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2. The Power of God

Introduction

Centuries ago, God promised Abraham and Sarah they would have a son through whose offspring the world would be blessed. But there were problems. Abraham and Sarah were getting on in years, and Sarah was barren. When told she would be the mother of Abraham’s child, the child of promise, Sarah laughed. In response to her laughter, God spoke these words to Abraham:

13 And the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I indeed bear [a child,] when I am [so] old?’ 14 Is anything too difficult for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son” (Genesis 18:13-14, emphasis mine).

When God rescued the nation Israel from their bondage in Egypt, He led them into the wilderness, where the “menu” was a miraculous provision of manna. But the Israelites began to grumble because they could not enjoy the variety of foods they had eaten in Egypt. In response to their grumbling, God promised to give this great company a diet of meat for an entire month. If the feeding of the 5,000 seems difficult, imagine feeding this hugh congregation. Moses had the same thoughts and expressed his concerns to God:

21 But Moses said, “The people, among whom I am, are 600,000 on foot; yet Thou hast said, ‘I will give them meat in order that they may eat for a whole month.’ 22 Should flocks and herds be slaughtered for them, to be sufficient for them? Or should all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, to be sufficient for them?” (Numbers 11:21-22).

But God asked another question in response to Moses, a question vitally important to every Christian today:

23 And the LORD said to Moses, “Is the LORD’S power limited? Now you shall see whether My word will come true for you or not” (Numbers 11:23, emphasis mine).

The answer to this question is crucial, and the answer of the Bible is clear and unequivocal:

3 But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases (Psalm 115:3).

17 “‘Ah Lord GOD! Behold, Thou hast made the heavens and the earth by Thy great power and by Thine outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for Thee’” (Jeremiah 32:17).

26 And looking upon [them] Jesus said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

24 The LORD of hosts has sworn saying, “Surely, just as I have intended so it has happened, and just as I have planned so it will stand, 25 to break Assyria in My land, and I will trample him on My mountains. Then his yoke will be removed from them, and his burden removed from their shoulder. 26 This is the plan devised against the whole earth; and this is the hand that is stretched out against all the nations. 27 For the LORD of hosts has planned, and who can frustrate [it]? And as for His stretched-out hand, who can turn it back?” (Isaiah 14:21-26).

God’s Power in Creation

The earliest manifestation of God’s power is seen in the creation of the world in which we live:

20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse (Romans 1:20).

Throughout Scripture, the creation of the world is cited as a compelling testimony of the power of God.

(For the choir director. A Psalm of David.) 1The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. 2 Day to day pours forth speech, And night to night reveals knowledge. 3 There is no speech, nor are there words; Their voice is not heard. 4 Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their utterances to the end of the world. In them He has placed a tent for the sun, 5 Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber; It rejoices as a strong man to run his course. 6 Its rising is from one end of the heavens, And its circuit to the other end of them; And there is nothing hidden from its heat (Psalms 19:1-6).

6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, And by the breath of His mouth all their host. 7 He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; He lays up the deeps in storehouses. 8 Let all the earth fear the LORD; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. 9 For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast. 10 The LORD nullifies the counsel of the nations; He frustrates the plans of the peoples. 11 The counsel of the LORD stands forever, The plans of His heart from generation to generation. 12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, The people whom He has chosen for His own inheritance (Psalms 33:6-12).

In Psalm 33, the heavens testify to the existence of God and His attributes and thus proclaim His glory (Psalm 19:1-6). David continues the theme of creation’s proclamation of God’s character in Psalm 33 where the power of God is highlighted. Verse 6 states the power of God in creating the world, emphasizing that all this took place by the mere speaking of a word (see Genesis 1:3ff.; Hebrews 11:3; 2 Peter 3:5). In verse 7, David indicates God not only created the heavens, He controls them. And in verses 10 and following, David goes on to tell us God likewise controls the affairs of men; God is in control of history.

