Summary: God is all powerful but He chooses to accomplish His work through people. While God’s desire is for all to respond to Him, the fact is that only a remnant will. But in that remnant, God provides the kinds of people it takes to accomplish His work.
1. The leaders (2:2a)
2. The laymen (2:2b-35)
3. The Lord’s ministers (2:36-58)
4. The leftovers (2:59-67)
It’s difficult to find anything more difficult to read through than a list of names. But that’s where we find ourselves in our text tonight. How do you act when you get a new phone book? OK, come clean—what is the first thing you do? You look for your name. Well, even though you’re not going to find your name in this list, that doesn’t make it any less important. As a matter of fact, it is far more important, because it is included in Scripture. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” How much Scripture? ALL Scripture. I had a Bible professor who had a line that he used over and over again. He said, “All means all, all the time.” So, if like my professor said, “all means all, all the time”… and the Bible says that ALL Scripture is given by God for our profit… it’s our task to see the profit in even the most seemingly mundane parts of Scripture like the name lists. Unlike a lot of the “name lists” in Scripture, this one isn’t a genealogy. It’s really more like a census. But it’s not even really like a census. Because a census numbers an entire nation. That’s not what this does. Really, it’s more like a passenger manifest. Roger and Zela are on a cruise right now. There are certain things that a passenger ship has to accomplish before it leaves port. First, it has to have an itinerary. People have to know where it’s going, what route it’s going to take, and when it’s going to get there. It also has to have a manifest. The manifest is a list of all the cargo and passengers. Well, just like Roger and Zela are on their cruise, the people in our passage were taking a trip also. Their itinerary was simple. They were going to travel from the place of their exile in Babylon to the place of God’s call in Jerusalem. That was their itinerary, but what was their manifest? Who was taking the trip? That’s what this list is in our passage tonight. The verse we just read tells us that. 70 years before, God had allowed Nebuchadnezzar to carry His chosen people into exile from Jerusalem and Judah. Now it was time for a remnant of them to return. To return with the first purpose of rebuilding the temple. Remember last week we said that Israel had to go through four stages of restoration before they were ready to rebuild the temple foundations. God had to restore resources, a remnant, responsibility, and religion. Last week we looked at restoring resources. Tonight we’re looking at restoring a remnant. God is all powerful, but what is amazing is that He chooses to accomplish His work through people. While God’s desire is for all people to respond to His desires, the fact is that only a remnant will. But in that remnant, God provides the kinds of people it takes to accomplish His work. Just like the remnant we’re looking at tonight. Tonight, I want each of us to respond to God’s call the same way His remnant did. Whatever category we might find ourselves in doesn’t really matter. What matters is that God has a place for each of us in His work. And I want each of us to serve faithfully in the place He has called us. In order to do that, we’re going to look at four kinds of people it takes to accomplish God’s work. The first kind of people is leaders. The leaders are the names listed in the first sentence of verse 2. I will leave you to read the names on your own.
The first kind of people it takes to accomplish God’s work is leaders. One Sunday morning, a fellow named George told his mother he wasn’t going to church. "First," he said, "I’m tired. Second, the people there don’t like me. And third, the sermons are boring." But George’s mother wouldn’t take no for an answer. "George," she said, "you have to go. First, we always worship on Sunday. Second, it doesn’t matter whether they like us or not. And third, you are the pastor, you have to go!" Leadership isn’t for the faint of heart, is it? Well these guys certainly weren’t faint of heart. Think of the task that lay before them. They had to get over 42,000 people to follow them. But it wasn’t like they were just getting them to follow them down the street. They were leading them from a place that had been their home for as long as they could remember. Many of them probably grew up there. They had raised kids there. They had built lives there. They were comfortable there. Think about how comfortable you would be in Bluefield if your family had arrived here 70 years ago. And now God placed this group of men in a position where they were to lead them away from there. Move the clock back about 900 years from where we are here to Moses’ day. The situation was a lot different for Moses. In Moses’ day, the Israelites were actually in bondage. They were being used as slave laborers. And because of some different political situations, Pharaoh didn’t trust them. So he abused them and oppressed them. The Israelites of Moses’ day were far from comfortable. And the longer they sat in captivity, the worse it got. That wasn’t the case with the Israelites of Zerubbabel’s day. Things weren’t too bad for them. They were allowed to own their own land and pretty much live like regular Persians. That’s what the Persians were looking for anyway. They wanted the nations they conquered to blend in. So, it was in that kind of environment that God called these men to lead. Lead a comfortable people away from their comfort and into a land fraught with discouragement, opposition, frustration, and most of all, hard work. Imagine putting that sales pitch together. “Hi, I’m Zerubbabel and this is my partner Jeshua. My, what a nice house you have. And what a great piece of property! We’re here to ask you to leave it and come with us to the destroyed city of Jerusalem. Once we get all the rubble cleared, and the temple and wall rebuilt, you’ll just love it. Oh, by the way—you’re going to be the one who clears the rubble and builds the temple and the wall.” I don’t think that’s a marketing plan that the church growth folks would approve of, do you? But that’s the only marketing approach they had. And since they couldn’t sales-pitch people into following them, they had to really lead. What did that leadership look like? Obedience. Obedience to the call that God had placed on their lives. Zerubbabel had to obey the call that came with his birthright. He was the heir to the throne of David. As such, he was the chief prince of Israel. As we see in Haggai and Zechariah, Jeshua was the chief priest of Israel. He had to obey the call that came with his high-priestly office. If you want to think of it that way, they were the Moses and Aaron of the first return from exile. But God didn’t give them the same authenticating signs and wonders that he gave Moses and Aaron. Just like today, He didn’t meet with them from a cloud on a mountain. He didn’t, because just like us, they already had God’s Word. But God knew that two men couldn’t lead by themselves. So He gave them a group of other men to assist them and learn from them and hold them accountable. Proverbs 24:5-6 says, “A wise man is strong; yea, a man of knowledge increaseth strength. For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war: and in multitude of counsellors there is safety.” Even more tellingly, Proverbs 15:22 says, “Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established.” God surrounded Zerubbabel and Jeshua with a multitude of counselors, to enable them to be the leaders God had called them to be. The first kind of people it takes to accomplish God’s work is the leaders. But what are leaders without followers? I’ve heard it said that a person who thinks he’s leading with nobody following is really just taking a walk. So leaders have to have followers or they aren’t really leaders. So the second kind of people it takes to accomplish God’s work is the laymen. In our context, we would say that laymen are the people in the pew. In Israel’s context, they would be the people listed from the second sentence of verse 2 through verse 35. Once again, I’ll leave the reading of all those names up to you.