Let Your Hands Be Strong
“Let the hands of you people be strong, you who are hearing in these days these words from the mouth of the prophets.”—ZECHARIAH 8:9.
1, 2. Why do the books of Haggai and Zechariah deserve our attention?
THE prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah were written some 2,500 years ago, yet they certainly are relevant to your life. The Bible accounts found in these two books are not mere history. They are part of “all the things that were written aforetime . . . for our instruction.” (Romans 15:4) Much of what we read in them makes us think of real situations that have been transpiring since the Kingdom was established in heaven in 1914.
2 Referring to events and circumstances experienced by God’s people long before, the apostle Paul stated: “Now these things went on befalling them as examples, and they were written for a warning to us upon whom the ends of the systems of things have arrived.” (1 Corinthians 10:11) So you might well wonder, ‘What value do the books of Haggai and Zechariah have in our day?’
3. On what do Haggai and Zechariah focus?
3 As the preceding article noted, the prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah involved the time when the Jews returned to their God-given land after their release from captivity in Babylon. The two prophets gave attention to the rebuilding of the temple. The Jews laid the foundation of the temple in 536 B.C.E. While some older Jews focused on the past, overall there was much “shouting for joy.” In reality, though, something even more momentous has occurred in our time. How so?—Ezra 3:3-13.
4. What took place soon after World War I?
4 Soon after World War I, Jehovah’s anointed ones were released from captivity to Babylon the Great. That represented a major indication of Jehovah’s support. Earlier it seemed that religious leaders and their political associates had brought an end to the Bible Students’ public preaching and teaching work. (Ezra 4:8, 13, 21-24) However, Jehovah God cleared away obstacles to the preaching and disciple-making work. Over the decades since 1919, the Kingdom work has flourished and nothing has been able to stop its progress.
5, 6. To what grand accomplishment does Zechariah 4:7 point?
5 We can be sure that the preaching and teaching done by Jehovah’s obedient servants in our time will continue with his backing. At Zechariah 4:7, we read: “He will certainly bring forth the headstone. There will be shoutings to it: ‘How charming! How charming!’” To what grand accomplishment in our time does this point?
6 Zechariah 4:7 is pointing to the time when true worship of the Sovereign Lord will be brought to its perfected state in the earthly courtyards of his spiritual temple. That temple is Jehovah’s arrangement for approaching him in worship on the basis of the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ Jesus. Granted, the great spiritual temple has existed since the first century C.E. Yet, true worship in its earthly courtyard will yet be perfected. Millions of worshippers now serve in the earthly courtyard of the spiritual temple. These and multitudes of resurrected ones will be brought to perfection during the Thousand Year Reign of Jesus Christ. At the end of the thousand years, only true worshippers of God will be left on the cleansed earth.
7. Jesus has what role regarding bringing true worship to its perfected state in our day, and why should we find that encouraging?
7 Governor Zerubbabel and High Priest Joshua were on hand to witness the temple’s completion in 515 B.C.E. Zechariah 6:12, 13 foretold Jesus’ comparable role in bringing true worship to its perfected state: “This is what Jehovah of armies has said: ‘Here is the man whose name is Sprout. And from his own place he will sprout, and he will certainly build the temple of Jehovah. And . . . he, for his part, will carry the dignity; and he must sit down and rule on his throne, and he must become a priest upon his throne.’” In view of the fact that Jesus, who is in heaven and causes the Davidic line of kings to sprout, is backing the Kingdom work at the spiritual temple, do you think that anyone can hinder its progress? Not at all! Should this not encourage us to move ahead in our ministry, not getting sidetracked by everyday concerns?
8. Why must we give the work at the spiritual temple first place in our lives?
8 In order to have Jehovah’s backing and blessing, we must keep the work at the spiritual temple in first place in our lives. Unlike the Jews who said, “The time has not come,” we must remember that we are living in “the last days.” (Haggai 1:2; 2 Timothy 3:1) Jesus foretold that his loyal followers would preach the good news of the Kingdom and make disciples. We must be careful not to neglect our privilege of service. The preaching and teaching work that was temporarily halted by the world’s opposition was resumed in 1919, but it has not been completed. You can be sure, though, that it certainly will be!
