God’s Spirit and Small Things

Zechariah 4:1-14


  1. Why teach this passage?
    1. 10/16/1978 Deacon Ordination – FBC Baton Rouge, Louisiana – I read this passage. Why?
    2. Do you sometimes compare the size of our church with others? I do!
      1. It’s easy to slip into that, and to think size is a measure of God’s blessing on a ministry.
      2. Sometimes it is, but often it is not.
      3. Today’s lesson is a reminder that God can be involved even in “small things.”
      4. Whether our church is big or small, we need a reminder that it’s not the size of the ministry that is important.
      5. Having God in it and having God receive the glory for it is the important thing.
    3. Yesterday we had a special day here at The Lighthouse.
      1. Some might have said, “Giving school supplies and haircuts is a small thing.”
      2. But it was initiated by God’s Spirit and He guided and provided for every step of this, so we can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is nothing small about what happened here yesterday.
      3. We can also be sure that God is not through with what happened – it is only the beginning of what God is doing!
    4. The message to Zerubbabel has several parts:
      1. first, a general principle for us to follow: “ ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts” (v. 6);
      2. second, a reference to obstacles: “What are you, O mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’ “ (v. 7);
      3. third, a promise from God that Zerubbabel will complete the temple construction: “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands will also complete it. Then you will know that the LORD Almighty has sent me to you” (v. 9),
      4. and fourth, an encouragement for us: “Who despises the day of small things? Men will rejoice when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel” (v. 10).
    5. The key verse: “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord Almighty. — Zechariah 4:6
  2. Background
    1. On coming home from exile in Babylon, the Jews quickly laid the foundation of their temple (Ezra 3:8-11), but then the temple building slowed to a stop.
      1. Each family had its own home to build and its own farm to tend.
      2. Though Cyrus had authorized their efforts, the Samaritans opposed the work and discouraged the people.
      3. Finally the work completely stopped, and the unfinished temple gave silent testimony through the years to the Jews’ preoccupation with their own pursuits and their lack of zeal for the Lord’s business.
    2. For several years the partially-built temple was untouched.
      1. Then God sent the prophet Haggai to stir up leaders and people to go on with the temple building.
      2. They responded enthusiastically (Ezra 5:1, 2; Haggai 1).
    3. Hostile neighbors appealed to the king of Persia, but they were more than disappointed at his reply.
      1. Darius I was now on the Persian throne.
      2. He searched the records and found that King Cyrus had ordered the work on the temple.
      3. Instead of halting the construction, he gave orders for the enemies to leave the Jews alone—except they had to provide funds as the Jews needed (Ezra 5:3—6:12)!
      4. In about four more years the temple was finished (Ezra 6:13-15).
      5. But for this lesson we go back to the time when Haggai was urging the people to go back to work on the unfinished building.
    4. About two months after Haggai sounded God’s call to work on the temple, God sent another prophet named Zechariah to provide encouragement.
      1. Haggai and Zechariah delivered pretty much the same message, but they did so in very different styles.
      2. The message came to Haggai in plain words; to Zechariah it came in seven incredible visions.
  3. The Vision (Zechariah 4:1-3)
    1. The Interpreter (v. 1)

1Now the angel who talked with me came back and wakened me, as a man who is wakened out of his sleep.

  1. This passage records the fifth in a series of visions given to Zechariah.
  2. By themselves these visions might seem more puzzling than enlightening, but an angel was at hand to help Zechariah understand them.
  3. This angel is mentioned repeatedly in the first six chapters of the book of Zechariah.
  4. His primary purpose seems to be to interpret the visions that Zechariah received.
  5. We are not given his name or any other information about him.


  1. The Lampstand (vv. 2, 3)

2And he said to me, “What do you see?” So I said, “I am looking, and there is a lampstand of solid gold with a bowl on top of it, and on the stand seven lamps with seven pipes to the seven lamps. 3Two olive trees are by it, one at the right of the bowl and the other at its left.”

  1. The Hebrew word translated lampstand is the word menorah.
    1. Many today are familiar with this term because of its association with the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, during which a menorah is lighted each night for a week.
    2. This word literally means “light bearer.”
  2. This menorah had seven lights on it.
    1. We are not told exactly how these were arranged.
    2. The menorah of the Jerusalem temple offers one possibility.
    3. We have an idea of what this looked like because the Arch of Titus in Rome pictures it as a part of the spoil that Titus brought back when he conquered Jerusalem in d. 70.
    4. It had seven lamps in a straight row at the top.
  3. In Zechariah’s vision, there was also a bowl, apparently holding a supply of oil for the lamps.
    1. There were seven channels (KJV: “pipes”) to carry oil from the bowl to the lights.
  4. The tabernacle candlestick spoke of the nation of Israel, the nation God had chosen to be a light in a spiritually dark world (Isa. 60:1‑3; 62:1).
    1. The seven‑branched candlestick, the menorah, is the official symbol of the modern State of Israel.
  5. Believers today must keep in mind that the church is a light in a dark world, and we must depend on the Holy Spirit to enable us to bear witness (Matt 5:14‑16; Phil. 2:14‑16).
    1. In Revelation 1‑3, local churches are symbolized by individual lampstands, and the purpose of a lampstand is to give light.
    2. If we don’t do what Christ commands us to do, He may take away the lampstand (2:5).


