Zerubbabel “A man greatly favoured by God”
Zerubbabel is a lesser known bible character but for whom God had a lot of time. He was special in God’s eyes in that he sent prophets to him to encourage and strengthen him. Zerubabel made himself approachable to God and so was approached by God to do his will.
Zerubbabel is honored as the one who started and finished off the temple. Zerubbabel finds a special place in the bible and for eternity:
“On that day, declares the LORD of hosts, I will take you, O Zerubbabel my servant, the son of Shealtiel, declares the LORD, and make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you, declares the LORD of hosts.” Hag 2:23
Let us explore the life of this faithful man specially favored by God to rebuilt his house in which he took much pleasure.
Zerubbabel is introduced to us in Ezra as one of the early exiles returning to his homeland. It would have been an incredible time for him as he returned home to the promised land. Being of the royal line of David and growing up in Babylon (and bearing the name “Babel”) he was a leader or governor. (Ezr 2:1,2)
His first task along with the priests was to erect/rebuild the alter to sacrifice to the LORD. This led to great worship, sacrifices and encouragement. Enthused by this he along with the priests began the work of re-building the temple. When the builders had finished laying the foundation of the temple, the priests put on their robes and blew trumpets in honor of the LORD, while the Levites from the family of Asaph praised God with cymbals. All of them followed the instructions given years before by King David. (Exr 3)
This would be a heightened spiritual experience for the faithful Jews returning to their homeland as prophesied
Now trouble starts and there is discouragement. The enemies of the Jews rose up and confused them and stopped the work, Even though Cyrus the King of Persia had authorized the construction of the temple the surrounding people managed to confuse and discourage their work. [Ezr 4:1-5]
Cyrus was succeeded by Assuerus who was succeeded by Darius. This was a quiet period and people forgot about the temple and went about their own work. The building of the temple was no longer a priority. This is when God sent Haggai and Zechariah to Zerubbabel to encourage him to finish off the re-building work.
Jesus’ description of the time of Noah was: “For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark” – Mat 24:38 The problem with this life style is that their busy life schedules left them with no time for God. So God through Haggai warns people and amazingly the people respond.
ISSUE that God had with his people:
“Thus says the LORD of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the LORD.”
This is very similar in human relationships when one friend ignores another because he/she is very busy. The relationship starts to break and the two drift apart.
“Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the LORD.” – Hag 1:8
I.e. Guys! Get moving! Get your priority right!. Think about it: You harvest less than you plant, you never have enough to eat or drink, your clothes don’t keep you warm, and your wages are stored in bags full of holes. Why? Because you are self centered!
Haggai spoke on the on the first day of the month!
On the twenty-fourth day of the month the people responded! [Hag 1:1/1:15]
People turned around in 24 days! i.e they resumed the work!
In all this Zerubabel was specially chosen by God and received great encouragement from the LORD to rebuild the temple: “And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel” [Hag 1:14]
In spite of all the opposition (internal or external) it is amazing to see Zerubabel persist and make himself always available for the task. Therefore God was able to finish the work Zerubabel had started.
“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!'” Zec 4:6,7
The surrounding nations that opposed the rebuilding are signified by the GREAT MOUNTAIN. Powerful and mighty nations that cannot be moved or overturned are symbolically referred to as Mountains. These cannot be overturn easily by human might especially when you are the weaker one. Therefore the LORD will himself help overcome by his spirit or by his own power.
For instance Jeremiah referred to the powerful and devouring nation of Babylon as the “destroying mountain” [Jer 51:25]
God did level the mountain for Zerubbabel and helped him to finish the rebuilding of the temple:
Then Darius the king decreed against the opposing mountain:
“Now therefore, Tattenai, governor of the province Beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai, and your associates the governors who are in the province Beyond the River, keep away” – Ezr 6:6
The work finally finished:
Ezr 5:2 Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak arose and began to rebuild the house of God that is in Jerusalem, and the prophets of God were with them, supporting them.
“And the elders of the Jews built and prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. They finished their building by decree of the God of Israel and by decree of Cyrus and Darius and Artaxerxes king of Persia; and this house was finished on the third day of the month of Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king. And the people of Israel, the priests and the Levites, and the rest of the returned exiles, celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy.” (Ezr 6:14-16 ESV)
The LORD had encouraged Zerubbabel by the prophet Zechariah that he would indeed finish the rebuilding of the temple:
“The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you.” (Zec 4:9 ESV)
To take a feather of the hat of Zerubbabel, Paul encourages us:
“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1Co 15:58 ESV)
Zerubbabel is eternally blessed: [Kingdom prophecy]
“Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I am about to shake the heavens and the earth, and to overthrow the throne of kingdoms. I am about to destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations, and overthrow the chariots and their riders. And the horses and their riders shall go down, every one by the sword of his brother. On that day, declares the LORD of hosts, I will take you, O Zerubbabel my servant, the son of Shealtiel, declares the LORD, and make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you, declares the LORD of hosts.” (Hag 2:21-23 ESV)
The heavens and the earth are as explained above not the literal heavens/earth. They are symbolic of rulers, kingdoms and nations. These indeed will be overturned at the return of the Messiah when he takes control and brings nations to subjection so the righteous rule of God will be established in this world.
Heb 12:26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.”
Heb 12:27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken–that is, things that have been made–in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain.
Heb 12:28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,