Not By Our Strength, But By The Spirit

June 25, 2023

Matt Lubratt

When we face trials and obstacles in our life. God wants us to rely on his Spirit for strength and guidance, not on our own strength and wisdom.

Not By Our Strength, But By The Spirit

June 25, 2023

Matt Lubratt

When we face trials and obstacles in our life. God wants us to rely on his Spirit for strength and guidance, not on our own strength and wisdom.

SERMON TRANSCRIPT | Zechariah 4: 1-14

Text: Zechariah 4:1-14 (page 647 in our paper Bibles) - but you can also join us this morning through our app! And if you haven't downloaded our app, I encourage you to do so, because we have included some pictures that will help us visualize and understand the prophecy we are going to be reading! (Download: Renovation Church app -> Summer Services (at the bottom) -> weekly verses.) And it’s important to look at the app this morning if possible, because we are looking at a complex prophecy and there is a picture to help guide us through it!


To catch everyone up to speed so far. The book of Zechariah is the second to last book of the Old Testament and it was written to this small remnant of the tribe of Judah that has just returned to Jerusalem from Babylon after their exile of about 70 years. And this book is a series of messages and visions given to Zechariah to give to the returning people of Judah.

If you missed any of our previous messages, I encourage you to go watch those messages on YouTube or the Renovation website and app.

And this morning we are reading the prophecy of the (lampstand and the olive trees). This is a confusing one, it has even perplexed scholars for a long time, but we will get through it!

Start in Zechariah 4:1-5 (we are going to read the first 5 verses):

1 Then the angel who talked with me returned and woke me up, like someone awakened from sleep. 2 He asked me, “What do you see?”

I answered, “I see a solid gold (important!) lampstand with a bowl at the top and seven lamps on it, with seven channels to the lamps. 3 Also there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.”

4 I asked the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?”

5 He answered, “Do you not know what these are?”

“No, my lord,” I replied.


So, Zechariah is receiving this vision from an angel of God and it says that the angel woke him up - and I know all of the parents with teenagers, said "amen, I know what that angel is going…

And in this vision that the angel gives to Zechariah - he sees this golden lampstand (which looks like a menorah, a lampstand with seven branches) with 2 olive trees on either side, and at the top of this lampstand was a bowl with seven lamps and seven channels beneath it. The Hebrew literally reads: "seven lamps upon seven".

So what Zechariah is seeing is this golden lampstand, a menorah that has seven bowls each with seven wicks, for a potential total of 49 lamps. Others believe that it is just 7 lamps, some believe it is 14 lamps…

Ok, now that you guys got that, let me close in prayer, Father… I’m just kidding. Turn to the app if you have it. The image will really help us understand what Zechariah is seeing here.

(Picture in the app, you’ll really want to pull this up because you might feel lost without it. [Renovation church app -> summer services -> weekly verses -> then click on the link and that’s how you get to the image] - In the image, it shows 7 lamps, but it could have been more, like 14 or 49.)

But regardless of how this exactly looked - here's the point:

The lampstand, in all of its complexity, is an image given to Zechariah as an encouragement to rebuild the temple. If we rewind to other worship centers of the Old Testament, like the Tabernacle and Solomon's temple, the lampstand was in the temple and it was supposed to always be lit - and that signified God's presence with his people. (which is also a nod to the coming Jesus who is the light of the world).

And ever since the temple was destroyed - for almost 70 years between the destruction of the temple and Zechariah’s vision - God desired to dwell with his people again and re-establish the kingdom of Judah which included 2 of the original 12 tribes of Israel, the tribe of Judah and the tribe of Benjamin. So, we see that God desires to dwell with his people again and he is commanding them, but also encouraging them to rebuild the temple!

And that's because the rebuilding party had sort of fizzled out when the people realized how big of an undertaking it was and how vulnerable they would have been to opposing nations around them! It doesn’t make logical sense to focus on building a temple when your walls or military are in shambles, but God tells them to build.

Let's go ahead and skip down to verse 11 and that will help us complete this picture of the lampstand with the two olive trees - one on either side.

Zechariah 4:11 (NIV): 11 Then I asked the angel, “What are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the lampstand?”

12 Again I asked him, “What are these two olive branches beside the two gold pipes that pour out golden oil?”

13 He replied, “Do you not know what these are?”

“No, my lord,” I said.

