Francis Bourdillon, 1864

Then he answered and spoke unto me, saying, "This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, 'Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the Lord Almighty. Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, 'Grace, grace unto it.'
Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, "The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and you shall know that the Lord Almighty has sent me unto you. For who has despised the day of small things? For they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the Lord, which run to and fro through the whole earth."

The prophet Zechariah had seen a vision which he did not understand a golden candlestick, with a bowl and seven lamps and seven pipes to the seven lamps, and two olive-trees, one on each side of the bowl. An angel was sent to explain it to him, and these verses contain the general explanation. A more particular explanation is given in the verses which follow.

This Zerubbabel was the governor of those Jews who went back to Jerusalem by command of Cyrus, to settle in their own land and to rebuild the temple. It was a work full of difficulty and danger. For the Jewish nation had been for seventy years in captivity, and meanwhile their own land had been occupied by strangers, who, on the return of the Jews, hindered them in every way. After so long a time, and in the face of so many enemies it was a very difficult work to put things on their old footing at Jerusalem, to rebuild the temple, and to restore the worship of God.

The vision was sent to encourage the prophet, and through him Zerubbabel and the Jews, in the work. It was a work that was not to be done by might or by power, but by God's Spirit. There seemed, as it were, a mountain of difficulty in the way yet before Zerubbabel it would be brought down and become like a level plain. Zerubbabel had begun to build the temple he would also finish it, in spite of all hindrances. The Jews were indeed few and weak yet let them not despise "the day of small things." God would put forth His mighty power on their behalf grace and strength should be given to them, and they would yet rejoice in the happy end of their work. As the golden candlestick in the vision was abundantly fed with oil through the pipes from the olive trees so was there a full supply in God, for all the need of the Jews and their leader.

In the same way, we must not despise "the day of small things" small means of usefulness, or seemingly small success in our efforts to do good, or the weak beginnings of faith and love in the heart. Are not even those weak beginnings from God? Are they not His gift, His work, the fruit of His Spirit? Then they are not to be despised.

We may well be humbled that our faith is so weak, and our love so cold. Yet let us not deny that we do sincerely believe and love, for that would be to deny God's work of grace and to despise "the day of small things."

When the body is weak and the spirits low and we are withdrawn from active exertion then there is often a temptation . . .
to underrate what God has already done for our souls,
to be too much cast down as to spiritual things,
to think we can do nothing in God's service,
and to take a desponding view of the future.

But if the work of grace within us is real then we should thank God for it as for an unspeakable blessing. And if, as they certainly are, our present circumstances are such as God has placed us in then He will not leave us without the opportunity of doing Him service. As weak as we are weak, and unworthy, and prone to go astray yet He will still be with us, to guide and keep and bless us.

The difficulties that look so great to us what are they to Him? Nothing at all! He can open a way for us, where there seems none. He can take away the cause of our greatest anxiety. He can . . .
help us to overcome our strongest temptation,
and quicken us by His grace,
and strengthen our faith,
and draw our hearts to Him in love,
and give us brightness for darkness.

"Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain!" Thus would God have us to speak, as it were, to our fears and difficulties.

We think, in our despondency, that we have no power or might. It is quite true we have none. But in this very thought the Word of God meets us. "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit says the Lord Almighty." It is not in our own strength that we are to work for God. It is not by our own grace that we are to stand. It is not we that can resist temptation and make progress in the way of God. All our sufficiency is of God and He is all our strength.

"Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit says the Lord Almighty." He says it to us, as well as to Zerubbabel. He says it to us, that we should not trust in ourselves, or be cast down when we find no help or strength in ourselves. He says it to us also, that we should look to His Holy Spirit for might and power.

We are slow to learn this. The very despondency that we feel, shows that we are in a measure looking to ourselves. We would not easily be cast down if this word of God were engraved upon our hearts: "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit says the Lord Almighty."

"By My Spirit," that is, the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Sanctifier promised by our Lord when He went away, and promised to all who seek. The difficulties in the way of Zerubbabel were of an outward kind yet even these were within the power of the Spirit of God.

We may have outward difficulties also but our chief difficulties are in our own hearts. Now the heart is where the Holy Spirit especially dwells and works. The words seem therefore to apply most strongly to inward and spiritual difficulties. "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit says the Lord Almighty."

We are to use all the means within our power. We are to read and hear and strive. But above all, we are to seek the enabling of the Holy Spirit. In Him lie our might and our power. He can . . .
effectually teach us,
and comfort our hearts,
and cheer us in our despondency,
and enable us to realize the presence of God,
and remove our fears,
and strengthen our faith.

It is not man, but God, who directs us to look to the Holy Spirit. "Says the Lord Almighty" this is our warrant for doing so.

The Lord never forgets those who are looking to Him. He was with His servant Zerubbabel but He was also at the same time with His servants everywhere. He is so still. "The eyes of the Lord run to and fro through the whole earth." "The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good." He sees all, but He looks especially upon those who are seeking Him and that most of all in any time of trouble or fear. There is not a sick-room into which He does not see. There is not a bed of pain on which His eye does not rest. There is not a sad or anxious heart which He does not know, even in its most secret feelings.

Let the thought of this lead the sick and sorrowful to look up to Him in humble hope and trust and love. He is not far off. He sees them, notices them, cares for them. He would have them seek Him. The way is open. Jesus is the way, God's dear Son, the Savior of sinners, our Mediator at God's right hand. With Him there no one need fear to draw near. "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Hebrews 4:16

More than help is promised here. Help would be given; difficulties would be cleared away, and then at last there would be joy. "He shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it." "They shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel."

We read elsewhere, that He will give "beauty, for ashes; the oil of joy, for mourning; the garment of praise, for the spirit of heaviness." And in the New Testament it is said yet more plainly, "The kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." God will make all happy, who truly seek Him by Jesus Christ and trust in Him. He will not only save them and help them but make them happy. To be at peace with God through Christ and to have the presence of the Spirit in our hearts this is happiness indeed and this may be had even here below! The fullness of joy will be in Heaven; but there is joy even here, true joy, joy in the Holy Spirit. Lord, grant to us this peace, this presence, this joy!