Sermon #20 Zechariah Series
Title: The Mountain Mover
Text: Zechariah 4:7
Subject: Obstacles Removed by Christ
Date: Sunday Morning November 20, 2005
Reading: Isaiah 40:1-31
Tape # Zechariah #20
My friend, George Ella, has written two books called Mountain Movers. In those two volumes, he gives us short biographical sketches of people used of God to move mountains. Our Lord Jesus said, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall say to this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done (Matt. 21:21), declaring that by faith in him we can and shall overcome any obstacle that might stand in our way as we make our pilgrimage through this world.
Today, I want us to meditate not upon the faith in Christ by which mountains may be removed, but upon the great Mountain Mover himself, our mighty Zerubbabel, the Lord Jesus Christ. You will find my text in Zechariah 4:7.
(Zechariah 4:7) 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.
The children of Israel were, I remind you again, a typical people. Gods dealings with Israel after the flesh were typical of his dealings with Israel after the Spirit, his elect family, the Israel of God, the true, spiritual seed of Abraham. Because of their many sins, the children of Israel were taken into Babylon and held captive there for seventy years. When the seventy years of Babylonian captivity were finished, the Lord God sovereignly turned the heart of the king of Persia to favor the chosen nation (Ezra 1:1-3).
(Ezra 1:1-3) Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, (2) Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The LORD God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. (3) Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel, (he is the God,) which is in Jerusalem.
Many of the children of Israel left Babylon and returned to Jerusalem. When they arrived in Jerusalem, one of the first things they did, as they began to rebuild the temple, which had been laid in ruins by Nebuchadnezzar, was to set the altar of God up on its bases and offer burnt offerings to the Lord (Ezra 3:3). But, after two years had passed, the foundation of the temple of the Lord was not yet laid (Ezra 3:6). Then, in the second year, Zerubbabel the prince laid the foundation of the temple before Joshua the high priest and his brethren, the Levites (Ezra 3:8-11).
(Ezra 3:11) And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the LORD; because he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever toward Israel. And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.
We are distinctly told that this laying of the foundation was by the hands of Zerubbabel (Zech. 4:9), the Prince and Governor of Judah, a lineal descendant of King David and a type of the Lord Jesus.
Obstacles in the Way
But no sooner was the foundation laid, than difficulties arose which seemed to threaten the success of the work. There were some of the old priests who wept aloud because they realized things were changing. Comparing what they now saw with the glory of the former temple, they despised the day of small things. Then, some adversaries of Judah offered to help the work along (Ezra 4:2-3).
(Ezra 4:2-3) Then they came to Zerubbabel, and to the chief of the fathers, and said unto them, Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither. (3) But Zerubbabel, and Jeshua, and the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel, said unto them, Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the LORD God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us.
When they were rejected, these wicked men hired counselors against them to frustrate their purpose during the successive reigns of Cyrus, Darius, Ahasuerus, and Artaxerxes. They were persistent adversaries! Then, in the days of Artaxerxes, they wrote a letter and circulated it everywhere, falsely accusing Israel of evil designs. They said, The Jews are building the rebellious and bad city, hurtful unto the kings and provinces, and have moved with sedition (Ezra 4:5-16).
Haggai and Zechariah
As a result of their adversaries schemes, obstacle after obstacle, hindered the work of rebuilding the temple for fourteen years. Then the Lord raised up two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, to revive and stir up his people, to rouse them to the work of building of the temple in spite of all the opposition and obstacles before them (Ezra 5:1-2).
Zerubbabel and Joshua, with the prophets of God helping them, resumed the work. Countless difficulties were before them. Huge mountains stood in their way. Multitudes opposed them. And they did not have any way to obtain the means needed to accomplish the work. The work was begun. The foundation had been laid. The walls were partially erected. But nothing had been done for a long, long time. And there was no prospect, at least none discernable to man, that the temple would ever be completed. It was at this time, against this dark backdrop, that the Lord appeared to Zechariah with a vision, by which he gave this message to Zerubbabel (Zech. 4:6-7).
This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts. Who art thou, O great mountain alluding to the difficulties, opposition, and impediments that lay in the way of completing the temple Who art thou, O great mountain? What are these adversaries? What are these difficulties? What are these obstacles? Before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain! All the difficulties that are piled up before Gods Israel like a great mountain, before Zerubbabel, shall dissolve! And he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it.
(Zechariah 1:16) Therefore thus saith the LORD; I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies: my house shall be built in it, saith the LORD of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem.
(Zechariah 4:9) The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you.