(For the choir director. A Psalm of David the servant of the LORD, who spoke to the LORD the words of this song in the day that the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul.) And he said, 1 “I love Thee, O LORD, my strength.” 2 The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. 3 I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, And I am saved from my enemies. 4 The cords of death encompassed me, And the torrents of ungodliness terrified me. 5 The cords of Sheol surrounded me; The snares of death confronted me. 6 In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried to my God for help; He heard my voice out of His temple, and my cry for help before Him came into His ears. 7 Then the earth shook and quaked; and the foundations of the mountains were trembling And were shaken, because He was angry. 8 Smoke went up out of His nostrils, And fire from His mouth devoured; coals were kindled by it. 9 He bowed the heavens also, and came down with thick darkness under His feet. 10 And He rode upon a cherub and flew; and He sped upon the wings of the wind. 11 He made darkness His hiding place, His canopy around Him, Darkness of waters, thick clouds of the skies. 12 From the brightness before Him passed His thick clouds, hailstones and coals of fire. 13 The LORD also thundered in the heavens, And the Most High uttered His voice, hailstones and coals of fire. 14 And He sent out His arrows, and scattered them, And lightning flashes in abundance, and routed them. 15 Then the channels of water appeared, and the foundations of the world were laid bare At Thy rebuke, O LORD, at the blast of the breath of Thy nostrils. 16 He sent from on high, He took me; He drew me out of many waters. 17 He delivered me from my strong enemy, And from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me. 18 They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the LORD was my stay. 19 He brought me forth also into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me (Psalms 18:1-19).

Psalm 18 praises God for His strength, strength in which he can take refuge (see verses 1-2). Verses 3-7 praise God for the deliverance He gave David from the hand of his enemy, Saul (see also verse 1). David was in great distress, and God rescued him. David poetically depicts in verses 7-15 God’s response to His cry for help, as though God called upon all the forces of nature to come to his aid. In a word, David tells his readers God will, so to speak, move heaven and earth to deliver one of His children in distress. We can trust in God and find in Him a place of refuge, because He is the one true God whose power includes the control of all the forces of nature.13

God’s Power
Demonstrated at the Exodus

After having first displayed His power at creation, God’s second great demonstration of power is seen at the Exodus,

1 And afterward Moses and Aaron came and said to Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Let My people go that they may celebrate a feast to Me in the wilderness.’” 2 But Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and besides, I will not let Israel go” (Exodus 5:1-2, emphasis mine).

Pharaoh’s obstinance was by divine design. While Pharaoh hardened his own heart, at the same time God hardened his heart so that he would resist God, providing the occasion for God’s power to be demonstrated to the Egyptians, the Israelites, and the surrounding nations:

3 “But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. 4 When Pharaoh will not listen to you, then I will lay My hand on Egypt, and bring out My hosts, My people the sons of Israel, from the land of Egypt by great judgments. 5 And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the sons of Israel from their midst” (Exodus 7:3-5).

30 Thus the LORD saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. 31 And when Israel saw the great power which the LORD had used against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD, and they believed in the LORD and in His servant Moses (Exodus 14:30-31).

6 “Thy right hand, O LORD, is majestic in power, Thy right hand, O LORD, shatters the enemy” (Exodus 15:6).11 “Who is like Thee among the gods, O LORD? Who is like Thee, majestic in holiness, awesome in praises, working wonders? 12 Thou didst stretch out Thy right hand, the earth swallowed them. 13 In Thy lovingkindness Thou hast led the people whom Thou hast redeemed; In Thy strength Thou hast guided [them] to Thy holy habitation. 14 The peoples have heard, they tremble; Anguish has gripped the inhabitants of Philistia. 15 Then the chiefs of Edom were dismayed; the leaders of Moab, trembling grips them; All the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away. 16 Terror and dread fall upon them; by the greatness of Thine arm they are motionless as stone; Until Thy people pass over, O LORD, until the people pass over whom Thou hast purchased” (Exodus 15:11-16).

The nation Israel praised God for the power He displayed in delivering them from their bondage in Egypt. They confessed that their deliverance proved God to be God alone, and the word of their deliverance would strike terror in the hearts of the other nations. They saw this deliverance as proof of God’s power and assurance of their entrance into the land as God had promised. The exodus was indeed a demonstration of God’s omnipotence.

Later, Moses would remind the second generation of Israelites of this great event and of the power of God to which it bore witness:

32 “Indeed, ask now concerning the former days which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and [inquire] from one end of the heavens to the other. Has [anything] been done like this great thing, or has [anything] been heard like it? 33 Has [any] people heard the voice of God speaking from the midst of the fire, as you have heard [it], and survived? 34 Or has a god tried to go to take for himself a nation from within[another] nation by trials, by signs and wonders and by war and by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm and by great terrors, as the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? 35 To you it was shown that you might know that the LORD, He is God; there is no other besides Him. 36 Out of the heavens He let you hear His voice to discipline you; and on earth He let you see His great fire, and you heard His words from the midst of the fire. 37 Because He loved your fathers, therefore He chose their descendants after them. And He personally brought you from Egypt by His great power” (Deuteronomy 4:32-37).

