Lightning over Oklahoma City (from rq.chaseday.com)

(Photo from rq.chaseday.com. Used by permission.)

Pray down the power of God!

By Dr. Mark D. Futato

     What do you pray for? Stop and think about two or three things for which you pray frequently. Is the word "power" on the list? Do you pray often for God's power? When the Apostle Paul prayed for the church at Ephesus, he asked "that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know...His incomparably great power" (Eph. 1:19; emphasis added). Paul wanted the Ephesian Christians not only to know about that power, but also to know its reality in day-to-day living.

     God wants believers today to know of that power, too. Do you have a sin or two or ten left that you haven't yet overcome? Do you need power to overcome these sins? Or have you given up and resigned yourself to their ongoing presence in your life? Do you believe there is no way for you to overcome them? Have you despaired?

     If you have these thoughts, you are believing a lie. Tremendous power is available to you not only to overcome sin, but to live in victorious triumph. The testimony of such power lies all around you, bursting from the world in which God has placed you.

     Since God brought the creation into existence and now sustains it by His great power, we can see that power displayed in various ways. How many can you think of? If you live in the Midwest, I bet you immediately think of tornadoes. Californians imagine earthquakes and Floridians hurricanes. Although the Bible frequently mentions stormy winds and earthquakes as signs of God's power, it focuses our attention on the sky as the premier stage upon which God manifests His awesome might.

Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth,
sing praise to the Lord, Selah
to Him who rides the ancient skies above,
who thunders with mighty voice.
Proclaim the power of God,
whose majesty is over Israel,
whose power is in the skies.
You are awesome, O God, in your sanctuary;
the God of Israel gives power and strength to His people.
Praise be to God!

(Ps. 68:32-35)
Tremendous power
is available
to you not only
to overcome sin,
but to live in
victorious triumph.

     "Proclaim the power of God...whose power is in the skies." In some special way God's power is displayed above. When the psalmist says, "You are awesome, O God, in your sanctuary," he refers to God's power in the skies, since the sanctuary in view is a heavenly one, as is clear from a related text:

Praise the LORD.
Praise God in His sanctuary;
praise Him in His mighty heavens.

(Ps. 150:1)

     "In His sanctuary" is further described as "in His mighty heavens." So His sanctuary here is not Solomon's earthly sanctuary, but the Lord's heavenly sanctuary. "His mighty heavens" are literally the "firmament of His power," "the heavens of His power," the place where His power is gloriously displayed.

     Can you guess how? The Bible gives two answers, and Psalm 29 tells us they both can be found in a good, old-fashioned electrical storm:

Ascribe to the LORD, O mighty ones,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His name;
worship the LORD in the splendor of His holiness.
The voice of the LORD is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the LORD thunders over the mighty waters.
The voice of the LORD is powerful;
the voice of the LORD is majestic.
The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars;
the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the LORD strikes with flashes of lightning.
The voice of the LORD shakes the desert;
the LORD shakes the Desert of Kadesh.
The voice of the LORD twists the oaks
and strips the forests bare.
And in His temple all cry, "Glory!"
The LORD sits enthroned over the flood;
the LORD is enthroned as King forever.
The LORD gives strength to His people;
the LORD blesses His people with peace.


THE POWER OF GOD IN THUNDER

     Note the focus on thunder in verse 3.

The voice of the LORD is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the LORD thunders over the mighty waters.

     The "voice" of the Lord is a metaphorical description of thunder. The Hebrew word translated "voice" is the word qôl (pronounced like coal); it is somewhat onomatopoeic, sounding like a rumble of thunder. The word qôl rolls through the psalm like thunder rolls across the land. As one reads the psalm in Hebrew, one hears the thunder rolling through the Psalm itself. The psalmist also draws our attention to the power of thunder in verse 4:

The voice of the LORD is powerful;
the voice of the LORD is majestic.

     In verses 5-6 he shows just how powerful the Lord's thunderous voice is:

The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars;
the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
Sirion like a young wild ox.

     God's power is enough to break stately cedars, enough to make the mountains move like a calf skipping across a field.

     Have you ever been in an electrical storm and felt the ground shaking under your feet? Why is it that little children, upon hearing that crack of thunder, come running to Mom and jump on her lap? The power of God is being displayed. Many children have probably been told that thunder is God speaking. It is!