And so it came to pass. The prophecy was literally and historically fulfilled. The temple was built. Zerubbabel brought forth the headstone and set it in its place, with shoutings of Grace, grace unto it, as we read in Ezra 6:15-17.
(Ezra 6:15-17) And this house was finished on the third day of the month Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king. (16) And the children of Israel, the priests, and the Levites, and the rest of the children of the captivity, kept the dedication of this house of God with joy, (17) And offered at the dedication of this house of God an hundred bullocks, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs; and for a sin offering for all Israel, twelve he goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel.
Those are the historic circumstances. But what do all those things have to do with us? What do they have to do with the Israel of God and our experience of grace?
Proposition: Every mountain that stands in the way of Christ, our mighty Zerubbabel, shall disappear before him; and he will complete his work of grace. He will complete his temple. He shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it!
The Lord himself raises a question, at the beginning of verse 7 Who art thou, O great mountain? He is not asking about some rolling hill that rises with ease and is pleasant to the eyes. This is a great mountain. Its steep slopes and lofty peaks reach seem to penetrate the sky. Its slopes are not slopes, but sharp, rocky cliffs, shooting straight up into the sky. It is huge. It cannot be scaled. It stands before the weary traveler as an impenetrable, insurmountable barrier.
The Lord, then, addresses himself to this mountain, and says, Who art thou, O great mountain? Take a look a the mountain, whatever it may be that stands in your way. Measure its dimensions. Examine the impenetrable, insurmountable obstacle that stands in the way. Yes, it is great and high. Its cliffs are huge. Its peaks are lofty. I take the mountain to represent anything that opposes my soul, anything that would impede my progress, anything that seems impossible to overcome, anything that would keep me from my God and my home with him in everlasting glory. But the mountain, whatever it is, before our mighty Zerubbabel, is utterly insignificant. Let Christ speak, let him but appear, and thou shalt become a plain!
Has the Lord begun his good work of grace in your soul? If so, the Lord Jesus, our mighty Zerubbabel, has laid himself as the Foundation Stone in your heart, his temple, before your very eyes, by the mighty operations of his Spirit. No sooner is the Foundation Stone of Gods grace laid in your soul, than opposition arises and enemies pop up everywhere. Stark, huge, dark, dark mountains rise before you. Just yesterday, the way was smooth before you. Nothing seemed to be in your way. Nothing opposed you. But, as soon as the Lord, began his work in you, as soon as he came into your soul and took possession of his temple, what great obstacles arose!
There stands the mountain of Gods inflexible justice. It never bothered you before, but now it troubles you greatly. How can a holy God save a sinner like me? The question never troubled you until now. But all of a sudden, all you can see is the dark and cloudy Mt. Sinai. All you can hear is its thunder. All you can see is the terror of its lightning. That is exactly what Paul tells us happened to him (Rom. 7:9).
(Romans 7:9) For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.
Many try to climb the mountain, only to fall from one of its high cliffs. Some try to wind their way around the mountain, only to be lost in its darkness. Some skillful engineers are attempt to lower its peaks and bridge its ravines; but the rocks fall upon them and the bridges break beneath them. It is written, By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified!
The mountain of Gods justice in the broken law stands as an impenetrable barrier between God and the soul until Christ our Zerubbabel appears. But before Zerubbabel, this lofty mountain of Gods inflexible justice becomes a plain. He has taken the mountain away, by fulfilling it completely (Rom. 9:31-10:4; Col. 2:14).
(Romans 9:31-33) But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. (32) Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; (33) As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
(Romans 10:1-4) Brethren, my hearts desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. (2) For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. (3) For they being ignorant of Gods righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. (4) For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
(Colossians 2:14) Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.
Our blessed Savior did not make a bridge to span the gorges. He did not lower the peaks, making it possible for the sinner to climb over them by degrees. No, no. But by fulfilling the law, he completely put it out of the way. Before our mighty Zerubbabel this mountain of inflexible justice becomes a plain.
But there is another mountain that rises, just as dark, just as high, just as impossible to cross. It is the mountain of unbelief. God requires faith in Christ; but I cannot produce it. He requires the sinner to trust his Son; but no man can muster faith from within himself. So, there stands between your soul and everlasting salvation the huge mountain of unbelief.
We know nothing of an unbelieving heart until God the Spirit makes the conscience tender in his fear. Deceived by Satan, we mistake presumption for faith, and vain-confidence for a good hope through grace. The unbelief and infidelity of our fallen nature are completely hidden from us. We know no more about a fearful, doubting heart, and the utter impossibility of believing on the Son of God, than a dead man in the cemetery.
