A Verse for the Year
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A Verse for the Year

Zechariah 4:6  (ID: 3137)

Where should a Christian turn for the strength to participate in advancing God’s kingdom today? Alistair Begg explores a familiar verse from the prophet Zechariah to show that only God’s Spirit can empower us to fulfill His purposes. As believers turn toward God and away from earthly concerns, we must be willing to be countercultural for the sake of His kingdom.

Sermon Transcript: Print

Zechariah 4:

“And the angel who talked with me came again and woke me, like a man who is [wakened] out of his sleep. And he said to me, ‘What do you see?’ I said, ‘I see, and behold, a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it, and seven lamps on it, with seven lips on each of the lamps that are on the top of it. And there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.’ And I said to the angel who talked with me, ‘What are these, my lord?’ Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, ‘Do you not know what these are?’ I said, ‘No, my lord.’ Then he said to me, ‘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!”’

“Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundations of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.

“‘These seven are the eyes of the Lord, which range through the whole earth.’ Then I said to him, ‘What are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the lampstand?’ And a second time I answered and said to him, ‘What are these two branches of the olive trees, which are beside the two golden pipes from which the golden oil is poured out?’ He said to me, ‘Do you not know what these are?’ I said, ‘No, my lord.’ Then he said, ‘These are the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.’”[1]

This is the Word of the Lord. Okay.

And we’ll pray before we look at the Bible:

Father, we do thank you this morning for those who gave their lives proclaiming that Jesus died and rose. We stand on the shoulders of those who looked away from themselves to you, the living God. And we pray that you will help us now, as we turn to this part of the Bible, that we might have clarity in our thinking and in our understanding; that we may have humility of heart which welcomes its truth, however painful it may be; and that we might learn to live in the light of it; and, indeed, that our individual lives and the life of our congregation will be marked by all that we turn to now. For we pray in Christ’s name. Amen.

Well, the starting point, the verse to which I shall draw your attention initially, is Zechariah 4:6. This verse has been on my mind for a couple of weeks now: “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” I actually went back in my records to see whether I had ever addressed this verse in this forum and discovered that I had, as I’m sure none of you will recall, in the first couple of Sundays of 1989. And then we would have been back in the high school, and so, obviously, all that time ago, my mind at the tail end of the year and looking into the new year was clearly running along similar lines. I looked at the material that I preached on that occasion to realize again why it was that Spurgeon said to his students, “Keep your old sermons to weep over them.” And that I was able to do. I’m able to draw very little help from it at all. But anyway, this is not going to be an exposition of this chapter nor even of this verse. I want to make three observations this morning, and I hope there will be clarity to the development of my thought.

Zerubbabel, to whom the word of the Lord comes, was the governor of Judah. He, along with Joshua, had been entrusted with the responsibility of completing the work of restoring the temple after the exile. And when I tell you that, your immediate reaction may be to say something along the lines of “Well, that’s all very well, but aren’t we supposed to have something this morning along the lines of ‘Ten Resolutions for a New Year’? Do we really have to go back into these symbolic visions and so on? I thought we had bade them farewell in the book of Daniel.”

Well, we’re not going to bury ourselves here, nor are we going to study Zechariah in the coming weeks. But I do want you to know that my task, our task as Bible teachers, is not somehow or another to make the Bible relevant. Some of you under your breath may have listened as I read chapter 4 and said, “I can’t wait to see how he makes this relevant.” There is no possibility of the Bible teacher making the Bible relevant, because the Bible does not have to be made relevant, because the Bible is relevant. And the task of the Bible teacher, by unfolding the text of Scripture, is to show how relevant the Bible is, which is a very different task and an immense privilege.

Now, the symbols that are here we’re now going to delve into—make a comment or two in prospect of it, enough to get you started. You can continue on your own.

A menorah stood outside the Holy of Holies for the people of God as a perpetual symbol of the function of God’s people to be a light to the nations.

Obviously, this golden lampstand, which is of significant proportions, is very familiar in the mind of the Jewish person, both in Zechariah’s day and to today. A menorah stood outside the Holy of Holies for the people of God as a perpetual symbol of the function of God’s people to be a light to the nations. And so this emblem here, at the very heart of what is, I think, the fifth of nine visions which are making up the early chapters of Zechariah, is an understandable symbol. The notion of this mountain becoming a plain in verse 7 may well be representative of the physicality of what they encountered in going back to the rubble in Jerusalem but probably symbolic of the challenges and difficulties that were being faced by them, and under the leadership of Zerubbabel, this mountain would become a plain. And then, of course, these olive trees, which provide for the lamp the constant, necessary supply of fuel so that the light may shine. That the trees themselves are symbols comes to us clearly at the end of the chapter, where the question is asked concerning who these olive trees are, and the answer is given: “These are the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.” In the context of Zechariah, I imagine that it is both Joshua and Zerubbabel themselves, who are the conduits, if you like, of the blessing that comes to the people. Conduits they may be, but the source is from God himself.

