Thursday, June 5, 2014

Not by Might... but by the Spirit

Zechariah 4:1  The angel who talked with me came again, and wakened me, as one is wakened from sleep. 2  He said to me, "What do you see?" And I said, "I see a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it; there are seven lamps on it, with seven lips on each of the lamps that are on the top of it. 3  And by it there are two olive trees, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left." 4  I said to the angel who talked with me, "What are these, my lord?" 5  Then the angel who talked with me answered me, "Do you not know what these are?" I said, "No, my lord." 6  He 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.”

Zechariah was a prophet of God during reign of Darius the Great. This was in the period of the rebuilding of the temple of Jerusalem after the Babylonian Captivity of the Jews. The rebuilding of the temple was being led by Zerububbel, who had been appointed as governor of Judah. This proved to be a difficult and demoralizing job as the temple had been abandoned for seventy years and was ruined. The returning Jews were more interested in building their own houses than in building the temple, and their moral character was fragmented and selfish.  Zerabubbel was demoralized and at the point of giving up.

In this passage Zechariah is given a vision to share with Zerabubbel. This is a vision of the great candle in the temple: a Menorah.[1] Priests had to be on duty night and day to keep the lamps burning. This passage is a vision of a lampstand that is perpetually lighted, not by priests on duty, but by the olive trees that are planted on either side of it.  This speaks of the light of God being kept alight – “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the LORD of hosts”.  Here is a word of reassurance for Zerabubbel: the Spirit of God is not confined to human endeavour alone. God is present in the work of the temple beyond the efforts of the governor. 

We can take a word of reassurance from this.  Hard work can accomplish much – but there is spiritual life beyond human effort. We do not control the Spirit of God! We do not keep the candle lighted, because God is capable of keeping the light burning without us. The presence of the Spirit is not dependent on singing the “right” hymns, or on praying the “right” prayers. The “correct” worshipful atmosphere is not a prerequisite for the presence of the Spirit.  God’s Spirit is available with – and without – the songs, prayers and invocations.  

Take hope from a God who never leaves us, even when we feel alone and discouraged. God’s strength is greater than our human effort.

We like to think, that we can handle problems on our own.
We buckle down, apply the steam,
work our hands down to the bone,
But when we’ve gone around in circles,
and there’s no place left to turn,
The Lord reminds us quietly, there’s a lesson to be learned.

It’s not by might, nor by power,
but by my Spirit.
It’s not by might, nor by power,
Sayeth the Lord.

by Psalty

29 The Church of the Spirit
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Rueben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 184.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.

[1] In Exodus 25 Moses is instructed to build a lamp stand of pure gold.

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