But when Christ comes by his Spirit and sets his hand to the work, when he lays the Foundation Stone of grace in the conscience, then for the first time this mountain begins to appear the mountain of a doubting, unbelieving, and infidel heart, questioning everything that God has revealed, a heart that cannot and will not and cannot receive the truth as it is in Christ. Oh, what struggles, what difficulties, what perplexities are felt in the soul because of this great mountain of unbelief which rears up its huge head so unexpectedly!
When God the Spirit convinces us of unbelief, he shows us the mountain which before was hidden from our view, and makes us feel what a barrier it is between heaven and our souls. When this mountain appears before the conscience, that without faith it is impossible to please God, we are brought to see, that to live and die in unbelief, is to live and die in our sins. As soon, then, as we get the first glimmering light of grace and faith in our souls, we feel the unbelief of our hearts. It is true
· We must take God at his Word.
· We must simply look to Christ.
· We must simply believe what God has revealed.
But that is just what some of you find most aggravating to your souls. You know you must; but you simply cannot do what you must.
But the Lord says, Who art thou, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain! With one glance of his eye, with one touch of his finger, with one word of his lips, in one moment, the Lord Jesus causes faith to spring up in the soul to receive him in all his saving fullness. Then, the great mountain of unbelief, which seemed completely irremovable and utterly impassable, becomes a plain. Then, the poor soul, called by omnipotent grace, can no more refuse to believe, than it could have believed before. When faith is given, of all things it is most easy to believe. The mountain before Zerubbabel sinks into a plain.
No sooner is one mountain removed than another appears. There stands before us the huge mountain of our sins. That is a mountain that lies hard and heavy upon the conscience. A life of sin is a heavy load upon the conscience. Then, when we are made to see that what we are is even worse than what we have done, that the thoughts of our hearts are only evil continually, that we are utterly depraved in the very core of our being, sin presses us down like a great mountain falling upon us!
How is this great mountain of sin and sinfulness to be removed? asks the heavy laden soul. I cannot change my own heart. I cannot take away the burden of guilt. I cannot purge my guilty conscience. I cannot bring spiritual, holy, and righteous thoughts into my mind. How is this great mountain to be removed? Such a great mountain as that left upon the soul would be a millstone to sink us into the lowest depths of hell.
But when the Lamb of God appears and says, Who art thou, O great mountain? this burden of sin, this weight of guilt that makes your soul cry and groan becomes a plain. He who answers all the demands of Gods holy law and justice answers all the demands of the awakened conscience.
· He brought in everlasting righteousness.
· His precious blood was shed to wash away all guilt and sin.
· And when he sheds abroad his love in our hearts by his Spirit, the mountain of sin becomes a plain.
(Romans 4:25) Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.
(Romans 5:1-11) Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: (2) By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (3) And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; (4) And patience, experience; and experience, hope: (5) And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. (6) For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. (7) For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. (8) But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (9) Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. (10) For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. (11) And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.
Then, oh, what a burden a hard heart is to a tender conscience, awakened by grace. A stony, unfeeling heart, what a great mountain is this between God and the soul! Do you know the weight of that mountain? You cannot produce one feeling of contrition. You cannot raise up one twinge of godly sorrow. No sigh of grief stirs within. No tear of repentance flows from your iron hard soul.
What a burden, what a plague, what a source of trouble a hard heart is to all who fear his name! How often this great mountain thrusts its lofty peaks into the sky, so that heaven is not seen. The loving-kindness of the heart of the crucified Christ is not apprehended. Nothing is seen except this dark and impenetrable barrier between God and our souls! We cannot move it. All the preaching in the world cannot move it. All the praying in the world cannot move it. And all the exertions of the creature cannot move it. You could just as easily lift the world as remove that mountain of hardened steel in your soul!
But before our great Zerubbabel even this mountain becomes a plain. Let him but put his hand in, and our hearts melt like a snowball in a blast furnace (Song. 5:2-5). It is the Almighty who troubles me; and God maketh my heart soft (Job 23:16).
(Song of Songs 5:2-5) I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night. (3) I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them? (4) My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him. (5) I rose up to open to my beloved; and my hands dropped with myrrh, and my fingers with sweet smelling myrrh, upon the handles of the lock.
(Isaiah 64:1) Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence.
Men and women void of the grace of God, who have nothing but a carnal profession of religion, have no difficulties.
· Easy believism faces no mountains.
· Free-willism has no mountains.
· Being confirmed in the church has no mountain that must be removed.
· Baptismal salvation has no mountain that must be removed.
