We have a good God. It is my firm belief that the understanding and belief that ‘God is good’ is the cornerstone to good theology. Living with an awareness of this, I have found more and more that Scripture confirms and underlines this! And here is just one more example that has been feeding my soul for a few days.
I blogged recently about ‘Solomon’s kingdom’. So it should be no surprise that I’m following it up with something else from 1 Kings – that’s right, I’m battling through the histories of the Old Testament at the moment. Actually, the histories are always packed with amazing stuff, but you always forget, until you get around to reading them again! Or is it just me who finds this?
Anyway, in 1 Kings 8 we have Solomon talking to the multitude that have gathered for the ‘grand opening’ of the temple, and praying to the Lord. (I hope you appreciate that due to the nature of the blog I only have space to give the briefest of contexts. I have on many occasions been accused of verbosity!)
There are a number of beautiful things to be found in this chapter alone (the glory of the Lord filling the house in verse 11; God going ahead with a desire that was in the heart of David verses 16-17) which I would love to spend time on, but I can’t, so go and look at those verses yourself.
What jumped at me this time, which I have not so much noticed before, is a phrase that is actually repeated, occurring first in verse 15, where Solomon begins to praise the Lord while explaining to the people what led to this day: “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who spoke with His mouth to my father David and has fulfilled it with His hand…” I’d not spotted the distinction before, but now it occurred to me: God spoke with His mouth, and fulfilled it with His hand. Nice.
I said it was repeated. Solomon came back to this phrase again, even more succinctly, in verse 24, when he’s praying: “indeed, You have spoken with Your mouth and have fulfilled it with Your hand as it is this day.” I think he was preaching his way into revelation! What I mean by that is, perhaps when he first spoke it in verse 15, the two things occurred to him to say, and as he went on, he realised the depth and significance of the idea, refined it, and it came out again in prayer in verse 24 in the neat way that we see. Sometimes you might find this happens, when you are living in prayerful revelation. An idea occurs which begins to clarify as you meditate on it and begin to use it in prayer and proclamation!
Anyway, I found this phrase beautiful, and as I said, had a depth to it. It constituted something I already knew, but sometimes the Lord brings things back up again for us to freshly think about.
When God speaks (with His mouth), He also stretches forth His hand to empower the word and the hearers and bearers (announcers) of the word. Like I said, He is a good God. He doesn’t say something and then expect those who hear to get on an fulfill it in their own strength. Ten out of ten times, this is impossible! That’s the mistake that was so frequently made about the Law. It was as though it were for us merely to perform duties as ordained by the mouth of God. No, says Paul, it was meant to be a tutor to lead us to Christ, who is the power of God (1 Cor 1:24). It shows us our deficiency in not being able to perform what God has spoken out of our own strength, and our need for Christ and the empowerment of the anointing of the Holy Spirit (which is what ‘Christ’ or ‘Messiah’ means: ‘anointed one’).
I repeat: God never speaks a word without also making power available to accomplish it. In the New Testament this is summed up beautifully in Luke 1:37. If you were to turn there in your Bible, it is likely it might say something like “For nothing will be impossible with God.” How, you might ask, does this sound like what I have just described? It might vaguely, but not exactly.
Well, translators of even the most ‘literal’ translations (like mine) still take liberties sometimes to make something slightly more readable, and what is actually contained in the Greek of this verse is that “no word from God will be without power.”
Hopefully you see a little more now how this reflects what I have been saying! No word from God is without power! Furthermore the word ‘word’ is ‘rhema’ which is often used to describe, in Strong’s definition, “that which is or has been uttered by the living voice…” Some would say it is used to describe words that have come immediately, ‘in the moment’, including such words from God, as opposed to the established, written word (generally meaning Scriptures), for which the Greek word ‘logos’ is often used.
In the context of Luke 1 it helps us to see how it applies: Gabriel has just delivered a word to Mary that she is to bear the Messiah, and that the means are not to be natural but supernatural, it will be a ‘virgin birth’. How will it be achieved? Not, of course, by any human strength, but “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you…” (verse 35).
The word ‘overshadow’ there leads us to another verse, to be found back in Isaiah 51:16. It has been a favourite of mine for a number of years. In it the Lord states: “I have put My words in your mouth and have covered you with the shadow of My hand, to established the heavens, to found the earth, and to say to Zion, ‘You are My people.'” Here we see that the activity of the word of the Lord and the hand of the Lord are more intimately interwoven. God has a word which He has placed into the mouth of the prophet so that he (the prophet) can be the one who speaks it out. God’s hand then overshadows the prophet (hence the link to Luke 1) to create the ‘atmosphere of anointing’ appropriate for the prophet to release that word. As they release it, it is empowered by the Lord’s hand to do what it was sent to accomplish. It establishes something in the heavens, which also affects the earth (‘founding’ it – laying a foundation) and furthermore speaks empowerment to the people of God (“You are My people”).
Did you know that plenty of atheists and antagonists read the Bible to tear it apart, viciously seeking to undermine its authority and condemn things that it has to say. Others all over the world (a great many more I dare say) – many millions – take massive encouragement from it and find God speaks to them through it. What is the difference? The anointing, the power of God. Without it, the Bible can be a dry book! No wonder Jesus said, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Mark 12:24). In order to have understanding, He is saying, you must not only know what the Scriptures say, but you must know and have experience of the power of God!
Perhaps you know this. One day you read it and nothing seems to go in. You go away and don’t remember a thing you just read! But on another day, perhaps you’re in a prayer meeting, or have just been in a time of worship, or have been praying yourself, and suddenly something in Scripture opens up like you’ve never seen it before. It has a ‘power’ which it didn’t have the day before – because the atmosphere is of prayer, the Spirit is there, and now God is speaking! I hope you’ve had the pleasure of this experience – it’s always tremendously exciting and something that we should seek to make a daily experience.
To press on: Zechariah 4:6 is a well-known verse which I think speaks again directly into this subject. The Lord has been speaking some incredible words to Zerubbabel, and then He caps it off with this: “‘Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts.” In case you were thinking you were going to achieve all these things in your own strength, Zerubbabel, you got another think coming! It was the Lord’s reminder that he would need the anointing (pictured by the oil that flows right throughout this chapter) to accomplish all that was spoken of (including laying the foundations of the new temple they were rebuilding, right up to completing it by placing the final ‘capstone’ as the building work was completed!).
Ecclesiastes 8:4 in the New King James Version reads “Where the word of a king is, there is power.”
And lastly (for now), we see how this idea operated in the vibrant life of the early church in Acts chapter 4. Having been persecuted for preaching the word and seeing a lame man miraculously healed, the church gathers and prays a powerful prayer, saying: “And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bondservants may speak Your word with all boldness, while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.” Having prayed this, the whole house where they were gathered was shaken – a powerful confirmation from the Lord, I would say, that He heard and liked their prayer!
They asked that as they proclaimed His WORD, that He would confirm and accompany it with POWER. They believed the two things to be inextricably linked. You cannot have the word of God without power. Without power, the good news is not good news. Jesus went about preaching the kingdom, and healing all who were sick (Matthew 4:23; 9:35; Mark 1:21-28). Signs accompanying the proclamation of the gospel were a given in the days of the early church (Mark 16:15-20).
Be encouraged! If God has spoken a word (be it a fresh revelation from Scripture, or an impression in your heart, or the audible voice of the Lord, or in any way), He also provides the power to accomplish it. And He is a God who finishes, who completes the work He began! (Philippians 1:6)