I used to think that verse about not by strength nor by might but by the strength of the Lord, was like a promissory note: If you ever find you don’t quite have enough to get the job done, God’s waiting in the wings with some strength on reserve. Now I know that is not the case. It’s not even what the verse really says!
The text actually reads, “So he answered and said to me: This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the LORD of hosts.” (Zech. 4:6 NKJV) The word for “might” here is “Chayil,” which implies the sort of might that comes from having an awesome army, or from substantial wealth. So when you read “might” in this verse, picture Alexander the Great teaming up with the Renaissance Medici family in order to accomplish the purpose of the LORD. Like, if anyone could move the course of humankind, it’s them. Because they did change the world in their lifetimes. Yet, even their level of wealth and power won’t be what brings about the desires of the Father on earth. It will be His very own Spirit.
At the same time, Zerubbabel was at the heart of what God was doing in Israel after they returned from exile in Babylon. So how was he supposed to rebuild the temple, but not in his own strength? Why did God say this to Zerubbabel through the prophet Zechariah in the first place?
I think it’s because our natural inclination is to work for the Lord out of our own strength. In my experience, living out my “Yes” to Jesus’ call on my life in my strength ends up warping the fruit of that work. I short-change Jesus’ input and cut off the influence of Holy Spirit in my work. My strength shrinks the production from an entire orchard to one tree, my tree. My might puts a limit on Jesus’ redemption and becomes what I can replicate as my own redemption.
In fact, I wore myself out trying to work out the call of Jesus on my life. I made a mess of things. Like Zerubbabel, who was worn out after only laying the foundation of the temple, I came to my end right at the start. But that’s when grace kicked in.
The Father knew I was going to try it my way first. He knew I was going to wear out long before the thing was finished. So He waited until I came to my end and in surrender said, “I can’t actually do what You asked me to do!” That’s when He moved and the nature of the work changed from my might to His strength.
Where I stopped, the Lord started. When I stood still, the work really began. And I think that’s the secret: the job doesn’t actually start until my strength is spent. Only then can God start His work in and through my life. God does His work with the strength of His Spirit through my yielded heart.
I think it was Bob Jones who said God takes a really fine pastor and spends 20 years wearing him down before He can use him. Perhaps that is because a really fine pastor has a lot of personal resources to go through before he can truly surrender the work to the Spirit of the LORD. I wasn’t able to properly see or understand the truth of the strength of God until my strength was gone and out of the way.
Zechariah went on in his prophecy, “Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! And he shall bring forth the capstone with shouts of, ‘Grace, grace to it!’” (Zech. 4:7 NKJV) A mountain levels into a plain when one stands before it at the beckoning of Holy Spirit. Walls of hewn stone are secured by a capstone when the words whispered by Holy Spirit are spoken by a tongue surrendered to the LORD.
A yielded heart releases the richness of Holy Spirit into everything it produces. It moves the heart of God so deeply, He sends His angelic armies to bring about a shift in the spiritual unseen that ultimately changes the natural that is seen. We don’t see the spiritual warfare around the mountain in front of us, we just yield and see it level before us. We don’t see who lifts the capstone into its place when we speak, “Grace, Grace to it!” We just yield and speak His word, because Holy Spirit told us to speak it. The word of the LORD does not return to Him void, but accomplishes what He pleases, and it all falls into place.
Why? So we know it wasn’t us, it was Him.
The LORD of hosts sent Jesus to walk with us and hold our hand. “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands shall also finish it. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you.” (Zech. 4:9 NKJV) It’s as if the winds of the Spirit blow and we bow in surrender as response to those winds, like the branches of a tree in a strong wind. The world cannot see the winds of the Spirit, but it can see the evidence of it in us, and our posture testifies that it’s God.
When I read this passage now, I like to imagine the picture: God the Father tells Jesus to speak, Jesus speaks the word, and Holy Spirit completes the word to confirm it. Along the way He turns to us, with a glint in His eye and says, “Wanna come?”