By my Spirit: Working and Winning During Opposition

By my Spirit: Working and Winning During Opposition

And the angel who talked with me came again and woke me, like a man who is awakened out of his sleep. And he said to me, “What do you see?” I said, “I see, and behold, a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it, and seven lamps on it, with seven lips on each of the lamps that are on the top of it. And there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.” And I said to the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?” Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No, my lord.” Then 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. Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel, you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’”

Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. 10 For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.”

“These seven are the eyes of the Lord, which range through the whole earth.” 11 Then I said to him, “What are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the lampstand?” 12 And a second time I answered and said to him, “What are these two branches of the olive trees, which are beside the two golden pipes from which the golden oil is poured out?” 13 He said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No, my lord.” 14 Then he said, “These are the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.”

Zechariah 4:1-14

Human effort will never produce the Kingdom of God.

This fourth chapter of Zechariah contains questions with answers that seem initially to not be answers to the questions asked. But they are. For example: Regarding the two olive trees, the angel asked Zechariah, “Do you know what these are?” Zechariah answers, “No, my Lord.” Then the angel explains, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts. 7 Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel, you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’” What does that have to do with who the two olive trees are? Later (v. 13), the angel again asks Zechariah (regarding the two olive trees), “Do you know what these are?” and again, Zechariah answers, “No, my Lord.” Now we expect the angel is going to give us a definitive answer, but instead, he provides an enigmatic response, “These are the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.” The words, “the two anointed ones” literally mean “sons of new oil.” What does that mean? Well, while there is lots of speculation, no one has a definitive answer. It remains one of God’s mysteries as to the specific identity of the two olive trees or sons of new oil. We know that they represent the constant source of fresh olive oil to keep the lamp burning. This, in turn, is a symbolic representation of the work of the Holy Spirit producing the Kingdom of God.

Context is king, and this context in which Zechariah prophesied is the restoration of Jerusalem after completing the prophesied 70 years of captivity of Judah in Babylon. The pagan king Cyrus had given permission and provision for the Jews to return and rebuild Jerusalem as prophesied by Isaiah. Zerubbabel was a priest who was sent to oversee the rebuilding of the temple under hostile and challenging conditions. It did require lots of hard physical labor. The population was discouraged, and the prophet had to encourage those doing the work to keep to it and not lose faith.

There are two keys to this chapter. The first key is in verse six, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” Here, God is making it clear that the completion of the work is not dependent on human effort, but on the work of the Holy Spirit. Just as God gave gifted men under Moses to construct the original tent of meeting in the wilderness and later the temple in Jerusalem, he is now providing special skills to the workmen to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. It is the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of human beings dedicated to God. Not by might nor by the power of human effort.

The second key, akin to the first key, is found in verse seven, “Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel, you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!” In Zerubbabel’s case, the great mountain references the many obstacles that were always before him in the form of hostilities and opposition. God declares that that mountain of enemies to the Kingdom of God would become a plain, an easy bit of real estate to march over. The top stone, which is the final step in construction, is to be laid by Zerubbabel amid shouts of “Grace, grace to it!” The completion of the temple is a work of God’s grace and not human effort alone.

The points of the story are the work of the Holy Spirit and the grace of God. Did the people only have to sit back and watch God produce a temple, a finished work, a place to worship him? No. Many blisters and callouses were worn on the laborers’ hands who were privileged to be co-laborers with Zerubbabel and the Holy Spirit to complete the work. But they would not have had the ability to complete the task without the grace of God and the work of the Holy Spirit. Faith to continue would not have been sustained without the Holy Spirit’s constant flowing from the two olive trees, the sons of fresh oil.

Jesus announced that the Kingdom of God has come, the King is now reigning in heaven, and through his church, he is reigning on earth. We, the church, are God’s agent for extending his Kingdom on earth until he comes to finalize the Kingdom in the New Heaven and New Earth. Meanwhile, like the laborers who worked alongside Zerubbabel, we are co-laborers in the Kingdom, hewing out living stones to be added to the true temple, the body of Christ, the New Jerusalem, that will last forever in which the true King sits on the throne of David. Do we have opposition? Certainly. Jesus promised it. Can the mountain of opposition become a plain? Absolutely, as long as we do not depend on human might and power, but rely on the Holy Spirit and the grace of God. Then we will not labor in vain.

