Then he answered and spoke to me, saying, This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power…
We have need to study the Christian dynamics. Good arrangements, good instructions, good intentions, are all well; but what can they avail without a sufficient, continuous force? Let us take a lesson from the angel who spoke to the prophet. Zechariah's object was to instruct the Jews on their return from captivity, and to cheer them on in the work of rebuilding the temple. They were not to be appalled by obstacles ever so formidable, for the work was of God, and God was able to remove mountains of difficulty out of the way. No adversary would be able to injure them. It is easy to pass from this to New Testament teaching. The foundation of the Church has been laid; it grows up slowly but surely, a Holy Temple in the Lord. The work proceeds slowly because it is arduous in its own nature, obstructed by many adversaries. Zerubbabel's temple was finished in about twenty years; but a building which is spiritual needs much more time than one which is constructed of wood and stone. The affections and dispositions of men cannot be shaped as material things may be; and just because the Church is a structure so noble, a habitation of God in the Spirit, its progress is difficult, and in comparison with the works of man it is slow. It has also been hindered by the mistakes and dissensions of the builders; but in the end the same Prince who laid its foundations will certainly finish it. He will say, "It is finished," and in His completed Church He will fill the whole earth with His glory. We speak of the propagation of the Gospel and the construction of the Church: the one movement is diffusive, the other formative; both agree in one, and both are of the Lord. The propagation of the Gospel is not only for, but also by, Christ. He publishes the testimony through all the earth, and saves sinners. The construction of the Church is also by Christ from first to last, and the builders, from Paul and Apollos downwards, are nothing without Him. And oh! with what patience and with what wisdom does He preside over His vast and complex work. Christ is always building His people together, healing, reconciling, moulding, blending, compacting them together as living stones that form the One Temple of the One Holy Ghost. We have said that there is much opposition to this work. So it has always been, and especially at critical emergencies, mountains have threatened to fall upon and to destroy the work of God. Moses went down to Egypt to redeem Israel; then was the power of Pharaoh as a great mountain against him. And as the people escaped the mountain seemed to come nearer, the Egyptian army pursued and threatened to destroy them. Hezekiah revived religion in Judah; then came the power of Assyria, and as a great mountain impended over Jerusalem. The heathen army invested the city, and Hezekiah had no power of resistance, and he spread the matter before the Lord, and in one night the angel of death removed the mountain and laid the Assyrian host still and dead. The Messiah came, not to condemn but to save the world; then the kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers took counsel together against the Lord and His anointed. Herod, Caiaphas, Pilate, Pharisees, Sadducees, priests, elders, and populace all joined in one desperate resistance. The acts of the Apostles were all performed, in spite of mountains of obstruction, by the power from on high that rested upon them. So they carried the Gospel to Europe, and planted it in Macedonia and Greece and Italy, and long afterwards missionaries of apostolic spirit bore it onward through the dense forests of Helvetia, Gaul, and Germany, and penetrated to the distant shores of Britain. The rage of the heathen threatened to devour them, but the Lord stood with them, and before His face the mountains melted away. We have great mountains against us still; huge masses of heathenism which resist our missions. The scepticism which becomes every day more pronounced. There is something else to do than wring our hands and pour out lamentations on the ear. Let us have the faith that removes mountains, and, oppose and deride us who may, let us be of good courage and build. In order to this, mark well what the energy is which surmounts or removes obstacles. Not might, nor power of mortal man. It would have been as vain for the Jews of Zerubbabel to cope with the power of Darius, or for the Apostles and early Christians to grapple with the power of the Roman emperor, or for a few labourers to attack a mountain in the Alps with their spades and try to reduce it to a plain. And equally impossible it is for us to remove, the more intellectual or spiritual obstructions in the way of the Gospel by merely human persuasion and argument. The removal of such mountains as we encounter is a thing possible only with God. It was not before Moses, Hezekiah, Peter or Paul, Columba or Boniface, Zwingle or Luther, that mountains became plain, but before Jesus Christ. Zechariah had a vision of the continuous supply of the Spirit as of holy oil flowing through golden pipes from two olive trees or branches. By this we understand the kingly and priestly institutions which were represented at the time by Zerubbabel the prince and Joshua the high priest. In Jesus Christ, our exalted Saviour, the kingship and priesthood are united. He is the Priest upon a throne, and from the Father through Jesus Christ proceeds to the Church a constant supply of the Spirit. This is the present truth for us; if we believe it, why do we give way to languor or discouragement? If we have strength, learning, money, let us consecrate it to the Lord. But, knowing that these cannot prevail, let us lift our eyes to the Lord Himself, and cast our care upon Him. Let me encourage all Christian teachers and preachers to persevere in this confidence, undaunted and unwearied. The holy Temple on the rock will be finished, and the headstone brought forth with shoutings. Indeed, no man can understand all the symmetry of our Lord's plan till it is completed; but then, it will be seen how He has overruled all the persecutions, martyrdoms, and controversies for higher ends, and has made even the rending of the outward frame of the Church of God a means of preserving and purifying its inward life. What bursts of admiration when all is finished! What shouts of praise, grace, grace! No shout of human names or party distinctions will be attempted in that bright day. All is due to the grace of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, to whom be glory in the Church.
(D. Fraser, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, 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.