And so in the later books of the Old Testament, the creation of the world and the creation of the nation Israel (by means of the exodus) becomes a major theme. In the Book of Psalms, these events and the power of God to which they bear witness, become the basis for Israel’s hope and for her worship and praise:

5 For I know that the LORD is great, And that our Lord is above all gods. 6 Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, In heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps. 7 He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth; Who makes lightnings for the rain; Who brings forth the wind from His treasuries. 8 He smote the first-born of Egypt, both of man and beast. 9 He sent signs and wonders into your midst, O Egypt, Upon Pharaoh and all his servants. 10 He smote many nations, and slew mighty kings, 11 Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of Bashan, And all the kingdoms of Canaan; 12 And He gave their land as a heritage, A heritage to Israel His people (Psalms 135:5-12).

The prophets make much of these events and of the power of God to which they point. They do so because they are calling Israel to trust in God and place their hope in Him. They do so because they speak of even greater events God is going to bring to pass, events which involve a “new creation,” and therefore require the power which only God, the Creator, has:

5 Thus says God the LORD, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread out the earth and its offspring, Who gives breath to the people on it, And spirit to those who walk in it, 6 I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I will also hold you by the hand and watch over you, And I will appoint you as a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations, 7 To open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the dungeon, And those who dwell in darkness from the prison. 8 I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, Nor My praise to graven images” (Isaiah 42:5-8).

24 Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, and the one who formed you from the womb, “I, the LORD, am the maker of all things, Stretching out the heavens by Myself, and spreading out the earth all alone” (Isaiah 44:24).12 “It is I who made the earth, and created man upon it. I stretched out the heavens with My hands, And I ordained all their host” (Isaiah 45:12).

2 “Why was there no man when I came? When I called, [why] was there none to answer? Is My hand so short that it cannot ransom? Or have I no power to deliver? Behold, I dry up the sea with My rebuke, I make the rivers a wilderness; Their fish stink for lack of water, and die of thirst. 3 I clothe the heavens with blackness, and I make sackcloth their covering” (Isaiah 50:2-3).

While imprisoned in Jerusalem, Jeremiah was instructed by God to redeem a field in Judah from a relative, even though the period of the nation’s captivity in Babylon had already commenced. Jeremiah’s prayer in response to this action reveals his grasp of God’s power demonstrated in creation and in the exodus:

17 ‘Ah Lord GOD! Behold, Thou hast made the heavens and the earth by Thy great power and by Thine outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for Thee, 18 who showest lovingkindness to thousands, but repayest the iniquity of fathers into the bosom of their children after them, O great and mighty God. The LORD of hosts is His name; 19 great in counsel and mighty in deed, whose eyes are open to all the ways of the sons of men, giving to everyone according to his ways and according to the fruit of his deeds; 20 who hast set signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, [and] even to this day both in Israel and among mankind; and Thou hast made a name for Thyself, as at this day. 21 And Thou didst bring Thy people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs and with wonders, and with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm, and with great terror; 22 and gavest them this land, which Thou didst swear to their forefathers to give them, a land flowing with milk and honey. 23 And they came in and took possession of it, but they did not obey Thy voice or walk in Thy law; they have done nothing of all that Thou commandedst them to do; therefore Thou hast made all this calamity come upon them. 24 Behold, the siege mounds have reached the city to take it; and the city is given into the hand of the Chaldeans who fight against it, because of the sword, the famine, and the pestilence; and what Thou hast spoken has come to pass; and, behold, Thou seest [it.]” (Jeremiah 32:17-24).

The Power of
God in the New Testament

Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming Messiah included the fact of His power. He was called the “Mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6). At the time Messiah’s birth was announced to Mary, she was told this miraculous virgin birth would take place by the power of God:

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God. 36 And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:34-37).

Our Lord’s power was evident through the many miracles He performed (see Acts 2:32; John 3:2). The people were awe-struck by the evidences of His power:

43a And they were all amazed at the greatness of God (Luke 9:43a).

