Reading: Zechariah 4:1-14.
"Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts." That fragment of the Word seems more than any other to sum up what has been going on in my own heart of late, and which I believe has a Divine connection with our gathering together at this time. It is not my thought to go in any full or detailed way into the context of those words, although we may touch upon it from time to time, but simply to recognise that they are in themselves a summary of a very great deal in relation to the Lord's activities.
In the first place, of course, that phrase is the pivot of this whole chapter; everything in the chapter revolves upon that verse. All the history that is bound up with this chapter - and it is not an unimportant history - is gathered into these words. But more than being central to this chapter, this is a statement which expresses what is found everywhere in the Scriptures in relation to any new movement of the Lord. Wherever you may put your hand upon some actual or imminent new movement of the Lord in the Scriptures, you will find what is contained in this verse implicit in that: "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts".
If you begin with the creation, and if you could be a spectator away back there when the Lord was about to move afresh in relation to this world, probably your heart would ask a very big question: "How can it be?"; taking note of the state of things, the earth without form and void, and darkness over the face of the deep, with all that such words contain and mean, to contemplate a new order, a new state, a new glory - something out of this ugliness, darkness, ruin, chaos, something which even the Divine eyes beholding could say: "It is very good", we should probably say: "How can these things be?" And the answer would come back to us: "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord." And so it was. The Spirit of the Lord brooded on the face of the deep. "By My Spirit, says the Lord."
Or whether it should be in the bringing of a people out of a terrible bondage, a bondage so strong, so intense, so persistent as to almost, if not entirely, exhaust the last bit of hope on the part of the people concerned, and to test to its last degree the faith of a chosen instrument of God. When one judgment after another followed in swift succession, terrible, devastating judgments, striking horror and terror into the hearts of everyone involved, shaking the very foundations of life morally, religiously, nationally, socially, and yet to the nth degree apparently unavailing. And looking upon the humanly-speaking impossible and hopeless situation, again the question: "How can these things be?" The answer would be found in these words again: "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord", for it was by the pillar of fire and cloud that that people were led out into liberty from their bondage. The Spirit of the Lord did it.
Or further, to bring them into the land of promise with all the difficulty that was associated with their possessing. We know the long monotonous story of failure, breakdown, disappointment, and as forty years are nearing their completion there is one big question: "Will these people ever get into the land"? "Is it not a hopeless thing?" Moses brought his fear to the Lord and told Him that if they did not come in, the nations would say God brought them out but He was not able to bring them in. And again the answer is in the principle of these words: "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord". And it was by the Spirit as typified in Joshua that they came in and possessed. The Spirit of the Lord brought them in.
Moving on in their history to their scattering among the nations, their dispersion to the ends of the earth, a scattering which the Spirit of the Lord likens to being buried, going into graves, scattered over the face of the whole earth, and that people scattered like dust to the ends of the earth and buried in graves among the nations, and yet the Lord intends to bring them back, to recover them, to constitute them again a corporate people living in blessed fellowship with Himself. And seeing that state the question again arises: "How can these things be?" The answer again is: "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts".
And in Ezekiel 37 you have the Spirit of the Lord coming and breathing upon the scattered dry bones, a parable of the bringing [to life] again - for is not the issue of that chapter this: "Behold, O My people I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves O my people, and brought you up out of your graves", and that by the breathing of God they stand up and come together from their scattered, disintegrated state, and stand up like one man. "By My Spirit says the Lord".
Or in the remnant coming back from the captivity and in all their weakness, impoverishment, and a history so full of discouragement and the sense of the hopelessness of things, the small remnant beginning to build and the adversary breaking in to thoroughly discourage them from the work, a long period of suspense, nothing done, and then again the call to go on with the work. With all that history and all that adversity, and all that weakness and discouragement, the question is: "How can it be?"; "By what resource?" "There is a great enemy and we have no army with which to withstand that enemy that we may fulfil this work of God, complete this building of His House, we have no might". As you notice the margin there is: "Not by an army". "We have no power, we are a weak and despised people with no power; it is a day of small things as to spiritual strength". Ah, but the rejoinder of the Lord is in that connection: "The thing shall be done, the top stone shall be brought forth with shoutings of Grace, grace unto it, but not by an army - Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts."
