Monday, October 7, 2013
NOT BY MIGHT, NOR BY POWER BUT BY MY SPIRIT
In the years leading up to the destruction of the nation of Judah and its temple, prophet Jeremiah preached of repentance. Sadly, the cries of the heart-broken prophet went unheeded. God made up His mind to raise up the Babylonians to finally subdue the stubborn nation. King Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the temple and took most of the people into captivity. Thus the colourful history of Israel ended with no national and spiritual identities.
Seventy years later, another empire, King Cyrus of Medo-Persia, took a different stance and released some Jewish people back to their homeland. He even allowed them to rebuild the temple. It was a small taste of restoring national and spiritual identities albiet under foreign domination.
Zerubabbel, the leader of the remnants that returned, together with Chief Priest, Joshua, challenged the people to rebuild the temple. Under the preaching of prophets Haggai and Zechariah, the Jewish people began to visualise the spiritual identity of their nation. The temple must be rebuilt to reunite the people under one God! When the foundation was laid, the older ones who saw Solomon's temple began to weep aloud because it was a much smaller temple (Ezra 3:12-13).
Many returnees were still discouraged as they looked to their own feeble strength and the power of the Persian empire. This was when the word of God spoken through prophet Zechariah saying, “Not by might nor by power but by My Spirit” (Zechariah 4:6).
‘Might’ here in Hebrew also speaks of army or corporate strength and power (perhaps personal strength or status of a person). Both these utterly pale in comparison to the power of the Holy Spirit!
What can we learn from Zechariah 4 about the Holy Spirit?
1. THE HOLY SPIRIT CLEARS THE PATH
“What are you, mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground...” (Zechariah 4:7a).
God will make a way when there seems to be no way through the power of the Holy Spirit! Mighty mountains may be a hindrance to man but not to the Holy Spirit. In fact, nothing is impossible to God! He is able to clear all ‘mountains’ in your life to bring out the best that He created you to be!
What are your mountains today that keep you hindered from giving your best to the Lord? Perhaps past and present hurts? Are there fears, weaknesses, inadequacies or discouragements? Whatever our mountain may be, the Holy Spirit is able to level it! He doesn’t want us to be stuck or stagnated in our walk with God! He wants us to move on to another level of faith, bringing glory to God in our lives!
The Holy Spirit is both a passionate and compassionate Spirit! He loves to help us live a power-filled life, full of meaning and purpose. To be the best God has for us!
The famous philosophical group among the Greeks and the Romans called the Stoics had decided that the essential worthwhile attribute of God was what they called ‘apathea’. So their ‘gods’ were apathetic - but not in the sense of the English word because ‘apathea’ means much more than simple indifference- it means: incapable of feeling anything; without any pathos; without any feeling; and without any emotion. The Holy Spirit is ‘Hagios’ Spirit and not ‘apathea’. ‘Hagios’ here means ‘set apart’ or simply, ‘different’. Jesus is definitely different from the ‘apathea’ gods that the Stoics believed. He was compassionate and even wept when Lazarus died.
The normal Greek word for ‘help’ is “Antilambano”. Paul deliberately used ‘Sunantilambano’ for Holy Spirit’s help in Romans 8:26, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”
The above passage is the only time Paul used this word for help. In fact, in the whole New Testament, the word, ‘Sunantilambano’ appeared only twice. The other was used in Luke 10:40. Martha reacted angrily when he asked Jesus for Mary’s help. “But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
The emphasis on this Greek word for, ‘help’ speaks of the Spirit’s passion to come alongside Christians to help achieve great works for the glory of Jesus Christ!
The Holy Spirit passionately cares for us! When we plan to share the gospel to others, the devil is angry and may want to discourage us. Sometimes we may feel overwhelmed by the task ahead, just like the Jews who came back from captivity. They felt overwhelmed with oppositions and minimal resources in rebuilding the temple. Yet, the Holy Spirit levelled all mountains of obstacles in their paths!
The same Spirit will level the mountains for us! He clears all paths that hinder us with His awesome power! At the end, Zerubbabel and the Jews rebuilt the temple as promised. Later, Nehemiah rebuilt the walls in Jerusalem thus continuing Jewish national and religious identities.
