In the message last Sunday there was a text of scripture I read but did not take time to comment on because it really was not the focus of that message. I want to back up to that text this morning. Zech.4:6 “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbable saying, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit’, says the Lord of hosts.”
This text is so defining of where we are right now – so defining of the life God is calling us into, I will present it from a variety of translations.
So he said to me, “A message came to Zerubbabel from the Lord. He said, ‘Your strength will not get my temple rebuilt. Your power will not do it either. Only the power of my Spirit will do it,’ says the Lord who rules over all.
“This is God’s Message to Zerubbabel: ‘You can’t force these things.They only come about through my Spirit,’ says God-of-the-Angel-Armies.”
So the angel explained that it was the following message of the Lord to Zerubbabel: “I am the Lord All-Powerful. So don’t depend on your own power or strength, but on my Spirit.”
Then he told me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘You will not succeed by your own strength or by your own power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord All-Powerful.’
What we have here is a clear negative followed by a clear positive. The negative is – ‘Not by might nor by power,’ while the positive is, ‘but by My Spirit.’ Understanding there is a negative and a positive here creates no problem for us but when we probe the relationship between the negative and the positive we do discover a bit of an issue. The issue is you cannot mix the negative and the positive – you cannot bring ‘might and power’ into ‘by My Spirit.’ If we could mix them life would sweet. But God has ordained that this is an either / or situation: either ‘might and power’ OR ‘by My Spirit’ but it can never be both.
We need to know what the Bible means by these words ‘might’ and ‘power.’ From the original language here is their meaning (and I am running the definitions together) Might/power:strength, might, efficiency, wealth, army, ability, force, substance, capacity to act, the idea “to batter down.” Also the capacity to endure; it expresses potency – the capacity to produce. Finally, the general ability to cope with situations.
We may look at this and wonder what the problem is. Would God not desire that His children be in the place described by these two words? That is a vital question and leads us to the real issue here. In a word that issue is ‘source’. So the very long question is this: ‘What is thesource of mystrength, might, efficiency, wealth; the source of my militancy, ability and force? What is the source of my substance, my capacity to act, and my ability “to batter down?” What is the source of my capacity to endure; the source of my potency – the ability to produce? What is the source of my general ability to cope with situations?’
That is the issue and the only two options are my flesh or His Spirit. Thus the following note:He is strongest who has discovered the finite limitations of his own capacities in the light of the limitless resources of God through his Spirit.
This means there is a contrasting double discovery taking place at the same time in each of us. On the one hand I am progressively discovering the limitless resources of God, while on the other hand (and correspondingly) I am discovering the absolute limitations of my own ability. This discovery is a matter of comparison; when my ability is compared with His ability what I thought I had doesn’t even register. And that is the painful part of this entire process: In order to see and experience the positive reality of ‘by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts’ I must first see and experience the very negative and pitiful reality of the limitation of the‘power and might of my own flesh.’
Our discovery of the freeing fullness of life in the Spirit is directly proportionate to our discovery of the absolute inability of our flesh to produce anything of Kingdom value.
Returning to Romans 4 let’s see how Zechariah 4:6 worked out in the experience of Abraham. At 75 he heard his first word from God. He had no idea that it would take 25 years for that promise to manifest. Here is the vital issue: What was that 25 year period about? In the context of Zechariah 4:6 it was about coming to the end of what he could produce so that he could experience what ONLY the Spirit could produce.
At 85 and ten years after hearing the promise Abraham was still able to produce. What he produced was Ishmael. And as long as we can produce God will allow us to produce until we have come to the end of our ability to produce. (And by the way, the repetition of the word ‘produce’ in that statement is deliberate).
When we come to Romans 4:19 we meet Abraham in a position he has never been in before – namely that place where he was no longer able to produce anything at one hundred years of age. Only then was he in a position to receive what God could do.
This will take a moment but I want to present Rom.4:19 from several translations.
He did not weaken in faith when he considered the [utter] impotence of his own body, which was as good as dead because he was about a hundred years old, or [when he considered] the barrenness of Sarah’s [deadened] womb. AMP
Abraham’s faith never became weak, not even when he was nearly a hundred years old. He knew that he was almost dead and that his wife Sarah could not have children. CEV
He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. ESV
He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. ESV NT Rev. Int.
