by T. Austin-Sparks
Reading: Zechariah 3:1-10; 4:6.
Once more at the outset let us make a survey of this and the present chapter. It is always important for us to be sure that when we are speaking from the Word of God, and especially from the Old Testament, what we are saying really does have an application in the thought of God to our own time and that we are not trying to make something apply. And so in order to get our present contact with the Word of God, and see that it is related to our own time, let us just glance over some of the features of this portion.
I think we have not far to look to discover the prophetic and the typical elements that are in this whole book of prophecies as well as in the other book which is its companion, in the prophecies of Haggai which precede these - I say the prophetical and the typical elements, and they are twofold.
Firstly, they are historical, as to Israel. They have that immediate application to Israel and are pointing on to future things. There is a future element and factor about these prophecies all the way through which had no fulfilment in the immediate history of the Lord's people. You take such a fragment, for instance, as that towards the end of the prophecies of Haggai (2:21,22): "Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I will shake the heavens and the earth; and I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms; and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations." Now, that passage is quoted in the letter to the Hebrews where we are told that the things which can be shaken will be shaken. God will shake not only the earth but the heaven; and Haggai is quoted in relation to the desire of all nations coming. So that you see there is a future element here even in this fragment alone, and there are many others in these two books which had no fulfilment in that phase of Israel's history. It was prophetic as to their own history and lay in the future.
But there is also another side which is spiritual, as to the church. Again let me point out what is familiar to most of you: that these two things run parallel throughout the whole of the Word of God; that while there is a historical aspect which in the main relates to this earth and its affairs, there is also behind that historical a spiritual, which does not primarily relate to this earth but relates to the heavens although it affects this earth; and that is spiritual. There is a representation in the historical on this earth, of that which is spiritual in the heavens.
These two things run right through all the Scriptures, and here in these prophecies they are quite patent. You take some of the features of these prophecies and you will at once see this twofold aspect of things. Take some of the typical words and phrases here. Firstly you began with: "My house that lies waste." "My house". Now it does not require a very profound or comprehensive grasp of the Scriptures to see that that very phrase relates to two things. It related to the temple as here on the earth, and has been used many times in that connection - My house. But we also know quite well that that phrase is linked with another house which is not on this earth, which is not a material house at all. It is the House of God which is eternal and not temporal, and in the heavens and not of the earth. It is that House which is brought into view for us by the spiritual epistles of the New Testament; and the two find their meeting place in the Person of the Lord Jesus. On the one hand He gathered up in His Own Person in His own body, the temple of the old dispensation, and related it to Himself, and showed that that temple and that system passed out when on that side of the meaning of His Person He passed out. In the presence of the temple in Jerusalem, for instance, He said, which we say in a beguiling way to the unspiritual and undiscerning: "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up", this naos (Gr.), this sanctuary. They thought He referred to the temple but there was a sense in which He linked the temple with His own Person, but the recorder with spiritual illumination puts in brackets: "But He spoke of the temple of His body." So there was a link between the Person of Christ on the historic side with the temple of the old dispensation, but with His passing, that passed, and we know that it did in a very short time and it has not been reconstituted since.
But from the other side of the Person of the Lord Jesus which is the mystic side, the unseen side, the heavenly side, that side of Him to which He referred, when He said: "and no man knows the Son, but the Father; neither knows any man the Father, save the Son, and He to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him", to which John referred when he said: "...therefore the world knows us not, because it knew Him not". And on that spiritual and heavenly side He represents another House of God: the House which is not seen and handled, and not of this earth but is of heaven. It is that House to which these spiritual epistles refer and which they unfold for us.
Now, that is very elementary, but here you see in these prophecies by the very phrase: "My house", that you have a wide range which goes beyond the temple to the spiritual and eternal, and you have the two sides gathered into that phrase, that typical phrase.
You take other such typical words as "foundations". It is said here that the hands of Zerubbabel had laid the foundations. That word "foundations" at once introduces something which could well occupy us for a long time, and we know that while literally and historically it applied to that house being built by Zerubbabel, and the remnant back from the captivity, we come over to the New Testament and we have another kind of foundation: "For other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." Paul said: "I laid a foundation, and another builds thereon", but these foundations are not material, but spiritual. The two sides of the one word.
Further, the headstone is mentioned here. The headstone is to be brought forth with shoutings of "Grace, grace unto it." And again, it is not just the completing and crowning with finality of an earthly structure, but it points on to that crowning of the spiritual building of the House of God with Christ in exaltation, enthroned, completing the work, or being the completion of the work for: "In Him were all things created, all things have been created through Him, and unto Him; and He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the Body, the church." That is only another way of saying He is the Headstone, the Top Stone of the building.
