Zechariah 4:9
The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Zechariah

THE SOURCE OF POWER

THE FOUNDER AND FINISHER OF THE TEMPLE

Zechariah 4:9
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I am afraid that Zerubbabel is very little more than a grotesque name to most Bible-readers, so I may be allowed a word of explanation as to him and as to the original force of my text. He was a prince of the blood royal of Israel, and the civil leader of the first detachment of returning exiles. With Joshua, the high priest, he came, at the head of a little company, to Palestine, and there pathetically attempted, with small resources, to build up some humble house that might represent the vanished glories of Solomon’s Temple. Political enmity on the part of the surrounding tribes stopped the work for nearly twenty years. During all that time, the hole in the ground, where the foundations had been dug and a few courses of stones been laid, gaped desolate, a sad reminder to the feeble band of the failure of their hopes. But with the accession of a new Persian king, new energy sprang up, and new, favourable circumstances developed themselves. The Prophet Zechariah came to the front, although quite a young man, and became the mainspring of the renewed activity in building the Temple. The words of my text are, of course, in their plain, original meaning, the prophetic assurance that the man, grown an old man by this time, who had been honoured to take the first spadeful of soil out of the earth should be the man ‘to bring forth the headstone with shoutings of Grace, grace unto it!’

But whilst that is the original application, and whilst the words open to us a little door into long years of constrained suspension of work and discouraged hope, I think we shall not be wrong if we recognise in them something deeper than a reference to the Prince of David’s line, concerning whom they were originally spoken. I take them to be, in the true sense of the term, a Messianic prophecy; and I take it that, just because Zerubbabel, a member of that royal house from which the Messiah was to come, was the builder of the Temple, he was a prophetic person. What was true about him primarily is thereby shown to have a bearing upon the greater Son of David who was to come thereafter, and who was to build the Temple of the Lord. In that aspect I desire to look at the words now: ‘His hands have laid the foundation of the house, and His hands shall also finish it.’

I. There is, then, here a large truth as to Christ, the true Temple-builder.

It is the same blessed message which was given from His own lips long centuries after, when He spoke from heaven to John in Patmos, and said, ‘I am Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last.’ The first letter of the Greek alphabet, and the last letter of the Greek alphabet, and all the letters that lie between, and all the words that you can make out of the letters-they are all from Him, and He underlies everything.

Now that is true about creation, in the broadest and in the most absolute sense. For what does the New Testament say, with the consenting voice of all its writers? ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Without Him was not anything made that was made.’ His hands laid the foundations of this great house of the universe, with its ‘many mansions.’ And what says Paul? ‘He is the Beginning, in Him all things consist’ . . . ‘that in all things He might have the pre-eminence.’ And what says He Himself from heaven? ‘I am the First and the Last.’ So, in regard to everything in the universe, Christ is its origin, and Christ is its goal and its end. He ‘has laid the foundation, and His hands shall also finish it.’

But, further, we turn to the application which is the more usual one, and say that He is the Beginner and Finisher of the work of redemption, which is His only from its inception to its accomplishment, from the first breaking of the ground for the foundations of the Temple to the triumphant bringing forth of the last stone that crowns the corner and gleams on the topmost pinnacle of the completed structure. There is nothing about Jesus Christ, as it seems to me, more manifest, unless our eyes are blinded by prejudice, than that the Carpenter of Nazareth, who grew up amidst the ordinary conditions of infant manhood, was trained as other Jewish children, increased in wisdom, spoke a language that had been moulded by man, and inherited His nation’s mental and spiritual equipment, yet stands forth on the pages of these four Gospels as a perfectly original man, to put it on the lowest ground, and as owing nothing to any predecessor, and not as merely one in a series, or naturally accounted for by reference to His epoch or conditions. He makes a new beginning; He presents a perfectly fresh thing in the history of human nature. Just as His coming was the introduction into the heart of humanity of a new type, the second Adam, the Lord from heaven, so the work that He does is all His own. He does it all Himself, for all that His servants do in carrying out the purposes dear to His heart is done by His working in and through them, and though we are fellow-labourers with Him, His hands alone lay every stone of the Temple.

