Article linked to TLW Bible Study Post for July 25 on the theme Good and Bad Sources of Power and based on the following Bible readings:
2 Samuel 11:1-15 – David’s kingship should have fulfilled God’s word and order, not given him power over others from his position alone
John 6:1-21 — A huge crowd to feed is Jesus’ test for the disciples, who are shown how power that comes by faith releases God’s provision
Ephesians 3:14-21 — Seeing spiritually by the power of the Holy Spirit reveals the extent of God’s love when we give our hearts to Jesus
And also read: Psalm 14
POWER and control can be one of the biggest problems in society — and in church.
Or they can be the mountain-moving dynamic of faith in God, that brings His kingdom purposes to bear.
It all depends on whose power, and who has the control. We as humans have complete freewill to exercise our own power and control. Or we can submit to what God is doing and hand that side of things to Him. That difference, in a nutshell, is what this week’s Bible readings are teaching us.
1. A wrong power-play
David had the promise of God that he would be the one to shepherd his people. But before He had his opportunity, he had to endure about fifteen years under the rule of the insecure and unpredictable King Saul. The prophetic word about his being chosen and anointed as a youngster was well known throughout Israel. This was the shepherd boy who had the courage to go out against the huge Philistine champion Goliath of Gath and fell him with a slingshot! After what must have seemed a very long wait, the tribal elders of both Judah and Northern Israel agreed to crown him as their king, and with that position came great power — to use well, for God’s purpose, or badly, to serve his own desires. And that’s where it all went wrong.
Installed in his new palace on Jerusalem’s rock, David could see over the whole city with a viewpoint that took in individual courtyards near the palace. And one day the young and attractive wife of one of his army officers was bathing in the courtyard — and David used his power badly.
One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.”2 Samuel 11:2-3
If he called for someone, they came. And they did exactly what he told them. David sent for Bathsheba to come to the palace. From her perspective, when the king wanted her for himself, she had no choice in the matter.
It was against the law of Moses. it was against every moral consideration Bathsheba was married and her husband was serving his king and country on military campaign. And she fell pregnant.
David compounds his mistake by trying to cover it up. He summons Uriah home on leave and tries to get him to sleep with his wife and appear to be the child’s father. He even gets him drunk. But Uriah is a man of duty and principle and refused on the grounds that the rest of the army were away from their families.
Just when it couldn’t get any worse for David, it did. He sent Uriah back to the front with a letter to his commander.
In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. In it he wrote, “Put Uriah out in front where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die.”2 Samuel 11:14-15
And that is what happened. As well as adultery and deceit, David has now committed constructive murder.
David thought that his royal position entitled him to do what he wanted — and that it would make wrong right. This is a stark picture of the way deception works in us. No one ever thinks they are blinded by a deception, because that’s what deception means.
2. Humanly powerless
The story about David continues —he will learn from his mistakes. But for us the story moves to Galilee and an amazing demonstration of God’s power, in a situation where the disciples found themselves powerless.
Shortly before the Passover, a lot of people were on the move. Many were making their way to Jerusalem, swelling the already sizeable crowd that was following His every move after witnessing a series of healing miracles.
Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with His disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near. When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for He already had in mind what He was going to do.John 6:4-6
This was a crowd that would fill a football stadium. The men alone numbered more than 5,000.
One boy had was carrying some small pita breads and a couple of salted fish. The disciples felt powerless, with a large crowd that had not eaten for a long time and almost nothing to give them.
Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.When they had all had enough to eat, He said to His disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.”John 6:10-12
Nothing is impossible with God. But that’s a position to take early, not when all other avenues have been explored!
It was getting dark and the disciples set off for home across the bay in a boat. The cooling air was causing Galilee’s evening winds to rise, and it was hard work. They had been rowing for an hour and it was slow progress.
A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened. But He said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” Then they were willing to take Him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.John 6:18-21
Jesus appeared and once again showed Himself to be Messiah, using the name Yahweh revealed to Moses on the slopes of Mount Sinai: “I AM”.
Once again the disciples’ powerlessness was overturned in an instant when Jesus joined them. and t hey were “willing” — “eager”, NLT — to let Him into the boat.
The life lesson is obvious. If we know and trust Jesus, we canenlist His help and guidance. Better this way than exhausting our possibilities first, as we often do.
3. Empowered by God’s love
The Christians of both Jewish and Greek background who made up the Early Church, had all experienced the new spiritual birth by believing and trusting Jesus and it was a regular part of their discipleship to have added to this the experience of the “fullness” of the Holy Spirit.
It was something their founding apostle, Paul, thought it important to remind them about.
We can be saved, genuinely recreated in the new being through our relationship with Jesus and the Father — yet not seeing the kingdom of God with a heavenly perspective, and not able to love others with a love far greater than our own.
With deep reverence, Paul expresses his prayer to the Father for these new Christians:
I pray that out of His glorious riches [the Father] may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
We can trust that Paul’s prayer was a highly accurate one! God wants us to live for Him, and He wants to strengthen us with His power to do it. But there’s there another dimension to this power:
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.Ephesians 3:17-19
If we are to love others, especially those without the knowledge of God, with His love which is so much greater than the best of ours, we need to be impacted by it and filled with it.
The gentle force of the love of God is difficult for anyone to resist. They can resist the description if it, they can resist words of liturgy that speak of it, but they cannot resist the reality of it. We have to catch it for ourselves, and keep on returning to it, for others to catch it from us.
This is being filled with the fullness of God, and this is what brings God the greatest glory.