Jehovah’s Counsel Against the Nations
1. What judgment proclamation against Assyria does Isaiah record?
JEHOVAH can use the nations to discipline his people for their wickedness. Even so, he does not excuse those nations for their unnecessary cruelty, their pride, and their animosity toward true worship. Thus, long in advance he inspires Isaiah to record “the pronouncement against Babylon.” (Isaiah 13:1) However, Babylon is a future threat. In Isaiah’s day, Assyria is oppressing God’s covenant people. Assyria destroys the northern kingdom of Israel and devastates much of Judah. But Assyria’s triumph is limited. Isaiah writes: “Jehovah of armies has sworn, saying: ‘Surely just as I have figured, so it must occur . . . in order to break the Assyrian in my land and that I may tread him down on my own mountains; and that his yoke may actually depart from upon them and that his very load may depart from upon their shoulder.’” (Isaiah 14:24, 25) Not long after Isaiah utters this prophecy, the Assyrian threat is removed from Judah.
2, 3. (a) In ancient times, against whom does Jehovah stretch out his hand? (b) What does it mean that Jehovah stretches out his hand against “all the nations”?
2 What, though, of other nations that are enemies of God’s covenant people? They too must be judged. Isaiah declares: “This is the counsel that is counseled against all the earth, and this is the hand that is stretched out against all the nations. For Jehovah of armies himself has counseled, and who can break it up? And his hand is the one stretched out, and who can turn it back?” (Isaiah 14:26, 27) Jehovah’s “counsel” is more than mere advice. It is his firm determination, his decree. (Jeremiah 49:20, 30) God’s “hand” is his applied power. In the final verses of Isaiah chapter 14 vss 29-32 and in Isa chapters 15 to 19, Jehovah’s counsel is against Philistia, Moab, Damascus, Ethiopia, and Egypt.
3 However, Isaiah says that Jehovah’s hand is stretched out against “all the nations.” Hence, while these prophecies of Isaiah are first fulfilled in ancient times, they also apply in principle during “the time of the end” when Jehovah stretches out his hand against all the kingdoms of the earth. (Daniel 2:44; 12:9; Romans 15:4; Revelation 19:11, 19-21) Long in advance, the almighty God, Jehovah, confidently reveals his counsel. No one can turn back his stretched-out hand.
“A Flying Fiery Snake” Against Philistia
4. What are some details of Jehovah’s pronouncement against Philistia?
4 The Philistines receive attention first. “In the year that King Ahaz died this pronouncement occurred: ‘Do not rejoice, O Philistia, any one of you, just because the staff of the one striking you has been broken. For out of the root of the serpent there will come forth a poisonous snake, and its fruit will be a flying fiery snake.’”
5, 6. (a) In what way was Uzziah like a serpent to the Philistines? (b) What does Hezekiah prove to be against Philistia?
5 King Uzziah was strong enough to contain the threat posed by Philistia. (2 Chronicles 26:6-8) To them, he was like a serpent, and his staff kept striking that unfriendly neighbor. After Uzziah died
6 This is an apt description of the new king. “It was [Hezekiah] that struck down the Philistines clear to Gaza and also its territories.” (2 Kings 18:8) According to the annals of Assyrian King Sennacherib, the Philistines become subjects of Hezekiah. “The lowly ones”
7. What declaration of faith must Hezekiah make to the ambassadors present in Jerusalem?
7 It seems that ambassadors are present in Judah
8. (a) How have some nations today been like Philistia? (b) As he did in ancient times, what has Jehovah done to support his people today?
8 Like Philistia, some nations today viciously oppose God’s worshipers. Christian Witnesses of Jehovah have been confined in prisons and concentration camps. They have been banned. A number have been killed. Opponents continue to “make sharp attacks on the soul of the righteous one.” (Psalm 94:21) To their enemies, this Christian group may seem “lowly” and “poor.” However, with Jehovah’s support, they enjoy spiritual plenty, while their enemies suffer famine. (Isaiah 65:13, 14; Amos 8:11) When Jehovah stretches out his hand against the modern-day Philistines, these “lowly ones” will be secure. Where? In association with “the household of God,” of which Jesus is the sure foundation cornerstone. (Ephesians 2:19, 20) And they will be under the protection of “heavenly Jerusalem,” Jehovah’s celestial Kingdom, which has Jesus Christ as King.
Moab Is Silenced
9. Against whom is the next pronouncement made, and how has this people proved to be an enemy of God’s people?
9 East of the Dead Sea is another neighbor of Israel
10, 11. What will happen to Moab?