9, 10. On what does Jehovah’s blessing depend, meaning what to us?
9 To the extent that we continue to work in earnest, we will be blessed—as a people and as individuals. Note Jehovah’s promise from which we can draw assurance. Once the Jews returned in whole-souled worship and resumed in earnest their work on the foundation of the temple, Jehovah said: “From this day I shall bestow blessing.” (Haggai 2:19) They would enjoy full restoration of his favor. Now consider the blessings found in God’s promise: “There will be the seed of peace; the vine itself will give its fruitage, and the earth itself will give its yield, and the heavens themselves will give their dew; and I shall certainly cause the remaining ones of this people to inherit all these things.”—Zechariah 8:9-13.
10 Just as Jehovah blessed those Jews spiritually and materially, so he will bless us as we diligently, and with a happy heart, do the work he has assigned to us. These blessings include peace among ourselves, security, prosperity, and spiritual growth. Yet, you can be certain that God’s continued blessing depends on our doing the work at the spiritual temple in the way that Jehovah wants it done.
11. How might we analyze ourselves?
11 Now is the time to ‘set our heart upon our ways.’ (Haggai 1:5, 7) We should take some time to analyze our priorities in life. Jehovah’s blessing on us today depends on the extent to which we are magnifying his name and moving ahead in our work at his spiritual temple. You might ask yourself: ‘Have my priorities changed? How does my zeal for Jehovah, his truth, and his work compare to the zeal I had when I was baptized? Is interest in a comfortable life affecting the attention I give to Jehovah and his Kingdom? Is fear of man—concern about what others will think—holding me back somewhat?’—Revelation 2:2-4.
12 We do not want God to hold back his rich blessing because of our neglecting the work of magnifying his name. Recall that after getting off to a good start, the restored Jews were “on the run, each one in behalf of his own house,” as Haggai 1:9 reports. They became preoccupied with their own daily needs and way of life. Consequently, there was “a bringing of little in,” a shortage of good food, drink, and warm clothing. (Haggai 1:6) Jehovah withdrew his blessing. Is there a lesson in this for us?
13 Do you not agree that to continue enjoying divine blessings, we must resist seeking things for ourselves at the expense of Jehovah’s worship? That is so whether the activity or interest diverting our attention is the pursuit of wealth, get-rich-quick schemes, ambitious plans for advanced education to have a desirable career in this system, or programs for personal fulfillment.
14 Such things may not be sins in themselves. However, do you not see that from the standpoint of everlasting life, those really are “dead works”? (Hebrews 9:14) In what sense? They are spiritually dead, vain, and fruitless. If one persists in them, such works could lead to spiritual death. It happened to some anointed Christians in the apostles’ day. (Philippians 3:17-19) It has happened to some in our time. You may know of some who were gradually distracted from Christian activities and from the congregation; now they show no inclination to return to Jehovah’s service. We certainly hope that such ones will return to Jehovah, but the fact is that pursuing “dead works” can result in the loss of Jehovah’s favor and blessing. You can see how sad a development that would be. It would mean the loss of the joy and peace that God’s spirit produces. And imagine what a loss it would be not to share in the warm Christian brotherhood!—Galatians 1:6; 5:7, 13, 22-24.
15. How does Haggai 2:14 show the seriousness of our worship?
15 This is a very serious matter. Note from Haggai 2:14 how Jehovah viewed the Jews who neglected his house of worship in favor of paneling their own houses, literally or figuratively. “‘That is how this people is, and that is how this nation is before me,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘and that is how all the work of their hands is, and whatever they present there. It is unclean.’” Whatever token sacrifices the halfhearted Jews offered up on the temporary altar in Jerusalem were unacceptable as long as they neglected true worship.—Ezra 3:3.
