The Review and Herald


January 16, 1908

The Return of the Exiles—No. 10

“Not by Might, Nor by Power”


Intimately associated with Joshua, the high priest, was Zerubbabel, governor of Judea. It was under the leadership of these two men that the remnant of Israel returned at the close of the seventy years’ captivity. They also led out in the re-establishment of the ancient worship at Jerusalem. In the second year of Cyrus, Zerubbabel laid the corner-stone of the temple. It was Zerubbabel and Joshua who, in response to the messages of the Lord through Haggai and Zechariah, “rose up,” with courage renewed, and once more “began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem.” These men were true leaders, and “the spirit of all the remnant of the people” was largely influenced by the cheerful willingness with which they carried out the Lord's commands. RH January 16, 1908, par. 1

Immediately after Zechariah's vision of Joshua and the angel, given to the high priest as a personal testimony for his own encouragement and the encouragement of all the people of God, the prophet received a personal testimony regarding the work of Zerubbabel. “The angel that talked with me,” Zechariah declares, “came again, and waked me, as a man that is waked out of his sleep, and said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof: and two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof. RH January 16, 1908, par. 2

“So I answered and spake to the Angel that talked with me, saying, What are these, my Lord? ...Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.... RH January 16, 1908, par. 3

“Then answered I, and said unto him, What are these two olive trees upon the right side of the candlestick and upon the left side thereof? And I answered again, and said unto him, What be these two olive branches which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves? ... Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.” RH January 16, 1908, par. 4

From the two olive trees the golden oil was emptied through the golden pipes into the bowl of the candlestick, and thence into the golden lamps that gave light to the sanctuary. So from the holy ones that stand in God's presence his Spirit is imparted to the human instrumentalities who are consecrated to his service. The mission of the two anointed ones is to communicate to God's people that heavenly grace which alone can make his Word a lamp to the feet and a light to the path. RH January 16, 1908, par. 5

In rebuilding the house of the Lord, Zerubbabel had been encompassed with manifold difficulties. In former years, adversaries had “weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building,” “and made them to cease by force and power.” But the Lord interposed in behalf of the faithful builders, and now he speaks through his prophet, Zechariah, to Zerubbabel, saying, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts. Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it.” RH January 16, 1908, par. 6

Throughout the history of God's people, great mountains of difficulty, apparently insurmountable, have loomed up before those who were advancing in the opening providences of God. Such obstacles to progress are permitted by the Lord as a test of faith. When hedged about on every side, this is the time above all others to trust in God and in the power of his Holy Spirit. We are not to walk in our own strength, but in the strength of the Lord God of Israel. It is folly to trust in man or to make flesh our arm. We must trust in Jehovah; for in him is everlasting strength. The One who, in response to words and deeds of faith, made the way plain before his servant Zerubbabel, is able to clear away every obstacle devised by Satan to hinder the progress of his cause. Through the exercise of persevering faith, every mountain of difficulty may be removed. RH January 16, 1908, par. 7

Sometimes God trains his workers by bringing to them disappointment and apparent failure. It is his purpose that they shall learn to master difficulty. He seeks to inspire them with a determination to make every apparent failure prove a success. RH January 16, 1908, par. 8

Oftentimes men pray and weep because of the perplexities and obstacles that confront them. But if they will hold the beginning of their confidence steadfast unto the end, God will make their way clear. Success will come to them as they struggle against apparently insurmountable difficulties; and with success will come the greatest joy. RH January 16, 1908, par. 9

This was true of Zerubbabel; and for his encouragement he was given, through Zechariah, the assurance: “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto you. For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel, with those seven; they are the eyes of the Lord, which run to and fro through the whole earth.” RH January 16, 1908, par. 10

The promise, “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it,” was literally fulfilled. “The elders of the Jews builded, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they builded, and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia. And this house was finished on the third day of the month Adar [the twelfth month], which was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king.” RH January 16, 1908, par. 11

Shortly afterward, the restored temple was dedicated. “The children of Israel, the priests, and the Levites, and the rest of the children of the captivity, kept the dedication of this house of God with joy, and offered at the dedication of this house of God an hundred bullocks, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs, and for a sin-offering for all Israel, twelve he-goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel.” RH January 16, 1908, par. 12

This second temple did not equal the first in magnificence, nor was it hallowed by those visible tokens of the divine presence which pertained to the first temple. There was no manifestation of supernatural power to mark its dedication. No cloud of glory was seen to fill the newly erected sanctuary. No fire from heaven descended to consume the sacrifice upon its altar. The shekinah no longer abode between the cherubim in the most holy place; the ark, the mercy-seat, and the tables of the testimony were not to be found therein. No voice sounded from heaven to make known to the inquiring priest the will of Jehovah. RH January 16, 1908, par. 13

And yet this was the building concerning which the Lord had declared by the prophet Haggai, “The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former.” “I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts.” For centuries afterward the Jews vainly endeavored to show wherein the promise of God, given by Haggai, had been fulfilled; yet eventually, when the Desire of all nations actually appeared and hallowed the precincts of the temple by his personal presence, pride and unbelief had blinded their minds to the true meaning of the prophet's words. The second temple was honored, not with the cloud of Jehovah's glory, but with the living presence of One in whom dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily,—God himself manifest in the flesh. The “Desire of all nations” had indeed come to his temple, when the Man of Nazareth taught and healed in the sacred courts. In the personal presence of Christ during his earthly ministry, and in this only, did the second temple exceed the first in glory. RH January 16, 1908, par. 14

Following the dedication of the house of God, the Israelites “set the priests in their divisions, and the Levites in their courses, for the service of God, which is at Jerusalem; as it is written in the book of Moses. And the children of the captivity kept the passover upon the fourteenth day of the first month. For the priests and the Levites were purified together, all of them were pure, and killed the passover for all the children of the captivity, and for their brethren the priests, and for themselves. And the children of Israel, which were come again out of captivity, and all such as had separated themselves unto them from all the filthiness of the heathen of the land, to seek the Lord God of Israel, did eat, and kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with joy: for the Lord had made them joyful, and turned the heart of the king of Assyria unto them, to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.” RH January 16, 1908, par. 15