  1. The Explanation (Zechariah 4:4-10)
    1. The Question (vv. 4, 5)

4So I answered and spoke to the angel who talked with me, saying, “What are these, my lord?” 5Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” And I said, “No, my lord.”

  1. Zechariah was as puzzled as we would have been.
  2. He saw the items mentioned above, but what did they mean?
  3. The angel understood the vision.


  1. The Answer (vv. 6, 7)

6So 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.

  1. The vision was a message from the Lord to Zerubbabel, the governor of the returned exiles.
    1. The governor may have been wondering whether they would be able to finish the rebuilding.
    2. The Lord’s message was plain: they would not finish the job by their own might or power, but they would complete it through God’s Spirit.
    3. The Lord has the same message for us today here at The Lighthouse!
  2. Now we begin to see how the vision carried this message.
    1. The oil flowing into the lamps was a symbol of God’s Spirit, or the power of that Spirit, flowing into little Israel to finish the building of God’s house.
    2. That finished temple would enlighten the whole world, giving all its people a knowledge of the glory of God.
  3. This principle—“Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit” (v. 6)—is an important one for us.
    1. Are we depending on God’s Spirit?
    2. Herb Hodges has said we should attempt things so big they are sure to fail if God is not in them.
    3. What are we doing that requires God’s power?


  1. Obstacles – v. 7

‘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!”’”

  1. What “mountains” was Zerubbabel facing?
    1. Discouragement among the people, opposition from the enemies around them, poor crops, an unstable economy, people not obeying God’s Law‑problems not too different from those the people of God have faced throughout the centuries.
  2. “We say we depend on the Holy Spirit,” wrote Vance Havner, “but actually we are so wired up with our own devices that if the fire does not fall from heaven, we can turn on a switch and produce false fire of our own. If there is no sound of a rushing mighty wind, we have the furnace all set to blow hot air instead. God save us from a synthetic Pentecost!”
    1. Warning in Isaiah 50:10-11!

10 Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.

11 Behold, all you who kindle a fire, who equip yourselves with burning torches! Walk by the light of your fire, and by the torches that you have kindled! This you have from my hand: you shall lie down in torment.

  1. The answer to these problems is prayer that releases the Holy Spirit’s power and gives us light to see by!
    1. When Christians face problems, they turn to God in prayer, and God answers by giving them a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:23‑31).
  2. God’s message to Zerubbabel was that real strength comes from relying on God’s Spirit.
    1. Even a great mountain will become level ground before him.
    2. I see our commission to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20) as a great mountain.
    3. Are we “making disciples” in our city and to the uttermost parts of the world?
  3. There are three ways we can attempt to do the work of God:
    1. we can trust our own strength and wisdom;
    2. we can borrow the resources of the world; or
    3. we can depend on the power of God.
  4. The first two approaches may appear to succeed, but they’ll fail in the end.
    1. Only work done through the power of the Spirit will glorify God.


  1. God’s Assurance (vv. 8-10)

8Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying: 9   “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; His hands shall also finish it. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you.

  1. The people had laid the foundation of this temple about sixteen years earlier, but then the work had been abandoned.
  2. Now they were starting again, and in four more years the temple would be completed.

10 For who has despised the day of small things? For these seven rejoice to see The plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. They are the eyes of the LORD, Which scan to and fro throughout the whole earth.”