16. Based on visions Zechariah received, of what could the Jews be sure?
16 Obedient Jews who worked at rebuilding God’s temple were assured of divine backing, as God indicated through a series of eight visions that Zechariah received. The first guaranteed the completion of the temple and prosperity for Jerusalem and Judah as long as the Jews obediently carried out the work at hand. (Zechariah 1:8-17) The second vision promised the end of all governments that opposed true worship. (Zechariah 1:18-21) Other visions ensured divine protection of the building work, an influx of people of many nations to Jehovah’s completed house of worship, true peace and security, the leveling of seemingly insurmountable obstacles to the God-assigned work, a removal of wickedness, and angelic oversight and protection. (Zechariah 2:5, 11; 3:10; 4:7; 5:6-11; 6:1-8) You can understand why with such guarantees of divine support, obedient ones adjusted their lifestyle and centered their attention on the work for which God had liberated them.
17. In view of the guarantee we have, what should we ask ourselves?
17 Similarly, the guarantee we have of the certain triumph of true worship should stir us to activity and motivate us to think seriously about Jehovah’s house of worship. Ask yourself: ‘If I believe that now is the time to do the work of preaching the good news of the Kingdom and making disciples, do my goals and lifestyle harmonize with my conviction? Am I spending an appropriate amount of time studying God’s prophetic Word, making it my concern, and conversing about it with fellow Christians as well as with others whom I meet?’
18. What lies ahead, according to Zechariah chapter 14?
18 Zechariah referred to the destruction of Babylon the Great followed by the war of Armageddon. We read: “It must become one day that is known as belonging to Jehovah. It will not be day, neither will it be night; and it must occur that at evening time it will become light.” Yes, Jehovah’s day will truly be a dark, cold day for his enemies on earth! But it will mean continuous light and favor for Jehovah’s faithful worshippers. Zechariah also described how everything in the new world will proclaim Jehovah’s holiness. True worship at God’s great spiritual temple will be the only form of worship on earth. (Zechariah 14:7, 16-19) What a guarantee! We will experience the fulfillment of what was foretold and will see the vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty. How unique will be that day belonging to Jehovah!
19, 20. Why do you find Zechariah 14:8, 9 encouraging?
19 Following that stupendous accomplishment, Satan and his demons will be confined to an abyss of inactivity. (Revelation 20:1-3, 7) Then blessings will flow during Christ’s Thousand Year Reign. Zechariah 14:8, 9 says: “It must occur in that day that living waters will go forth from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. In summer and in winter it will occur. And Jehovah must become king over all the earth. In that day Jehovah will prove to be one, and his name one.”
20 “Living waters,” or “a river of water of life,” picturing Jehovah’s provisions for life, will continuously flow from the seat of the Messianic Kingdom. (Revelation 22:1, 2) A great crowd of Jehovah’s worshippers, having survived Armageddon, will benefit by being released from the condemnation of Adamic death. Even those who are already dead will benefit by means of a resurrection. Thus will begin a new phase of Jehovah’s rulership over the earth. Humans earth wide will recognize Jehovah as the Universal Sovereign, the only one to be worshipped.
21. What should be our resolve?
21 In view of all that Haggai and Zechariah foretold and all that has been fulfilled, we have solid reason to move ahead in the work that God has assigned us to do in the earthly courtyards of his spiritual temple. Until true worship is brought to its perfected state, may we all strive to keep Kingdom interests in first place. Zechariah 8:9 urges us: “Let the hands of you people be strong, you who are hearing in these days these words from the mouth of the prophets.”
Do You Recall?
• What historical parallel makes the books of Haggai and Zechariah relevant today?
• Haggai and Zechariah offer us what lesson about priorities?
• Why does considering Haggai and Zechariah give us reason for confidence about the future?
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Haggai and Zechariah encouraged the Jews to work whole-souled and thus receive a blessing
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Are you ‘on the run in behalf of your own house’?
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Jehovah promised a blessing, and he has given it