214) God’s Use of Power (part two)

     (continued…)  This is the theological problem of Holy Week:  what kind of God do we have, the God of meek humility that goes to the cross on Good Friday, or the God of power who breaks forth from the tomb on Easter Sunday?  The answer is in realizing that this is not a problem at all.  This is not two contradictory pictures of God, but rather two pictures of God choosing to deal with his world in two different ways.  Think about it as the two hands of God.

     When the Bible wants to speak about God’s power, it will sometimes speak of it in terms of the ‘Right hand’  of God.  The Psalmist proclaims his confidence that the Lord will save his people by “the saving power of his RIGHT HAND.”  And in Exodus 15 the Bible says, “Your Right Hand, O Lord, is glorious in power, your Right Hand, O Lord, will shatter the enemy.”  That right hand of God is the hand God wields with power and strength.

     But as I have indicated, God has another way of dealing with the world.  Let’s call this the ‘Left hand’ of God.  The Bible doesn’t use that word, but it does refer figuratively to God’s right hand, and this can be a second figure of speech to speak about this other way God works in the world (for this meditation anyway).

     So let’s consider this ‘left-handed’ work of God.  The one time God visited his creation in person, in the flesh, how did he come?  Jesus came as a baby– as a weak, vulnerable, powerless baby, completely under the care of two human beings who were being hunted by the king’s soldiers that had been ordered to kill him.  The baby escaped, of course, and would grow to be a man who had many opportunities to take hold of power, but always refused.  The devil tempted him with a certain kind of power, and Jesus refused.  The crowds offered to make him king, and he refused.  Peter drew his sword to defend him, and Jesus refused the help, allowing himself to be arrested.  And Jesus talked not of pounding your enemies into submission, but of forgiving them, praying for them, and even turning the other cheek.  And when this Savior was to do his greatest work, the salvation of all people, he did it by meekly submitting to a power far inferior to his own, and going to the cross to die a painful and humiliating death.  And yet this approach, though seemingly weak, was strong enough change hearts and minds, and to win a following and a loyalty that all the power of the entire Roman Empire could not resist.  The Roman Empire is long gone, but Jesus is still believed in by billions.  It turned out that this weakness was in fact powerful in its effect, and even when God in Christ looked the weakest, he was the strongest.  “His strength is made perfect in my weakness,” Paul would later write.  In God’s infinite wisdom, he draws us unto himself in both ways, by both hands, we might say– by the power of his righteous right hand, and by the meek and humble submission of his left hand.

     What we see on Good Friday is that God’s divine power can also be revealed in suffering and death.  Those moments of apparent divine defeat are, in fact, moments of victory.  With his right hand, God rules by his might, but He does not work only by power and might.  With his left hand, God with-holds his might, and works in hidden ways.  For example, he allows us the free will to make our own decisions and use our own power for good or evil.  Then, when our love and obedience is returned, it is not a forced love or an automatic obedience, but it is a real relationship.  So when we, like Habakkuk, are disappointed by God’s seeming inactivity when things are not going well, we can be assured that in His wisdom God is working still, in less obvious, but even more effective, ways.

     Both right and left hand are forms of divine power.  Both are able to get things done.  Right-handed power can insist on obedience and justice, but it cannot change hearts.  Left-handed power cannot overthrow the oppressor and bring justice, but it can move hearts.  Right-handed power brings order.  Left-handed power transforms lives.

     So it is with God, and so it is with our work in the world.  Sometimes force must be used to restore and preserve order, and sometimes mercy and forgiveness will change a heart.  Therefore, as it says in the catechism and the Bible, we should both fear and love God.

     In Holy Week we see God at work with both hands.  All week, by the left hand of God, Jesus submits and suffers, and then he dies, leaving us with a story of suffering service that has inspired and converted millions over the years.  Then, on Easter Sunday, the right hand of God raises Jesus from the dead, defeating forever our worst enemy, death.  In weakness and in power, in bad times and in good times, as Paul wrote, God works all things out for the good of them that love him. 


Psalm 118:14…16  —  The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation…  The Lord’s right hand is lifted high.  The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!”

II Corinthians 12:9  —  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

Romans 8:28  — And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.



Though the Lord is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly;
    though lofty, he sees them from afar.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life.
You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes;
    with your right hand you save me.
The Lord will vindicate me;
    your love, Lord, endures forever.
    Do not abandon the works of your hands.