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. (Zechariah 4:6)
One of the consistent messages of the Old Testament is that despite the fact that we are made in God’s image, despite the fact that we can do amazing things with the abilities God gave us, and despite the fact that God loves us immensely, when it comes to accomplishing the purposes of God we are severely handicapped. God communicated this to Jacob when, after wrestling with him all night at Peniel (Genesis 32:22-32), and after abiding Jacob’s lies and other means of making his life work out the way he wanted it to, He finally touched Jacob’s hip and disabled it. Jacob needed to know that he could not depend on his own resources to accomplish even what he wanted to accomplish, much less accomplish the purposes of God.
This is the reason for David’s frequent self-description in the Psalms as “needy” (Psalm 40:17, for example). This is why we read in the Psalms, “His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of the warrior; the LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love (Psalm 147:10).”
And when God is instructing His people Israel about the restoration of their exiled nation, He makes a point of noting to Zerubbabel, one of His appointed leaders, that it is not Zerubbabel’s strenth or might that will accomplish this. Does this mean that Zerubbabel’s leadership is unnecessary? Absolutely not! Rather, it is an invitation to Zerubbabel and all leaders to look to God for strength and wisdom to do what is required.
We recognize that as a people we are hampered by our own sinful ways of responding to others, our own inner fears and failures, and our own lack of wisdom, at times, to always choose the right path. And there are some obstacles that we cannot overcome no matter how righteously and wisely we are acting. All of this combined makes it imperative that we look to the Lord for help.
Hezekiah did not have the resources to deal with attacking Assyria when they stood outside the walls of Jerusalem demanding surrender (2 Kings 18). He brought the problem to Yahweh and Yahweh delivered His people. Jehoshaphat faced much the same dilemma (2 Chronicles 20) and trusted in Yahweh in much the same way Hezekiah did.
Other leaders, however, trusted in their own wisdom and reacted out of their own selfishness and woundedness and failed to properly lead their people. The examples of this are unfortunately very much more prominent in our biblical record than is comfortable. Saul chose to sacrifice without Samuel, David chose to stay at home instead of going to war and committed adultery and murder, Solomon married into idolatry, his son listened to the advice of his young contemporaries and threw the kingdom into division, and the list goes on and on.
When will we realize that it is not by our might nor by our power that God’s purposes will be accomplished? Rather, “those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31).