Not only does my text, in its highest application, point to Jesus Christ as the Author of redemption from its very beginning, but it also declares that all through the ages His hand is at work. ‘Shall also finish it’-then He is labouring at it now; and we have not to think of a Christ who once worked, and has left to us the task of developing the consequences of His completed activity, but of a Christ who is working on and on, steadily and persistently. The builders of some great edifice, whilst they are laying its lower courses, are down upon our level, and as the building rises the scaffolding rises, and sometimes the platform where they stand is screened off by some frail canvas stretched round it, so that we cannot see them as they ply their work with trowel and mortar. So Christ came down to earth to lay the courses of His Temple that had to rest upon earth, but now the scaffolding is raised and He is working at the top stories. Though out of our sight, He is at work as truly and energetically as He was when He was down here. You remember how strikingly one of the Evangelists puts that thought in the last words of his Gospel-if, indeed, they are his words. ‘He was received up into heaven, and sat at the right hand of God, and they went everywhere, preaching the word.’ Well, that looks as if there were a sad separation between the Commander and the soldiers that He had ordered to the front, as if He were sitting at ease on a hill overlooking the battlefield from a safe distance and sending His men to death. But the next words bring Him and them together-’The Lord also working with them, and confirming the word with signs following.’ And so, brethren, a work begun, continued, and ended by the same immortal Hand, is the work on which the redemption of the world depends.

II. Notice, secondly, that we have here the assurance of the triumph of the Gospel.

No doubt, in the long-forgotten days in which my text was spoken, there were plenty of over-prudent calculators in the little band of exiles who said, ‘What is the use of our trying to build in face of all this opposition and with these poor resources of ours?’ They would throw cold water enough on the works of Zerubbabel, and on Zechariah who inspired them. But there came the great word of promise to them, ‘He shall bring forth the headstone with shoutings.’ The text is the cure for all such calculations by us Christian people, and by others than Christian people. When we begin to count up resources, and to measure these against the work to be done, there is little wonder if good men and bad men sometimes concur in thinking that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has very little chance of conquering the world. And that is perfectly true, unless you take Him into the calculation, and then the probabilities look altogether different. We are but like a long row of ciphers, but put one significant figure in front of the row of ciphers and it comes to be of value. And so, if you are calculating the probabilities of the success of Christianity in the world and forget to start with Christ, you have left out the principal factor in the problem. Churches lose their fervour, their members die and pass away. He renews and purifies the corrupted Church, and He liveth for ever. Therefore, because we may say, with calm confidence, ‘His hands have laid the foundation of the house, and His hands are at work on all the courses of it as it rises,’ we may be perfectly sure that the Temple which He founded, at which He still toils, shall be completed, and not stand a gaunt ruin, looking on which passers-by will mockingly say, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ When Brennus conquered Rome, and the gold for the city’s ransom was being weighed, he clashed his sword into the scale to outweigh the gold. Christ’s sword is in the scale, and it weighs more than the antagonism of the world and the active hostility of hell. ‘His hands have laid the foundation; His hands shall also finish it.’

III. Still further, here is encouragement for despondent and timid Christians.

Jesus Christ is not going to leave you half way across the bog. That is not His manner of guiding us. He began; He will finish. Remember the words of Paul which catch up this same thought: ‘Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perfect the same until the day of Jesus Christ.’ Brethren! if the seed of the kingdom is in our hearts, though it be but as a grain of mustard seed, be sure of this, that He will watch over it and bless the springing thereof. So, although when we think of ourselves, our own slowness of progress, our own feeble resolutions, our own wayward hearts, our own vacillating wills, our many temptations, our many corruptions, our many follies, we may well say to ourselves, ‘Will there ever be any greater completeness in this terribly imperfect Christian character of mine than there is to-day?’ Let us be of good cheer, and not think only of ourselves, but much rather of Him who works on and in and for us. If we lift up our hearts to Him, and keep ourselves near Him, and let Him work, He will work. If we do not-like the demons in the old monastic stories, who every night pulled down the bit of walling that the monks had in the daytime built for their new monastery-by our own hands pull down what He, by His hand, has built up, the structure will rise, and we shall be ‘builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit.’ Be of good cheer, only keep near the Master, and let Him do what He desires to do for us all. God is ‘faithful who hath called us to the fellowship of His Son,’ and He also will do it.

