Fresh Insights on “Not By Might Nor By Power, But By My Spirit…”

Zechariah 4:6, Not by might.

For years, in my Bible, I have had Zechariah 4:6 marked as significant with a large red check mark, and can even quote this verse from memory (admittedly, it’s short and not difficult to memorize):

So he answered and said to me: “This is the word of YHVH to Zerubbabel: Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,” Says YHVH of hosts.

But only recently, as a younger senior citizen, have I stopped to consider what this verse really means and to wonder, as I look back over six decades, thirty of which have been in ministry including 25 years pastoring, whether or not and to what degree my life’s major ministry and other life activities have measured up to this wise proverb. To be honest, I believe that much of what I have done “for the Lord” has been weighed in the balances and has been found wanting.

Honestly, I have accomplished a lot for YHVH and, to be sure, there is some good fruit that has come from 30 years of ministry, but I can’t help wonder how much was done in my “might and power” as opposed to “by my [YHVH’s] Spirit.” For example, what have been the effects of my ministry upon my marriage and family? Positive or negative or somewhere in between? The answer to this necessitates pause for some serious reflection, which I have been doing lately. This then begs a couple of questions. First, when doing my ministry ostensibly “for the Lord,” was I doing so in the good, better or perfect will of YHVH (Rom 12:2)? Honestly, it would be arrogance on my part to rate myself very highly on the superlative side of this scale! Second, how much of my ministry has been about self and ego—in other words, pride, which is a pitiable and abominable sin in the eyes of YHVH (Prov 6:16–17 cp. Jer 9:23–24)? How much of my ministry has been done in accordance with my own will and impetuosity, as well intended as it may have been, as opposed to the leading of the Spirit?

Even though this is not the main message behind this Zechariah chapter four passage, when pulling this verse out, it can stand alone as a proverb or adage to live by. If we take our spiritual microscope to this verse, one can’t help but to ask oneself these questions.

So what is the real contextual message of Zechariah 4:6?

As I see it, this passage is a real-life application of Yeshua’s famous “if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can speak to this mountain and it will be cast into the sea” statement (Matt 17:20; Mark 11:22–23). The temple in Jerusalem had been in ruins for 70 years after its destruction by the Babylonians, and YHVH was commanding his people now to rebuild it. Because this task seemed like an impossible mission, an insurmountable mountain, the Jews had stalled out discouraged. To motivate his people, YHVH sent Zechariah and Haggai the prophets to give them a swift quick in the derrière and told them to get moving. As part of this corrective admonition, YHVH gave his people this golden nugget of truth in the midsts of the ruins of the previous temple and their dashed self-confidence to rebuild it:

So he answered and said to me: “This is the word of YHVH to Zerubbabel: Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,” Says YHVH of hosts.

Upon closer examination, I have found that when this one verse in the small book of Zechariah is placed in its biblical historical context, it takes on even a deeper meaning and relevance to my life. True, this divine admonition was for a specific person at a specific time in the historical past, so how do we know that the principle, “not by might or power, but my Spirit” applies to us thousands of years later? Several Bible verses come to my mind in answer to this question:

So Yeshua answered and said to them, “Have faith in Elohim. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. (Mark 11:22–23)

Unless YHVH builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; unless YHVH guards the city, The watchman stays awake in vain. (Ps 127:1)

But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of Elohim.’ “ (Matt 4:4 cp. Deut 8:3)

The Jews, as noted earlier, were facing the daunting endeavor of rebuilding a new temple from the ruins of the previous one. They were stymied to inaction by this proposition. They faced the choice of digging in and facing the grueling task of rebuilding it in their own might and power, or trusting in YHVH’s miracle-working Spirit to aid and empower them, if only they would have faith in him. This is exactly what the Jews did, and the monumental job was completed in 22 years.

Let’s now discover what the actual Hebrew words for power (chayil,H2428) and might (koach, H3581) in Zechariah 4:6 mean, so that we gain a better understanding of what we are to do or not do when it comes to fulfilling the work that YHVH has given us to do. This understanding may save us much grief, regrets and frustration in the future.

The basic meaning of chayil is “might, strength, power” from which comes the secondary meanings of “able, virtuous, valor; army, host, forces; riches, substance, wealth” according to The Theological Wordbook of Old Testament. In the Bible, chayil can be used of the strength, power or might of Elohim, from Elohim, the physical strength of men, or even plant life. When used in respect to wealth, it is often related to power, riches or material substance. As an attribute of humans, chayil is often used in conjunction with valor as in “mighty men of valor” as it relates to an elite warrior or hero or military prowess (ibid.). 