With that said, let me also remind you that the historical context here may be understood by a little homework, by reading not only Zechariah but also the previous prophecy of Haggai, which is much shorter, and also refreshing your memory in turning to both Ezra and to Nehemiah. And all of that confirms the fact that here we have the people of God having now returned to Jerusalem after the exile and finding that what they have come back to bears very little resemblance to what some of them had left and very little resemblance to what they had been told about by their forefathers who had died in Babylon.

Judah was sparsely populated—maybe fifty thousand people at this time, a much smaller company—and a much smaller geographical space, about thirty-four miles from north to the south and forty miles from the east to the west; in other words, not much bigger than the Greater Cleveland area, depending on how you want to calculate it. And as a result of that, the context to which they return is not a shadow of what it once was. And Haggai actually asks the question of the people to whom he writes, “[Now] who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes?”[2] Yet now he says, “I want you to be strong,” turning again to the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel.

You have the same thing when you read in Nehemiah. If you remember many years ago, when we studied Nehemiah, Nehemiah takes on the charge of the rebuilding project, its leadership there, and one of the first things he has to say to the people is “Take a look at this, and realize the trouble we are in. Do you see the trouble we are in?”[3] Or, “You [can] see the trouble we are in.”[4] The problem was, of course, that they did not really see the trouble they were in. They thought the trouble just had to do with the buildings, with the geography of it all, but the real trouble was a profound trouble of heart, and the issue had to do with where they were in their relationship with God. And that, actually, is what we see here this morning.

I have three words for this Sunday, even as I had three words for last Sunday. I was trying to remember last Sunday’s as I came down the stairs. I think it was sent. “Why Did Jesus Come?” He was sent; secondly, because we are stuck; and thirdly, because he is the Savior. So we had sent, stuck, and Savior. This morning we have return, resource, and reign. Okay? Three r’s; return, resource, and reign. And hopefully it will become apparent as to why those are good enough headings.


First of all, under this notion of return, we need to go to the first chapter of the book. I’m going to deal with one phrase in chapter 1, one also in chapter 14, and one or two here in chapter 4, thus creating the impression that we really know what we need to know about Zechariah. In actual fact, we’re just getting started.

In chapter 1, the Lord is speaking again through the prophet Zechariah and reminding the readers that he’d been very angry with their fathers. And therefore, Zechariah is told to say to the readers, this is what the Lord of hosts declares: “Return to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts.”[5] Now, this is quite interesting, isn’t it? Because the historical context is that these people have now been repatriated. Cyrus has made it possible for them to go back to the land, to go back to Jerusalem. And yet, having returned, the word of the Lord to them is to return. They had returned, and now God’s word is “Return.” But, of course, you understand the distinction; you can see it: they had returned to the place where they wanted to be, but they were not what they needed to be. They were where they wanted to be, but they were not what they needed to be.

People keep asking me all the time, “When will we go back into the auditorium, where we want to be?” Well, in due course. But here’s the real issue: the real issue is not that we go back where we want to be but that we are, under God, the people we need to be. And the return is a return to him before it is a return to anything else. And the only reason for an exhortation to return is on account of the fact that there is a separation which has taken place. The people of God would have thought, “It is because we are no longer where we want to be that we are as we are.” But in actual fact, they could be as close to the proximity of that which represented security to them and yet be separated from God. And so he says, “I want you to return to me, and I want you to understand that this is of vital importance.” Essentially, it is a call to repentance. To repentance. To not do what others had been doing, to forsake what they had been tempted to engage in, and to bow down before both the exhortation of God and then to enjoy the promise of God: “You must return to me, and you will discover that I return to you.”

Now, the word of the prophet, of course, is a hard word. I mean, straight out of the gate, he is issuing a call to repentance. Why? Because it is necessary. It is necessary. The false prophets did not issue calls to repentance. The false prophets made their money, if you like, by telling the people what they wanted to hear. God says through Jeremiah, “You shouldn’t have anything to do with these false fellows, because what they do is they heal the wounds of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.”[6] It is absolutely no help to be told that all is well with you if all is not well with you—and clearly, all is not well, so the word of the messenger-prophet to the people of God is to return to him.