There are many examples of human effort to bring into being the Kingdom of God. But I don’t want to focus on those specifics. Like Zechariah, I want to focus on the main points, let us be sure we are being filled and relying entirely on the Holy Spirit and the grace of God to see the Kingdom of God produced amidst the darkness of this world. Millions of people are far from God. They are, at the moment, enemies of God. But they are also the raw material from which we as co-laborers are to hew out the new living stones to construct God’s temple.

The most critical work of labor that we can do, and every Christian can engage in this work is the labor of intercessory prayer. The proclamation of the word of God is required because the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. But, it is the work of intercession that empowers the proclamation to do its most effective work. Think of yourself as a prayer missionary. You go, during intercession, into the presence of lost people and pray them into the Kingdom. Then, the Lord of the harvest, at the behest of intercessors like you and me, send laborers into the harvest to harvest the souls of people who are far from God. Jesus declared that the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore, plead with the Lord of the harvest to send laborers. This is a specific prayer request of Jesus; let us be obedient to pray that prayer daily in reliance on the Holy Spirit and the grace of God.

What a difference the Holy Spirit makes

What a difference the Holy Spirit makes

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church,23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. – Ephesians 1:15-23


Paul prays for the Ephesians for three things:

  1. That you may know the hope to which he has called you
  2. What are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints
  3. What is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe

These are powerful subjects, and I may treat them in a different post, but for now, I want to put the emphasis elsewhere.

Recently I was speaking with a brother who shared with me and some others that he had heard from some who said they intellectually really understand the gospel but find they don’t have the passion and emotional attachment to it that many others talk about.

I am currently listening on Audible to Jonathan Edwards’ classic book The Religious Affections: How Man’s Will Affects His Character Before God. I will undoubtedly be simplifying his statement, but here goes. True religion (speaking of Christianity in 17th century American English) always affects our emotions and has an emotional component to it. If we are not moved emotionally by the gospel and by God’s revelation of himself in Scripture, then the reality of our Christianity is questionable.  I know, this gets really dicey telling someone that if they don’t have an emotional experience they aren’t saved. Well, that’s not what I am saying, and I’m not sure what Edwards is saying about that; I am still in the early parts of the book.

What Edwards is saying is that powerful emotions are normative for a believer. Consider the deeply emotional passages written by David in the Psalms. How about Paul’s exultations over Christ in the epistles? There are many others.

I want to encourage any readers who find their emotional life with God lacking. I’m not writing that everyone should be “falling under the power,’ or dancing through the congregation every service. I am saying; you should have an emotional connection to Jesus Christ that is apparent to you and on occasion to others.

So, if you have an academic grasp of the gospel, but don’t have the emotional component (Which I am assuming everyone wants to have, how would it be to be in love with your spouse and feel no emotions?) there is an aid Paul refers to in his prayer. He prays for the Ephesians that God “may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened.” It’s a heart thing. Knowing in your head isn’t the same as knowing in your heart. The Holy Spirit is the agent who brings Jesus to your heart from your head. He comes as the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. He allows us to see with the eyes of our hearts, in addition to our physical eyes.

So, what is my solution to the problem of not having an emotional experience of God? Pray this prayer for yourself that Paul prays for the Ephesians. And don’t just pray once, memorize this Scripture and pray it every day. If you pray this from your heart, you will experience it in your heart. Of this, I am sure.

But I do caution, don’t gauge your experience by that of anyone else. Some of us, like me, are more on the quiet side of life. While I have been known to shout exuberantly in response to the preached word, I am generally more sedate than some of my friends. Two responses will mark the answer to your prayer; love and joy. These are the works of the Spirit that dwell deep in your heart.

Father of glory, grant to me the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Christ. Open the eyes of my heart. Enlighten me that I may know the hope to which you have called me. Enlighten me to know what are the riches of your glorious inheritance in me,  and enlighten me to what is the immeasurable greatness of your power toward us who believe, according to the working of your great might that you worked in Christ when you raised him from the dead and seated him at your right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.  And you put all things under your feet and gave Jesus as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Make this your genuine prayer, and you will soon know the emotional joy and love that accompanies the gospel. The eyes of your heart will be enlightened to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ in the Scriptures.

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