It’s Not About Power and Force

Conversations About God (4:3)

What methods did God use to answer the charges and accusations in heaven? As far as the heavenly angels are concerned, the war has been over for two thousand years. What did they learn that became a sufficient basis for trust in the heavenly Father? For the answers to these questions we go to the Bible and we ask, “God, why didn’t You take charge more vigorously and end the conflict? We would expect that of trustworthy leadership.” And I hear the answer coming back as I go through the sixty-six books of the Bible. If the great controversy were over power, God could have settled it in a moment. But the great conflict is not over who has the most power. If that were true, the devil would have been converted long ago. He knows that God has power superior to his own. In James 2:19, it says: “Do you believe that there is only one God? Good! The demons also believe, and tremble with fear.” (GNB). You see, they believe in God’s existence. They believe there’s only one God. They have great faith in His power, in fact it scares them, but that doesn’t move their hearts toward God.

A similar point is made in Revelation 12:12: “The Devil has come down to you and he is filled with rage, because he knows that he has only a little time left” (GNB). In other words, the Devil is so convinced of his helplessness in the face of God’s power that it makes him angry. The Devil is an Adventist, you know. He knows God is coming soon, and it terrifies him to think of it. So there’s a kind of faith that God is not looking for. It is the kind of faith that a show of power might actually produce. It is not enough.

For a dramatic illustration of how power can be misunderstood look at the story in Genesis 9 and 11. You remember in chapter 9 that after the flood: “God said to Noah and his sons. . . ‘I promise that never again will all living things be destroyed by a flood’” (Gen 9:11, GNB). What a demonstration of God’s power the flood was! Did it win people? Was everyone so convinced by that display of power that no one ever distrusted Him again? God continued saying to Noah, “As a sign of this everlasting covenant which I am making with you and with all living things, I am putting my bow in the clouds” (Gen 9:12-13, GNB). This was a gracious promise on the part of God, but the promise alone, in the context of the Flood, didn’t build trust in the descendants of Noah.

Let’s go now to Genesis 11. “At first, the people of the whole world had only one language. . .And they said to one another . . . ‘Now let’s build a city with a tower that reaches the sky'” (Gen 11:1, 3, 4, GNB) Did the inhabitants of Babel believe in God? Did they believe He had the power to drown the whole world in a flood? Did they believe His promise that He would never do it again? Their actions provide the answer. They didn’t build the tower because of disbelief in God, but because they did believe in God and it scared them that He has so much power. But instead of leading them to worship God, His use of power in the Flood resulted in even more rebellion on their part. So there is no need to promote God’s power unless someone doesn’t believe He has it. The great controversy is not over power, but over who is telling the truth. God has been accused of the abuse of power and of a failure to tell the truth. Such charges cannot be met by force. To resort to force would only worsen the matter, as if to suggest, “I don’t have evidence, so now I must intimidate you with power.” And so, even at the risk of appearing weak, God chose the long, painful, and costly way of teaching, explanation, and demonstration.

Finally He sent His Son. The way Jesus treated people, the things He taught about His Father, and the unique and awful way that He died; these were the clearest demonstration of the truth about God and His government that the universe will ever see or ever need. Sadly though, religion often fails to use God’s methods. Thus it is often religion that most seriously misrepresents our God. Religion through the centuries has resorted to claims and pronouncements, force, persecution, and a great deal of pomp and power–methods God does not use.