When John the Baptist began to have second thoughts concerning Jesus, our Lord sent this word back to him:

4 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: 5 [the] BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT and [the] lame walk, [the] lepers are cleansed and [the] deaf hear, and [the] dead are raised up, and [the] POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM. 6 And blessed is he who keeps from stumbling over Me” (Matthew 11:4-6).

Jesus made it clear His power extended beyond the merely physical realm. He employed His power to heal in order to show that His power extended to the forgiving of sins (Luke 5:17-26; see also Matthew 9:1-8; Mark 2:1-12). The greatest demonstration of our Lord’s power was His resurrection from the dead:

17 “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. 18 No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father” (John 10:17-18).

38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered Him, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” 39 But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and [yet] no sign shall be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; 40 for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:38-40).

4 Who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 1:4).

In His first coming, a few men were given an occasional glimpse of the full power of our Lord (see Mark 9:1-8; 2 Peter 1:16-19). But He makes it clear that in His second coming, all will see Him coming with power:

30 “And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30).

64 Jesus said to him, “You have said it [yourself]; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you shall see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN” (Matthew 26:64).

The last book of the Bible emphasizes the power of the Lord Jesus Christ:

11 And I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing” (Revelation 5:11-12).

God’s Power
in the Lives of His Saints

God is omnipotent whether we believe it or not. But it is vitally important that we do believe He is omnipotent. An individual’s grasp of the power of God will transform his thinking and his actions. Consider these illustrations of the way God’s power transformed the lives of several men in the Bible.

First, let us turn our attention to Abraham. Here is a man who, at the beginning of his life, had grave doubts about the power of God. But in the end, his firm belief in God’s power enabled him to act in a way that makes him a model of faith for all Christians.

In the early days of his life, Abraham lacked confidence in the power of God. He made his way to the land of Canaan in obedience to the revelation He received from God (see Genesis 12:1-3). But when a famine came in the land, Abram made his way to Egypt, a decision which does not seem prompted by faith in God’s power or His promises. When he and Sarai arrived there, they conducted themselves as they habitually did throughout much of their marriage (see Genesis 20:30)—they deceived others about their relationship. It is apparent from Abram’s words in Genesis 12:11-13 and Genesis 20:11-13 that Abram was afraid when he took his wife to a foreign land. Because there was no “fear of God in that place” (Genesis 20:11), he thought God’s power was somehow nullified. It seems Abram thought God’s power was sufficient to protect him only when he was in the right place and when the people of that place feared God.

How foolish we now consider Abram’s thinking. God not only protected Abram, He also protected Sarai, Abram’s wife. Abram lived, and Sarai did not become another man’s wife. Abram also prospered in these foreign places, coming out not only alive but richer (see Genesis 12:20–13:2; 20:14-16). In fact, God was powerful enough to close the wombs of every woman living in Abimelech’s kingdom of Gerar (20:17-18).

Abram did not believe God’s power was sufficient to enable he and his wife Sarai to bear a son because they were getting old, and Sarai was barren. So Abram sought to produce a son some easier way, first by adopting a servant as a son (Genesis 15:2), and then by producing a son by taking his wife’s handmaid, Hagar, as a concubine (Genesis 16). God purposed to produce a son in a way that would demonstrate His power, by miraculously producing a son in their old age through a woman who had been barren all her life.

The great test of Abraham’s life came when God called him to take this son, the son in whom all Abraham’s hopes rested, and sacrifice him on Mount Moriah (Genesis 22:1-19). Here, Abraham was set to obey God, and the New Testament tells us clearly how he could do so—he was convinced of the power of God to resurrect his son from the dead:

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac; and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten [son]; 18 [it was he] to whom it was said, “IN ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS SHALL BE CALLED.” 19 He considered that God is able to raise [men] even from the dead; from which he also received him back as a type (Hebrews 11:17-19, emphasis mine).

The key words here are “God is able.” Abraham’s belief that “God is able” was his belief in the power of God to raise the dead. Abraham had a resurrection faith, just as we are to have (see Romans 10:9). Abraham’s growth in faith is paralleled by his increasing belief in the power of God—whether the power to give two people “as good as dead” with respect to child-bearing a son (Romans 4:18-21)—or the power to raise a son from the dead.

Abraham, who began with little faith in God’s power, grew to have great faith in the power of God. In some ways, David’s faith in the power of God diminished over time. When we are first introduced to David, he is ready to do battle with Goliath, the giant who arrogantly spoke blasphemously against God. David was confident, not in his own abilities, but in God’s ability to silence this heathen by putting him to death through David and his sling:

33 Then Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are [but] a youth while he has been a warrior from his youth . . . 36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, since he has taunted the armies of the living God.” 37 And David said, “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said to David, “Go, and may the LORD be with you” (1 Samuel 17:33, 36-37).

