I thought I knew what grace meant. I have written about it. I know the Scriptures; I know this particular text in Zachariah – it is one of my favourites. I can just imagine the capstone; a beautiful stone-built arch with the miraculous word: grace carved out on it. It has to be the logo of my life. I claimed it, I framed it and I own it in my imagination.
Still, there is more to learn. I should have known. The Word of God is multi-facetted and never one-dimensional. There is always something new – a new angle, a new perspective. Zachariah 4 has been put in the spotlight again in the last few weeks. Let us read together:
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! (Zechariah 4:7)
Zerubbabel had a gigantic task. He had to restore the Temple that lay in ruins after a cruel siege of Jerusalem about 70 years before and the subsequent exile of the people of Judah into Babylon. The Temple had been built by Solomon after the death of David and was the climax of the Hebrew civilization and conquering of Canaan, the promised land of the slave nation that was led out of Egypt by Moses.
The people were discouraged and the planners and builders did not know how to restore the Temple to its former magnificence. The prophet Zechariah is called by God to encourage the leaders and to inspire the restoration project. Zechariah proclaims a series of visions with the interpretation thereof.
Start small, he says. For who has despised the day of small things? (Zechariah 3:10)
Every gargantuan task starts in the ideas of people, the planning on paper and the first bricks to be laid. They could not be dismayed and cast down by the city in ruins. Nehemiah had already rebuilt the wall in a record time of 54 days. The Temple was next. Just the thought of the former glory of the Temple, almost defeated the whole project. The overwhelming task proved to be too much.
God steps in. In the words of Zechariah, He promises the immense, miraculous, super natural power of the Holy Spirit, through which nothing is impossible.
Hear the words and see the way being made:
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)
The visions of Zechariah are the insight into the unseen, that reveals the super-natural to encourage and enable. It is exactly where we find strength today – in the prophetic word of God. Our vision into the unseen uncover the “veil” of mystery and expose the reality of God’s powerful intervention that facilitate the impossible into a wonderful work of the Holy Spirit.
Nothing is impossible when we “see” the way God sees. This is the perspective that the prophetic brings.
The Brenton Septuagint Translation has an interesting variation on the words of this verse.
Who art thou, the great mountain before Zerababbel, that thou shouldest prosper? whereas I will bring out the stone of the inheritance, the grace of it the equal of my grace.
[The Septuagint is the translation of the Old Testament Jewish scriptures from Hebrew to Greek in the third and second centuries before Christ by Jewish scholars for the Greeks. Later, after Jesus, the Greek Christians used this translation as the authentic version of the Old Testament. Sir Lancelot Charles L Brenton translated the Septuagint into English in 1844]
Our inheritance is written on the capstone. Grace that equals God’s grace. It is powerful words.
It is words of empowerment to equip us for everything we need, however impossible.
How do we know that grace is a power that works in our favour?
And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. (Acts 4:33)
God’s grace empowered the apostles. The realm in which this most colossal task in the entire history of mankind, of establishing the Christian church happened, is grace. The fledgling start of Christianity in the acts of the handful of Christ followers who were empowered by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, cannot be described in human terms. The core of the statement is, of course, that by the power of the Holy Spirit, everything is possible.
The Holy Spirit is the main player in the story. He makes all the difference. The Holy Spirit is the power of the grace of God. He is the invisible drive that makes the mountain a plain.
One could never disregard or underestimate the Holy Spirit’s role in a situation or in the life of a born-again Christian. The Holy Spirit moves the mountain in the unseen, without you being able to see or feel. Things happen in the unseen with miraculous impact in the seen. He is the breath of God, the source of life, the wind of power (John 3). One cannot see breath, see the wind or see the source of life. One can experience the effect thereof.
God is good and He wants good things for you – all for your benefit. The cross of Jesus is the guarantee. He can make things work to unfold to your advantage even if you could not imagine it in your wildest dreams. It is his character as He defines himself in Exodus 34:6:
And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth,
God is love – you have heard it all before, often. He cannot do anything but from love. He does not have love; He is love. It is his being, his character and the source from which He acts.
Believe it – even though it might not feel that way. The Holy Spirit is not a feeling. He is the life-giving source that works according to a higher plan that you cannot feel.
This is how CS Lewis describes it:
It is quite right that you should feel that “something terrific” has happened to you (It has) and be “all glowy.” Accept these sensations with thankfulness as birthday cards from God, but remember that they are only greetings, not the real gift. I mean, it is not the sensations that are the real thing. The real thing is the gift of the Holy Spirit which can’t usually be—perhaps not ever—experienced as a sensation or emotion. The sensations are merely the response of your nervous system. Don’t depend on them. Otherwise when they go and you are once more emotionally flat (as you certainly will be quite soon), you might think that the real thing had gone too. But it won’t. It will be there when you can’t feel it. May even be most operative when you can feel it least.
CS Lewis: Words to live by. [My emphasis]