Summary: If you want to win join God's team. This sermon is a first-person narrative of Zerubbabel.
Rev. Brian Bill
Since this is the last sermon in our “Now is the Time” series from the Book of Haggai, and the closing passage centers in on just one individual, I’m going to do something a bit different today. I’m going to take on the character of Zerubbabel and explain these verses utilizing a first-person narration. You’re going to have to use your imagination because I’m not going to change my wardrobe or don some sandals. Imagine if you will that my name is really “Zerubbabill.”
In order to understand what I’m going to be sharing let’s begin by reading Haggai 2:20-23: “The word of the Lord came to Haggai a second time on the twenty-fourth day of the month: ‘Tell Zerubbabel governor of Judah that I will shake the heavens and the earth. I will overturn royal thrones and shatter the power of the foreign kingdoms. I will overthrow chariots and their drivers; horses and their riders will fall, each by the sword of his brother. On that day,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘I will take you, my servant Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will make you like my signet ring, for I have chosen you,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”
I’ve got to tell you that I felt very alone, discouraged and disappointed. I was in a dead-end job with no future. I had been promised promotions but they never came. When I tried to motivate my co-workers they ignored me and did what they wanted...for 16 years! I was born in another country and never felt like I belonged anywhere. I was embarrassed about my family and was trying to do all I could to break the cycle of spiritual unfaithfulness. Whenever someone would bring up what my grandfather did I would just cringe. On top of all this, I had a name that people made fun of. Even I had a hard time spelling it and just to pronounce it reminded me of my unholy heritage.
My name is Zerubbabel, which means “son of Babel” because I was born in Babylon. My name meant “loser” as far as I was concerned.
Do you ever feel like a failure? Do you feel alone? Discouraged? Are you disappointed with the way things are going? As you look at your family tree do you ever wonder if you can break generational dysfunction? Do you feel like giving up? Is your marriage a mess? Is your confidence shaken? I get the sense that there’s a lot of pain among the people here at PBC so I’d like us to pause right now and pray silently. Pray about what’s on your mind or pray for a hurting person you know.
Let me tell you what God taught me. I don’t want to bore you with my family background but it’s important that you know from whence I come. I come from a line of kings. My grandfather was one of the kings of Judah. His name is hard to pronounce as well. His name was Jehoichin, AKA Jekoniah or Coniah. I think he had different aliases because of some terrible things he did. I’ll try to talk more about him later…if I’m up to it.
When the offer was made to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple, I was all in. This was my opportunity to make up for all the failures in my family. What a privilege to go and build! This wouldn’t be so bad. After all, the king was providing money and materials and safe passage for us to get there. I was also going to be with guys I really looked up to – Ezra and Nehemiah, and Haggai and Zechariah, among others.
We jumped in and tackled the task when we arrived. We worked hard for about two years. We finished the foundation and built the altar so we could reinstitute sacrifices and start celebrating some feasts again. But you know how easy it is to start off strong and then hit a wall, don’t you? My teammates started getting bogged down by all the opposition we were facing. The work was hard.
And then they started whining about how they never got a chance to work on their own places. And so they just stopped working…for 16 years! God’s house was in ruins but their own homes were beautiful and even opulent. The people even used the materials designated for the Temple to panel their living spaces! In the interest of full disclosure, I need to say that I became very self-centered as well, thinking I could do life without God at the center.
I was frustrated that they wouldn’t listen to me and I felt like a failure because I couldn’t rally them. I also started to feel sorry for myself. Here I was the governor but really, what did I govern? My relatives were royalty and here I was in this dusty and dry land, staring at unfinished work, feeling like a lame leader, knowing that another king in another country was really in charge. I guess my family’s curse and dysfunction was my destiny as well.