A message for God’s people today about seeking the Spirit’s empowerment to get things done, and about the Divine’s perspective on military & financial power. “Help!”, the people of God cry out, as they look around for ways to deal with things. Then they put great effort into fund raisers, committees & contests. It’s like the church looks for love in all the wrong places. “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit,” is one of the more famous verses of the Hebrew scriptures, is found at ZECH 4:6, and has the ring of a motto. Zechariah lived during a time period (the 6th century B.C.) that reminds me of today, and verse six is still appropriate for today.
WHEN GOD SPOKE THOSE WORDS, PEOPLE HAD ATTITUDES LIKE TODAY for the World functioned in patterns parallel with ours. Power gave success. Right seemed determined by might. It was a time when mighty empires clashed, & like today, the power of military technology (like the Phalanx, composite bows, chariot units, etc.) & military forces was the big thing. The world power Egypt, led by Pharaoh Neco, was defeated at Carchemish in 605. The Babylon Empire fell to the Persians in 539 B.C. And just prior to Zechariah being called to his role as prophet, an officer named Darius took over ruling the large Persian empire, which was famous for its good highways. He got fame as a great ruler. He was Zechariah’s ruler. Darius, leading the Persian superpower, attacked Greece with an army of 25,000 infantry (not to mention cavalry, & mounted & unmounted archer units). His army was defeated in a surprise attack by 10,000 Greek heavy infantry at the Battle of Marathon. It was a time when many were apathetic spiritually. Back in that day, there were all kinds of religions to pick from, some quite wealthy and influential; and within God’s people, there were false teachers preaching prosperity theology. Attacking the false prosperity gospel, one prophet warned, “Do not trust in deceptive words…”(1) Yet, even God’s people mistakenly trusted in what man could do. Long before Zechariah’s prophetic divine advice, God’s people had been counselled, “Cast thy burden upon the LORD, & He shall sustain thee.” They also knew how David had fought Goliath by the power of the Spirit (recorded in 1 SAM 17).
ACTS OF THE SPIRIT. The Book of Acts repeatedly gives anecdotes about how the early church was empowered by & lived by the Holy Spirit. Later the church is reminded to “live [& walk] by the Spirit”.(2) “Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations…that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man…”(3) The Spirit of God is needed to live as a new creation. We are a people of the Holy Spirit. But we often forget this. And it is common for the churches to misguide people into thinking that God’s people have only had the Spirit since Christ. They have always been empowered and led by His Holy Spirit. Moses’ assistants were filled by the Spirit with the spirit of wisdom so they could help judge the people.(4) Later Israel’s judges were empowered by His Spirit.(5) Wisdom, by the way, is a gift from God’s Spirit.(6) His kings and prophets were anointed with oil, as a picture of the anointing of the Spirit on their lives. Olive oil gives life, it heals, it warms, it gives light, it removes friction, and polishes….all activities of the Spirit.
ZECHARIAH. This young prophet was a godly priest of the House of Iddo. His role as a prophet of God ran at least from around 520 to 517 B.C., and was concurrent with Haggai’s time as a prophet. Later he was 55 yrs. old when the Battle of Marathon (490 B.C.) took place. ZECH 4:6, the verse we are focused on in this message, comes from a record of an angelic interpretation of the prophet’s four divinely-given visions. The angel of interpretation said that the visions were a prophetic word from the Lord in symbols. (God often uses symbols.) Using his authority, the angel gives authoritive answers to Zechariah’s questions about the visions.
The angel goes on in the next verse to use the metaphor of a mighty mountain, “Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain.” The Bible has used the metaphor of “mountain” to mean a mountainous obstacle before.(7) When one prayerfully soaks up the context, it obviously means that God will remove the mountain of obstacles created by some power that resists Zerubbabel (of the House of David) to rebuild the Temple. Some interpreters claim it means that God will help Zerubbabel remove the mountain of rubble of the previous temple…but this is a shallow interpretation that does not fit the context. Another possible meaning for mountain is that it represents a World power, which is another metaphor seen in the Bible.(8) While the meaning does not have to be a World power per se, it certainly is describing mountains of obstacles that are being created by those who are opposed to God’s agenda.
FINAL THOUGHT. Sometimes we try too hard, and work against ourselves, when our heavenly Father is wanting to help us. Reminds me of the verse telling God’s people they were earning wages to put them into bags with holes.(9) At times, it seems the more one makes, the more one’s financial demands. “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”(10) Christ taught, “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him.” LK 11:13 May we go forth, not in our own power, but in the Spirit, and have victory like David.
(1) JER 7:4 (2) GAL 5:16,18,25. Also the Word teaches us to walk in truth, love, and faith, which are fruit of the Spirit. (3) EPH 3:13a,16b (4) NUM 11: 17-29 (5) various places in JUDG show this: JDG 3:10, 6:34, 11:29, 13:25, 14:6,19 & 15:14,19 (6) PRV 2:6,7 (7) EZRA 4 & 5, ISA 40:5 (8) PS 68:16,17; 76:4, JER 51:23 (9) HAG 1:6 (10) PHIL 4:19