读经：诗102:12-17 林前15:35-49 代下18:28-21:3
God’s Power in Action
I sometimes wish I kept more of a diary. I am glad that, at least, I have recorded some of my prayers. Alongside the words of today’s passage, ‘We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you’ (2 Chronicles 20:13), I have jotted down some of the seemingly insurmountable problems and situations we have faced over the years. It is amazing and wonderful to see and have a record of how God has delivered us from so many of them.
Being reminded of God’s power to deliver us increases our faith that he can do it again. God really is powerful. In fact God is all-powerful; he is ‘omnipotent’. What does this mean? How does his power operate?
1. Power to answer prayer
Psalm 102:12-17‘Prayer is the slender nerve that moves the muscle of omnipotence,’ as Charles Spurgeon famously said.
When we see the problems in our society and in the church what is our first response? As the psalmist looks out at the mess that the people of God are in and the fact that his city is in ruins, his first response is to cry out to God.
The psalmist reminds God of both his power and his love. He begins with a declaration of God’s greatness: ‘You, O Lord, sit enthroned forever’ (v.12a). At the same time, he remembers God’s great love – his ‘compassion’ (v.13) for Jerusalem: ‘For her stones are dear to your servants; her very dust moves them to pity’ (v.14).
As I look around our nation today I see that so much of the church is in ruins. God has the power to rebuild his people in this land.
You can be confident in the power of God to answer your prayers. It is not that you can control God’s power by your prayers, but that God is always active in the life of his people and his world: ‘He attends to the prayer of the wretched. He won’t dismiss their prayer’ (v.17, MSG).
Lord, I cry out to you to rebuild the church in this nation. Please respond to the prayer of the destitute – that is us. Do not despise our plea. Send your Holy Spirit upon us again and on our nation I pray.
2. Power to resurrect
1 Corinthians 15:35-49The loss of someone we love is very painful. And facing our own death can seem frightening. This passage gives us a new perspective on our grief and our fears. When the New Testament speaks of the love of God it usually points to the cross of Jesus. When it speaks of the power of God it usually points to the resurrection of Jesus. It was ‘his incomparably great power’ that raised Jesus from the dead (Ephesians 1:19–20).
Here the apostle Paul speaks of how that same power will raise your body also. He uses the analogy of a seed of wheat. It does not reach its full potential unless it first dies and is buried: ‘What you sow does not come to life unless it dies’ (1 Corinthians 15:36). There is continuity between the seed and the wheat, although the two look quite different.
To the sceptic who asks ‘what does this ‘resurrection body’ look like?’ he replied, ‘If you look at this question closely, you realise how absurd it is… We do have a parallel experience in gardening. You plant a ‘dead’ seed; soon there is a flourishing plant… The dead body that we bury in the ground and the resurrection body that comes from it will be dramatically different’ (vv.35–38, MSG).
He points to the huge variety of God’s creation. Which, incidentally, suggests we should not try to be like anyone else. It is alright to be different; diversity is good.
You will notice that the variety of bodies is stunning (humans, animals, birds, fish). ‘You get a hint at the diversity of resurrection glory by looking at the diversity of bodies not only on earth but in the skies – sun, moon, stars – all these varieties of beauty and brightness. And we’re only looking at pre-resurrection ‘seeds’ – who can imagine what the resurrection ‘plants’ will be like!’ (vv.40–41, MSG).
He goes on, ‘This image of planting a dead seed and raising a live plant is a mere sketch at best, but perhaps it will help in approaching the mystery of the resurrection body – but only if you keep in mind that when we’re raised, we’re raised for good, alive forever!
‘The corpse that is planted is no beauty, but when it’s raised, it’s glorious. Put in the ground weak, it comes up powerful. The seed sown is natural; the seed grown is supernatural – same seed, same body but what a difference from when it goes down in physical mortality to when it is raised up in spiritual immortality!’ (vv.42–44, MSG).
The resurrection body and the spiritual body are the same substance, though that substance is transformed. Resurrection is creation ex vetere (from old), rather than ex nihilo (from nothing). The plant comes from the seed. Our current bodies will not be replaced with new bodies, but will be transformed into our resurrection bodies.
Jesus was still recognisable to his followers (with some help!). There was continuity and discontinuity in the resurrection body (Jesus could walk through walls, but still eat fish). What happened to Jesus will happen to you. You, like Adam, have a natural body. One day, like Jesus, the second Adam, you will have a spiritual body (vv.44–48): ‘Just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly, so shall we bear the likeness of the heavenly’ (v.49).
Lord, thank you for your power to raise the dead. Thank you that just as Jesus died, was buried and raised to life, so too through your power we will be raised and have a spiritual body like Jesus’. Thank you for your incomparably great power for us who believe.
3. Power to fight your battles
2 Chronicles 18:28-21:3What battles are you facing in your life? Jehoshaphat had his battles to fight. He was facing various ‘–ites’; ‘Moabites, Amonites and Meunites’.
But with us, as Joyce Meyer writes, ‘It is the ‘fear-ites’, ‘disease-ites’, ‘poverty-ites’, ‘bad marriage-ites’, ‘stress-ites’, ‘grouchy neighbour-ites’, ‘insecurity-ites’, ‘rejection-ites’ and so on.’
When he fought against the King of Aram, ‘Jehoshaphat cried out, and the Lord helped him’ (18:31). We see in this the providence and sovereignty of God. God allowed a random arrow to kill the King of Israel, but protected Jehoshaphat who cried out to God (vv.28–34).
Jehoshaphat ‘turned [the people] back to the Lord’ (19:4). He appointed judges. He called them to avoid ‘injustice’, ‘partiality’ or ‘bribery’ (v.7). What a difference it would make to the world today if all the judges of the world were like that.
In spite of the fact that Jehoshaphat followed the Lord (‘He walked in the ways of his father Asa and did not stray from them; he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord’, 20:32), he continued to face battles. Just because you are facing battles in your life at the moment it does not mean you have done something wrong. Sometimes you face battles not because you are doing something wrong, but because you are doing something right.
A vast army came against him (v.2). Jehoshaphat proclaimed a nationwide fast and called together a massive prayer meeting with regional gatherings (vv.3–4).
He prayed to God. He recognised the power of God: ‘You rule over the kingdoms of the nations.Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you’ (v.6).
He recognised that, ‘We have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you’ (v.12).
God responded with the words of a prophet. The Spirit of the Lord came upon him as they waited on God (v.14).
He said, ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army for the battle is not yours but God’s’ (v.15). ‘You will not have to face this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you… Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you’ (v.17).
Jehoshaphat worshiped the Lord (v.18). ‘They praised at the top of their lungs!’ (v.19, MSG). He told the people, in a message that pretty much sums up the whole of the book of Chronicles, ‘Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful’ (v.20).
They began to praise the Lord, singing, ‘Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures for ever’ (v.21). Worship is a weapon. As they praised, the Lord delivered them (v.22).
Lord, thank you so much for the times when we have seen your power at work fighting our battles for us and answering our prayers. We recognise that we have no power to face the vast armies that come against us. But you, Lord, hold power and might in your hand and no one can withstand you.
Lord, I come to you today with the battles I face…
1 Corinthians 15:42
‘The resurrection… raised imperishable… raised in glory… raised in power… raised a spiritual body.’
Exciting! Something to look forward to!