David’s problem was that he, like the nation Israel, began to take credit for what God did through His power. God had warned the Israelites about this false pride:

11 “Beware lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today; 12 lest, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived [in them], 13 and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and gold multiply, and all that you have multiplies, 14 then your heart becomes proud, and you forget the LORD your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 17 Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’ 18 But you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as [it is] this day” (Deuteronomy 8:11-14, 17-18).

I believe this is just what happened to David. Taking too much credit for what God had accomplished seems to have been the cause of two of David’s most serious and devastating sins. Twice in the biographical account of David’s life we read of David failing to go to war at the time when kings customarily went to battle:

1 Then it happened in the spring, at the time when kings go out [to battle,] that David sent Joab and his servants with him and all Israel, and they destroyed the sons of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed at Jerusalem. 2 Now when evening came David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king’s house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful in appearance. 3 So David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” 4 And David sent messengers and took her, and when she came to him, he lay with her; and when she had purified herself from her uncleanness, she returned to her house (2 Samuel 11:1-4, emphasis mine).

1 Then it happened in the spring, at the time when kings go out [to battle,] that Joab led out the army and ravaged the land of the sons of Ammon, and came and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed at Jerusalem. And Joab struck Rabbah and overthrew it . . . 1 Then Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel. 2 So David said to Joab and to the princes of the people, “Go, number Israel from Beersheba even to Dan, and bring me [word] that I may know their number.” 3 And Joab said, “May the LORD add to His people a hundred times as many as they are! But, my lord the king, are they not all my lord’s servants? Why does my lord seek this thing? Why should he be a cause of guilt to Israel?” 4 Nevertheless, the king’s word prevailed against Joab. Therefore, Joab departed and went throughout all Israel, and came to Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 20:1; 2 Chronicles 21:1-4, emphasis mine).

It may well be these two events, whose descriptions are separated from each other in the Scriptures, are the result of the same failure on David’s part to go to war with his troops. In both cases, Israel was at war with Rabbah. In both cases, in the spring when kings normally went to war, David did not. He stayed home. And the result was he ended up in bed with a loyal soldier’s wife and eventually became a secret ally of the enemy army he used to kill the soldier Uriah to “hide” his sin. In the second instance, David numbered his troops, resulting in an outbreak of divine wrath upon the nation Israel.

The results of David’s sin are glaringly apparent in these Old Testament texts. My purpose here is to consider why David stayed home rather than go to war as kings normally did and as David should have done. I would suggest David began to take credit for the victories God accomplished through His power. David seemed to be so confident of defeating his enemies that he need not even go out to war with his troops. He could serve as commander and chief while between the sheets, and it is just here, between the sheets, that David lost the biggest battle of his life. So too David instructed Joab and the princes of Israel to number the troops of Israel. Even though Joab strongly urged him not to do this, David insisted, at great cost to the Israelites.

But why number the Israelites? For the same reason many of us keep track of “decisions for Christ” or “attendance this week” (not that this is wrong in and of itself). Many of us want to have numbers because we believe there is strength in numbers. David seems to have numbered the Israelites so he could feel confident about winning the battles he waged against the enemies of the nation Israel. Gideon’s 300 men would not have given David great confidence at this moment in his life. David seems to have looked upon Israel’s victories as his victories and Israel’s strength in numbers as his strength. He was wrong. David was never stronger than in his weakness as a youth, when he stood up against Goliath in the power of God and not in his own strength.

The life of Daniel and his three friends, recorded in the Book of Daniel, provides yet another example of the way faith in the power of God made men of faith heroes of the faith. When Daniel refused to cease praying to his “God,” king Darius was reluctantly forced to cast him into a den of lions. The last words of Darius before he left Daniel in the den of lions overnight expressed his hope that Daniel’s God might deliver him:

16 Then the king gave orders, and Daniel was brought in and cast into the lions’ den. The king spoke and said to Daniel, “Your God whom you constantly serve will Himself deliver you” (Daniel 6:16).