IV. Lastly, here is a striking contrast to the fate which attends all human workers.

There are very few of us who even partially seem to be happy enough to begin and finish any task, beyond the small ones of our daily life. Authors die, with books half finished, with sentences half finished sometimes, where the pen has been laid down. No man starts an entirely fresh line of action; he inherits much from his past. No man completes a great work that he undertakes; he leaves it half-finished, and coming generations, if it is one of the great historical works of the world, work out its consequences for good or for evil. The originator has to be contented with setting the thing going and handing on unfinished tasks to his successors. That is the condition under which we live. We have to be contented to do our little bit of work, that will fit in along with that of a great many others, like a chain of men who stand between a river and a burning house, and pass the buckets from end to end. How many hands does it take to make a pin? How many did it take to make the cloth of our dress? The shepherd out in Australia, the packer in Melbourne, the sailors on the ship that brought the wool home, the railwayman that took it to Bradford, the spinner, the weaver, the dyer, the finisher, the tailor-they all had a hand in it, and the share of none of them was fit to stand upright by itself, as it were, without something on either side of it to hold it up.

So it is in all our work in the world, and eminently in our Christian work. We have to be contented with being parts of a mighty whole, to do our small piece of service, and not to mind though it cannot be singled out in the completed whole. What does that matter, as long as it is there? The waters of the brook are lost in the river, and it, in turn, in the sea. But each drop is there, though indistinguishable.

Multiplication of joy comes from division of labour, ‘One soweth and another reapeth,’ and the result is that there are two to be glad over the harvest instead of one-’that he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.’ So it is a good thing that the hands that laid the foundations so seldom are the hands that finish the work; for thereby there are more admitted into the social gladness of the completed results. The navvy that lifted the first spadeful of earth in excavating for the railway line, and the driver of the locomotive over the completed track, are partners in the success and in the joy. The forgotten bishop who, I know not how many centuries ago, laid the foundations of Cologne Cathedral, and the workmen who, a few years since, took down the old crane that had stood for long years on the spire, and completed it to the slender apex, were partners in one work that reached through the ages.

So let us do our little bit of work, and remember that whilst we do it, He for whom we are doing it is doing it in us, and let us rejoice to know that at the last we shall share in the ‘joy of our Lord,’ when He sees of the travail of His soul and is satisfied. Though He builds all Himself, yet He will let us have the joy of feeling that we are labourers together with Him. ‘Ye are God’s building’; but the Builder permits us to share in His task and in His triumph.

4:8-10 The exact fulfilment of Scripture prophecies is a convincing proof of their Divine original. Though the instruments be weak and unlikely, yet God often chooses such, to bring about great things by them. Let not the dawning light be despised; it will shine more and more to the perfect day. Those who despaired of finishing the work, shall rejoice when they see Zerubbabel giving directions what to do, and taking care that the work be done. It is a comfort to us that the same all-wise, almighty Providence, which governs the earth, is in particular conversant about the church. All that have the plummet in their hands, must look up to the eyes of the Lord, have constant regard to Divine Providence, act in dependence on its guidance and submission to its disposals. Let us fix our faith on Christ, and view Him carrying on his work according to his own glorious plan, and daily bringing his spiritual building nearer to completion.And the word of the Lord - Keil: "This word of the Lord is not addressed through 'the interpreting angel,' but direct from the Lord, and that through the 'Angel of the Lord' . For though in the first instance the words, "the hands of Zerubbabel etc.," relate to the building of the material temple, and announce its completion through Zerubbabel yet the inference, "and thou shalt know theft the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto you," shows that the meaning is not exhausted thereby, but that here too this building is mentioned only as a type of the building of the spiritual temple ; and the completion of the typical temple is but a pledge of the completion of the true temple. For not through the completion of the material temple, but only through the building of the kingdom of God, shadowed forth by it, can Judah know, that the Angel of the Lord was sent to him." 9. Zerubbabel … shall … finish it—(Ezr 6:15) in the sixth year of Darius' reign.

Lord … sent me unto you—(Zec 2:9). The Divine Angel announces that in what He has just spoken, He has been commissioned by God the Father.

The hands; perhaps (as is customary) he did lay the first stone with his own hands; or rather, his direction, and command, and under his conduct.

Have laid the foundation, in the second year of Cyrus, perhaps forty years ago, likelier seventeen, but be those years more or less,

he shall finish it: thus the prophet expressly promiseth from the Lord, both continuance of Zerubbabel’s life, care, and power, as also his success in this work, to encourage both him and the Jews.

And thou, whoever thou art that dost hear me, both Zerubbabel and all among the Jews, shalt know, shall be fully assured, and certainly know,

that the Lord of hosts, God of truth and mercy, our God from our fathers, who remembers his covenant, hath sent me, commanded me to preach these things, unto you, returned captives and poor builders of this stately and magnificent house.

