After the exile in Babylon, many of the Hebrews who had been deported returned to Jerusalem. The books of Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, and Zechariah all focus upon the activity in Judah during this time period. Zerubbabel is governor of Judah. Zechariah 4:6-10 reads:
“Therefore he told me, ‘These signify the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by strength and not by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord who rules over all. 7 “What are you, you great mountain? Because of Zerubbabel you will become a level plain! And he will bring forth the temple capstone with shoutings of ‘Grace! Grace!’ because of this.” 8 Moreover, the word of the Lord came to me as follows: 9 “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundations of this temple, and his hands will complete it.” Then you will know that the Lord who rules over all has sent me to you. 10 For who dares make light of small beginnings?”
Verse 6 is an oft-quoted verse – as it should be! The backdrop of the words “not by strength and not by power” refers back approximately 500 years to the days when King David designed and then King Solomon built the majestic temple. In this word to the Hebrews, Zechariah acknowledges that the resources available to David and Solomon were not available in their day. Haggai 2 reinforces this thought:
“Who among you survivors saw the former splendor of this temple? How does it look to you now? Isn’t it nothing by comparison? 4 Even so, take heart, Zerubbabel,’ says the Lord. ‘Take heart, Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and all you citizens of the land,’ says the Lord, ‘and begin to work. For I am with you,’ says the Lord who rules over all.”
Unfortunately, the general population had very good institutional memory of the size of the Solomon’s temple and this second temple was “nothing” in comparison to that majestic structure. But both Zechariah and Haggai remind the Hebrews that the Holy Spirit’s presence was more than sufficient to make up for the diminished size of the 2nd temple.
This verse has powerful application for every believer. It is good that our responsibilities, our dreams, even our “to do” list is GREATER than our human capabilities. Let me paraphrase the verse “Lord, not by my skills, not by my training, not by my personality, but by Your Spirit…” We WANT our responsibilities to be greater than our own resourcefulness, for it makes us dependent upon the Spirit of God.
Verse 7 describes the impact of a Spirit powered life. “What are you, you great mountain? Because of Zerubbabel you will become a level plain!” Zechariah uses vivid imagery here – “great mountains become level plains” to describe how obstacles we face are overcome by His Spirit. Obstacles become opportunities for God to show His sovereign power and wisdom on our behalf.
People will cry out “Grace, Grace” when they see what God has done. They will cry out “how great God is” rather than “how great we are.”
The rhetorical question in verse 10 is powerful: “For who dares to make light of small beginnings?” Yes, the second temple would have a small beginning, but size and architecture mean nothing when God manifests His Presence. We must never under estimate the significance of small beginnings.
As I consider how far the Lord has taken our church over the past decade, I realize that we are living proof of the truth of God’s Word. It was a Sunday night in late 2004 when I boarded a plane in Raleigh and traveled back to suburban Minneapolis. Trudy and I had just completed our 2nd candidating experience at Christ Community Church. In those days CCC was smaller than the overflow attendance at a recent 10:45 service. On the plane, I wrote these words in my journal:
“Dependence. The ministry match is good, and our experience will be helpful, but the size of the leadership base is a reminder that only God can do what we dream for. Zechariah 4:6. There is no place whatsoever for self-sufficiency in this work.”
By HIS Spirit, God grows small beginnings into things with mighty Kingdom impact! The Scriptures promise it, CCC is testimony of it, and we can believe it!
“Grace, Grace” How great is our God!