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God’s Word for You

Zechariah 4:4-7 The mountain shall become a plain

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, July 7, 2022

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

Zechariah sets a good example for us here. He is shown something wonderful (for him, a vision from God; for us, the word of God), and without jumping in to say what he thinks it means, he admits first of all that he doesn’t know. A prophet of the Lord, admitting that he does not know! This should find a place in our hearts as we read the word of God, summarized, perhaps, by this proverb: To say ‘I don’t know’ is a step toward wisdom. Of course, the true beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord, which is faith in God (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 9:10). In this case, the angel seems to ask twice to highlight the answer he will finally give at the end of the chapter (verses 11-14). But before he does that, he has something to say about the leader of God’s people, who at this time was the governor Zerubbabel, a descendant of King David and a man who was in the line of the Savior (Matthew 1:12-13).

6 Then he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, or by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts. 7 What are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain. He will bring out the capstone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’”

“Might” is probably military strength. The new temple would not be built with armies, nor would the city walls, nor the boundaries of the nation. “Power” is the physical strength of the workers, but Nehemiah reports at this time that “the strength of the laborers is giving out” (Nehemiah 4:10), perhaps because “fear oppresseth strength [and] gives, in your weakness, strength unto your foe” (Richard II, Act III:2).  Power and strength were not enough to rebuild temple, walls, or borders.

But “my Spirit,” says the Lord, “my Spirit is all you need.” And he adds his title, “the Lord of hosts,” which in Hebrew is “Lord of Armies.” The power to do everything God wants done in the world is entirely within God, and is a gift of God. His Spirit will be Judah’s strength. This is the true meaning of the lampstand, the light with its holy number, burning brightly and with a never-ending supply of oil, which stands in the middle of the people, illuminating them all. Luther says: “My lampstand, my Spirit, is standing among you, and because I am gracious to you and wish you well. For when God wishes a man well, no one shows him any enmity. And Solomon says (Proverbs 16:7): ‘When a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.’” (LW 20:224)

Therefore everything required was given by God’s Spirit. This was not only true of the building project on Mount Zion in this moment, five hundred years before the birth of Christ. It is also true of our salvation, for the minor point supports the major point. Our salvation rests in God alone, as David says: “He alone is my rock and my salvation” (Psalm 62:2). So just as God is our fortress (Psalm 46:7, 59:9, etc.), and just as he is our refuge and strength (Jeremiah 16:19), so also he provides everything for our salvation, from the sacrifice, to the blood, to the resurrection, to the grace that put all of those things in motion, and even to our faith that trusts in all of these. For faith is not from yourselves, Paul says, “It is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). And God’s grace, and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflows to the many (Romans 5:15).

Is there any obstacle? Zechariah records that the angel even called out to any objections Zerubbabel might still have had and called out, “What are you, O great mountain? You will be a smooth plain.” All obstacles will be removed so that the impassable mountain will be as smooth as a parking lot.

And more than this, just one more thing: God himself will bring the “top stone” that will complete the temple and set it in place. This is not exactly the same word as the capstone in Psalm 118:22 and its many New Testament quotations. This leads some to think that “chief stone” here means the foundation, the first or chief stone to be laid. However, since the foundation of the temple was already in place (Ezra 3:3; Haggai 2:18), this is more likely to be the “top stone” or finishing stone on the peak of the building, not the capstone or keystone of an arch, but perhaps a decorative stone that could be seen by those standing below in front of the doors. This sort of completing stone is sometimes mentioned in ancient Near Eastern texts.

What is necessary for our salvation is supplied by God, not done secretly in a corner, but lifted high and exalted for the world to see. “Men will look to their Maker and turn their eyes to the Holy One of Israel. They will turn to the Lord, and he will respond to their pleas and heal them” (Isaiah 19).  We acknowledge that this is entirely God’s doing, as do the shouts of our text: “Grace! Grace to it!” This grace is God’s compassion and favor, given freely, and put on display for all to see. We sinners pray, “Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed, Save me and I will be saved” (Jeremiah 17:14). This is the true help and strength that comes from our God. He has forgiven us, he has saved us, and he is our refuge forever.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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