The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house,.... The temple at Jerusalem, which was laid, or however renewed, after it had been long neglected, even the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, two months before this vision and prophecy, Haggai 2:18 compared with Zechariah 1:7,

his hands shall also finish it: signified by bringing in the head or top stone, Zechariah 4:7 and so Christ our great Zerubbabel has laid the foundation of his church, which is no other than himself; and is a foundation firm and strong, sure and certain, immovable and everlasting; and his hands will finish the building of it, by bringing and laying every elect soul upon this foundation; which may be concluded from his hands being those which have laid the foundations of the heavens and the earth; uphold all things in being, and hold the reins of government; and who, as Mediator, has all the persons of his people in his hands, and all grace and glory for them: his hands also have laid the foundation of grace in the hearts of his people, and he will finish it; he, who is the author, will be the finisher of faith:

and thou shall know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto you; this clause is not an address to Zerubbabel, as Aben Ezra and others think; but to the people of the Jews, as appears from the plural word used, at the end of it; nor are the words spoken by the prophet of himself; though the Targum paraphrases them to this sense,

"and ye shall know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me to prophesy unto you;''

that is, when they should see his prophecies accomplished, and the temple built, then they would know and acknowledge that he was a true prophet, sent of God unto them; nor is the angel designed, so often mentioned, that talked with the prophet; for he was sent, not to the Jews, but to him; but they are spoken by the Messiah, called "the Word of the Lord"; Zechariah 4:8 who, when he shall have finished the work of grace on every man's heart by his Spirit, and shall have completed the whole Gospel building, the church, by gathering in everyone of the elect; then it shall be known and owned by all, both the converted Jews and Gentiles, that he is the true Messiah, the sent of God to the forefathers of the Jews, who came to preach the Gospel to them, work miracles among them, and obtain eternal redemption for men.

The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and {g} thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me to you.

(g) Meaning, the Prophet, that I am Christ sent from my Father for the building and preservation of my spiritual temple.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
9. thou shalt know, &c.] It is again asserted that the divine mission of the angel shall be proved by the accomplishment of that which he predicts. Comp. Zechariah 2:11; Deuteronomy 18:22.

Verse 9. - Have laid the foundation. Zerubbabel had commenced the rebuilding in the second year of the return, in the second month (Ezra 3:8); it had been hindered by the opposition of the neighbouring people (Ezra 4:1-5, 24), and was not resumed till the second year of Darius. Shall finish it. The temple was finished in Darius's sixth year (Ezra 6:15). Thou shalt know, etc. The truth of the angel's mission would be proved by the event, viz. the successful issue (comp. ch. 2:9, 11; 6:15; Deuteronomy 18:22). The completion of the material temple was a pledge of the establishment of the spiritual temple, the Church of God. Zechariah 4:9A further and still clearer explanation of the angel's answer (Zechariah 4:6 and Zechariah 4:7) is given in the words of Jehovah which follow in Zechariah 4:8-10. Zechariah 4:8. "And the word of Jehovah came to me thus: Zechariah 4:9. The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house, and his hands will finish it; and thou wilt know that Jehovah of hosts hath sent me to you. Zechariah 4:10. For who despiseth the day of small things? and they joyfully behold the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel, those seven: the eyes of Jehovah, they sweep through the whole earth." This word of God is not addressed to the prophet through the angelus interpres, but comes direct from Jehovah, though, as Zechariah 4:9 clearly shows when compared with Zechariah 2:9 and Zechariah 2:11, through the Maleach Jehovah. Although the words "the hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house" unquestionably refer primarily to the building of the earthly temple, and announce the finishing of that building by Zerubbabel, yet the apodosis commencing with "and thou shalt know" shows that the sense is not thereby exhausted, but rather that the building is simply mentioned here as a type of the spiritual temple (as in Zechariah 7:12-13), and that the completion of the typical temple simply furnishes a pledge of the completion of the true temple. For it was not by the finishing of the earthly building, but solely by the carrying out of the kingdom of God which this shadowed forth, that Judah could discern that the angel of Jehovah had been sent to it. This is also apparent from the reason assigned for this promise in Zechariah 4:10, the meaning of which has been explained in very different ways. Many take ושׂמחוּ וגו as an apodosis, and connect it with כּי מי בז as the protasis: "for whoever despises the day of small things, they shall see with joy," etc. (lxx, Chald., Pesh., Vulg., Luther., Calv., and others); but מי can hardly be taken as an indefinite pronoun, inasmuch as the introduction of the apodosis by Vav would be unsuitable, and it has hitherto been impossible to find a single well-established example of the indefinite מי followed by a perfect with Vav consec. And the idea that vesâmechū is a circumstantial clause, in the sense of "whereas they see with joy" (Hitzig, Koehler), is equally untenable, for in a circumstantial clause the verb never stands at the head, but always the subject; and this is so essential, that if the subject of the minor (or circumstantial) clause is a noun which has already been mentioned in a major clause, either the noun itself, or at any rate its pronoun, must be repeated (Ewald, 341, a), because this is the only thing by which the clause can be recognised as a circumstantial clause. We must therefore take מי as an interrogative pronoun: Who has ever despised the day of the small things? and understand the question in the sense of a negation, "No one has ever despised," etc. The perfect baz with the syllable sharpened, for bâz, from būz (like tach for tâch in Isaiah 44:18; cf. Ges. 72, Anm. 8), expresses a truth of experience resting upon facts. The words contain a perfect truth, if we only take them in the sense in which they were actually intended, - namely, that no one who hopes to accomplish, or does accomplish, anything great, despises the day of the small things. Yōm qetannōth, a day on which only small things occur (cf. Numbers 22:18). This does not merely mean the day on which the foundation-stone of the temple was first laid, and the building itself was still in the stage of its small beginnings, according to which the time when the temple was built up again in full splendour would be the day of great things (Koehler and others). For the time when Zerubbabel's temple was finished - namely, the sixth year of Darius - was just as miserable as that in which the foundation was laid, and the building that had been suspended was resumed once more. The whole period from Darius to the coming of the Messiah, who will be the first to accomplish great things, is a day of small things, as being a period in which everything that was done for the building of the kingdom of God seemed but small, and in comparison with the work of the Messiah really was small, although it contained within itself the germs of the greatest things.

