Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Week Forty-One - Strength

  “And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not man, that he should repent.”  I Samuel 15:29

Strength is one of the names of God.  The definition means eminence.  It has to do with perpetuity, victory, and everlastingness.  In the beginning God…”  (Genesis 1:1)  He is the one outside of time.  He was and is and evermore shall be.  He is the supreme, the everlasting Father and the King of kings.
From him all things exist.  “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him…”  (Colossians 1:16) and “For in him we live, and move, and have our being…” (Acts 17:28) 
We might think of strength as muscles or power to conquer, but the core of strength is in the ability to make things happen or to control.  It reminds me of the children’s game King of the Mountain.  The strongest kid was the one who could gain and keep the highest point on the hill.  His strength was in the fact that he could put all others down and hold his spot.  Might seem rather trite, but that is the basic picture of the word as used here.
God is King of the Mountain.  No one can take his place.  He has power to knock them down if they try.  He will always hold his place.  Always has, and always will.  And, he doesn’t have to explain to anyone why he is on top.  It is his earned and deserved place.  He is the Eminence – the one who endures.
Our place is to stand in awe of his majesty and power.  His strength is definite and secure.  It is a place we can find confidence and security.  He is not a man – he is THE GOD - The God of Strength.
Are you secure in Him?

 “The LORD reigneth, he is clothed with majesty; the LORD is clothed with strength….”  Psalm 93:1
Being clothed with strength indicates the ownership of the Lord in all areas: material, physical, personal, social and/or political.  As he sits upon his throne he not only is Strength, he adorns himself in strength – in ownership.  His essence is strength.  He reigns majestically.  No one can thwart his power.
As His children, we have access to His strength.  Psalm 28:7 – “The LORD is my strength and my shield…”  and Exodus 15:2, “The LORD is my strength and song…” along with several other similar verses tell us that we can wrap ourselves in this clothing also.  Like putting on the cape of Superman, we avail ourselves of His power and exercise the assurance that comes from strength.
It is not our own strength; it is His strength.  As ambassadors and representatives of a higher authority, we can stand assured that He has our back.  From this assurance come boldness, courage, and confidence.  It also brings protection and rejoicing.  It reminds me of the boldness of David as he viewed the situation with Goliath and the army of Israel.  “…for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”  (I Samuel 17:26) 
David knew the strength of the LORD and he was given, if you like, supernatural power.  He was not timid or afraid to place his trust in this power.  He put on the cape of God’s strength knowing God would deliver him because he was acting upon faith and the solid understanding of the majesty, supremacy and strength of his God.
How many times do we fail in our Christian lives, or run from things we believe too big for us, just because we do not stop to consider the strength of our Lord?  We think the battle is one we must fight alone, or we think God just isn’t interested in our battle.  Nothing can be further from the truth.
God is there to be our help.  He is there to be our strength.  We just need to put on the cape and become superhuman – through His power working in us.

“The way of the LORD is strength to the upright…”  Proverbs 10:29

“God is my strength and power…”  II Samuel 22:33

“….for the joy of the LORD is your strength…”  Nehemiah 8:10

“But the salvation of the righteous is of the LORD: he is their strength in the time of trouble.”  Psalm 37:39

In each of these verses the word “strength” means a place of safety, fastness, harbor, stronghold or refuge. Let’s paraphrase them a bit and see what picture we can draw.

If we walk in the way of the Lord we will be walking in a safe place because God is a safe place.  He is a refuge and harbor.  Our attitude toward Him affords us strength.  No matter what trouble we face we can know that God is our place of safety.

It reminds me of Proverbs 18:10, “The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.”  I don’t know how many times this verse has come to give me strength when I have faced times of trouble.  The trouble might not have been resolved, but I found that place of safety in the Lord.  In his name – which is?  STRENGTH!

The strength of the Lord allows me to rise above the petty issues of life.  It creates in me hope and patience.  Knowing that I have a place of harbor and a strong tower into which I can retreat for rejuvenation gives me endurance.  The joy in knowing whom I am in Christ and that my God is supreme and eminent resolves fear. 

