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A View from the Altar / A life’s work
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A life’s work

Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it. — Zechariah 4:7

The prophet Zechariah presents us with two men and a shared mission, Joshua and Zerubbabel.  Joshua is presented in chapter 3 as the hereditary high priest.  In Zechariah’s vision, Joshua is stripped of his filthy clothing and given clean, new clothes as the angel of the Lord stands by him.  The Lord then tells Joshua, “If you will walk in my ways, and if you will keep my command, then you shall also judge my house, and likewise have charge of my courts; I will give you places to walk among these who stand here.”  (Zech 3:7 NKJV)  The task was to build God’s people, and the reward was to walk among the very angels of God.

Zerubabbel, the governor of Judea, is introduced in chapter 4, and the task set before him was to rebuild the temple of God after it had been wrecked and pillaged by the Babylonians.  The Lord said, “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple;  his hands shall also finish it. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you.”  (Zech 4:9)  So his mission was to rebuild the place of worship for Israel, the temple of course being the core of Hebrew worship.

So these two men were appointed a joint task of establishing the moral and spiritual foundations of Jerusalem, one focused on establishing righteousness among the people and the other focused on preparing them a place of worship.  To reconstitute Israel as Israel required both of these to succeed.  A morally corrupt people would never see the importance of honoring God or having a place to worship him.  A people with no religious center wouldn’t stay righteous for long.  For Jerusalem to become once again the city of God and “the joy of the whole earth,” (Ps 48:2) the people would have to prepare themselves and their place to receive him in a manner befitting the King of Kings.

This was a thing of absolutely historic importance and the work of a lifetime.  What was the regathering of Jews to Palestine if God never re-established it as his own city?  (Dt 12:5, Dt 14:24, 1 Kgs 9:3, Neh 1:9)  Without him, it was just another city with just another fancy building which was somewhat inferior to the grand structures in Babylon.  In fact, without God in Jerusalem and the whole business ordered by his command, life was better back in Babylon than it was in Jerusalem.  Historically, this was the judgment of the majority of Jews who chose to remain in Babylon rather than return to the ruins of Jerusalem for the dirty, dangerous, low-paying chore of rebuilding it.

Come to think of it, what purpose is there in anything if God is not in it?  Life always presents these same options — content yourself with the stuff of this world in the comfort of Babylon which seems to be at the head of the nations, or strike out for the rugged hills of Judea where there’s work to be done building the city of God.  Babylon is comfortable and easy for now, but she’s damned to hell in chapter after chapter of God’s Word.  Jerusalem is the place where Jesus shall reign and God’s people with him.  There’s no greater calling in life than to be building this city and preparing for his entrance.

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