The Power of God
Establishing a correct concept of God’s power
WE CANNOT HAVE A RIGHT CONCEPTION OF GOD UNLESS we think of Him as all-powerful, as well as all- wise. He who cannot do what he will and perform all his pleasure cannot be God. As God hath a will to resolve what He deems good, so has He power to execute His will.
The power of God is that ability and strength whereby He can bring to pass whatsoever He pleases, whatsoever His infinite wisdom may direct, and whatsoever the infinite purity of His will may resolve…As holiness is the beauty of all God’s attributes, so power is that which gives life and action to all the perfections of the divine nature. How vain would be the eternal counsels, if power did not step in to execute them. Without power His mercy would be but feeble pity, His promises an empty sound, His threatenings a mere scarecrow. God’s power is like Himself: infinite, eternal, incomprehensible; it can neither be checked, restrained, nor frustrated by the creature (Stephen Charnock).
“God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this, that power belongeth unto God” (Psa 62:11). “God hath spoken once”: nothing more is necessary! Heaven and earth shall pass away, but His word abideth forever. “God hath spoken once”: how befitting His divine majesty! We poor mortals may speak often and yet fail to be heard. He speaks but once and the thunder of His power is heard on a thousand hills.
The LORD also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave His voice; hail stones and coals of fire. Yea, He sent out His arrows, and scattered them; He shot out lightnings, and discomfited them. Then the channels of waters were seen, and the foundations of the world were discovered at Thy rebuke, O LORD, at the blast of the breath of Thy nostrils (Psa 18:13-15).
“God hath spoken once”: behold His unchanging authority. “For who in the heaven can be compared unto the LORD? who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the LORD?” (Psa 89:6). “And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest Thou?” (Dan 4:35). This was openly displayed when God became incarnate and tabernacled among men. To the leper He said, “I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed” (Matt 8:3). To one who had lain in the grave four days He cried, “Lazarus, come forth,” and the dead came forth. The stormy wind and the angry waves were hushed at a single word from Him. A legion of demons could not resist His authoritative command.
God’s power and man’s pride
“Power belongeth unto God,” and to Him alone. Not a creature in the entire universe has an atom of power save what God delegates. But God’s power is not acquired, nor does it depend upon any recognition by any other authority. It belongs to Him inherently.
God’s power is like Himself, self-existent, self-sustained. The mightiest of men cannot add so much as a shadow of increased power to the Omnipotent One. He sits on no buttressed throne and leans on no assisting arm. His court is not maintained by His courtiers, not does it borrow its splendor from His creatures. He is Himself the great central source and Originator of all power (C.H. Spurgeon).
Not only does all creation bear witness to the great power of God, but also to His entire independency of all created things. Listen to His own challenge: “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof?” (Job 38:4-6). How completely is the pride of man laid in the dust!
Power is also used as a name of God, “the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power” (Mark 14:62), that is, at the right hand of God. God and power are so inseparable that they are reciprocated. As His essence is immense, not to be confined in place; as it is eternal, not to be measured in time; so it is almighty, not to be limited in regard of action (S. Charnock).
“Lo, these are parts of His ways: but how little a portion is heard of Him? but the thunder of His power who can understand?” (Job 26:14). Who is able to count all the monuments of His power? Even that which is displayed of His might in the visible creation is utterly beyond our powers of comprehension, still less are we able to conceive of omnipotence itself. There is infinitely more power lodged in the nature of God than is expressed in all His works.
The hiding of God’s power
“Parts of His ways” we behold in creation, providence, redemption, but only a “little part” of His might is seen in them. Remarkably is this brought out—”And there was the hiding of His power” (Hab 3:4). It is scarcely possible to imagine anything more grandiloquent than the imagery of this whole chapter, yet nothing in it surpasses the nobility of this statement. The prophet (in vision) beheld the mighty God scattering the hills and overturning the mountains, which one would think afforded an amazing demonstration of His power. Nay, says our verse, that is rather the “hiding” than the displaying of His power. What is meant? This: so inconceivable, so immense, so uncontrollable is the power of Deity, that the fearful convulsions which He works in nature conceal more than they reveal of His infinite might!
The immensity of God’s power
It is very beautiful to link together the following passages: He “treadeth upon the waves of the sea” (Job 9:8), which expresses God’s uncontrollable power. “He walketh in the circuit of Heaven” (Job 22:14), which tells of the immensity of His presence. He “walketh upon the wings of the wind” (Psa 104:3), which signifies the amazing swiftness of His operations. This last expression is very remarkable. It is not that He “flieth,” or “runneth,” but that He “walketh” and that, on the very “wings of the wind”—on the most impetuous of the elements, tossed into utmost rage, and sweeping along with almost inconceivable rapidity, yet they are under His feet, beneath His perfect control!
