“So he answered me, ‘This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: “Not by strength or by might, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord of Armies. “What are you, great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become a plain. And he will bring out the capstone accompanied by shouts of: Grace, grace to it!”‘” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Leadership is tough. It’s easier to manage. Now, that doesn’t mean management is easy, but it’s easier than leadership. When you’re managing, your job is simply to keep things running smoothly. You’re not trying to go anywhere; you’re just trying to stay afloat. But leadership implies direction. You’re trying to actively move an organization–that is, a group of people–forward somewhere they haven’t been before. The challenge is that even on our most adventurous days, we are all creatures of habit. If you’re going to lead anyone anywhere, then, you’ve got to convince people who are settled to get unsettled and go on a journey whose end they cannot see. That’s tough. Even the best leaders need encouragement along the way if they are going to accomplish anything significant. God knew this, and in Zechariah’s next vision, we find Him offering some encouragement.
Chapter 4 here brings us to Zechariah’s fifth vision. Visions five through eight match visions one through four like the opposite sides of a set of concentric circles. Visions four and five are concerned with Joshua and Zerubbabel, the leaders of Israel in this season. Visions three and six are focused on the rebuilding and reestablishing of Jerusalem and the kind of character such a task will require of the people. Visions two and seven, the hardest to understand of the bunch, seem to give their attention to the nations who conquered Israel and the kind of behavior that resulted in the conquest. The first and eighth both feature four horsemen who are patrolling the earth.
This fifth vision begins with Zechariah seeing a lampstand with lamps and a bowl that is being fed by two olive trees. It’s odd at first, until you remember that lamps then often ran on olive oil as their source of fuel. If these seven lamps are being fed by olive trees, that’s an indication they won’t ever burn out. In this case, the lamp is probably a reference to Israel as a nation, shining the light of the Lord for the world to see. The olive trees, as Zechariah’s angelic guide indicates at the end of the chapter, are God’s anointed servants who, in this case, would be Joshua, the high priest, and Zerubbabel, the political leader.
In other words, what Zechariah sees here is an image that was intended to be encouraging of these two. They are the fuel, keeping the people burning brightly. This is a powerful affirmation of their leadership before the people. It’s more than just that, though.
In the middle of the vision–where the verses I included above are found–God doesn’t simply affirm their leadership, He gives them the assurance of His own help in the task that lies before them. And what was this task? Rebuilding the city and reestablishing the temple and proper worship. This was not a task that was going to find success if they sought to simply do it by force of will or political power. It would be by the leadership and guidance of His Spirit that it would be accomplished. And they were going to find success. Click through and look at v. 9: “Zerubbabel’s hands have laid the foundation of this house [the temple], and his hands will complete it.” The completion of the temple, Zechariah’s messenger said, would serve as a confirmation of his own divine origins.
That’s roughly what all of this means. What does it mean for us? Well, again, this was a vision for Israel, not us. It’s a confirmation of their leaders and an assurance that a temple will be rebuilt that was itself destroyed almost 2,000 years ago. Only parts of its foundation remain today in the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. Perhaps some part of that was what was laid under the direction of Zerubbabel himself. Most of what we can see remaining today, though, was built under the direction of Herod the Great, the same Herod who sought to have Jesus murdered shortly after He was born.
What we can see here, though, is another picture of the character of our God. When He calls us to something, He sticks with us and gives us the encouragement we need to complete it. He never calls us to something without making sure we have the wherewithal to see it through. He won’t leave us alone, but will go with us all the way. When we are about doing His will, it will never be by our power or our might, that we get it done. Oh, sure, we can accomplish a great deal in our own strength. Even apparently spiritual successes can come about because of the power of a particular personality (they will be only apparent, though). But the kind of eternal accomplishments that matter most will only come by the power of His Spirit. And when they are completed, everyone will recognize that it was only grace that has allowed them to come to be.
What that all means is this: If you want to accomplish anything of significance in this life, lean on God’s power as your primary source of fuel, not your own. If you are in a place of leadership, especially in the church, your heavenly Father will make sure you have what it takes to accomplish the task to which you’ve been called. Lean on Him. Learn to abide in Him so that you can see what He sees in order to be able to go where He goes and to lead others along the way as well. Ultimately, it is all His power from start to finish that will matter most. Tap into that source, and your light will never burn out either.