In the New Testament, despite severe oppositions, Peter and the rest of Jesus’ disciples changed Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria upside down for God’s glory! The name of Jesus was lifted high! His ministry continued unabated through the power of the Holy Spirit. True enough, the commands of Jesus to go to all the world in the Holy Spirit’s power was fulfilled by His followers (cf. Acts1:8).
Mighty mountains will be levelled!
2. THE HOLY SPIRIT CREATES UNITY
“...Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of ‘God bless it! God bless it!’” (Zechariah 4:7b).
The Jewish people were challenged to stay united in rebuilding the temple. They had the same vision and same dream - to shout the fame of Yahweh, the true and the living God! And to make Israel great again.
After Jesus gave His last command, 120 gathered in the upper room waiting for the power of the Holy Spirit! The Bible says they were all together. Everyone got the vision, everyone owned it!
Great evangelist Dwight L. Moody once stated, "I have never yet known the Spirit of God to work where the Lord's people were divided."
3. THE HOLY SPIRIT COMPLETES GOD’S WORK
Then the word of the Lord came to me: “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands will also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you. (Zechariah 4:8-9).
The rebuilding of the temple in Zerubabbel’s days was vital in galvanising His people to stand united under God. As promised, the Holy Spirit completed God’s plan by His power through Zerubabbel and the people!
No matter how difficult it may be, how long it takes, the Holy Spirit will complete the plan of God! The plan of God will go on! Do you know that the plan of God will go on with or without us? If Moses’ generation didn’t want to do, God would raise up a Joshua’s generation! If Jeremiah’s generation was not willing, there would be a Zerubabbel’s generation!
Why does God choose to restore this nation called Israel? It all started with this man called Abraham. God called him and gave him a promise that he would carry His plan to the rest of the world.
From Abraham to his son Isaac and finally to his grandson, Israel (or Jacob, his old name). Israel became a nation which God chose to carry on His plan. From this nation came forth the Saviour of the world - Jesus Christ and from Jesus Christ, blessings flow to the rest of the world! And God will finally complete His plan for planet earth through the power of His Holy Spirit!
4. THE HOLY SPIRIT CAUSES SMALL TO BECOME BIG
“Who dares despise the day of small things,... (Zechariah 4:10a).
To God, size does not matter. His principle is always to start small. A mustard seed will eventually grow into the largest garden plant and a tree. A small amount of yeast will permeate the large amount of dough (Matthew 13:31-33). The former will have birds making their nests on the tree, and it all began from a small seed. The latter shall become bread, feeding many and making them strong. All because of little yeast! Jesus started His kingdom on earth with Himself, and then He gathered a small band of twelve unschooled, rough and tough disciples. Today, we have more than two billion believers! Small shall become big when the Holy Spirit moves!
5. THE HOLY SPIRIT CLOTHES GOD’S PEOPLE WITH POWER
Again I asked him, “What are these two olive branches beside the two gold pipes that pour out golden oil?” He replied, “Do you not know what these are?” “No, my lord,” I said. So he said, “These are the two who are anointed to serve the Lord of all the earth” (Zechariah 4:12-14).
God uses people! He used Zerubabbel to rebuild the temple. He used Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Throughout history, all men and women of God did great things for God because God chose to use them by the power of the Holy Spirit!
In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit empowers only in certain people. Priests, kings and some leaders were anointed with oil! But the prophet Joel prophesied that one day all of God’s children will be endued with the Holy Spirit’s power!
“And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days! (Joel 2:28-29).
Peter quoted the above verses when he preached his first evangelistic sermon where three thousand souls gave their lives to Christ. From then on, there was no stopping the power of the Holy Spirit!
If a reverend or reverend doctor in front of his name comes to you and says, ‘Only I have the anointing of the Holy Spirit,’ he might be reading a different Bible than the universal Holy Bible.
In conclusion, the baton is now in our hands! In the hands of all of us who are called to be followers of Christ! To bring to reality the promise first given to Abraham as the blessing to the whole world! To shine forth Christ to christless souls all over the globe. How in the world are we to achieve this gigantic task?
Not by might, nor by power but by My Spirit (Zechariah 4:6)!