Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Zechariah 4: The Spirit of Grace

Zechariah 4:1-10 And the angel who talked with me came again and woke me, like a man who is awakened out of his sleep. And he said to me, “What do you see?” I said, “I see, and behold, a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it, and seven lamps on it, with seven lips on each of the lamps that are on the top of it. And there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.” And I said to the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?”  Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No, my lord.” 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. Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’” Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying,  “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.

Zerubbabel needed encouragement to get going with rebuilding the temple. He needed to know that the work of God is "not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts" (4:6). Every mountain can be conquered because God grants us the grace to do it through His indwelling Spirit. For Zerubbabel needed the power of grace to overcome the "mountain" before him. This power comes from the Spirit: "Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’

Churches do need more doctrines on grace or the Holy Spirit. What is needed is more experience of the power of the Spirit. We should not glorify a doctrine but Jesus Christ. And this can only come through the Spirit: "When the Spirit of truth comes...He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you."  Some churches are fearful of "over-emphasis" on the Holy Spirit because it will take our focus away from Jesus Christ. But the reality is that when the Spirit comes He will glorify Christ, not himself. So there is no way we can "over-emphasize" Him without also glorifying Christ--unless all we are talking about is the doctrine rather than the power of the Spirit.

And here, I'm not just referring to the heavenly and mystical Christ but also the earthly Christ. 1 Peter says we are to imitate the earthly Christ: "For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps" (1 Peter 2:21). There is a danger of ignoring the earthly Christ who came to show us what it is like to be a true Son of God. Some preachers exalt the heavenly Christ but undermine the earthly Christ by arguing that His teachings are passé. This is dangerous and deceptive. The Holy Spirit comes to glorify Jesus - both the earthly and heavenly Christ.

Grace is not a doctrine but an experience of the Spirit's power. In this passage, Zechariah clearly associates the might and power of the Spirit with grace: "Grace, grace to it!" But grace is not just a doctrine but the power of God to enable us to carry out the work of God. It's not just about "being" but also doing. In fact, for the Hebrews (biblical authors), doing is always the foundation for being. The idea of being before doing is essentially a Greek philosophical concept, not a Hebrew biblical understanding of how we are formed spiritually. Too much focus on being without calling for doing leads to passivity. But doing leads to the experience of God and His Holy Spirit. This experience of His grace through the Spirit is life-transforming.

So, we need more experience of grace by experiencing God through proactive obedience, not just a confession of grace that does not lead to obedience. For Paul himself has said, "For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power" (1 Corinthian 4:20). So, let get going and doing, for that is Zechariah's message to us: "The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it" (4:9).

Father, deliver us from just talk about Your Word and teach us to also do Your Word. Amen.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel free to leave your comments.