James actually says the same thing: “God says you draw near to God, and God will draw near to you.”[7] But draw away from God, and he will be as far away from you as you can imagine. Turn from him in rebellion, disobey his Word, go your own way, plan your own course, chart your own destiny, and don’t be surprised that it seems as if God is as far removed from you as possibly could be. And there is no engagement with any building or any company that will be able to close that gap. That’s why the development of the kingdom of God and repentance are always held together. Remember, Jesus begins his ministry with the statement “The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand”—or “is near”—“repent and believe the good news.”[8] The first word of the Lord Jesus Christ to the people who gathered to listen to him was a word to repent.

Well, what had been going on with these people? Why did they have to return to him? Well, because they were separated from him. In what way? Well, they had gone back, and they had seen the circumstances, and they had seen the challenge that they faced, and they were tempted to down tools almost immediately because of the pressure that was on them. You can read of this in Ezra. You can read of it in Nehemiah. Sanballat, and Tobiah the Ammonite, the unholy trinity, came at them again and again and again.[9] And so they were tempted to say, “You know what? I think we’ll just give up on this. I don’t see that it’s making much progress at all. I think we’ll just try and make the best of a bad job. And we’re back here. It’s not what we thought it was going to be. It’s nothing like what we hoped it would be. And so why don’t we just do something like everybody else? Why don’t we remodel our kitchen? Why don’t we panel the family room? Why don’t we just build a nice guest apartment above the garage? Let’s just do something like that. This is far too hard a battle. Building this wall—if I’d known it was like this, I think I would have stayed in Babylon.” Just like the people, remember, coming out of Egypt: “Oh, we had great food back in Egypt, and we’ve come out here; it’s a dreadful place.”[10] “Now we’ve come back to Jerusalem. Look at it. It’s so small. Look at the place. It’s all broken down. Let’s just do something else.”

The first word of the Lord Jesus Christ to the people who gathered to listen to him was a word to repent.

“Well,” you say, “what are you making this up from? You got a fertile imagination?” No, I said to you, you have to read Haggai. And in Haggai, that’s exactly what Haggai says to the people. He says, “Are you going to panel your family room and neglect the house of God? Is that how you want to deal with this situation? You better return to God.”[11] Well, is this a problem about paneling family rooms? No. It is about laying down the kingdom business and taking up our own personal business. In other words, they’ve decided that in point of fact, it really is too much. And their problem lies in their desire to become normal. Normal! To be like everybody else. “Let’s just be like everybody else.”

Now, if you’re not careful, you’ll miss this. When people say to me, “I love it that you’re so normal,” that’s not usually an encouragement to me. It’s not usually. It may be in certain contexts, but it often isn’t. Because what they’re saying is “There’s nothing distinguishable about you, Begg. You just sound the same as everybody else. You look, sound the same, and in every other way.”

You see, the people of God are not normal. The people of God are peculiar. The people of God were peculiar in all of their dimensions. God made them and gave them signs of peculiarity to show in the fabric of their life the distinction that existed in the core of their life. But when the distinction in the core of their life was no longer there, all they had left were the externals. And when they then tired of the externals, then they said, “Why don’t we just do it the same way everybody else does it?”

That’s why when the word of the Lord comes to them, when the book of the law is opened up, when Ezra reads from the book of the law, and they realize all the things that they have been neglecting, they’re brokenhearted. And Nehemiah has to say to them, “Don’t weep. You shouldn’t weep. The joy of the Lord will be your strength! God has not brought you to sadness here in order to leave you there but in order so that you might get up and get on and do what you’re doing, that you might return to the Lord.”[12]

Now, it’s kind of an old word, but it is a real word, the word backslidden—slidden back from where we were.

Where is the blessedness I knew
When first I [saw] the Lord?
Where is the soul-[fulfilling] view
Of Jesus and his Word?[13]

Like old Jim Reeves songs—you know, like

How long has it been
Since you talked with the Lord,
[Since you] told him your heart’s hidden secrets?
How long since you prayed?
How long since you stayed
On your knees till the [dawn] shone through?[14]

The call to return to the people of God is a necessary, realistic call. We must put the hat on as it fits, individually and as a church.