Again, the candlestick is brought into view here. "What seest thou?" "...a candlestick all of gold". You at once leap into your New Testament and know that you find a spiritual counterpart of the actual candlestick of the Old Testament brought in in the book of the Revelation. A candlestick all of gold. And what it means is made very clear for us in the New Testament, that it is the vessel and instrument of the testimony of Jesus by the Holy Spirit.
Again, you have here the seven eyes of the Lord which run to and fro throughout the whole earth. The seven eyes are mentioned and are said to be the seven Spirits of the Lord which go to and fro. And here again in the number seven you have the completeness and perfection of spiritual vision and comprehension so that you have a spiritual side as well as a historical side or a literal side. And so we might go on.
Take this word Grace. "And he shall bring forth the top stone with shoutings of Grace, grace unto it" (Zach. 4:7). In the book of Ephesians, which is the letter of the House of God specifically, the letter of the Body of Christ, the letter in which the great truth of the House, the one Body is brought more particularly into view than anywhere else. In that letter the word "grace" occurs ten times, and the whole letter is governed by a reference to grace. That that building, all that is going on, from the constituting of that Body, the growing up into Him in all things, is said that it should be: "To the praise of the glory of His grace", so that the end of the building is the manifestation, the proclamation, the revelation of the grace of God. And that is the bringing forth of the completed thing with shouts of "Grace, grace unto it."
And may I just repeat what I said in that connection - let us never think that when we get into Ephesian truth that we have got out of the realm of grace. Many people think when you get into warfare in the heavenlies, you have gone beyond the realm of grace and are beginning to do something which merits something. All the work and the warfare in the heavenlies is still in the realm of grace, right unto the end. The top stone will be unto the praise of His glory, and we know in our hearts that in the conflict with the enemy, but for the grace of God it would be a poor look-out for us. It is grace right to the end. So there is a spiritual, heavenly side of this as well as the finishing of the temple in its temporal character and historical place.
You take the men here referred to, Joshua and Zerubbabel. Joshua is the high priest and Zerubbabel is the governor. Well, there is your historical representation, or typical representation, but it is perfectly clear that they represent something more than two men in a twofold capacity. They point on to One who embraces and embodies in His own Person both those aspects: the high priest and the governor. And that this House of the Lord, and this completion of the testimony in its full, universal sense, can only come about when the Lord Jesus occupies in fulness that dual position of High Priest and Governor. So that Joshua and Zerubbabel are a type of Christ as you find Him in the book of the Acts and that is your point of contact because you are coming on to this: "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts", and that requires a Joshua and a Zerubbabel in union, occupying their place, taking their place. In the book of the Acts you have Joshua and Zerubbabel gathered up in the Person of Christ in His High-priestly position and work, but also as Governor at God's right hand, and then: "...by My Spirit" the thing is done. It comes, the Spirit of the Lord in relation to Christ's High-priestly work and governmental position, and the Spirit accomplishes the testimony. It is clear, I think, without going much further, that here you have a prophetic and a spiritual side to these prophecies. Having said all that let us get closer to the application to our own time.
In the first place we have:
A Remnant Company
Who are called in relation to the carrying on of the testimony of the Lord to its completion. A remnant company; for only a very small remnant or proportion of those who ostensibly represented the Lord's Name and the Lord's interest are found in the place of immediate, and direct, definite action to that Name and that testimony. The rest are interested in a way, but they have other interests, other ways which they are cherishing. They are out of touch with that which immediately and specifically and essentially represents the Lord's main interest. They form a majority but here is a comparatively small company who have forsaken all those other relationships and interests, ambitions and pursuits, and have come back to the place where the Lord's immediate interests are represented and are linked with those interests in their more thorough-going way. They are, as it were, on the spot for the Lord. They are right there in connection with that which speaks most immediately of the Lord's honour and glory. They are but a remnant, they are but a small company; it is as this chapter says: "a day of small things" in that sense - a people who have accepted separation from the world, who have abandoned all the concerns of this life as the things to which they are devoted, and have made the Lord's interests their interests, and made the Lord's interests the sum total of their horizon. They have limited themselves, so to speak, in this world to that which immediately concerns the Lord and His glory. I think, beloved, that you will agree at once that those people are now in the minority. I am not speaking about the worldly and unbelieving; I am speaking about professing believers, and those who take the Name of the Lord.
