(September 4, 2022) Dr Jim McClure, noted theologian, concludes his timely challenge on overcoming ‘mountains’ of various kinds…
Last month I shared reflections on Zerubbabel, how God helped this faithful prophet fulfill the challenge He’d been given him. I had mentioned two aspects regarding our accepting of God’s challenges to us, in brief –
1. Inflexible commitment to God’s will… God requires followers like Zerubbabel who are truly committed to Him, Christians whose integrity and commitment will be unshakable, no matter what ‘mountains’ we might encounter!
2. Intimidating pressure of discouragement… God also requires such dedicatedfollowers to bravely face and overcome pressure that comes when we commit to accepting His assignments. Such as the mountains of discouragement that not only come from Satan and outside the church, but sadly from within!
I now reflect on two other aspects, highlighting thatour all-powerful God who has all things already planned goes before us (Isaiah 45:2)!
3. Inadequacy of human ability
God wants His people to be workers and not spectators. Paul gave this advice to the Colossians, ‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men’ (Colossians 3:23).
Many Christians today need to hear this loud and clear! Christian discipleship is not just about believing – it is also about doing! In many churches the work is left to the committed few.
Zerubbabel was one of those few in his day. Under his commitment and leadership the foundation of the new temple had been laid in two years. In our own strength and using our skills it is amazing what we can do. But there are limits to our ability.
And, despite his enthusiasm, Zerubbabel reached that limit! He could not surmount the obstacles – mountains – that now lay before him. He had failed!
Can’t you sense the disappointment and frustration he felt? What he had started, with such a sense of purpose and with such initial encouragement, had ended in utter failure.
Or had it? Certainly from a human perspective it had. Human ability on its own had proven to be inadequate for the task. But then God stepped into the situation and He had two things to say to Zerubbabel.
(i) God taught Zerubbabel a lesson
In Zechariah 4:6 God told the prophet to say to Zerubbabel, ‘“Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,”says the Lord.’
I’m sure you are familiar with this verse… but what do the words ‘Not by might nor by power’ really mean? What the words in Hebrew are really saying is that there is a limit to what we as humans can accomplish.
- The Hebrew words actually mean that it is not by human resources nor by human force alone that God’s purposes are fulfilled. In other words, God’s plans do not entirely depend on us.
- In this verse God goes on to say that ultimately it is only His Holy Spirit, actively at work in us and through us, who completes His objectives!
In the New Testament we see this same truth being worked out on the day of Pentecost. During His ministry Jesus had called His disciples to share His good news of saving love – but the church’s mission only truly began on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit resourced and enabled the church to do that work.
Apart from the Holy Spirit the mission and ministry of the church is feeble. I believe that as Christians we need to hear this. God’s work will not be done, cannot be done, if we sideline the Holy Spirit and have Him only as a spectator to what we are trying to do in our own strength and abilities!
(ii) God gave Zerubbabel encouragement
Close to where we live, a new housing area is being developed. On the uneven land there are raised areas and great piles of earth. Before any building can take place, the land first needs to be levelled. All the formidable obstructions have to be removed. And there is earth moving equipment there available that is capable of tackling the biggest of jobs.
What has this got to do with Zerubbabel? Well, he was confronted by a mountain of opposition that he could do nothing about.
Notice what God goes on to say in Zechariah 4:7, ‘What are you, O mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground.’
God used a building metaphor to encourage the disheartened Zerubbabel. The criticism from his own people, the hostility and obstruction from enemies and the withdrawal of support from the king had become in his eyes a ‘mountain too difficult to climb.’ After the excitement and enthusiasm of the first few years of building the foundation, the obstacles that now confronted him appeared to be insurmountable. His zeal had gone, his passion had evaporated and he was consumed by a sense of failure.
He had given all he had, and now he had run out of motivation. He had done his best but his best wasn’t enough. Clearly, he had thought that he had failed and the work he had commenced was finished… but God didn’t agree! God told him, ‘Zerubbabel, that mighty mountain of obstruction that seems to be unassailable will be levelled!’
Verse 7 also says that Zerubbabel would ‘bring out the capstone to shouts of “God bless it! God bless it!”’ What does that mean? God’s promise to him was that just as he had laid the foundation of the new temple, he would also put the final stone in place in the completed temple.
Discouragement is an effective tool of the devil to obstruct the work of God whether it is in building a temple, or building a fellowship, or building a family or building anything that honours God. And we have all succumbed to discouragement, haven’t we? What a tool it is in Satan’s hand. It flattens our spirit; makes us angry, bitter, and resentful.
Discouragement can so damage our relationships with each other and also affect our relationship with God. When it does, the psalmist gives us this reminder: ‘Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God’ (Psalm 42:11).
4. Invincibility of the Holy Spirit
In Ezra 6:15 we see what happened next. ‘The temple was completed on the third day of the month Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius.’
Despite Zerubbabel’s disappointment when all worked had stopped on the rebuilding of the temple, 14 years later, when Darius became King of Persia, he gave permission for the building of the temple to recommence. Under Zerubbabel’s leadership, the new temple was completed in four years, in 516 BC.
What can we learn from this?
Nothing can stop the working out of God’s purposes! Despite…
- All the obstacles
- All human obstructions
- At times, the appearance of failure…
God’s plans are always fulfilled! He said to Zerubbabel, ‘Not by might, nor by power but by my Spirit.’ The Holy Spirit is invincible! What God says He will do, He will do!
In these days when people mock God, deny His existence, dismiss His word as irrelevant and ridicule His promises, with confidence we can hold on to Him. We can trust Him in these disturbing days!
And when it seems that things have gone beyond our control, remember that our God is an awesome God. How great is our God!
Paul was very positive here! In Ephesians 3:20-21, he declared firmly, ‘Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.’
Don’t let any mountain waylay us, or side-track us from achieving whatever God has planned for anyone of us these remaining months of 2022… or in future days! Trust Him as Zerubbabel did – and fulfill ‘His building programme’ for you… and move ahead!
Dr Jim McClure, author of several books and Bible study series, welcomes questions from Christians seeking enlightenment on biblical perspectives.
Dr Jim’s helpful book, Looking for Answers in a Confusing World, offered free, is highly recommended and available in electronic version in EPUB, Kindle and PDF formats. Link for orders and questions: OnlinerConnect@gmail.com