Loved ones, all that has gone on in the last thirty-five or forty years is as nothing unless we respond to the word of the Lord through Zerubbabel to his people to make sure that we are engaged with, that we are repenting of our sin, that we are returning to the Lord, that we are constantly going back—in the same way that you sustain a marriage by saying, “I’m sorry. I was an idiot. Please forgive me. Let’s try this again. I love you. Do you love me? Let’s go.” It’s a constant series of new beginnings, of reparations, of restorations, of returns. And a marriage that goes down is a marriage where the people have refused to return when they needed to return.

I was reading letters in between service one and service two. A lady wrote to me, “Pray for me in my marriage. For a long time, we sleep in separate bedrooms. My husband is gone from me,” and everything else. What is she asking for? That they might return. That they might be restored. To the outside, it’s all fine. They’re still in the same house. He reverses out of the same driveway. But there’s nothing there.

And that’s what had happened to the people. And the word of the Lord from Zerubbabel to the people was, “You tell them: don’t mess this up like their forefathers did. That’s why they were in Babylon. But instead, have them come back to me, return to me, and I will return to them.” You see, they were where they wanted to be, but they were not what they needed to be. God is concerned that we become what he desires for us to be, far more than about the geography of things.

That’s the word return. I took too long on it, but I always do.


The second word is resource. You see, because the call to repentance comes through the mouth of the prophet before the promise of the resources. And the promise of resource is, of course, here in the verse, 6: “Not by might, [not] by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.”

Now, why is this so incredibly important? Well, if you look down at verse 10, you will see that the reference is made to “whoever has despised the day of small things”—who “has despised the day of small things.” And, of course, that is exactly what these people were confronted with. From their perspective, it was a day of small things. Nothing much was happening at all: “What’s the point in all of this? Why do we keep going? Why do we face all this opposition? We’re constantly discouraged.”

And this is not an uncommon perspective in the church of Jesus Christ at this point in the twenty-first century. If you talk to anyone who’s lived any length of time at all, they will almost inevitably tell you, “Oh, you should have been around here in x,” you know. It’s a bit like what people do with the city of Cleveland: “Well, it was an amazing place. You should have seen Euclid Avenue. Boy, those were the days, you know. You could see the houses, the brownstones on Superior. The glory days are all in the past, but now here we are.” And you get the same thing with people in the church: “You should have heard old Mr. So-and-So. Now he could preach! That was what we called preaching, you know. We had Mr. So-and-So. He was an organist par excellence. That was where there was some real singing, you know.” And so it goes on and on and on. “But now look at us here. We are in this day of small things. We’re opposed. The Christmas displays at Macy’s have got no Christmas in them at all. The ball dropped in the midst of rampant paganism, and look at us, an obscure little group of people settled in here, a funny bunch of people at this time on a Sunday morning on the east side of Cleveland,” and so on.

Well, would you despise the day of small things? Do you think God doesn’t work? You see, do you want his word only in the earthquake? Or you want to hear his voice in a still, small voice? Do you want to meet him in the whirlwind, or do you want to hear his whisper?[15] No, you see, it is to those who are in that predicament that the resource, then, is so important. Are you going to despise a day of small things? Listen, anything that is accomplished is “not by might,” is not “by power,” but it’s “by my Spirit, says the Lord.”

The indispensable and timeless requirement of doing the work of God is the power of the Spirit of God.

You say, “Well, that was a good word for a discouraged group of people.” Indeed. But it was a vital word for a very strong leader like Zerubbabel. It’s quite a name, Zerubbabel, isn’t it? It’s just Rubble, Rubbabel, Barney Rubble, Zerubbabel. Anyway, it’s a striking name, and he was a striking character. He’s recorded as being the governor, as being the leader. You will notice that it says here in verse 9 that “the hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house,” and “his hands [will] also complete it.” He was the key man. He was a strong leader. He was at the very outset of the building project, and God’s plan was that he would be there at the end. He was the driving force. He was the one who said, “Come along. I think this can be accomplished.” How vitally important that that kind of leader understands the resource and the necessity of the resource. “Hey, Zerubbabel, it’s not by might, it’s not by power that anything is going to take place. It’s by my Spirit.”

Now, that, of course, is not something that emerges in Zechariah chapter 4—which we have, interestingly, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit at work here—but it is something which runs through the whole pages of the Bible. The indispensable and timeless requirement of doing the work of God is the power of the Spirit of God, so that anything that diverts us from that, anything that is offered as a substitute for that is ultimately worthless.

