God's power is soothing. And scary.

by Aug 19, 2015

God's power is soothing. And scary.

by Aug 19, 2015

Anyone who’s been in a Sunday-school class or a seminary study has learned about God’s omnipotence. He’s in control of everything, and has power over everything. Yawn, next topic. Viewing God’s ultimate power as just one out of a long scholarly list of his attributes, many of us fail to appreciate how reassuring and terrifying it is. Many of us even fail to fully believe in God’s complete power and control.

The Jews in Babylon were in that group, and that’s when God gave Ezekiel a front-row glimpse of his power:

As I looked, behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, and a great cloud, with brightness around it, and fire flashing forth continually, and in the midst of the fire, as it were gleaming metal. (Ezekiel 1:4)

Imagine yourself standing where Ezekiel is, on the edge of the desert. You’ve seen dust-storms come raging across the desert and you know that when they come you need to get inside. Now. But just before you run inside, you see something strange in this dust-storm. Flashes of light and … and … gleaming metal?

That’s when the Scripture you’ve studied your whole life starts coming back to you. You know that David talked about God with these kinds of words:

He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him, thick clouds dark with water. Out of the brightness before him hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds. (Psalm 18:11-12)

Then you remember what the rest of Psalm 18 says:

Then the earth reeled and rocked;the foundations also of the mountains trembled and quaked, because he was angry. (v. 7)

And you remember: our God can move mountains! He’s all-powerful. David saw it. And then you remember when David saw it:

In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears. (v. 6)

And that’s when clouds started rolling in and mountains started shaking. It was God in all his power and glory, coming in to save him. God’s omnipotence is a good thing, if you belong to God. It’s scary if you don’t. Ezekiel could see both sides:

And from the midst of it came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had a human likeness, but each had four faces, and each of them had four wings. (Ezekiel 1:5-6)

Doesn’t that sounds a little scary? From the description, we can tell these are angels called cherubim. These were the angels who kicked Adam and Eve out of the garden, then stood at the entrance with flaming swords to keep them out. They’re the guardians of God’s throne, the enforcers of his power. Guys you don’t want to mess around with. And there’s more:

Their legs were straight, and the soles of their feet were like the sole of a calf’s foot. And they sparkled like burnished bronze. Under their wings on their four sides they had human hands. And the four had their faces and their wings thus: their wings touched one another. Each one of them went straight forward, without turning as they went. As for the likeness of their faces, each had a human face. The four had the face of a lion on the right side, the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and the four had the face of an eagle. Such were their faces. (Ezekiel 1:7-11)

These cherubim are putting a face on God’s power. Actually, four faces! Meaning that God’s omnipotence isn’t just like the force. It’s not some kind of impersonal, abstract energy field. God’s power is personal.
That’s what these faces symbolize. When Ezekiel was writing this, everyone in the world would have instantly understood these symbols:

  • The human face is a symbol of intelligence and personality. We’re distinct in all creation. Each human has a higher intelligence and a unique personality. So this power is personal.
  • The lion’s face is a symbol of royalty. This power comes from a long line. It didn’t just come out of nowhere. It’s been around forever.
  • The ox is a symbol of strength. An ox can carry anything you put on its back.
  • The eagle is a symbol of care and compassion. Why? Well, when eagles in the ancient middle east taught their chicks to fly the mommy eagle would shove junior out of the nest. Either you fly or you don’t. But the daddy eagle was waiting below to catch you if you fall. He would put you on his wings and fly you back up to the nest to try again. That’s God’s sovereign power, used for your good.

God’s power is holding everything in the universe together, and everything in your life together. As Ezekiel saw the cherubim, he noticed something about their movements:

Each went straight forward. Wherever the spirit would go, they went, without turning as they went. (Ezekiel 1:12)

Wherever the Spirit goes is where they go. That’s the omnipotent power of God, holding everything together.

Do you understand how difficult that is? It’s impossible for us to hold anything together. You try to get your house together — it’s all organized and clean — then your roommate (or your husband!) comes in and drops his stuff all over the place. You try to get your finances together — you implement a solid budget that’s working every month — then your car dies, and you need to drop $3000 to get it running again. Your budget is in tatters. You try to pull your family together for a Christmas photo, and while you’re busy trying to get one kid to smile, another kid is busy smearing mud all over his shirt.

We can’t hold anything together for more than a few minutes. God is the only one in the universe who can hold things together. As Paul says in Colossians 1, he holds all things together! Everything in the universe and everything in your life.

That’s why God’s power is so soothing and scary. It’s soothing to those who embrace God’s gracious and sovereign control over their lives. And it’s scary to those who don’t.