10 Isaiah’s prophecy is directed against numerous cities and locations in Moab, including Ar, Kir (or Kir-hareseth), and Dibon. (Isaiah 15:1b, 2a) Moabites will mourn for Kir-hareseth’s raisin cakes, perhaps a principal product of the city. (Isaiah 16:6, 7) Sibmah and Jazer, famous for vine cultivation, will be smitten. (Isaiah 16:8-10) Eglath-shelishiyah, whose name may mean “A Heifer of Three Years Old,” will be like a sturdy young cow uttering pitiful cries of anguish. (Isaiah 15:5) The grass of the land will dry up while the “waters of Dimon” become full of blood because of the slaughter of the Moabites. The “waters of Nimrim” will become “sheer desolations,” in either a figurative sense or a literal sense
11 Moabites will gird themselves with sackcloth, the garment of mourning. They will shave their heads bald to symbolize shame and lamentation. Their beards will be “clipped,” showing extreme grief and humiliation. (Isaiah 15:2b-4) Isaiah himself, certain of the fulfillment of these judgments, feels deep emotions. Like the vibrating strings of a harp, his inward parts are moved with pity because of the message of woe against Moab.
12. How were Isaiah’s words against Moab fulfilled?
12 When will this prophecy be fulfilled? Soon. “This is the word that Jehovah spoke concerning Moab formerly. And now Jehovah has spoken, saying: ‘Within three years, according to the years of a hired laborer, the glory of Moab must also be disgraced with much commotion of every sort, and those who remain over will be a trifling few, not mighty.’” (Isaiah 16:13, 14) In harmony with this, there is archaeological evidence that during the eighth century B.C.E., Moab suffered grievously and many of its sites were depopulated. Tiglath-pileser III mentioned Salamanu of Moab among the rulers who paid tribute to him. Sennacherib received tribute from Kammusunadbi, king of Moab. Assyrian monarchs Esar-haddon and Ashurbanipal referred to Moabite Kings Musuri and Kamashaltu as being their subjects. Centuries ago, the Moabites ceased to exist as a people. Ruins of cities thought to be Moabite have been found, but little physical evidence of this once-powerful enemy of Israel has thus far been unearthed.
Modern-Day “Moab” Perishes
13. What organization today can be compared with Moab?
13 Today there is a worldwide organization similar to ancient Moab. It is Christendom, the principal part of “Babylon the Great.” (Revelation 17:5) Both Moab and Israel descended from Abraham’s father, Terah. Similarly, Christendom, like the congregation of anointed Christians today, claims to have roots in the first-century Christian congregation. (Galatians 6:16) However, Christendom
14. Despite Jehovah’s counsel against the modern-day “Moab,” what hope is there for individual members of that organization?
14 Moab was eventually silenced. The same will happen to Christendom. Jehovah, using a modern-day equivalent of Assyria, will cause her to be desolated. (Revelation 17:16, 17) However, there is hope for people in this modern-day “Moab.” In the midst of prophesying against Moab, Isaiah says: “In loving-kindness a throne will certainly be firmly established; and one must sit down upon it in trueness in the tent of David, judging and seeking justice and being prompt in righteousness.” (Isaiah 16:5) In 1914, Jehovah firmly established the throne of Jesus, a Ruler in the line of King David. Jesus’ kingship is an expression of Jehovah’s loving-kindness and, in fulfillment of God’s covenant with King David, will last forever. (Psalm 72:2; 85:10, 11; 89:3, 4; Luke 1:32) Many meek ones have left modern-day “Moab” and have submitted themselves to Jesus in order to gain life. (Revelation 18:4) How comforting for these to know that Jesus will ‘make clear to the nations what justice is’!
Damascus Becomes a Decaying Ruin
15, 16. (a) What hostile steps do Damascus and Israel take against Judah, and with what result for Damascus? (b) Who is included in the pronouncement against Damascus? (c) What can Christians today learn from Israel’s example?
15 Next, Isaiah records “the pronouncement against Damascus.” (Read Isaiah 17:1-6.) Damascus, to the north of Israel, is “the head of Syria.” (Isaiah 7:8) During the reign of King Ahaz of Judah, Rezin of Damascus in league with Pekah of Israel invades Judah. At Ahaz’ request, however, Assyrian Tiglath-pileser III wars against Damascus, conquering it and exiling many of its inhabitants. Thereafter, Damascus ceases to be a threat to Judah.