We have books up the stairs that appear mysteriously on the table in the workroom. And if you see them lying there, they’re there because somebody’s decided he or she no longer wants them. And then you’re allowed to pick them up and take them away with you. It’s very appealing to me as a Scotsman. Just sometimes I take them just because they’re free. There’s always the possibility you could sell them somewhere else, I suppose. But anyway, most of the time I pass them by, and I’ve been walking past a particular book for two weeks. Haven’t said anything to any of the other members of the team, but it’s been noticeable to me that nobody picked it up. It’s a book—I can’t remember the title of it—but it’s basically about “How do you get your church to where it needs to be? How do you get the church to the next level?” And it’s full of aphorisms. I looked to make sure I wasn’t misquoting anything. But, for example, one chapter begins with Einstein: “The significant problems we face today cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” I’ll have to think about that. Another chapter begins, “Behold the turtle; he only makes progress when he sticks his neck out.” Wow, that’s deep! Another chapter begins, “I’ve been in business thirty-six years. I’ve learned a lot, and most of it doesn’t apply anymore.” And one chapter begins with a quote from Wayne Gretsky: “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” Whoa! Okay? Now, this you’re supposed to read—you take home and read in your bedroom—so that you might know how to get the church where the church needs to be.

Now, I’m not being dismissive of practicalities, and lessons can be learned along all those lines. I take that. But all of that together multiplied by twelve is no substitute for spiritual enduement. And the idea that we have moved on from the place where this was a necessity is an absolute lie. An absolute lie.

The leadership of the New Testament church was a significant leadership. And yet, what were they told to do? “You’re going to take the gospel to the ends of the earth, but don’t go yet. I want you to go back to the upper room in Jerusalem and gather with the people there and wait.” For what? “Wait for the resource. Wait for the power of the Holy Spirit to be poured out upon you.[16] Then you can go. Then your words will be worth twice as much. Then your influence will be far greater. Because you then, being a conduit, will simply be that which funnels out to the world the story of the kingdom of God.”


That brings me to my third and final word, and that is the notion of God’s reign and God’s kingdom. Because that is really what all of the Bible is about. The unity of the Bible is found in the fact that it is the story of salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ. If you turn to 14:9, it’s all building to this: “And the Lord will be king over all the earth,” and “on that day the Lord will be one and his name [will be] one.”

Now, you think about this. The prophet is reminding his people that that which they have affirmed at the beginning and the ending of their daily routine is going to one day be recognized by all. What is it that they have affirmed? Well, it’s the Shema: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord [your] God, the Lord is one.”[17] He is the one true and living God. And one day that will be apparent to all. You have this picture here, back in chapter 4, of the capstone, and Zerubbabel “shall bring [forth] the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’” It’s hard to read that and not think about what Peter says when he picks up again from the Old Testament, and he says, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the [capstone],” or “has become the cornerstone,”[18] of the building itself.

And what the Bible is saying and what Zechariah is conveying is that ultimately, when you take all of these visions, and you take all of the call to return, and you realize all of the resource that is poured out upon God’s people, eventually the truth will dawn, and the world will see that Jesus Christ is actually the capstone—that in contrast to the idols, he has power; in contrast to the vicious rulers of governments, he doesn’t break broken reeds and he doesn’t snuff out the old wicks that are not as bright and as vibrant as they once were.[19] “Behold, my servant, my chosen one,” says Isaiah in Isaiah chapter 42. “Here he is. Here is the one who comes.”[20]

Now, you say to yourself, “Well, isn’t that a bit of leap from Zechariah to Jesus? How do you just make that big jump all of sudden? Verse 9 of chapter 14, and now we’re in Jesus!” Well, you know! Jesus—Matthew 21—says to his disciples, “Now, I want a ride on a donkey into Jerusalem. If you go over to this house, you’ll find a donkey. If anybody gives you a bad time, just say, ‘The Lord needs him.’” And it was as recorded. And then what does Matthew say? “This took place to fulfill what the prophet Zechariah had said: ‘Behold your King comes to you, riding on the donkey, on the foal of a donkey.’”[21]

The unity of the Bible, loved ones, is not a unity that exists because it’s an amalgamation of all these collection of different stories from different places. The unity of the Bible lies in the fact that it is the one story, it is the one word of the one God concerning the one salvation that is found in the one person of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is the whole story right there. So when in all of this chaos and discouragement in Jerusalem the word of the prophet comes to the people, it is “Number one, get back into a right relationship with God; return. Number two, don’t try and do this on your own steam; here are the resources. And number three, realize that one day the rule and the reign of God will be apparent throughout the whole earth.”