“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.”  When we know we are walking as He commands, and believe that He is the Eminent One, we will find joy.  We will find strength – even in the day of trouble, because we know where to look for strength!

Are you looking in the wrong places?

 “There is no king saved by the multitude of an host: a mighty man is not delivered by much strength.  The horse is a vain thing for safety: neither shall he deliver any by his great strength.”  Psalm 33:17
“….by strength shall no man prevail.”  I Samuel 2:9
Human strength is no assurance of victory.  Just one small stone brought Goliath to the ground.  And a horse, though strong and swift, is nothing compared to the strength of the Lord.
I grew up with horses.  My father trained them and each member of our family had our own horse.  We competed with them in horse shows and rode them on trail rides.  My sister and I spent many long summer days out riding and playing with our horses. 
My horse was a Shetland pony named Kokomo.  He had loads of personality and was quite a free spirit.  But he couldn’t be trusted not to run off with you if he was so a mind.  And also he had no shame in nipping you if you weren’t doing things the way he desired. 
As I thought about a horse and safety I could only come up with one advantage – Kokomo could run.  I could get away from danger, possibly, but I could not look to him for defense.
Israel, though God had commanded them not to multiply horses (Deuteronomy 17:16), counted their strength by the number of horses they owned.  Why?  Because mounted on a horse a man had an advantage over the foot soldier.  And, horses aren’t afraid of battle.  They will obey and run right into the thick of it.  But that doesn’t mean the horse is doing the fighting! 
God plainly tells us that human strength and the strength found in created things cannot prevail against His power and will.
We are constantly on the hunt for a place where we can find a friend upon which we can lean, a person who will be there for us and be our strength when we feel weak and burdened by the cares of this world.  Sadly we attach ourselves to all sorts of things hoping that they will give us security – retirement funds, better jobs, social networking, more insurance policies, etc.  While we are busy trying to create our safety net in our own strength and wit we are overlooking the actual source of strength – our Everlasting Father.
God declares to Hosea “But I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them by the Lord their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen.”  God is in the business of using His strength to take care of His people.  How foolish we are to look to any other person or thing for the strength and security offered by the Strength of Israel – our God.
Take time to look at these three verses in Psalms.  Each one assures you of God’s strength in your life.  Psalm 20:6, 22:19 and Psalm 138:3

“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness….”  II Corinthians 12:9
Hodge explains “the strength of God is perfected, i.e. clearly revealed as accomplishing its end, in weakness.  Weakness…is the condition of my manifesting my strength.  The weaker people are, the more conspicuous is God’s strength in sustaining and delivering them….the power of Christ is not only thus manifested in the weakness of his people, but in the means which he employs for the accomplishment of his purposes.”
Piper explains…”God ordains that Paul be weak, so that Christ might be seen as strong on Paul’s behalf.  If we feel and look self-sufficient, we will get the glory, not Christ.  So Christ chooses the weak things of the world “so that no man should boast before God”  (I Corinthians 1:29).  And sometimes he makes seemingly strong people weaker, so that the divine power will be the more evident.”
We love to think about the grace of God being sufficient, and we readily admit that we are weak creatures.  Most commentators focus on these two elements.  However, our consideration is the word strength.  It means power and ability, but it is more than just the quality of being able.  It is inherent power - power that resides by virtue of the nature of the owner. 
The Greek word is “dynamis”, from where we get our word dynamite.  In God it is the power to perform miracles out of the moral power and excellence of his nature.  It is His ability to effect change due to the power He exerts or puts forth.  This ability is made “perfect”, meaning complete, as it enters into the weaker vessel to accomplish an end goal – that of endowing strength in order to create change.
God is able to enter your life and create the strength necessary to face life’s challenges.  It is God in you that makes you strong and helps you persevere.  It is His moral force that creates power in you.
No need to fear your human weakness.  “If God be for us, who can be against us?”  (Romans 8:31)  Allow His strength to be the driving force of your life.

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