Sunday school lesson for the week of June 22, 2014
By Beth Barnwell
Lesson Scripture: Haggai 2:20-23 and Zechariah 4:5-14
Key Verse: This is the Lord’s word to Zerubbable: Neither by power, nor by strength, but by my spirit, says the Lord of heavenly forces. (Zechariah 4:6)
Purpose: To find comfort in the assurance that God works out his long-term purposes in the lives of his faithful people.
Exit Haggai – Enter Zechariah. In this lesson we hear the final words from Haggai and get a sampling of Zechariah’s prophecy. In lesson one we were introduced to the prophet Haggai, though we really didn’t know much about him. The same holds true for Zechariah. We don’t know much about his background either. But what we do know is that his prophetic work was focused on the same outcome as that of Haggai – to encourage the exiles back to work on the rebuilding of the Temple so that the restored community of Judahites could engage in proper worship of God and enjoy His blessings. The Herman’s Hermits song, “I’m Henry the VII, I Am” comes to mind . . . “second verse, same as the first.”
Zerubbabel plays a big role in this week’s lesson. Once the Persians conquered Babylon, they permitted him to lead the first group of exiles out of Babylon and appointed him governor of Judah. This bothered the Jews because, as they returned to their home, they were still of the mindset that God promised that a descendant of David’s line would always be king. If Zerubbabel was governor – who would be king? Haggai’s last words try to answer this question. Verse 22 spells out what the God-caused quaking would do, which was to overthrow kingdoms, nations, and their armies. To the Judahites, this sounded like God was making good on his promise and that Zerubbabel, who was a descendent of David’s line, would indeed be king. Haggai’s last words convey God’s choosing to make Zerubbabel “like a signet ring.” As we know, a signet ring is often used as a seal indicating the wearer as someone of authority or representing the family crest. It is something often passed down from generation to generation. Zerubbabel was chosen to wear the family crest of God and bring His Kingdom to earth! He was a sign that God’s promise still stood.
What do you suppose is the significance of God telling Zerubbabel that God would make him “like a signet ring?” What signs can you think of that confirm God’s promise to you?
What God doesn’t say, however, is exactly when His Kingdom will come on earth. The Judahites took for granted that God meant this to happen during their lifetime. However, we all know that all things happen according to God’s time. Enter Zechariah. Zechariah’s prophecy includes not only words from God, but visions as well, dealing with God’s special care of the people, the restoration of Jerusalem, the rebuilding of the Temple, and the purification of God’s people. This week’s scripture deals with a vision involving a gold lampstand with a bowl and seven lamps on top. The bowl is flanked on each side by two olive trees. In verse 6, Zechariah is told that Zerubbabel, though the chosen one, will not succeed by his own power and might, but only by God’s spirit. In verses 8-10, Zechariah announces that Zerubbabel will accomplish the completion of the Temple rebuilding. In verses 11-14, Zechariah asks about the identity of the two olive trees. There is some discrepancy about the pair (Zerubbabel and Joshua, Haggai and Zecharish, Zerubbabel and Haggai), but there is a definite agreement that they symbolize that God’s intentions will become reality by people (not just one person!) acting through God’s Spirit. In other words – not by our power, but through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is what I call being in ministry!
I love this lesson because, though it deals with the importance of rebuilding the Temple, the primary focus is that we’re all called to be in ministry. God’s plans for Zerubbabel were obviously greater than just becoming king. His plans went far beyond just that moment in time. They would have an impact on history forever. God’s plans and intentions for us, as they did for Zerubbabel, far exceed our imaginations and our personal goals.
We are all called to ministry whether we realize it or not or acknowledge it or not. It looks different for each one of us. To use the author’s choice of words in describing his call to ministry, we are “invited” into ministry. I love the picture that conjures up. Can’t you just see God extending His hand to you, inviting you to come follow Him? There are several times I remember very clearly when God’s presence surrounded and comforted me, but only one time do I remember an actual invitation. I had made the decision to leave “Corporate America” and join the staff of a United Methodist church. The day I was going to submit my resignation, I got cold feet . . . VERY cold feet. I pulled out my Bible and randomly opened it. The scripture that I read was Deuteronomy 1:6 where God said, “You have stayed long enough at this mountain.” That was all I needed. God was clearly inviting me to follow Him. My hesitation lasted for only a moment. I resigned that day and never looked back.
What hesitation might you have in responding to God’s call?
Do you consider yourself in ministry? Most of us probably don’t, but we are all invited by God in Matthew 28:19 to “go and make disciples.” In Matthew 28:20, He promises to be with us “always, to the very end of the age.” Sometimes you personally will be the one called to do the work. Other times, it might be that you are only asked to help someone else be God’s hands and feet. Regardless of the task, you can do it! You just have to be receptive to hearing, seeing, and then receiving the invitation with a confident Yes!
What visions or calls from God have you experienced? How did you understand the meaning and how did you respond?
Beth Barnwell is a staff member of the North Georgia Conference, serving as administrative assistant to the director of Congregational Development. She is a long-time Sunday school teacher. Contact Beth at firstname.lastname@example.org.