It is but a remnant, a small company comparatively, which has come to the place where the Lord's interests are the one sole concern of their lives, and for those interests they have forsaken all other personal and worldly interests. That is where you begin with this book. It is a remnant testimony that is in view. With this company the testimony of the Lord is bound up in the sovereign ordering of God. He binds up His testimony for its maintenance and its completion with those who are going all the way with Him, who are going to take the absolute position for His glory, who will not have a second best, or any compromise at any point; who will not argue that this and that is quite all right and there is no wrong or harm in it, and the Lord's blessing is upon it, but who have seen that though it may be good and though it may be blessed, yet the Lord has something other, and something more, and that to choose the lesser is only to make the good the enemy of the best, and they are not prepared for that. Their vision is for all that the Lord desires, and to that they are wholly committed. That, very largely I feel, would be the central call and challenge of such messages as these and perhaps it is that which constitutes the nature of our visitation, this time of our visitation.
The Lord, then, has linked His testimony with such, and in that day there is a state of limitation. This comes out in the chapter: "For who has despised the day of small things?" (Zech. 4:10). It is a day of limitation. I cannot but feel that there is something of sovereignty and providence related to that. I mean that the Lord does seem to relate His things of special value to days of small things. Let me put it in another way. It is in the day when we are very conscious of our weakness, of our insufficiency, of our total lack of ability, the day when we know that we have neither might nor power, that the Lord seems to relate those things which are peculiarly the outworking of the Spirit of the Lord of hosts. It is a day of limitation. At any rate, I like to take all the comfort from that that can be derived from it, and I do see that the Lord in His dealings with people has very rarely been able to do His great thing when His people have been great, but His great things come out in the day when His people are small and know it. One is not meaning merely numerically, but in the consciousness of inability, God has ever done His greatest things When they have fallen on their faces and said: "Lord, against this great host we have no might", the Lord's reaction has been: "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts."
The day in which we live is:
A Day of Limitation
It is a day of straightness; the Lord's own dear out-and-out people are very conscious of their inability to face the situation as it is and to carry through the testimony to its fulness and finality. It comes back upon us again and again - how is this great thing to be done? How is this testimony to be maintained in strength, in fulness, in life, in power? How is it to be carried through to completion? Is it possible? Everything is set against it, the whole system of our time is against it religiously and otherwise, and it does seem that from time to time we shall be utterly broken in our expectation, in our hope, and in our endeavour to maintain and carry forward a pure, clear testimony which is all of gold; that is, all of God.
Very often the enemy seems to fling at us: "This is an impossible thing you are trying to do. It is not possible for these days: 'All of God! Nothing of man.' Unless you adopt some of the recognised methods and ways of (I am going to use a phrase I am not fond of) 'organised Christianity' you may expect to cease to be, you will be closed right up, you will have no standing, recognition or hearing, you will not be able to fulfil the ministry that you are trying to fulfil. Unless you advertise, blaze it abroad, and do this, that, and the other which is the done thing, well, you may give up all hope of success in the direction in which you are looking!" And so very often that presses in and the temptation comes to lower the level which may have been taken, and to begin quietly to use the usual means of carrying on the work of God. The position must be taken that, "No, the thing must be utterly of God, and the initiation and continuation and consummation must be of God." That does not mean we sit back in passivity, but we come in with God strongly, definitely, positively, working together, but we do not originate or initiate it and do not make it a thing of man or of men in its continuation, we count upon God. That is a high level. That is a candlestick all of gold, no alloy; that is all of God, all Divine. But there are so many who say: "It is an impossible position, you have taken far too high a standard and you will have to let go somewhere or you will be worsted and abandoned."
Well, we know quite well, that if it is not all of God then we had better give it up, and we know quite well that we have no might nor power for this; that it is not in us to get through on that level, but we recognise this, that the state of things in the days of Zechariah was just that state. There was a testimony to be recovered, reconstituted, and carried through typically to completion, and everything on earth and in hell was against it, and so far as the human instruments were concerned, they were altogether inadequate. On the earth as among men the whole thing was absurd and preposterous, ridiculous, fanatical, mad, unthinkable, but this is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel: "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts", and that is the resource in a day of limitation, a day of small things.
Have you almost given up hope of something utter and all of God, being possible? And have you been tempted, like Abraham, to come along the natural line and try and realise the Divine end by Hagar, because you see that by Sarah it means such an utter miracle, such a thing as has never been heard of among men? We have more background than Abraham. We know we have the basic miracle of all time and eternity upon which to work: "God raised Him from the dead", and that is our hope. It is: "The Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead", who is the Spirit in us and therefore, "By My Spirit" is a prospect, a promise in a day of limitation and natural weakness and hopelessness.
Then again, what comes out of this chapter is that there is to be:
After a period of interruption and delay. Those of you who recall the history of the rebuilding of the temple will remember that it was commenced, and in its commencement there was much joy, delight, gratification, hope and expectation; but then there came in discouragement, threatenings and various things which stopped the work. And for some fourteen years nothing was done, and the people turned from the main interest to other subsidiary interests; from the central thing, the House of God, to departmental things, their own houses; from the inclusiveness of the House of God, the Body of Christ, to look after their own sectarian interests, their own departmental concerns. They lost the vision of the main and all-inclusive things for the local. Interpret this religiously and spiritually if you like.