14 So he said, “These are the two who are anointed to[b] serve the Lord of all the earth.”


The two olive trees here signify two people that verse 12 says will pour out golden oil. These candles needed oil to keep burning, and like the lampstand in the tabernacle and Solomon's Temple, this one is to always be lit and the trees are pouring pure olive oil into the lampstand to keep it lit.

The two olive trees (symbolize two people). And these two people will provide oil, they will provide the fuel to Judah so that they can shine God's light.

Most scholars believe that the two people mentioned here are Joshua, the high priest (which we covered last week), and Zerubbabel, the Governor of this people in Jerusalem. These two people have been chosen by God to lead Judah religiously and politically.

And if you look back at the history of the nation of Israel in the Bible, which split into the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. For the most part, they had horrible leadership! (All of the northern kingdom's kings were evil, and most of Judah's kings were evil.) Their kings were corrupt which led to a corrupt people that turned away from God and God had so much patience and so much mercy, but to discipline his people - he kicked them out of the land.

So, now that this remnant from the kingdom of Judah is back in the land, God is telling them, "hey the former leaders of this nation were not good, but I am choosing Zerubbabel and Joshua to lead you well - and I am going to be with them! They will lead you in rebuilding the temple, to lead you in obedience to me so that you will be a light to the world! God is saying, “I am providing you good leaders.”

So, in chapter 4 here, we have v.1-5 and v.11-14 that explain this vision of the lampstand and the olive trees. But we really find the main point of this passage in the middle section, where the angel explains this vision to Zechariah by giving two messages to Zerubbabel. Let’s call it ‘a prophetic sandwich.

The first part and the last part (v.1-5. 11-14) are the bread, and you need to lay down the bread first.

Then, the meaning and application are in the middle (v.6-10). And this is the meat and cheese of the prophetic sandwich. If you’re vegan, this is the hummus and lettuce.

Zechariah 4:6–7 (NIV):

6 So 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 Almighty.

7 “What are you, mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of ‘God bless it! God bless it!’”

This is where our first point for today’s message comes from. So if you're taking notes you can write this down. Also, since we don't have screens, I asked Pastor David about putting our main points behind like a Good Year Blimp, but that idea got shot down pretty quickly because apparently "we don't have budget for that". So, at the annual meeting today, vote yes for blimps.

Ok - 2 main points this morning, the first one is this…

We can't accomplish anything of spiritual significance apart from the Holy Spirit (v.6-7)(2x)

Exegesis: God is giving the command and encouragement to Zerubbabel to rebuild the temple, to rebuild this lampstand that will produce light for the whole world to see God's goodness, and he's saying don't rely on your own strength or your own might to rebuild the temple! Instead, rely on the Spirit! The Holy Spirit will provide what Zerubbabel and Judah need to rebuild the temple and without God's Spirit, they won't be able to complete it.

Theological: And when we zoom out and look at our own lives. The Holy Spirit is the one that enables us to do anything significant for God. When you put your faith in Jesus, he sends the Holy Spirit to dwell within you. The Holy Spirit regenerates us, gives us new life, and empowers us to live like Jesus. (Now, that doesn't mean that we never sin or never mess up, and it also doesn’t mean that every earthly project is guaranteed success.) But throughout our spiritual lives, the Holy Spirit should lead us closer to Jesus, deeper in spiritual maturity, and deeper in our love and connection to God.

Saying: "the good things you do are from the Holy Spirit and the bad things you do are... well are from you...".

But it's true, the Holy Spirit enables us to obey God and to do the work that he has called us to do.

Homiletical: So, what are the obstacles in your life right now that seem like a mountain that you've been trying to overcome with your own strength?

Maybe it's at your job, and you have this big project or big obstacle in your way at work, and you've just been trying to conquer it by your might or your intellect or your experience and you haven't gone to God to ask for his guidance. You haven't asked that the Spirit would give you his strength and wisdom to approach the obstacle.

Maybe you have an adult child who has wandered from the faith you tried to raise them with and it's an uphill battle to get them to come to church and to talk with them about Jesus

What is it in your life, that you need to stop relying on your strength for, and rely on the Holy Spirit?

Story of Jada

My house group leader Jake and his family recently went through something that seemed like a mountain in front of them that they didn't know how to get through…

Their only child (4) had a hard time breathing and so they went to the doctor and they found a golf ball-sized mass growing on her tonsils. And after they operated on it and took it out, they were very confident that it was lymphoma and told them to prepare.