  1. God was at work through his chosen servants of the hour!
  2. Bible history is the record of God using small things.
    1. When God wanted to set the plan of salvation in motion, He started with a little baby named Isaac (Gen. 21).
    2. When He wanted to overthrow Egypt and set His people free, He used a baby in a basket made of reeds (Ex. 2:1‑10).
    3. He used a shepherd boy and a sling to defeat a giant (1 Sam. 17) and a little boy’s lunch to feed a multitude (John 6).
    4. He delivered the Apostle Paul from death by using a basket and a rope (Acts 9:23‑25).
    5. When God wanted to come to earth to save us from our sins, He chose to come as a baby in a manger in Bethlehem!
    6. Never despise the day of small things, for God is glorified in small things and He always uses them to accomplish great things.
  3. The Importance of Small Things
    1. The tallest building in the world.
      • The biggest commercial airliner in the world.
      • The President of the United States holds the most powerful office in the world.
      • Everest is the highest mountain in the world.
      • The Guinness Book of World Records lists all of these and thousands of other “-ests” in the world.
      • We’re impressed with superlatives, aren’t we?
      • If it’s the biggest or the “most,” it must be the best, according to the way people think.
    2. God, on the other hand, is interested in little things.
    3. So it should not seem strange when the Lord asks the prophet Zechariah, “Who despises the day of small things?”
      • The eyes of God watch over the whole earth, but He still takes note of simple, common items like The Lighthouse!
      • God still works wonders through people who are willing to let him have the credit.
    4. There were no shortcuts, however.
      1. The work still had to be done: the stones still had to be laid.
      2. Any worthwhile work always .begins small and progresses from that point to become bigger.
    5. One of our biggest problems is that we expect shortcuts.
      1. We want a simple principle which will explain all the Bible and eliminate the need for concentrated and prolonged Bible study.
      2. We want an experience that will set us on a new spiritual plateau and eliminate the need for hard climbing up the steep mountain paths of discipleship.
      3. We want a fellowship that has all the elements of a perfect heavenly fellowship without the work of building up those elements by their own hard work and active participation.
    6. This is not the way God has ordered things. He could have given shortcuts, but He has not.
    7. God gave a clear promise that Zerubbabel would complete the temple (Zech.4:9),
      1. That reminds us of God’s promise 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’ (NKJV).
      2. It also echoes David’s words to his son Solomon: “Be strong and of good courage, and do it; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord God‑my God‑ will be with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you, until you have finished all the work for the service of the house of the Lord” (1 Chron. 28:20).
      3. That is the promise that sustains me as Pastor of The Lighthouse!


  • The Two Leaders (Zechariah 4:11-14)
    1. A Repeated Question (vv. 11-13)

11Then I answered and said to him, “What are these two olive trees—at the right of the lampstand and at its left?”

  1. This question was not answered immediately, since Zechariah raised it again in the next verse.
    1. Perhaps the Lord wanted his prophet to think about it for a while.

12And I further answered and said to him, “What are these two olive branches that drip into the receptacles of the two gold pipes from which the golden oil drains?”

  1. In repeating his question, Zechariah adds something of the vision he did not mention before: the two gold pipes.
  2. The two olive trees were pouring golden oil from their branches through the two gold pipes.

13Then he answered me and said, “Do you not know what these are?” And I said, “No, my lord.”

  1. Again the answer was delayed.


  1. A Delayed Answer (v. 14)

14So he said, “These are the two anointed ones, who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth.”

  1. The two who are anointed, the olive branches in the vision, were Zerubbabel the governor and Joshua the high priest.
    1. But ultimately the prophet speaks of one who is coming who will be both a priest and king (6:12, 13).
    2. Of course, it is Jesus, the Messiah, who gives the Holy Spirit in abundance (John 14:16-17; 15:26; 16:7-15)
  2. The oil represents God’s Spirit flowing with power into the workers to complete the temple that will give light to the entire world.
    1. As channels through which God’s Spirit flowed, these men supplied spiritual leadership.
    2. Church leaders provide spiritual leadership for the church today.
    3. Zerubbabel and Joshua were instruments through which God’s Spirit flowed.
      • The Spirit directed and encouraged the leaders, who in turn directed and encouraged the workers.
      • By God’s Spirit, not by human power, the Lord’s house gives light to the world.
    4. Pastors and elders and teachers must be filled with the Holy Spirit to provide true guidance to their congregations.
      1. That’s how I want you to pray for me and Kevin and Jose and Larry and Jim and the other teachers and House Church pastors and worship leaders here at The Lighthouse.
      2. As the two olive trees, Joshua and Zerubbabel received the empowering Spirit of God and kept the light of Israel’s work and witness burning.
      3. We do have a great God who can empower and bless servants who are dedicated to Him.
      4. He can cleanse us and He can empower us, so lets trust Him and do His work!
    5. What small thing has happened?
      1. School supplies?
      2. A haircut for a child?
      3. A tract or a Bible or a greeting?
      4. An invitation to come to church or to house church?
    6. Anything guided by and empowered by God’s Holy Spirit
      1. Will have all the obstacles removed by God’s grace
      2. You can know that God will complete what He has started.
      3. You can know that it is not small because nothing that God does is small!
      4. “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit says the Lord God Almighty!”