The following perfects, ושׂמחוּ וראוּ, have Vav consec., and express the consequence, though not "the necessary consequence, of their having despised the day of small beginnings," as Koehler imagines, who for that reason properly rejects this view, but the consequence which will ensue if the day of small things is not despised. The fact that the clause beginning with vesâmechū is attached to the first clause of the verse in the form of a consequence, may be very simply explained on the ground that the question "who hath despised," with its negative answer, contains an admonition to the people and their rulers not to despise the small beginnings. If they lay this admonition to heart, the seven eyes of God will see with delight the plumb-lead in the hand of Zerubbabel. In the combination ושׂמחוּ וראוּ the verb sâmechū takes the place of an adverb (Ges. 142, 3, a). אבן הבּדיל is not a stone filled up with lead, but an 'ebhen which is lead, i.e., the plumb-lead or plummet. A plummet in the hand is a sign of being engaged in the work of building, or of superintending the erection of a building. The meaning of the clause is therefore, "Then will the seven eyes of Jehovah look with joy, or with satisfaction, upon the execution," not, however, in the sense of "They will find their pleasure in this restored temple, and look upon it with protecting care" (Kliefoth); for if this were the meaning, the introduction of the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel would be a very superfluous addition. Zerubbabel is still simply the type of the future Zerubbabel - namely, the Messiah - who will build the true temple of God; and the meaning is the following: Then will the seven eyes of God help to carry out this building. שׁבעה אלּה cannot be grammatically joined to עיני יהוה in the sense of "these seven eyes," as the position of 'ēlleh (these) between the numeral and the noun precludes this; but עיני יהוה is an explanatory apposition to שׁבעה אלּה: "those (well-known) seven, (viz.) the eyes of Jehovah." The reference is to the seven eyes mentioned in the previous vision, which are directed upon a stone. These, according to Zechariah 3:9, are the sevenfold radiations or operations of the Spirit of the Lord. Of these the angel of the Lord says still further here: They sweep through the whole earth, i.e., their influence stretches over all the earth. These words also receive their full significance only on the supposition that the angel of Jehovah is speaking of the Messianic building of the house or kingdom of God. For the eyes of Jehovah would not need to sweep through the whole earth, in order to see whatever could stand in the way and hinder the erection of Zerubbabel's temple, but simply to watch over the opponents of Judah in the immediate neighbourhood and the rule of Darius.

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