We go on in the story. The Lord Jesus is dead, and with His death, if you had no spiritual apprehension, everything has gone: all hope for Israel, all hope for mankind. It is said that time when He yielded up His spirit in the great pagan world a cry went out into the universe: "Great Pan is dead." That is a hopeless situation. That is despair. And the apostle tells us how hopeless it is: "And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain... and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain, ye are yet in your sins." Then those who have fallen asleep believing in a resurrection will be disappointed, there never will be any such thing; and those who have not fallen asleep but who are alive and are looking for the power of His resurrection apart from the grave, they too will be disappointed if He is dead. A very dark situation comes in from the human standpoint when Jesus is dead. But how is that situation to be changed from despair and hopelessness into one of unsullied, unreserved hope and assurance, and all that which seems to have been lost, to be for ever gone, and established beyond the power of being lost? "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts", "The Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead". You see the truth is implicit in every step of the activities of God all the way through. In the resurrection of the Lord Jesus it was that: "By My Spirit, says the Lord".
Pentecost was another movement of God, a fresh step in the Divine programme, but it speaks for itself. Look at the means available; look at the instrument on hand. It is not an army, and any signs of power are entirely lacking. It is a day of small things. It is a day of weakness. And if you had said to that little company that in a few days the thing which transpired would transpire, that three thousand souls would be swept into the kingdom of Jesus of Nazareth who had been slain and murdered, three thousand of the very faith that had done Him to death, in one hour would be swept into crowning Him Lord, you would say that if the Lord were to open the windows of heaven only could this thing be; and that is exactly what He did. He opened the windows of heaven. "By My Spirit, says the Lord". It was done.
And we are led to gather all this up into the personal experience of the believer as well as into the corporate experience of the Body of Christ. The principle of these words which are basic to this meditation is maintained by the Lord all the way through: "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts".
Now, I have made that survey just to show that what I said at the outset is very true to the whole history of any fresh step that God takes, any new thing of the Lord. Every time it is on the same basis: "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts".
Now if you will come still a little more closely to this chapter you will notice that it says four or five things in the main. It says firstly that:
God is the One who is Pre-eminently Interested.
That is where our hope begins and our confidence is raised up. I do not mean that those words are actually in the chapter, but the chapter is gathered up into that, that God is the One Who is pre-eminently interested. If you look for an adequate interest or concern in the people here, you look in vain. If this thing rests initially and primarily with man then nothing will be done. If the ends of God are to be left in the hands of men, then so much the worse for the ends of God. But what this chapter says, as it also represents everything throughout the Divine order and purpose, is that God is the One Who is pre-eminently interested and concerned; that this is a matter to which the heart of the Lord is devoted.
The Lord's new step necessary to His own glory is something which is first of all in His own heart with a very great concern, and He initiates it. There is a place for our coming into fellowship with the Divine concern, there is a necessity for our being workers together with God, this does not, of course, release us from any responsibility so that we can sit down and say: "This is God's business, He will do it", but there is also a place where we very often take the Lord's business so much out of His hands, that we feel that it is going to either be done, or never be done, dependent upon ourselves. And we become terribly harassed and driven and overburdened.
Without for one moment seeking a way out from a right kind of responsibility, I do feel that you and I should have more assurance that God is the One Who is pre-eminently concerned about His Own interests. We should be better workers if we had a stronger apprehension of that; we should work more in faith and confidence and less in fretful fear and distrust. God is concerned, and you see in all these Divine steps that He takes the initiative, and the thing comes out from God in the first place. And even though He may only work as He finds a people in fellowship with Him, nevertheless He takes the first step to get them in fellowship with Himself.
You say: "Well, strong persistent prayer is essential to anything that God will do." But I say to that, that unless the Lord inspires that prayer, it will be in vain, so that the Lord must have the first step even in prayer that is going to affect His things. And that means that after all, it is not by might, not by power and our trying to, but "by My Spirit" even to pray effectively. You see, it is with the Lord in the first place. He is the One more concerned than any.
And in the second place, this chapter says it is in a day when things are small that His new thing is usually done. A little fragment there:
"For Who has Despised the Day of Small Things?"
Just as far as I understand it in its context it means: "You people are saying that unless you have an army and power, this work can never be done: 'Look at us, look at our state, our weakness, our smallness, the defencelessness of our condition.' And by taking account of your own weakness and smallness and natural insufficiency, you are despising the very ground upon which God has ever and always come out to do His new thing." The Lord has not only come out at such a time, but the Lord has very often had to make it necessary that such things should be before He could come out. A thirty-two thousand army has, by sovereign action, had to be reduced to three hundred - and do not despise the three hundred when the Lord has brought that state of things about. It is in a day when things are small that the Lord usually comes out to do His new thing.
From that, we can take great comfort, individually and collectively. This is a day when things are small, small in many ways, I think we may say generally that the spiritual life of God's people today is a small thing; it is anything but a great, grand thing. Today the Lord's people are growingly conscious of insufficiency and weakness and need, and of the tremendous difference there is between themselves and their state, and the forces which are against them. Well, when we have come to that place we have come, not to the place of despair, but of hope, for in a day when things are small: "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts".
Further, this chapter says to us that He must have:
An Adjusted People and a Purged Instrument.
