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But, It's So Small, and So Are We!

Read: Judges 6:11-17; Zechariah 4:8-10; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

The weather reports were calling for a freeze; so, this was the time to pull down the tomato plants, some of which were six feet tall and dense and very thickly stemmed and rooted. I couldn't have imagined this kind of fruitfulness, back in March, when my husband started them in their little cups. Back then, I often checked for the tiniest sign of life. Even the smallest little nub of a plant emerging was cause for celebration. Even so, I remember when they did begin to grow. They seemed so spindly, and I wondered if they would be large and strong enough to plant when the time came to put them into the ground. After they were planted outside, I wondered once again how they would do after some of them were struck by hail. Still, we watched and hoped for some good fruit. Oh my, did the Lord ever provide good fruit. Small beginnings notwithstanding, we have never had the amount of tomatoes that God provided this year. I was reminded of the scriptural truth in 1 Corinthians 3 where Paul tells us that it is man who plants, and it is man who waters, but it is God Who makes seeds grow. Whether it is His Word accomplishing what He desires or a tomato plant producing, God causes growth and fruitfulness according to His will and for His honor, 1 Corinthians 3:5-8; Isaiah 55:10-11.

My husband and I are very thankful that God gave us such an abundant tomato harvest that began with such small beginnings.

I love that the Bible speaks joyfully about small beginnings that flourish when they are in the hands of the Almighty All-Powerful God. Let's be reminded of a few and honor the One Who did great work during Bible times and continues to do so today. First, in Zechariah 4:8-10; Haggai 2:1-9, we look in on the time when Israel's temple was being rebuilt. Decades earlier, the beautiful edifice built by Solomon had been burned with fire by the Babylonians. When we begin to look at our passage in Zechariah 4, the new temple's foundation had been laid, but the work had been stalled for around 20 years. We learn in Ezra 3:12-13 that back when the foundation was laid that some of the people shouted for joy and some wept because they believed that the new temple would be much less magnificent than the first one. A small beginning isn't always lauded. When we meet the people and leaders in Zechariah 4, the work must have seemed daunting, and the delay discouraging. Yet, what good news God gave them. Though the beginning of work seemed so small, it would be completed, and Haggai told them that the glory of this less magnificent temple would outshine the glory of Solomon's. How would God cause that to occur? By all appearances, it would never happen. How could a temple that was less glorious and lavish than the first one outshine what had been destroyed? Praise God. As it is with all small beginnings, God knows the big picture. He knows all that will happen, and He knows the ones He will use to accomplish the things He has foretold in His Word. For example, during the time when Jesus lived on earth, Herod was in the midst of a project to make the temple magnificent. Did he have pure motives and a love for God? No, but He was the one God chose for this task. It took more than 40 years to complete this work, and the beauty of the temple was legendary. The gold and marble shone for all to see, but there was greater glory that would be a part of this temple. Far more beautiful than what could be observed with the eye. The Glory of Israel Himself would enter the temple. Jesus/Messiah would enter it and even cleanse it twice by removing those who dealt with the people in a corrupt way. The Glorious One showed His authority in that place. Talk about a small beginning being transformed into a wonderful demonstration of God's glory. Who could have imagined that the Lamb of God would be there at the temple where little lambs that prefigured His work were offered, John 1:29, but no one in Zechariah's day could have fathomed either the beauty of the renovated temple or the Glorious One Who would be there.

Second, in Judges 6, we meet Gideon. A bit of background to remind us of what it was like in Israel when we are introduced to Gideon in this chapter. His story occurred in the time of the judges where sadly, every man was doing what seemed right in his own eyes. There was rampant idolatry. Because of this disobedience, the nation was being oppressed by the Midianites who were plundering them and even taking their food. God would allow these cycles of pain for His people so they would cry out for His deliverance and return to Him. With all this violence in the land, no wonder Gideon had secured himself in a wine press to beat out his grain. Who was this man Gideon? His own assessment of himself shows us that he saw himself as small and insignificant. Why? Because he believed that his family was insignificant and that he was the least in the family. Talk about a man who saw himself as small; however, God's eyes often see people and circumstances differently than we do. I love that the Angel of the Lord called him mighty. He gave the man with no standing in his own eyes a big God-given mission. He was to be Israel's deliverer. Small family status and a lack of confidence don't deter God at all. Hiding in a wine press so you can beat out the grain doesn't stop God either. When He wants to call a man, it isn't a problem to God if that man thinks he isn't up for the task. God's response to Gideon's self-assessment? He gave Gideon the same answer He frequently gave those who spoke of their smallness. "I will be with you." In the chapters that follow that tell the rest of Gideon's story, we learn that though Gideon felt so small, God knew that the men he chose to be with him on the mission were too many. Israel would brag that it was their strength that brought about their deliverance. So, God saw to it that the man with no confidence was left with only 300 men to face a vastly more numerous army. Talk about God's liking to use what the world considers small so that the honor will be solely His.

In 1 Corinthians 1:26-31, we read another reminder that God often uses the small people of the world to display Himself to a needy world. He often chooses the weak, unimpressive and those the world doesn't laud. If you will, He shines through those who have small beginnings. The world chooses so differently, doesn't it? It is the influencers and movers & shakers that it holds up and honors. Yet, God says that He delights to take a small beginning person to do a grand work. What is that work? It is simply to be faithful with what the Master has given us, 1 Corinthians 4:1-2. Why is living like this something that God desires? Because, it is truly God Who makes things happen. When we honor Him by obeying Him and using the gifts and abilities He has provided, He will bring fruitfulness into our lives. Zechariah 4:6 reminds us that it is not by our might nor by our power but by His Spirit that the fruitfulness comes. Small beginnings aren't troublesome for God because His wisdom, power and love are limitless, and when we rely on Him, a bit of what He is like can be seen by those He places in our paths.

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