The New Testament makes it quite clear that that was one of the troubles that came in quite early. It came into Corinth. Instead of seeing the fulness which the apostle brought out they were saying: "I am of Paul, I am of so-and-so" and they were on fragmentary things instead of all-inclusive things - the House of God. And if you get a vision of the real House of God, the Body of Christ, you will never be able to say: "I am of..." whoever the name may be. One of the great names among the Lord's people will not be the label under which you pass, and you will not even bring Christ down to a party, and make Christ a party, or a dividing thing among saints. There is to be a resumption of the central thing, a resumption of care for the all-inclusive thing after interruption and delay. The testimony in its fulness as different from its fragmentariness was to be taken up anew, and so after this delay the word of the Lord came to inspire, to encourage, to resume relationship to the whole testimony, to carry on towards its completion.
In those few words I see a very great deal of history. Again and again the Lord has, through some prophetic voice, roused His people to come back to a full testimony, and there has been a movement forward, something has been added towards its completeness, and that day has represented something more of, and for, the Lord than any previous day. There has been something recovered and carried forward, which was an addition to what has gone before, and then perhaps discouragement, the enemy rising up, or personal interests coming in, or some other thing, and the main thing has been left and interruption has taken place and there has been a period of delay. And the Lord has come again through some prophetic voice to arouse, and still another step has been taken, and then another period of delay.
I do not think I am far wrong if I say it is a time for a further movement towards the fulness of the glory of the Lord Jesus in His people. It is time that there was a new advance in relation to His full testimony. It is time that the Lord's people came into a greater measure of Christ, it is time that the greater completeness of the age-purpose of God should be attended to. This can be put in various and numerous ways, but you see exactly what is implied by this. This is a day when surely the Lord needs, even more than we do if there is any comparison, that there should be a real movement towards His own satisfaction in His people on a larger measure. And that that testimony and that work which is all of God, and which rules man out and takes all glory from man and brings all glory to God because it is all of gold, that that testimony should be known in the earth more than it is. For so much of the Lord's work today is coming down to the credit of man: it is man's organisation, ability, acumen, wisdom, energy, enthusiasm, and what not, and the thing is of man so much that we are unable, in surveying it, to say with a free heart: "This is by the Spirit of the Lord of hosts." There are human factors behind this which may account for it, that we are able to say so often about much of the work, that it is carried on by the sheer drive, or by its own momentum. You cannot recognise it is wholly of God, according to God, and by the energy of the Spirit.
Now there is a need for such recovery for coming into line with the goings of God, and this is a day when the Lord would have a resumption of that which is so utterly of Himself. Then how will it be? The fourth thing which comes up in this chapter is just this:
A Faith Fellowship with the Holy Spirit
I use that clause "faith fellowship" because it does represent a change of attitude, a change of aspect. You see, looking at things as they were, within and without, the heart could easily sink; they could give it all up and say: "It is quite an impossible task, we have neither resource nor ability of any kind for this work." Look at it all again, enemies on the outside, treachery on the inside, and then history from some standpoints does not altogether inspire us; this thing has been done before and it has broken down, been arrested, many have tried this and all that can lead into doubt, into unbelief and be paralysing. The word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel is: "Not by might, nor by power...". If you are looking in that direction you are looking in the negative direction - "but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts". That is the positive direction, the Divine and heavenly, "Yes". "My Spirit". And it means a faith fellowship with the Holy Spirit which takes the attitude that although in ourselves and all around us, in history, and everything else, there might be discouragement and every ground for hopeless despair, in the Holy Spirit there is infinite possibility, nothing is impossible in league with the Spirit of the Lord of hosts.
Have you given up hope of seeing something wholly according to God? Have you begun to accept the attitude that it is not possible? Beloved, let this word come to you with fresh encouragement; let it come to you with its full impact: "by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts" this thing is going to be done. This matter is no longer in the hands of an earthly Joshua or Zerubbabel. It is in the hands of Him Who is High Priest and Governor at the right hand of the Majesty on high. His hands have laid the foundation; His hands shall also finish it. His hands shall finish it and they shall bring forth the top stone with shoutings of "Grace, grace unto it", because: "by My Spirit".
The Spirit of the Lord of hosts is operating in relation to an already triumphant Christ, and that is the basis of our faith for all testimony and for all the realisation of God's thought and will for us, through us, and for His people. The Lord strengthen us by His Word.