The king was right, and the words he spoke in response to Daniel’s divine deliverance give credit where credit is due, to God, by whose power Daniel was delivered from the “power of the lions:”

26 “I make a decree that in all the dominion of my kingdom men are to fear and tremble before the God of Daniel; for He is the living God and enduring forever, and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed, and His dominion [will be] forever. 27 He delivers and rescues and performs signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, who has [also] delivered Daniel from the power of the lions” (Daniel 6:26-27).

Likewise, it was through the faith of Daniel’s three friends in the power of God that Nebuchadnezzar came to make a similar confession. Nebuchadnezzar had a great golden statue set up before which all men were to bow in worship when prompted by the king’s musicians. Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego refused to bow down to this image, infuriating the king who made this threat:

14 Nebuchadnezzar responded and said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready, at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, and bagpipe, and all kinds of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, [very well.] But if you will not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?” (Daniel 3:14-15, emphasis mine).

What a challenge to the power of God! Notice the response of Daniel’s three friends. Their response is first of all an expression of faith in God’s power to do anything He chooses. It is secondly an expression of submission on the part of these men to the will of God, which may be to deliver them from the fire or to deliver them through a fiery death (compare Philippians 1:19-24):

16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. 17 If it be [so,] our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But [even] if [He does] not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Daniel 3:16-18).

In fact, God delivered these three men in a way they could never have imagined. Rather than keeping them from the fire, He brought them through the fire, alive, and without as much as the smell of smoke on their clothing (see 3:27). Nebuchadnezzar was soon to learn yet another lesson concerning the power of God compared to his own “power.” He discovered that his “power” had been given to him by the God of all power. After God humbled him and took away his power, he came to his senses and issued these words for us to hear and heed:

1 Nebuchadnezzar the king to all the peoples, nations, and [men of every] language that live in all the earth: “May your peace abound! 2 It has seemed good to me to declare the signs and wonders which the Most High God has done for me. 3 How great are His signs, and how mighty are His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And His dominion is from generation to generation . . . 34 But at the end of that period I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever; for His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom [endures] from generation to generation. 35 And all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and [among] the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What hast Thou done?’ 36 At that time my reason returned to me. And my majesty and splendor were restored to me for the glory of my kingdom, and my counselors and my nobles began seeking me out; so I was reestablished in my sovereignty, and surpassing greatness was added to me. 37 Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise, exalt, and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride” (Daniel 4:1-33, 34-37).

Conclusion

No one who takes the Bible seriously can deny the power of God. God is omnipotent; He is all-powerful. This truth transformed the lives of men in the past, and it can transform our lives today. Allow me to suggest several ways the power of God intersects our lives today.

(1) The first thing we should do, in light of the power of God, is to fear, honor, and serve God and God alone.

1 Then God spoke all these words, saying, 2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 You shall have no other gods before Me. 4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. 7 You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain” (Exodus 20:1-7; see also Joshua 4:23-24; Psalm 115:1-15).

(2) Recognizing the Bible teaches God is infinitely powerful should remove the word “impossible” from our vocabulary.

How often we excuse our sin by appealing to our human inability. “But I’m only human,” we say. So we are. But God has not only saved us by His power, He also works in us to sanctify us by His power:

8 And those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. 10 And if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you (Romans 8:8-11).

18 [I pray that] the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. [These are] in accordance with the working of the strength of His might 20 which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly [places], 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come (Ephesians 1:18-21).

14 For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; [and] that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fulness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us (Ephesians 3:14-20).

9 For this reason also, since the day we heard [of it], we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please [Him] in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light (Colossians 1:9-12).

29 And for this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me (Colossians 1:29).

(3) Our weakness is not a barrier to the power of God. Rather, recognizing our weakness is the basis for our turning to God, depending upon His power to work in us. In this way, God receives all the glory.

7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves (2 Corinthians 4:7).

7 And 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 buffet me—to keep me from exalting myself! 8 Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 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, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 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 (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

When we minister in the power of God, we need not trust in our own strength and in human methods. Indeed, we dare not do so. Through the “weakness” of a cross, God brought salvation to men. Through the “foolishness” of the message of the cross, men are saved. Through weak and foolish men, God has chosen to proclaim His gospel. Through weak and unimpressive methods, the gospel is proclaimed, trusting in the power of God to convince and convert sinners. In this way, men must give God the glory, and they must trust in Him and in His power, not in men:

20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not [come to] know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For indeed Jews ask for signs, and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (1 Corinthians 1:20-24).