Let us now consider God’s power in creation. “The heavens are Thine, the earth also is Thine, as for the world and the fullness thereof, Thou hast founded them. The north and the south Thou hast created them” (Psa 89:11,12). Before man can work he must have both tools and materials, but God began with nothing, and by His word alone out of nothing made all things. The intellect cannot grasp it. God “spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast” (Psa 33:9). Primeval matter heard His voice. “God said, Let there be…and it was so” (Gen 1). Well may we exclaim, “Thou hast a mighty arm: strong is Thy hand, and high is Thy right hand” (Psa 89:13).
Who, that looks upward to the midnight sky; and, with an eye of reason, beholds its rolling wonders; who can forbear inquiring, Of what were their mighty orbs formed? Amazing to relate, they were produced without materials. They sprung from emptiness itself. The stately fabric of universal nature emerged out of nothing. What instruments were used by the Supreme Architect to fashion the parts with such exquisite niceness, and give so beautiful a polish to the whole? How was it all connected into one finely-proportioned and nobly finished structure? A bare fiat accomplished all. Let them be, said God. He added no more; and at once the marvelous edifice arose, adorned with every beauty, displaying innumerable perfections, and declaring amidst enraptured seraphs its great Creator’s praise. “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth (Psa 33:6) (James Hervey, 1789).
Consider God’s power in preservation. No creature has power to preserve itself. “Can the rush grow up without mire? Can the flag grow without water?” (Job 8:11). Both man and beast would perish if there were not herbs for food; herbs would wither and die if the earth were not refreshed with fruitful showers. Therefore is God called the Preserver of “man and beast” (Psa 36:6), “upholding all things by the word of His power” (Heb 1:3). What a marvel of divine power is the prenatal life of every human being! That an infant can live at all, and for so many months, in such cramped and filthy quarters, and that without breathing, is unaccountable without the power of God. Truly He “holdeth our soul in life” (Psa 66:9).
The preservation of the earth from the violence of the sea is another plain instance of God’s might. How is that raging element kept pent up within those limits wherein He first lodged it, continuing its channel, without overflowing the earth and dashing in pieces the lower part of the creation? The natural situation of the water is to be above the earth, because it is lighter, and immediately under the air, because it is heavier. Who restrains the natural quality of it? Certainly man does not, and cannot. It is the fiat of its Creator which alone bridles it: “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed” (Job 38:11). What a standing monument to the power of God is the preservation of the world!
Consider God’s power in government. Take His restraining of the malice of Satan. “The devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8). He is filled with hatred against God, and with fiendish enmity against men, particularly the saints. He that envied Adam in paradise envies us the pleasure of enjoying any of God’s blessings. Could he have his will, he would treat all the same way he treated Job: he would send fire from heaven on the fruits of the earth, destroy the cattle, cause a wind to overthrow our houses, and cover our bodies with boils. But, little as men may realize it, God bridles him to a large extent, prevents him from carrying out his evil designs, and confines him within His ordinations.
So too God restrains the natural corruption of men. He suffers sufficient outbreakings of sin to show what fearful havoc has been wrought by man’s apostasy from his Maker, but who can conceive the frightful lengths to which men would go were God to remove His curbing hand? “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness, their feet are swift to shed blood” (Rom 3:14,15)—This is the nature of every descendant of Adam. Then what unbridled licentiousness and headstrong folly would triumph in the world, if the power of God did not interpose to lock down the floodgates of it! See Psalm 93:3,4.
Consider God’s power in judgment. When He smites, none can resist Him: see Ezekiel 22:14. How terribly this was exemplified at the Flood! God opened the windows of heaven and broke up the great fountains of the deep, and (excepting those in the ark) the entire human race, helpless before the storm of His wrath, was swept away. A shower of fire and brimstone from heaven, and the cities of the plain were exterminated. Pharaoh and all his hosts were impotent when God blew upon them at the Red Sea. What a terrific word is that in Romans 9:22: “What if God, willing to shew His wrath, and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction.” God is going to display His mighty power upon the reprobate not merely by incarcerating them in Gehenna, but by supernaturally preserving their bodies as well as souls amid the eternal burnings of the Lake of Fire.
Well may all tremble before such a God! To treat with impudence One who can crush us more easily than we can a moth, is a suicidal policy. To openly defy Him who is clothed with omnipotence, who can rend us in pieces or cast us into Hell any moment He pleases, is the very height of insanity. To put it on its lowest ground, it is but the part of wisdom to heed His command, “Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little” (Psa 2:12).
Well may the enlightened soul adore such a God! The wondrous and infinite perfections of such a Being call for fervent worship. If men of might and renown claim the admiration of the world, how much more should the power of the Almighty fill us with wonderment and homage. “Who is like unto Thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like Thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?” (Exo 15:11).
Well may the saint trust such a God! He is worthy of implicit confidence. Nothing is too hard for Him. If God were stinted in might and had a limit to His strength we might well despair. But seeing that He is clothed with omnipotence, no prayer is too hard for Him to answer, no need too great for Him to supply, no passion too strong for Him to subdue; no temptation too powerful for Him to deliver from, no misery too deep for Him to relieve. “The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psa 27:1).
Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen (Eph 3:20, 21).