THE POWER OF GOD IN LIGHTNING

     Of course there is no thunder without lightning first, because thunder is simply the result of air being heated rapidly so that it expands with a gigantic boom as it breaks the sound barrier. Therefore, in verses 7-8 the psalmist also focuses our attention on this show of God's power:

The voice of the LORD strikes
with flashes of lightning.
The voice of the LORD shakes the desert;
the LORD shakes the Desert of Kadesh.

     If the ancient psalmist stood in awe of God because of lightning, we can do so all the more in the twentieth century, given how much more we know of it. At this particular moment, an estimated 3,500 electrical storms are occurring throughout the world, producing more than one hundred bolts of lightning per second, 6,000 per minute, 360,000 per hour, 8,640,000 per day, 259,200,000 per month, 3,110,400,000 lightning bolts per year. Each bolt carries approximately 25,000 volts of electricity per inch. That's a lot of electrical power! And all that power flows from God:

See how He scatters His lightning about Him,
bathing the depths of the sea.
He fills His hands with lightning
and commands it to strike its mark

(Job 36:30, 32).

He unleashes His lightning beneath the whole heaven
and sends it to the ends of the earth.
He loads the clouds with moisture;
He scatters His lightning through them

(Job 37:3, 11).

Do you send the lightning bolts on their way?
Do they report to you, "Here we are?"

(Job 38:35).

lightning

WORSHIP THE CREATOR, NOT THE CREATION

     If lightning carries this much punch, some greater Power must be behind it. Psalm 29 begins by saying, "Ascribe to the Lord...strength." When we see power in creation, we are to ascribe that power to the Lord in worship. By commanding us to ascribe the power in creation to God, the psalmist forbids us to attribute that power to some impersonal natural process or to nature itself. How misdirected that would be!

     Some people in our culture have a faulty view of creation and worship the creation rather than the Creator. While this is wrong, they are at least worshipping as they see the glory and power of God in creation.

     What about those of us who claim to believe in a Creator, but who have bought into naturalistic explanations of life? Are our hearts inclined to worship the true and the living God when we see His power displayed in the stars, in electrical storms, and in all sorts of other ways? The answer too often is, "No." We must remind ourselves regularly to ascribe that power to the true and the living God and worship only Him.

STRENGTH FOR THE BELIEVER

     Knowing of God's power in the skies provides you with confidence that He has the power to strengthen you in your walk with Him. Do you pray for this power? Do you depend upon it?

     Psalm 29 closes on a most encouraging note for God's people. It promises that "The Lord gives strength to His people" (v. 11). Therefore, in addition to ascribing nature's power to the true and living God, we are to believe that God will give us the strength we need for Christian living:

The question is not
whether power exists
for triumphant living
day by day,
but will you
use it?

Proclaim the power of God,
whose majesty is over Israel,
whose power is in the skies.
You are awesome, O God, in your sanctuary;
the God of Israel gives power and strength to His people.
Praise be to God!

(Ps. 68:34-35)

     God's authority and might are clearly shown in creation-in the stars, in the lightning, in the earthquakes, in the hurricanes, in the tornadoes. Remember that such power, especially that of Christ raised from the dead, belongs to God and is for you to draw on in every one of life's experiences.

     Satan uses various strategies to make you believe God's power is not real. Maybe he tells you that this power is only for special Christians, that you are not good enough to receive it from God, that you are not loveable enough, or that belief in its existence is nonsense. But God says, "His incomparably great power [is] for us who believe" (Eph. 1:19) - for all who believe. That means you! God also says, "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness" (2 Pet. 1:3). His power…everything you need!

     In truth, the question is not whether power exists for triumphant living day by day. It most certainly is available. The real question is: Will you believe God and use it? Or will you succumb to Satan's lies? At any moment -- day by day, situation by situation - you can choose to apply the power that is yours in Christ. And you don't need to go anywhere to get it. It is already within you! God is able to do immeasurably more than anything you can dream of, "according to His power that is at work within us" (Eph. 3:20). His power at work within you!

     Whom do you choose to believe? Believe God. Choose to draw on His power at work within you. Pray that power down!

Dr. Mark Futato

     Dr. Mark Futato is Professor of Old Testament at RTS/Orlando. Before coming to RTS, for eleven years he was Associate Professor of Old Testament at Westminster Seminary in California. This article is an excerpt from his forthcoming book, Creation: A Witness to the Nature of God (P & R Publishing, 2000).




Reformed Quarterly, Volume 18, Number 4
© Dr. Mark Futato
Articles may not be reprinted without permission.

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Last updated 12-16-1999.