26 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are, 29 that no man should boast before God (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).

2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. 4 And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God (1 Corinthians 2:2-5).

This is not the way the church operates today. When we preach, we employ the marketing methods of our day, proven to be successful in producing results. We use persuasive techniques which sell soap and breakfast cereals. When we seek to train and develop leaders, we train men to be leaders following the model and methods of our secular culture rather than teaching them to be servants. The church is more often run on the basis of “good business” principles than on biblical principles. And we offer “therapy” in a thinly disguised version of (poor) secular psychology and psychiatry, rather than challenging men and women to think biblically and to obey the Word of God. Is evangelicalism not like the state of the church Paul sadly describes as the church of the last days?

5 Holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; and avoid such men as these (2 Timothy 3:5).

If We Really
Believed in the Power of God

We would come to Him in prayer first

If we really believed God is omnipotent, we would come to Him in prayer first, not as a last resort after having tried every other means and failed. We would forsake trusting in the idols of our day and trust in Him. We would humbly acknowledge that all the blessings we have are a gift of His grace and the result of the working of His power. Our prayers would be filled with praise and thanksgiving, seeing God as the Source of every blessing.

We would be filled with faith and hope, knowing that no purpose of God can be thwarted (2 Chronicles 20:6) and that every promise God has made will be fulfilled, in His time, and exactly as He has promised.

We would not give so much credit to Satan

If we really understood the power of God, we would not give so much credit to Satan. We would not look at Satan as though he and God were closely matched rivals who have battled for centuries. We would not dare suppose that in the end God will barely defeat this one who is our deadly foe. We would realize that God is the Creator, and Satan is but a creature. We would know that God’s power is infinite, while Satan’s is finite. We would not minimize Satan’s power, but neither would we overstate his power. God is not battling with Satan with the hope of defeating him; Satan is already a defeated foe, whose final demise is certain (John 12:31; 16:11; Luke 10:18). In the meantime, God is using Satan and his rebellion to achieve His purposes (see 2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

We would not believe the lies of the “good-life gospeleers”

If we really understood and believed in the power of God, we would not believe the lies of the “good-life gospeleers,” those hucksters who line their own pockets by assuring donors that God is standing by with all His power, eager to do their bidding. They lay claim on God’s power by “faith,” by claiming certain possessions like money and healing. “God doesn’t want us to suffer,” they say, “but to prosper.” If they really believed in God’s power, they would know God’s power can just as well sustain us through suffering and affliction as it can deliver us from suffering and affliction. They refuse to accept that God often works through suffering to sustain and purify the saint and to demonstrate His grace and power to a lost and dying world (again, see 2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

We would not be so reluctant to obey

If we really believed in the power of God, we would not be so reluctant to obey those commands of God which seem to leave us vulnerable (like, “sell your possessions and give to the poor,” or see 1 Corinthians 7:29-30 for a more general version). And we would not excuse ourselves from obeying the “impossible” commands like, “love your enemy.” We would live our lives much more dangerously if we really believed God is omnipotent.

18 [I pray that] the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. [These are] in accordance with the working of the strength of His might . . . 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; [and] that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fulness of God (Ephesians 1:18-19; 3:16-19).

Additional Thoughts on the Power of God

What the New Testament Teaches About the Power of God

(1) Creation is a witness to God’s power (Romans 1:20).

(2) The gospel is powerful; the power of God can save and radically change men (Romans 1:16).

(3) Saints are saved, kept, and constantly empowered for life and ministry by the power of God (Romans 15:13, 18-19; 1 Corinthians 1:18; 6:4; Ephesians 3:7; Colossians 1:11, 29).

(4) The resurrection of Christ, and subsequently of every Christian, is through the power of God (Romans 1:4; 1 Corinthians 15:43).

(5) Even the unbelief and rebellion of men is used by God to demonstrate His power (Romans 9:17).

(6) God’s delay in punishing evil-doers is not an indication of His inability to handle the situation, but an indication of His intention to demonstrate His power (Exodus 9:13-18; Romans 9:22).

(7) God’s choice and use of Christians, as foolish, weak and earthy vessels of clay is to demonstrate His power (1 Corinthians 1:18–2:5).

(8) God’s power is ministered to and through man’s human weaknesses, rather than through man’s natural human strengths.

8 Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 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, that the power of Christ may dwell in me (2 Corinthians 12:8-9).

