophet Zechariah to stir up the people again, in particular their leaders, Zerubbabel and Joshua. To hear a word about despising the day of small things must have cut to their hearts emotionally. Years of discouragement. The added disappointment that the return from exile was not as glorious as they had expected. And on top of all that, the nation had been reduced to a province of Persia and renamed Judea. No longer was Jerusalem the glorious city of David’s day and it must have seemed light years away from the prophesied future glory.

It certainly was the day of small things. In such an environment, Zerubbabel and Joshua were called to start building again. Emotionally, that must have been difficult.

To help them, God gave them two powerful reasons to restart the work.

Firstly, they were anointed to do it (Zechariah 4.1-3, 11-4). Secondly, the Spirit of God was their real power source (Zechariah 4.6).

Perhaps the amplified translation brings out best the flavour of the exhortation about despising the day of small things:

Who [with reason] despises the day of small things? Zechariah 4.10 (AMP)

When we find ourselves having to take very small, very basic steps to begin to fulfil our vision, it can be emotionally difficult to see the connection with any intended greatness. If the call is to restart a project which we have abandoned  – or would would like to abandon!- it can be very hard at an emotional level to get back to work.

But when we recognise God’s anointing and that His Spirit is with us we have no good reason to despise the day of small things. Our feelings might cause us to despise the day of small things, but we have no good reason to despise the day of small things.

I’ll leave you with The Message translation:

Does anyone dare despise this day of small beginnings? They’ll change their tune when they see Zerubbabel setting the last stone in place!”

Small beginnings, but a great and glorious ending.

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