But Gods children in this world are constantly made to face mountains of difficulties, mountains of troubles, mountains of opposition to their souls, both from within and from without.
Like Zerubbabel of old, our mighty Zerubbabel builds the walls of his temple in troublous times, in the midst of countless enemies, and mountains of difficulty. What a trying time it must have been to the remnant who had returned from Babylon. For fourteen years, no stone was laid in the walls. It looked like the work was completely suspended. But it was just as sure as ever. Blessed be God, so it is with our souls!
Though we seem to make no progress and often seem to be going backward, we read Gods promise, He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it.
· Though many adversaries accuse us, and men gladly hear them, he will never hear their accusations.
· Though mountains of unbelief yet rise within us, when Zerubbabel appears, they dissolve in an instant.
· Though our hearts constantly grow hard, he graciously melts them.
Why the Mountains
Why has the Lord appointed that these mountains should stand up between himself and our hearts? Let me answer that question with another. Why did the Lord permit the building of the temple to be so interrupted by the adversaries of Judah? Was it not his sovereign pleasure that the temple should be rebuilt? Did he not declare that the glory of the latter house should exceed the glory of the former? Did he not intend for it to come to pass? Why, then, did he allow adversaries to rise up on every hand? Why did he put such mountains in the way of his people?
· He did it to constantly show them their own insufficiency and inability.
· He did it so that when the work was done they would know that it was his work, all his work, and only his work.
· If there were no mountains of difficulties, perplexities, and obstacles to constantly harass our souls, we would not need a Zerubbabel, we would not need an almighty Savior to work for us and in us by his grace.
If we are Gods we will have a mountain, a chain of mountains, in our way throughout our pilgrimage here. But before Zerubbabel, before the almighty power of God our Savior, these mountains will become a plain. And he will finish his work.
And he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it. The hands of Zerubbabel which had laid the foundation must also put on the headstone, or the last stone in the roof. Then the temple would stand forth complete, towering in all its beautiful proportions and all its sublime grandeur as a monument to Zerubbabel. So Christ our Zerubbabel, the Lord of life and glory, whose hands have laid the Foundation Stone of grace in the heart, will accomplish the work, and bring forth the headstone thereof, with shoutings of Grace, grace unto it!
· Christ will complete his work of grace in you who are the temple of God.
· Christ will complete the building of his house, his church, the temple of the Living God.
· And he will bring forth the headstone thereof with such sweet revelations of his blood and love, of his goodness and mercy, that every ransomed soul will shout Grace, grace unto it! It is written
(2 Peter 1:11) For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
There is a special sweetness in the repetition of the word Grace in our text. He shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it. Grace begins the work, and grace completes it. Grace applied the law, and grace reveals the Gospel. Grace killed, and grace makes alive. Grace wounded, and grace heals. Grace laid the Foundation, and grace brings forth the top-stone. Grace reigns in the beginning, and grace reigns in the end. When the work is all done, we shall shout forever, Grace, grace! Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound! Nothing but grace could ever have laid the Foundation. And nothing but of grace can ever bring forth the headstone.
And he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it. John Gill wrote, This will be the cry of every saint in glory, throughout the endless ages of eternity; nor will the least sound be heard that is jarring, or contrary to it. All will be of one mind, and in one tone, and strive to outdo each other in exalting the free grace of God in the highest strains, with the greatest fervency of soul, and with the loudest acclamations, and those continually repeated. And he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it.
If the literal temple had been built without any trouble, if everything had been smooth and easy, there would not have been any shouting of Grace, grace, when it was finished. But when those who saw the work finished remembered how the Lord had brought a few feeble exiles from Babylon, how he had supported them and carried them through all their troubles, and how he that laid the foundation brought forth the headstone, all that stood by shouted, Grace, grace unto it! It was their trials and troubles, their bitter struggles, that made them shout with joy, as their hearts danced and their souls leaped within them, Grace, grace unto it!
Shall it not be so with us? Who will shout in that great day, Grace, grace unto it, but those who have known and felt the aboundings of sin crushing their souls down to hell and the super-aboundings of grace reigning in righteousness over their sin to take it away? Who will have reason to sing, Grace, grace? The lost and ruined wretch, who feared he would go to hell a thousand times over, and yet has been delivered by sovereign grace and brought to the glory and joy of heaven. No one else is fit to join in the song; and no one else will join in it, but those who having known the bitterness of sin and the a depraved heart, have been snatched as brands from the burning and saved by amazing, free, omnipotent grace. They and they alone can and will forever cry, Grace, grace unto it! Only those who know what grace is will glorify the God of all grace for his great grace!