Jake's Email

After many tears and many prayers, the results for lymphoma came back negative (which we praise God for!) But nevertheless, this trial drove them to God in prayer. It shifted their strength, and reliance on themselves over to God.

So, what is the battle or the mountain in your life, where you need to trust God?

D. I can't promise that he'll fix everything for you and make your life easy (we don’t know what God will do, but the Bible promises that the Spirit will be with you as a comforter and as an advocate that points to Jesus and through your trials and struggles he can use them to draw you closer to himself.

Let's look back at v.8 to complete our prophetic sandwich…

8 Then the word of the Lord came to me: 9 “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.

10 “Who dares despise the day of small things, since the seven eyes of the Lord that range throughout the earth will rejoice when they see the chosen capstone in the hand of Zerubbabel?”

Transition: Ok, point number 2 is this...

II. When God accomplishes something, he alone gets the glory (v.8-10)(2x)

Exegesis: Zerubbabel and his men could not finish the temple on their own strength.

God sends his Spirit to empower them and enable them to accomplish this task.

So that it’s obvious that God was the one who rebuilt the temple and he is the only one that gets the glory. (End of v.9) “then you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you."

Zerubbabel can't take credit for building the temple, the people can’t take credit for building the temple - ONLY GOD gets credit for building the temple. He alone gets the glory for that.

And God uses small things/small beginnings for his work. Here, the people are looking at a pile of rubble, and they see this difficult road ahead, like “how is God ever going to get this done out of this?” But he did, he used a small beginning (the ruble), to accomplish something amazing (the reconstruction of the temple).

B. Application: Maybe there is something in your life right now and you’re not sure how God is going to use it. Maybe you’re 5 days sober from alcohol or pornography or maybe you are thinking of sharing the gospel with a close friend or family member and it feels like an impossible task to bring them to Christ. Whatever that small thing is, trust that God can use it, and that he will get the glory!

C. Theological point: We see this all over the Bible - God uses small things, small beginnings, unexpected events to accomplish his work so that no one confuses who really did it and who gets the glory. One of God's favorite means to accomplish his plan is through babies!

D. Illustration: There's nothing more insignificant than a baby!

They can't feed themselves or take care of themselves for years! They are completely reliant on their parents to provide. And I am about to learn more about that because we have our first coming in October so if you look at the bottom of the app, it has our registry on it so if you guys wouldn't mind taking a lo– just kidding, that would be a good idea though.

Babies are so small and seemingly insignificant, yet God has used them throughout the Bible for his glory and his plan. (v. 10, says not to despise the day of small things…” because God uses them!)

God provided Abraham with a baby after a lifetime of not being able to conceive. And that baby started the lineage that led to Jesus.

Moses - as a baby was saved by the daughter of Pharaoh. I still picture the alligators snapping at him from the Prince of Egypt - ah a classic. But he was saved as a baby and became the leader of Israel.

Then the best baby of them all was Jesus! God himself, fully man and fully God was not sent down on chariots to save us. No, he was born in a barn, into poverty. Why? Because God uses small things for his glory. And that baby grew up, and he never sinned, he perfectly kept and fulfilled the law, but instead of being accepted and crowned as the rightful king and leader of Judah - he was kicked out of town and murdered in the most horrific fashion known at the time - crucifixion. And when he died, he died for the sins of the world.

But then 3 days later, he rose from the grave in his glorified physical body that we are all hoping for as well. And he ascended to heaven and sat down at the right hand of God where he is reigning as sovereign Lord over life and death. And I'm sure there are many here this morning that need to submit to that king, submit to that God.

Maybe you've been like Zerubbabel. You've been relying on your own strength and your own might to do good, but you can't - and you know you can't. You realize that you keep falling short and you need the Spirit of God to give you strength, and you need the forgiveness that only Jesus offers.

And you can have that - you can have the Spirit that Zechariah talks about here in ch.4 that enables us to live for God and obey him. And just like the golden lampstand, the Spirit can provide you with the oil/the fuel you need to live for God, to obey him, and to be a light of hope in a world that desperately needs the hope of Jesus Christ. And you don't have to work for the Spirit. It is provided by God, through faith in Jesus Christ. So, if you have never surrendered your life to king Jesus, and put your full faith and trust in him, then do that this morning.

3. After the service, I'm going to be off to the right side of the stage with members of our follow up team and if you need to follow Jesus - we would love to connect with you and guide you through what to do next, so I look forward to talking with some of you.

Copyright: Matt Lubratt
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN

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