One of the things I love about the Bible is how God displays His power through ordinary men and women. From Adam to Abraham, from Peter to John, we are encouraged that God can use us, too! Zerubbabel is one such man. There he is, standing in the ruins of the once glorious temple, discouraged by the size of the task before him and the indifference of the people around him. Many years have passed since he led the Jews out of Babylonian exile to rebuild the Temple, yet so little has been accomplished. It must have seemed impossible.

Overwhelmed is a good word to describe Zerubbabel. When faced with tasks beyond our ability, it’s common to feel overwhelmed. When I face difficulties, I can be quick to analyze the problem and start considering my options. I might become very calculating: “Well, if I take this route, this will happen, and maybe I can get this, and I can pull that over here, and maybe I can make this work.” I forget – we forget – that the God of the universe is faithful to complete what He has begun. We read in Philippians 1:6: “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

Speaking through the prophet Zechariah, the Lord encourages Zerubbabel: “So he answered and 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.'” Zechariah 4:6 (NKJV)

God gives Zerubbabel a promise and a prophecy. A promise of God’s completion of the Temple. A prophecy that Zerubbabel will finish it! The promise is revealed in the vision of the lampstand and olive trees. The lampstand refers to a branched candleholder or menorah used in the Tabernacle in Old Testament times. Each lampstand had an adjacent bowl filled with oil and a wick. God required that the Tabernacle lampstands burn continually, so Temple priests had the responsibility of keeping the fire burning and the supply of olive oil coming.

In ancient times, the process of making olive oil was very labor-intensive since it required picking the olives, putting them in the press, crushing the oil out of the olives, and then pouring the oil in jars or vessels for later use. In the vision given to Zerubbabel, no human work is involved – it is only from God’s supply that the light burns. The picture is clear: Zerubbabel, it will be by God’s Spirit that the Temple will stand again. The prophecy is found in verse seven: “Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! And he shall bring forth the capstone with shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!'” Zerubbabel will lay the capstone, the final stone, and he will rejoice with praise at the finished Temple.

Zerubbabel is not relying on his wits, his gift of administration, a well-laid plan, or an army of workers. He is wholly dependent on the spiritual power of a mighty, limitless God.

Interestingly, just as in Zechariah 4:1-7, the divine attributes of the Holy Spirit are likened to oil and light in several places in the Bible. The anointing power of God is revealed when Samuel pours oil over David, a young, ruddy shepherd, who will one day become Israel’s king (1 Samuel 16:13). The Good Samaritan, moved by godly compassion, uses oil and wine to cleanse and heal the wounds of a Jewish traveler ravaged by bandits on the road to Jericho (Luke 10:33). Jesus Himself in John 14:26 said: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” Like the light shed by the lampstand, the Holy Spirit illuminates and instructs us according to the Word of God. We ourselves, when filled with the Holy Spirit, become the light of the world – shining God-inspired wisdom, truth, and compassion in the dark places where we work, go to school, or live.

Friend, God will finish what He’s started in your life by His strength, His power, and His presence in your life. Trust Him!