4 For indeed He was crucified because of weakness, yet He lives because of the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, yet we shall live with Him because of the power of God [directed] toward you (2 Corinthians 13:4).

What God’s Power Enables Him To Do

(1) All power belongs to God—“Thine is the power. . .” (Matthew 6:13).

(2) He can therefore do all things (Matthew 19:26; Mark 14:36).

(3) Nothing is impossible for God (Luke 1:34-37).

(4) He is able to do what He has purposed (Job 42:1-2; Isaiah 14:27).

(5) He is able to do what He has promised (Romans 4:21).

(6) He is able to judge because He can save and destroy (James 4:12).

(7) He is able to destroy the body and soul in hell (Matthew 10:28).

(8) He is able to forgive sins (Matthew 9:6).

(9) He is able to save us (Isaiah 63:1; Psalm 54:1; Romans 1:16), forever (Hebrews 7:25).

(10) He is able to defend us, to overcome our enemies (Psalm 59:9-11).

(11) He is able to deliver us (Daniel 3-4).

(12) He is able to protect (Psalm 79:1; 91:1) or rescue us (Psalm 79:11).

(13) He is able to make us stand (Romans 14:4).

(14) He is able to come to our aid when tempted (Hebrews 2:18).

(15) He is able to establish us as His saints (Romans 16:25).

(16) He is able to keep Christians (John 10:29; Romans 8:31-39), to keep us from falling (Jude 1:24-25).

(17) He is able to keep that which we have committed to Him to the day of His coming (2 Timothy 1:12).

(18) He is able to raise the dead (Hebrews 11:17-19).

(19) He is able to provide everything for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).

(20) He is able to empower us to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).

How Is The Power of God Exercised or Demonstrated?

(1) In weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9-10; 13:4).

(2) In simplicity and clarity, rather than human sophistication and persuasion (1 Corinthians 1 and 2 Corinthians 2:14-17; 4:1-6).

(3) In a simple proclamation of the gospel (Romans 1:16).

(4) By the exercise of spiritual gifts (Ephesians 3:7).

(5) By prayer (Ephesians 3:14-21).

(6) By dying daily and thus being conformed to Christ’s death (Philippians 3:10).

22 What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? (Romans 9:22)

13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).

18 For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed, 19 in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit; so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ (Romans 15:18-19).

18 For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18).

24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24).

19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I shall find out, not the words of those who are arrogant, but their power. 20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in words, but in power (1 Corinthians 4:19-20).

4 In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, (1 Corinthians 5:4).

14 Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power (1 Corinthians 6:14).

24 then [comes] the end, when He delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power (1 Corinthians 15:24).

43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; (1 Corinthians 15:43)

5 in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger, (2 Corinthians 6:5)

6 in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, (2 Corinthians 6:6)

7 in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left, (2 Corinthians 6:7)

19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. [These are] in accordance with the working of the strength of His might 20 which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly [places], 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come. (Ephesians 1:19-21).

7 of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power (Ephesians 3:7).

10 that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; (Philippians 3:10)

21 who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself (Philippians 3:21).

5 for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake (1 Thessalonians 1:5).

9 And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, (2 Thessalonians 1:9)

11 To this end also we pray for you always that our God may count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power; (2 Thessalonians 1:11)

7 For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. 8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, or of me His prisoner; but join with [me] in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, (2 Timothy 1:7)

5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; and avoid such men as these (2 Timothy 3:5).

(7) God saves us by His power.

(8) The kingdom of God and power:

19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I shall find out, not the words of those who are arrogant, but their power. 20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in words, but in power (1 Corinthians 4:19-20).

(9) God’s power and the gospel:

18 For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18).

24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24).

(10) God’s power and the resurrection of Christ.

(11) God’s power and the Scriptures.

(12) God’s power and the Holy Spirit.

13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).

18 For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed, 19 in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit; so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ (Romans 15:18-19).

(13) God’s power and human weakness.

(14) God’s power and those who oppose God and His servants.

22 What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? (Romans 9:22)

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek (Romans 1:16).

20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse (Romans 1:20).

17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH” (Romans 9:17).


13 While David seems to be speaking poetically and figuratively here, we can find a number of instances in the Scriptures where God did summon the forces of nature to deliver His people. See, for example, Exodus 9:18-33; Deuteronomy 7:20; Joshua 10:12-15; 24:12; 2 Kings 1:9-14.

Related Topics: Theology Proper (God)