The Awesome Power of God
The universe continues to function according to design. We know upon what day the shortest day of the year will occur, and the longest. We know when the next solar eclipse will take place, how complete it will be, and from where it will be visible. And we expect to see both rain and sunshine in the coming days; seasons giving way to years.
What causes the world to be as it is? Many explanations have been offered by mankind; and many discarded. Some of these explanations are found in the myth and superstition of man. Ancient civilizations of both hemispheres; the Babylonians, Egyptians, Aztecs and Mayans.
More recently, some have sought the answer by purely natural means. The shortcoming of these explanations is that, while they work reasonably well up to a point, they can never really explain how things began from nothing.
Then, there is the supernatural/natural explanation. This view holds that God created matter and the natural laws by which it is governed, The universe continues to operate according to His grand design in a natural way (Psalm 104:10-14;18,19; 24-25; 30).
As a believer in God, I believe that this latter explanation best answers the questions of origins. God is the cause of these things working as they do so that our world is as it is (Matthew 5:45; Colossians 1:16,17; Hebrews 1:2-3).
Some fail to make the proper connection (and distinction) between something God has done and God Himself. We look at the thing that has been done, admiring its beauty or design, forgetting that the source of the beauty or design is God.
"...and only Noah was left, together with those that were with him on the ark." (Genesis 7:23b; cf. vss 17-22).
God's judgment came upon the ancient world for its evil. Noah found favor in the eyes of God, and obeyed Him when instructed to do a strange thing; build a boat.
He was probably mocked and ridiculed by many who ignored his pleas with them to repent. Only when the water began to rise and lift up the huge ark did they begin to wish they had Noah's boat-building ability. If this is so, then they still would miss the mark.
This is because it was not Noah's boat-building ability that saved him. It was God's power. God's power saved Moses because Moses had obeyed God, putting his faith and trust in Him. Without this obedience, Noah would have perished along with the others, but still the source of Noah's salvation was not Noah, but God.
"And as for you, lift up your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, and the sons of Israel shall go through the midst of the sea on dry land." (Exodus 14:16; cf. vss, 15-28).
If I had been an Egyptian soldier in the company of a great number of comrades, armed and ready for battle, chasing down a mob of defenseless families, I think I would be confident of victory. As we followed that unarmed mass into the dry land in the midst of the sea, perhaps my confidence would be in a state of free fall. As the waters began to collapse upon us, as I looked to the shore and saw Moses standing there having withdrawn that staff, I think I would be desperate to have that staff. But the staff would not have helped me.
This is because the power was not in the staff, nor in Moses. The power was God's. The staff merely had a role to play in meeting God's condition for the releasing of His power.
The Bronze Serpent
"Then the LORD said to Moses, 'Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about that everyone, when he is bitten, when he looks at it he shall live." (Numbers 21:8; cf. vss. 5-9).
Of course, this was not some sort of medical breakthrough. The power was not in the serpent of molten brass, but in God. Centuries later, people would idolize the serpent, looking upon it as some sort of magical item (1 Kings 18:1-6). It was not. But people do similar things today with objects they esteem to be special. The Shroud of Turin comes to mind. And we have all witnessed the trek of many to see "weeping" statues and similar phenomena.
The Ark of the Covenant
"...let us take the ark of the covenant of the LORD, that it may come among us and deliver us from the power of our enemies." (1 Samuel 4:3b; cf. vss. 1-4).
The Israelites during this period of their history were not being very true to the Law of God. But they did think the ark of the covenant, made 400 years before, contained some mystical power that would help them defeat their enemies if they took it to battle with them.
Faithful living before God would have been much more beneficial to them. The power was in God; not in the ark. Of course, failing to realize this, they lost the battle.
The Jordan River
"So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean." (2 Kings 5:14; cf. vss. 9-14).
Naaman was healed of his leprosy, but not by the power in the waters of the Jordan. It was God's power that had healed Naaman when he had placed his confidence in the word of the Lord by obeying.
The point of the above examples is the same. Today, with respect to salvation, the power to save is God's. He does so in His own way, according to His own purpose. The power is not in the water of baptism, nor in our efforts to be baptized. But baptism is still the condition God has appointed which, when we meet it, His power will wash our sins away. Just as certainly has Noah had to build an ark, or Naaman had to dip seven times, we must be baptized (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Galatians 3:27; Colossians 2:12). In obeying the gospel, we are not showing confidence in ourselves or our works, but in God and His power to save us (1 Peter 3:20,21; Romans 6:3,4). Whether Moses' staff or a brass serpent, the power belongs to God, and we must obey Him.
By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 9-4; April 2002