It was meant to be a big celebration.
After all, dreams were finally coming true (read Ezra 3 to get the whole story). God’s people had been in a big “time out” in Babylon. Now they were back home and rebuilding after seventy years of exile. The foundation of the new temple was ready. The people gathered around this promise of a better day—when they would dwell with God in the land He had given them.
It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to.
But not everyone was impressed. Much like the generation gaps we feel today, the older Israelites didn’t sing and dance along with the younger ones but instead wept (Ezra 3:12). They couldn’t help but compare this foundation with the temple of their childhood memories— the one Solomon built. This temple, the one Zerruabel was building, couldn’t light a candle to it.
All those years of dreaming during exile, of crying and wishing “if only,” and now that their dreams had come true, disappointment overcame them. How could their future match their past with such a small start? In the laughs and high fives of the younger generation, tears and wailing of those who had seen better days struck an off-key note.
Who despises the day of small things?
So God answered their disappointment by sending Zechariah to say,
“Who dares despise the day of small things, since the seven eyes of the LORD that range throughout the earth will rejoice when they see the chosen capstone in the hand of Zerubbabel?” (Zechariah 4:10).
Later, when the less than stellar temple construction was delayed again, Haggai told them,
“Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing? But now be strong… Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the LORD, and work. For I am with you, declares the LORD Almighty. This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear” (Haggai 2:2-5).
Were they scared that the size of the temple represented the size of their God? Did their expectations not match God’s plans? Did they trust more in a Big Start than in a Big God?
We can despise the day of small things, too. The pressure is on to make a big splash in our world. Social media provides potential for anyone to “be a star.” At least in my house, I have seen more Tik Toks in the last week of physical distancing than in my whole life! We crave lighting bolt moments to make a difference and to be remembered before we leave this world.
In these post-COVID-19 times, we are unable to do even the small things we took for granted weeks ago. Instead of dressing our children for a Sunday church service, we sit on our sofas (maybe even in our PJs) for worship. Instead of a power lunch to discuss a new creative work idea, we try to Zoom and wonder if our ideas will work in this new climate. Even our Pinterest fueled weddings, birthday parties, and school graduations are slimming down to the simplest of celebrations. And, our ministry options, intentional and organic, look puny when compared to what we were planning before. How can the smallest of tasks have a shot of the Big Things of God?
However, that is not how God sees the small things.
As we can see in the pages of the Bible, God builds from the tiniest of things to fulfill His biggest blessings. From the mustard seed that grew into a tree for nesting birds (Matt. 13:31-32) to the misfits we call disciples whom He charged to witness His resurrection to all the world (Luke 24:44-48), God enjoys using unlikely men and women throughout Scripture, to show off His glory, power, and love for His people.
What are our small things during COVID-19?
Our small things used to be delivering chicken casseroles for a sick family, offering someone a drive to the doctor, inviting a new neighbor to church. They used to include teaching children scripture verses in Sunday school, taking out the trash at work for a coworker, listening to a friend interrupt you at the grocery store.
But now we have even smaller things. Prayers. A simple phone call. Sitting with God early in the morning before the chaos of family life begins; sitting with God in the afternoon when isolation feels suffocating. Instead of our normal “go big or go home” attitude, we are told just “to go home.” How can we be loving, kind, and helpful to others when we are so limited to the smallest of efforts? Can anything BIG happen in the midst of such small and mundane living?
Maybe we’re finally seeing what God’s been showing us all along. It is not up to us to create the Big Moments. The Big Impacts. God takes care of His big plans using the simplest efforts. In this season of physical distancing, we get to learn what God has been telling us all along about little moments: Don’t despise them; He uses them.
Little by Little.
And God is doing now what He was doing back in Ezra’s day. A great salvation is happening through the smallest of things. Ezra’s temple foundation was more than a re-build. It hinted at the promise of the great temple to come. Solomon’s magnificent temple, as wonderful as it was, was small compared to how Jesus would fulfill that idea in the resurrection. Then and now, God’s plan is about something so much bigger than our mere efforts. Something we celebrate every Sunday—even on our couches and in our pajamas.
About the Author:
Susan Tyner recently moved to Fort Worth from Oxford, MS, where she worked as the Coordinator of Women’s Ministry at Christ Presbyterian Church and enjoyed her role as Mid-South Regional Advisor. She continues to serve as an Advisor to the RUF Permanent Committee. Although this is a year of transition for Susan, she already enjoys Texas and looks forward to what God has planned for her family there. Her husband Lee and she have five children and an almost empty nest. Between unpacking boxes, you can find Susan cooking, dancing in a gym class, or doing (less) laundry.