Q&A: What is the meaning of Zech. 4:6?

What is the meaning of Zech. 4:6?

Question

What is the meaning of Zech. 4:6?

Answer

Zechariah 4:6 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.

First a little history. In 1 Kings 11, Solomon severely violated God's covenant, but in time God enforced his covenant stipulations. In 922 B.C. the northern ten tribes of Israel were taken from Solomon's son Rehoboam and delivered over to Jeroboam. As one might remember, Jeroboam's kingdom kept the name Israel, and Rehoboam's kingdom in the south was known as Judah.

Both the northern and southern kingdoms were unfaithful to God's covenant resulting in covenant exile. In 723/722 B.C., Israel (the northern kingdom) was exiled to Assyria. Later Assyria was conquered by Babylon. Several Jewish captives were taken to Babylon. In 587/586 B.C. Judah (the southern kingdom) was also exiled to Babylon. This essentially reunited the whole nation of Israel under the Babylonian exile (612-538 B.C.).

In the providence of God (Ezra 1:1), in 539 B.C. King Cyrus of Persia allowed approximately 50,000 Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple under Zerubbabel, who also governed Jerusalem (cf. Ezra 1:5-6). Because of opposition from its neighbors (cf. Ezra 4:1-7), construction on the temple stopped (cf. Ezra 4:21-24); however, it resumed under Zechariah and Haggai (cf. Hag. 1:4, 8; Zech. 1:16).

Zechariah experienced a series of night visions. In the fifth one, which contains our text under discussion (Zech. 4:1-14), he saw a solid gold lampstand and two olive trees that provided it with its supply of oil (Zech. 4:1-3). In various places in the Bible, the Lord’s Spirit is represented by oil (Isa. 61:1-3; 1 Sam. 16:13). Lampstands produce light. The word of the Lord is a lamp (Psa. 119:105; John 1:1). "God is light" (1 John 1:5). Jesus is the light of men and of the world (John 1:4; 8:12, etc.). God dwells in the light (1 Tim. 6:16). In God there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5). So, the solid gold lampstand and two olive trees represent the Spirit of Almighty God.

In comparison, the word "might" in Zechariah 4:6 refers to material wealth and military capability, and "power" refers to the exercise of it. Together these two words encompass the full extent of God's people’s normal resources that could be used to rebuild the temple.

In essence, Zechariah 4:6 informs us that the work of rebuilding the temple would be accomplished by God’s Spirit and not by mere human might or power.

When compared with Solomon (1 Chron. 22:14; 29:2), Zerubbabel had very little with which to complete his task of rebuilding the temple. With the destiny of the church in mind, Zechariah 4:6 tells us it wasn’t to be determined by what man could throw together but by what God would accomplish through his Spirit. (cf. 2 Cor. 12:10). After all, the Spirit moved upon the waters of creation to make the world (Gen. 1:2). He guided Israel through the wilderness (Exod. 13:21-22; Isa. 63:11-14). Here, the great mountain of issues facing Israel would be swept aside (Zech. 4:7; cf. Isa. 40:4), and "by my Spirit" the temple would be rebuilt and protected (cf. 2 Chron. 32:8; Mic. 3:8; Hag. 2:5; 2 Cor. 10:3-4).

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).