Upon their return from Babylonian exile, the Jews were confronted with immense difficulties arising from the opposition of their neighbors, their lack of resources, and the incompetence of their leaders. The last of these was probably their most serious difficulty. Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and Zerubbabel had faltered in his attempt to build the Temple. His hands had laid the foundation; but after a brief effort, they had fallen paralyzed by his side. Royal blood was in his veins; but sadly, he lacked the energy and faith of the princes of his ancestry. The rebuilding of the Temple had been greatly hindered; and for some time, it had been entirely suspended. And all around, the heaped-up ruins and unused building materials showed how much needed to be done. The suspicion may have suggested itself, and spread from lip to lip, that there could be no improvement and no hope of advancement as long as Zerubbabel was in leadership.
These difficulties and forebodings rose like a mountain range between the returned exiles and the accomplishment of their purpose. They rose up like the Himalayas, forming obstacles in front of the restored remnant of Jews. It was at this moment – and in order to reassure them – that the angel who talked with Zechariah came again and woke him up (verse 1), as a person is awakened out of sleep. (Apparently, the prophet had sunken into slumber; his spirit, no doubt, was willing to attend to that which was to be seen and heard – but his flesh was weak, and could not keep pace with his soul in the Divine visions which were being opened before him.) The angel did not minimize the greatness of the discouragements that the Jews were currently under, but he did bring a message of hope. Even though Zerubbabel might lack the essentials of a great leader, yet the success of their undertaking did not depend upon him; but rather, upon the Divine power which was working through him to achieve the Divine purpose. “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. Who art thou, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone with shoutings, crying, Grace, Grace unto it” (verses 6-7). In the most unmistakable terms, Zechariah was further assured that Jehovah would certainly fulfill His Word through this descendant of David’s house. “Moreover, the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundations of this house; his hands shall also finish it” (verses 8-9). Surely it must have been with renewed pleasure that the prophet contemplated the state of the Temple construction-area, even though it was undoubtedly “the day of small things!” With new fortitude, he could bear the adverse criticisms of the elderly men who had seen the glory of the former house, and who were loath to believe that anything could come out of beginnings that were so feeble and delayed! Surely the prophet could already see the prince of Judah, standing in the sunny air, with his plumbline and trowel in hand, as he set the capstone in its place, amidst the enthusiastic shouts of the people (verse 10). And best of all, he could see the eyes of God (seven in number, because of their perfection) which run throughout the whole earth – rejoicing as they beheld the plumbline in Zerubbabel’s hand. Let us pause here for a moment to absorb the sweetness of the suggestion that God delights in His people’s work for Him, and He joins His congratulations with theirs when the crown is placed upon their labors. And let us also take comfort in the assurance that He will perfect those things which are not yet right in our lives, for He cannot forsake the work of His own hands! (Ps. 138:8)
In order to make God’s meaning clearer, the prophet was granted the vision of the candlestick or lampstand – the meaning of which was that the wick, although necessary to the light, played a very inconsiderable part in its production. It was only a channel between the oil in the lamp and the fire that burned on its edge. Similarly, Zerubbabel might be as weak and flexible as a wick, but none of his deficiencies could hinder him from finishing the work to which the Lord had called him – as long as his spirit was kindled with Divine fire, and fed continually by the oil of the gracious influences of the Holy Spirit.
But for us, too, this vision is full of teaching, encouragement, and admonition, to which we would do well if we pay heed. Black darkness envelops the earth; but God has called His people to “shine as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life.” Let us recognize the important work to which God has called us; and whether it is like the flame of the household candle, the glow of the streetlamp, or the gleam of the lighthouse – let us beware of hiding our light under a bushel, lest others stumble to their destruction because we have done so! But how can we shine for Jesus? We are only like the wick of the lamp, which gives no light of its own accord. But the golden bowl filled with oil is an eloquent symbol of the relationship between us and our Redeemer. He is “the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. He is the ocean-basin of God’s infinite resources; and we may draw forever from His stores, and be replenished from His fullness with grace upon grace! Press this thought to your heart, dear child of God, and dwell upon it!
Lord, give us grace to keep in view our nothingness and Your all-sufficiency! Help us to be continually looking up – being convinced that nothing is done or can be done by our might or power, but only by Your Spirit, O Lord. Amen.
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