It is sometimes said, perhaps with the object of discouraging large expectations, that we live in a “day of small things”. However, expressions in use among us, though they may be of long–standing, are not necessarily as firmly based on Scripture as we are sometimes led to believe.
The words in question here are a quotation from Zechariah 4: 10, and the day to which they refer was indeed a day of small things. The new temple had just been erected, and when the glory of the temple built by Solomon was remembered, the new one was in comparison “as nothing” (Hag. 2: 3).
In fact, littleness was characteristic of what we may call Israel’s day. The nation commenced its existence as “the fewest of all the peoples” (Deut. 7: 7). Later on, when the armies of the ten tribes went up against the Syrians they were “like two little flocks of goats; but the Syrians filled the land” (1 Kings 20: 27). Again, when the southern kingdom of Judah became a “sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that corrupt themselves” (Is. 1: 4), God allowed only a “very small residue” (v9) to remain. Later, in the days of the exile, God graciously stirred up the spirits of a few (see Ezra 1: 5) but the revival was very limited in scope: “And now for a little space there hath been favour from Jehovah our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a nail in his holy place, that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our bondage” (Ezra 9: 8). As the book of Esther shows, the majority preferred to remain in the lands of the Gentiles. God did not forget His exiled people, but He promised them no great things. He would be to them “as a little sanctuary in the countries wither they are come” (Ezek. 11: 16).
Such was Israel. But what a difference has been made by the coming into the world of the Son of God! As my reader well knows, what great things He has accomplished! And now that He is glorified and has sent down the Holy Spirit, the day in which our lot is cast has become great in so many ways. It may be a day of small men, but (unlike Zechariah’s day), it is a day of great things. In the OT we keep company with kings and mighty men, in the NT we move along with fishermen and the like, but more especially, we find ourselves in the presence of the Holy Spirit. To what great things He is the key! Yes, because of the public breakdown, we may have, if faithful, just a “little power” (Rev. 3: 8) but our day is nonetheless still a day of great things:
A Great Light
A light shines for us that in brightness not only transcends all that ever shone for Israel, but also surpasses any that will shine in the future. At the advent of Christ when He comes to establish His kingdom in power, He shall arise as “the Sun of righteousness” (Mal. 4: 2) with healing in his wings—but the light that shines for us now is “a light above the brightness of the sun” (Acts 26: 13, my emphasis). This “great light” (Acts 22: 6), is the light of Christianity, a light that reveals the heart of God in Christ, and the wonderful purposes of His love that we might receive sonship and become heirs through God (see Gal. 4: 5, 7).
A Great Sheet
The “great sheet” (Acts 10: 11) that descended to Peter sets out the world–wide scope of the grace of God today. In former times the river of God’s mercy was continually overflowing its banks. It overflowed to Rahab the Canaanite, Ruth the Moabitess, Naaman the Syrian and a whole city full of Ninevites. But there are no banks for it to overflow in this our day. It is like a shore–less ocean, flowing freely to all mankind, to “whosoever” (John 3: 16), and bringing those whom it reaches into better blessings than Israel ever knew.
A Great Multitude
When Paul preached at Iconium “a great multitude of both Jews and Greeks believed” (Acts 14: 1), and great multitudes have been saved ever since. We are often too narrow in our outlook and need to look beyond the confines of our walls to see what God is doing in the whole world! Three thousand were added to the Assembly after Peter’s memorable discourse on the Day of Pentecost (see Acts 2: 41), and while the fact that this took place in one city on one day might be rather extraordinary, is it not probable that today, taking the world as a whole, more than three thousand have been added to the Lord?
In Acts 4: 33 we read that “great grace” was upon the multitude of those that had believed. The meaning of this is explained in the two verses that follow: “For neither was there any one in want among them; for as many as were owners of lands or houses, selling them, brought the price of what was sold and laid it at the feet of the apostles; and distribution was made to each according as any one might have need” (vs 34, 35). The Law demanded a certain amount of tithing and alms–giving but this will never satisfy a heart that has been blessed by “the God of all grace” (1 Pet. 5: 10). The Christian cannot help himself: if grace has “overabounded” (Rom. 5: 20) on his account, then “grace abounding” (2 Cor. 4: 15) most flow out to the accounts of others. “I shall most gladly spend and be utterly spent for your souls” (2 Cor. 12: 15) was the cry of one who elsewhere acknowledged himself as the first or chief of sinners (see 1 Tim. 1: 15).
When Samaria received the word of God, Luke records that “there was great joy in that city” (Acts 8: 8). Find me a drunkard made more miserable by the light of Christianity in his heart. Take me to a prostitute who regrets that she ever heeded the Gospel of the grace of God. Point me to any man, woman or child, whether moral or immoral, made less happy by turning to Christ. They do not exist. That is not to say that they are never sad, or never pass through any trials or tribulations. The saints to whom Peter wrote in his first epistle were “put to grief by various trials” (1 Pet. 1: 6), but they also had a deep–seated joy within which no outward persecution could touch: “whom, having not seen, ye love; on whom [though] not now looking, but believing, ye exult with joy unspeakable and filled with [the] glory” (v8).
In the light of these wonders, let us “lift up the hands that hang down, and the failing knees” (Heb. 12: 12), and look above and beyond in faith to “the great things of God” (Acts 2: 11, my emphasis)!