Koach is “the capacity to act, understood both in physical and figurative terms.…In a static sense, koach suggests the capacity to endure as a stone (Job 6:12), but more commonly it expresses potency, capacity to produce. This may be expressed in sexual terms (Job 40:16; Gen 49:3), or it may express the product of the earth’s potency (Gen 4:12; Job 31:29), but usually physical strength is intended, as in the references to Samson (Judg 16:5). By extension, the word comes to connote general ability to cope with situations (Deut 8:17–18; 1 Chron 29:14; Ezra 10:13) (ibid.).

Through the use of the words chayil and koach, YHVH through his prophet Zechariah is telling Zerubbabel that the temple will not be constructed through chayil or men’s efforts or prowess, but through the miraculous power of the Spirit of Elohim. That is to say, though physical men will construct it through human effort, its construction will occur in such a way that it will seem effortless in that men will accomplish this seeming insurmountable effort through the power of the Spirit.

To the carnal man, the whole idea of the Holy Spirit—an unseen force—accomplishing any task may seem ludicrous. After all, buildings don’t construct themselves or suddenly just appear. It takes hard physical work of construction any building—especially one that is built of stone without the help of modern mechanical advantages.

So what does this scripture really mean when it says, “‘not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says YHVH of Hosts”? Honestly, I don’t have a direct answer to this question. I wasn’t there, during the construction of this building, so it is therefore impossible to know exactly how the Spirit of Elohim aided or enabled Zerubbabel and his crew to construct it. But from decades of personal experience of working hard, starting and operating my own business with employees, pastoring a congregation and overseeing a ministry for 30 years and raising a family on top of it all, I can say this with full understanding and intelligence: Any human endeavor can be accomplished the hard way or the easy way. To put it simply, we can either make things happen through our own effort and intellect, or we can trust in YHVH, ask for his direction and guidance, and often times patiently wait on him and his timing and things will just work out almost effortless with much less stress and human effort almost miraculously. The doors of opportunity will suddenly open before us, the right people will come into our lives at the right time to help us, and the resources to accomplish the task will suddenly appear on the scene just as we need them. This is but one example of the proof and results of our faith in Elohim that the writer of Hebrews is talking about when he defines faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb 11:1).

How many times do we have to wear ourselves out doing something our own way and through our own effort before we come to a place of trusting in YHVH and walking by faith? Sadly, many of us have to learn this lesson the hard way, and, frankly, most people never come to that place in their lives of completely trusting in YHVH and his Spirit, and so they never experience the miracle of answered prayers, divine healing, supernatural provision and intervention. But this place of trusting faith is what both the writer of Proverbs and the psalmist are referring to when we read,

Trust in YHVH with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. (Prov 3:5–6)

Delight yourself also in YHVH, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.… Rest in YHVH, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.… The steps of a good man are ordered by YHVH, And He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For YHVH upholds him with His hand. (Ps 37:4–5, 7, 23–24)

A man’s heart plans his way, but YHVH directs his steps. (Prov 16:9)

So as I reflect back on my life, it is not hard to see, though well intended, how many of my life’s activities have been done in my own might and power and not by the Spirit of Elohim, or at least not in his perfect will (Rom 12:2). No doubt, YHVH has used this vessel despite its imperfections to accomplish some good things for his glory, but at the same time the image of Balaam’s donkey comes to mind. The lesson here is that YHVH can use anyone (or anything) to fulfill his purposes in spite of themselves. As I ponder this, I am sensing a more familial relationship with Balaam’s jackass!

In light of this revelation, what’s next for me (or for the reader if he or she can relate to this)? Well, for one thing, a stripping away has to occur. YHVH has to burn out of oneself all of the wood, hay and stubble (1 Cor 3:12–15) of anything that is not him. This fiery refining process is a difficult and humbling one. This is because all of the idolatrous monuments to prideful human achievements, self must be pulled down, and the flesh must be stripped away. The brush wood of ego and self must be shaken loose and burned up (Isa 64:2), so that the heavens can be rent and the presence of YHVH can descend (Isa 64:1), and do awesome things that we are not expecting (Isa 64:3). For me the stripping process has been going on for some time now. I’m waiting for YHVH to come down in a new way and to accomplish things for which I did not look, and all of this by the power of his Spirit and, this time, not by my own power and might.

Has YHVH brought anyone else to this same place where you sense that YHVH needs to rebuild the waste and ruined places of your life, but you feel powerless to do so through your own power and might? Or you’ve tried to do so, but have failed? Well consider this,

So he answered and said to me: “This is the word of YHVH to [you and me]: Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,” Says YHVH of hosts.


4 thoughts on “Fresh Insights on “Not By Might Nor By Power, But By My Spirit…”

  1. Really beautiful commentary Nathan. Shalom to All
    Happy New Moon Day when it comes. Shabbat Tov.
    Love in Messiah. FJ

  2. moses was 80 before the Lord completely used him! All those things in the past were used to teach us/ hopefully i will recognize and obey the Lord quickly!

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