Chapter three, of course, leads up to chapter four. All the chapters up to this chapter are bound together. The people are called to make adjustments. The instrument, the people, must be adjusted. Haggai and Zechariah are one in their prophecies, and in Haggai you have that adjustment brought into view concerning the Lord's House which lies waste, and the people looking after their own houses. And the Lord says: "This must be adjusted." The Lord needs a purged instrument - Joshua the high priest is seen in filthy garments; he is but representing the spiritual state of the people. He is, as it were, the spiritual head of this body, and what is true of him is true of all the members in filthy garments, and there must be a purging and taking away of the filthy garments, a purging, a cleansing. Adjustments and purging are necessary unto God's new thing.
We may be assured that for the new great thing that the Lord would do even at this time when it is so much needed, and when the cry is so deeply in our hearts, we believe, for this new thing, there will be nothing unless there is purging and adjustment.
And then finally, this chapter does say that:
Obstacles are Nothing to the Spirit-filled Instrument.
"Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts". "Who art thou, O great mountain? ...before Zerubbabel... a plain." Hindrances and obstacles are nothing when the Spirit of the Lord is in the ascendant in the instrument. Does not history prove that? There are many obstacles, many hindrances, and effective ones today, things which block the way. To begin to mention them might mean we should leave out some very important ones, but we know those things which block the way to the advance of the Lord's interests. What is needed? Not might nor power in the human or natural sense of those words, but a mighty renewing of the Holy Spirit, a mighty filling of the vessel anew with the Spirit of the Lord of hosts, and then obstacles and hindrances are as nothing, "...thou shalt become a plain".
Well now, that so far is only a gathering up of the outstanding features of this chapter. I think that there are very few who are not deeply moved with concern for some new thing from the Lord in our day, some new thing in relation to the, shall we say, the completing of the House of God, some fresh step of the Lord which shall issue in the bringing forth of the top stone with shoutings of "Grace, Grace unto it", something that will make these present causes of arrest to disappear, to be as nothing. Something that will break the obstructing power of the enemy in whatever form or shape he is presenting the interests of the Lord with a paralysing barrier. Something that will bring the saints to maturity, that will complete the number of the elect in the salvation of souls, whose salvation seems today to be far more doggedly and persistently arrested by the powers of hell than in any previous time; for every soul saved today is saved through great conflict and represents a tremendous victory. Souls are not swept in today, as once, but every individual soul saved has to be travailed for, battled for, and comes through at great cost.
We must be concerned to have something that will lessen that successful resistance of the power of Egypt over those sons who are to be brought to glory, and something that will meet the deep, tragic need of the Lord's people on the earth spiritually - the hunger, the ignorance of the Lord's people. I do not mean that unkindly, but I mean that lack of knowledge, lack of understanding, lack of light to bring them into the fulness of Christ, and the consequent weakness of testimony and loss of effectiveness in the world. The Lord's people are in dire need of illumination, dire need of a ministry to bring them into the fulnesses of Christ. There is real spiritual hunger, and there is also something which may be worse - a lack of hunger on the part of many of the Lord's children. Why that is we do not stay to consider, but there it is. Now, all this represents a need for the Lord to come through to consummate His purpose in this age, to really accomplish the thing, and to make His Christ more glorious in His church than He is.
Now, if that is so, and we fully believe it is so, a need for the Lord to do a new thing, then faith is encouraged by the fact that it is a day of small things, and in that day the Lord does His new thing. Exhortation is strengthened as it comes to us when we are told that to do it the Lord must have a purged and adjusted people. Hope and confidence surely will be made to abound with Life when we are reminded that the Lord Himself is more concerned than we are about it. But let us remember the thing which so often has been forgotten, and which has been the very thing to defeat the end which so many have desired, that this thing can be done by no human resources whatever: "Not by might, nor by power". This thing is out from the Lord, of the Lord: "By My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts".
Now then, what is it that we are led to as the one issue? To seek the Lord for a mighty new work of the Holy Spirit, a mighty outpouring of latter rain, a mighty expectation that the Spirit of God will meet this need and do this thing. We see the way, we see how the Lord will do it. We are assured that He is going to do it. Let us ask Him that nothing of our own sufficiency may get in His way; nothing of our own strength may hinder Him. Anything of our own stretching forth of the hand to try and bring it about may just make it necessary for Him to withdraw His hand, but in faith's confidence in Him, in all weakness, emptiness, insufficiency, trust Him, look to Him, call upon Him, that by the Spirit of the Lord of hosts a new thing may be done, and we believe that it is going to be. We are assured that the Lord is going to do a new thing. Are you assured of it? May it be His final thing to which the end is reached and the shouting go forth of "Grace, Grace unto it".