He did not weaken in faith when he thought about his own body (which was already as good as dead now that he was about a hundred years old) or about Sarah’s inability to have children, ISV
Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. NIV
Without becoming weak in his faith, Abraham accepted the fact that he was past the time when he could have children. At that time he was about 100 years old. He also realized that Sarah was too old to have children. NIrV
And not being weak with respect to his faith, he attentively considered his own body permanently dead, he being about one hundred years old, also the deadness of Sarah’s womb.WUESTNT
He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead because he was about a hundred years old, or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. RSV
Based on these and many other translations I trust that we can see the following facts. Firstthe state of Abraham’s body and that of Sarah’s womb made it emphatically clear that there was absolutely no hope that they could produce anything. Secondly, faith did not cause them to deny the true state of their bodies and their inability to produce; in fact faith enabled them to accept and embrace their state of weakness. Thirdly – and this is critically vital – their acceptance of the state of their bodies had absolutely NO negative impact on their faith.
It is at this point (in closing out this message) that we discover the true nature of Biblical faith. To make that discovery we have to look at verse 20. And I will again present it from a variety of translations.
Yet, looking unto the promise of God, he wavered not through unbelief, but waxed strong through faith, giving glory to God. (ASV)
No unbelief or distrust made him waver (doubtingly question) concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong and was empowered by faith as he gave praise and glory to God. (AMP)
He did not by lack of trust decide against God’s promises. On the contrary, by trust he was given power as he gave glory to God. (CJB)
Yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief, but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God. (NASB)
He never doubted that God would keep his promise, and he never stopped believing. He grew stronger in his faith and gave praise to God. (NCV)
Moreover, in view of the promise of God, he did not vacillate in the sphere of unbelief between two mutually exclusive expectations but was strengthened with respect to his faith, having given glory to God, and was fully persuaded that what He had promised with finalityHe was able also to do; (Wuest)
In verse 19 we met the physical facts of the situation – a one hundred year old man whose body was totally impotent to reproduction and a 90 year old woman whose womb had always been dead to reproduction.
But here in verse 20 we meet another reality entirely – we meet the promise of God. What we learn of the promise of God is that its source is not the physical realm but the invisible realm of Spirit; its source is God Himself. This means that the promise is not tied to, based in or dependent upon any state or condition in the physical realm.
In this story of Abraham we clearly see there are two realms: the physical state of things andthe promise of God. The physical state of his body and that of Sarah’s womb completely contradicted the promise of God. And that brings us to the final issue – ‘what realm is defining and determining our faith?’ Is it ‘our power and might in the physical realm’ – or is it ‘by the Spirit of the Lord of hosts who is the very source of the promise?’
When we begin to assess faith by the physical state of things we are actually pulling it out of its true realm of Spirit and promise. In doing so we have reduced faith to the ‘state of the body’, and that means we have shifted the focus of our faith away from its true source – the promise of God, or better stated the God of the promise.
If Abraham had based his faith on the state and appearance of his body he would havevacillated in the sphere of unbelief between two mutually exclusive expectations. But instead of that we are told that he grew strong in faith and gave glory to God. From this we understand that faith is a matter of growth rather than a magical moment of impartation. Faith is ever developing towards a full maturity. And secondly we understand that the evidence of that maturing faith is an ever increasing ability to give glory to God.
Based on the meaning of the word here is what it means to give glory to God. The Greek word that is translated ‘glory’ in this text is found about 168 times throughout the New Testament. Here is how it is translated: glory, glorious, honour, praise, dignity and worship. And this is part of its meaning: opinion, judgment, view and estimate.It means to have a judgement, opinion, view and estimate of someone that results in praise, honour, glory, splendour, brightness, magnificence, excellence, pre-eminence, dignity, grace and majesty.
That’s what he did while he was waiting. What are you doing while you are waiting? And so for each of us this incredible journey of faith continues – a journey in which the power and might of our flesh is being reduced to a place of non-production, while at the same time the focus of our faith is becoming more and more disciplined to see only the promise of God – a focus that results in an increasing expression of praise and worship to the God of the promise.
2Cor.12: 7 – 10 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.