That’s what Paul is saying. One day “at the name of Jesus every knee [will] bow … and every tongue confess that Jesus … is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”[22] Because you see, we’re no longer building temples à la Zerubbabel. If you get your head there, you’ll miss the point; trust me. The kingdom of God comes first in the person of Jesus, then through the preaching of the gospel throughout the world, and then—and only then—visibly and fully when Christ returns. So, in the meantime, as we think about this, the real addition to the temple is an addition that comes by way of lives added.

Again, I was reading in the mail this week from Truth For Life. One of the letters came in. It was a man: he said, “I was driving in my truck”—and I’m sure there was much more to it than this—but “I was driving in my truck. I heard such-and-such a message. I pulled my truck in at the side of the road, and I did exactly what you said to do. I actually said, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, I repent of my sin. I believe that you came to be my Savior. I ask you to come and invade my life and make me who you want me to be.’” And he says, “I’m writing to you today to tell you that he is actually true to his word. It happened. He did it. I am a new person. I am, if you like, a living stone.” A living stone. We’re adding stones through in this children’s wing—wee stones, funny-shaped stones, being added to the building. The building that we’re engaged in, building into the next generation, has got virtually zip to do with the auditorium or any other physical structure.

We are building day by day,
As the moments pass away,
A temple that this world cannot see;
And every victory won by grace
Will be sure to find a place
In that building for eternity.[23]

In between the services, I was thinking about this in relationship to Peter—and with this I will stop. After the crucifixion of Jesus, Peter decides, “I’m going back to normality. I’m just going to be normal. I’m going fishing. I’m just going back. This thing is over. I’m just going back to do what I was doing before.”[24] And what does Jesus do? He says, “Well, fine. You’re going to do that, you can go ahead and do it. I don’t need you. I got another half a dozen fellows I could use instead of you.” No! No. Jesus pursues him. Jesus comes, and he meets him on the beach, and they have the breakfast, and he says, “Peter, return.”[25] “Return to me, Peter. And when you go, don’t go and try and bypass that upper room. You go there, so that the resources that I will pour out for you will be made available to you and will flow through you. And then and only then, get out on the streets of Jerusalem, and be prepared to say, ‘There is salvation in no one else, for there[’s] no other name under heaven given among men by which [they] must be saved.’”[26]

We go to all the world
With kingdom hope unfurled.
No other name has power to save
But Jesus Christ the Lord.[27]

Return, take hold of the resources, and proclaim that our God reigns.

Father, thank you that your Word really is a lamp that shines on our pathway.[28] In so few words and in such short order, we can’t begin to grasp how high and how wide and how deep is the love that you have shown to this weary old world in the person of your Son, Jesus. We want to ask, both as individuals and as a church, that you will enable us to heed your exhortation and to embrace your promise in returning to you; that you will forgive us for regarding it as a day of small things and deciding we could just be normal and give up on it. Fill us with your Holy Spirit, we pray. And as we think of proclaiming the reign of the Lord Jesus, we pray that, first of all, he may come and reign in our hearts. We ask this to his glory. Amen.

[1] Zechariah 4:1–14 (ESV).

[2] Haggai 2:3 (ESV).

[3] Nehemiah 2:17 (paraphrased).

[4] Nehemiah 2:17 (ESV).

[5] Zechariah 1:3 (ESV).

[6] Jeremiah 6:14; 8:11 (paraphrased).

[7] James 4:8 (paraphrased).

[8] Mark 1:15 (paraphrased).

[9] See Nehemiah 2:10, 19.

[10] Numbers 11:4–6 (paraphrased).

[11] Haggai 1:4 (paraphrased).

[12] Nehemiah 8:9–10 (paraphrased).

[13] William Cowper, “O for a Closer Walk with God” (1772).

[14] Mosie Lister, “How Long Has It Been?” (1956).

[15] See 1 Kings 19:11–12.

[16] Acts 1:4–5, 8 (paraphrased).

[17] Deuteronomy 6:4 (ESV).

[18] 1 Peter 2:7 (ESV).

[19] See Isaiah 42:3; Matthew 12:20.

[20] Isaiah 42:1 (paraphrased).

[21] Matthew 21:2–5 (paraphrased).

[22] Philippians 2:10–11 (ESV).

[23] Fanny Jane Crosby, “We Are Building.” Lyrics lightly altered.

[24] John 21:3 (paraphrased).

[25] John 21:19 (paraphrased).

[26] Acts 4:12 (ESV).

[27] Keith Getty, Kristyn Getty, Ed Cash, and Fionán de Barra, “Facing a Task Unfinished” (2015).

[28] See Psalm 119:105.

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.