There is the power of dropping bombs
and there is the power of a painting.
There is the power of a jet engine
and there is the power of a melody.
What kind of all-powerful is your god?
This seems like a very important question.
One of my favorites stories might help with an answer.
Many years ago, in a far away land, there had been a drought for a long time and, of course, the gods were being blamed, as they often were. And are. The king of the land worshiped a god of rain and he was convinced that his god was not the problem, this time... but that another god was the problem. The god of a prophet.
So, the prophet and the king agreed, in the only way that makes sense, to a battle of the gods to see which god was more powerful and to determine who was to blame for the drought and famine that was killing the land.
Was it the god of the king or the god of the prophet?
The king had his own prophets - around 450 of them - show up at the event. I imagine flags and trumpets and spectacle. The goal of the competition was to bring down some fire - to prove which god was more powerful. (Again, if you’re going to have your gods do something - bringing down fire seems pretty cool.)
In the story, the 450 prophets of the king, after a lot of drama, aren’t able to get their god to do anything. No fire. No anything really. It’s not going well for them.
The prophet of the other god, ever the performer and antagonizer, then asks everyone to make the challenge a little more difficult - just to prove a point - before asking his god to send down fire to consume a bull, now surrounded by water, that had been set up.
Fire comes from heaven. Drama. Power. Slam dunk. Home run.
Drop the mic. Challenge over. The god of the prophet wins.
The prophet looks at the king and says maybe my favorite line of any story, “Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of heavy rain.”
The prophet then finds himself on the run, scared for his life.
I can’t say that’s what I was expecting the first time I read the story. Not the normal thing course of action after your god beats the other god.
The prophet finds himself out in the wilderness for 40 days. (By the way, tons of stories have 40: the Hebrew people were in the wilderness 40 years, Noah was on a boat while it rained for 40 days, Moses was on Mt. Sinai for 40 days, Jonah warned Ninevah for 40 days, and Jesus was in the wilderness 40 days and after the resurrection was on Earth for 40 days. According to the rabbis, 40 represents transition or change.)
Apparently the challenge and battle of the gods didn’t really work. The “winner” is out in the desert, changing, while the “loser” is eating bread and drinking wine in his castle. Interesting.
Around this 40 day (transition) point, the prophet’s god comes by and asks him what he is doing there. Interesting question. I would have answered “running for my life because of you.” The prophet didn’t.
The god then says go up to a mountain - I’m going to pass by.
The story then says there were earthquakes, more fire, and wind. All very powerful things. But, the story tells us that the god was not in any of those powerful things.
There was, however, a gentle whisper. That’s where God was, the story insists. In the whisper. After fire and earthquakes and wind. I wonder if those 40 days made the prophet change, transition or evolve his views on where the power of his god actually was.
Generations later, the disciples of Jesus were hanging out and getting really upset at a group of people that they already generally hated (and found to be ignorant and wrong and stupid). That same group had not welcomed them and accepted their message. So, obviously, they asked Jesus if they should call down fire on the village just like the prophet in the story had. (Before we get all high and mighty, most people still ask their god to send down fire on their enemies. Or at least bless the fire of their bombs and missiles.)
And Jesus turns and rebukes them, and says, quite astoundingly, you don’t know what spirit you are talking about here…
There were not that many spirits to choose from in that worldview - spirits from god (the source of all good) and spirits from the devil (the source of all evil).
Which kind of all-powerful is the god of the Bible?
It would seem to not be the power of bombs, of jet engines, of judges handing out verdicts, of fire, of earthquakes, of the things that rattle the windows of our souls with fear, but instead...
more like the power of paintings, songs, stories of grace and tenderness, laying down, resting, and quiet whispers that soften our souls with love.
That’s the kind of power that changes humanity for the better.
That’s Godly power.