16 Likely because of Israel’s alliance with Damascus, Jehovah’s pronouncement against Damascus also includes expressions of judgment against the unfaithful northern kingdom. (Isaiah 17:3-6) Israel will become like a field at harvesttime with very little grain or like an olive tree from which most of the olives have been shaken from the branches. (Isaiah 17:4-6) What a sobering example for those who are dedicated to Jehovah! He expects exclusive devotion and accepts only heartfelt sacred service. And he hates those who turn against their brothers.
Full Confidence in Jehovah
17, 18. (a) How do some in Israel react to Jehovah’s pronouncements, but what is the general response? (b) How do events today resemble those of Hezekiah’s day?
17 Isaiah now says: “In that day earthling man will look up to his Maker, and his own eyes will gaze at the Holy One of Israel himself. And he will not look to the altars, the work of his hands; and at what his fingers have made he will not gaze, either at the sacred poles or at the incense stands.” (Isaiah 17:7, 8) Yes, some in Israel heed Jehovah’s warning pronouncement. For example, when Hezekiah sends an invitation to the inhabitants of Israel to join Judah in a celebration of the Passover, some Israelites respond and travel south to join their brothers in pure worship. (2 Chronicles 30:1-12) Still, most of Israel’s inhabitants mock the messengers bearing the invitation. The country is incurably apostate. Hence, Jehovah’s counsel against her is fulfilled. Assyria destroys Israel’s cities, the land becomes waste, the pastures unproductive.
18 What of today? Israel was an apostate nation. Hence, the way Hezekiah tried to help individuals in that nation to return to true worship reminds us of how true Christians today try to help individuals in the apostate organization of Christendom. Since 1919, couriers from “the Israel of God” have gone through Christendom, inviting people to share in pure worship. (Galatians 6:16) Most have refused. Many have mocked the messengers. Some, though, have responded. They now number into the millions, and they delight in ‘gazing at the Holy One of Israel,’ being educated by him. (Isaiah 54:13) They abandon worship at the unholy altars
19. Whom will Jehovah rebuke, and what will this mean for them?
19 What a contrast to those who put their trust in mortal man! Turbulent waves of violence and upheaval buffet humanity in these last days. “The sea” of restless, rebellious humanity churns up discontent and revolution. (Isaiah 57:20; Revelation 8:8, 9; 13:1) Jehovah will “rebuke” this noisy crowd. His heavenly Kingdom will destroy every trouble-making organization and individual, and these will “flee far away . . . like a thistle whirl before a storm wind.”
20. Despite being ‘plundered’ by the nations, what confidence do true Christians have?
20 The result? Isaiah says: “At evening time, why, look! there is sudden terror. Before morning
Ethiopia Brings a Gift to Jehovah
21, 22. Which nation next receives a judgment pronouncement, and how are Isaiah’s inspired words fulfilled?
21 On at least two occasions, Ethiopia, to the south of Egypt, has been involved in military action against Judah. (2 Chronicles 12:2, 3; 14:1, 9-15; 16:8) Now Isaiah predicts judgment on that nation: “Ha for the land of the whirring insects with wings, which is in the region of the rivers of Ethiopia!” (Read Isaiah 18:1-6.)* Jehovah decrees that Ethiopia will be ‘cut off, removed, and lopped off.’
22 Secular history tells us that in the latter part of the eighth century B.C.E., Ethiopia conquered Egypt and ruled it for some 60 years. Assyrian Emperors Esar-haddon and Ashurbanipal invaded in turn. With the destruction of Thebes by Ashurbanipal, Assyria subjugated Egypt, thus ending Ethiopian dominance over the Nile Valley. (See also Isaiah 20:3-6.) What about in modern times?
23. What part does the modern-day “Ethiopia” play, and why does it meet its end?
23 In Daniel’s prophecy of “the time of the end,” the aggressive “king of the north” is described as having Ethiopia and Libya “at his steps,” that is, responsive to his direction. (Daniel 11:40-43) Ethiopia is also mentioned as being in the battle forces of “Gog of the land of Magog.” (Ezekiel 38:2-5, 8) Gog’s forces, including the king of the north, meet their end when they attack Jehovah’s holy nation. Hence, Jehovah’s hand will also be stretched out against the modern-day “Ethiopia” because of its opposition to Jehovah’s sovereignty.
24. In what ways has Jehovah received “gifts” from the nations?
24 Yet, the prophecy also says: “In that time a gift will be brought to Jehovah of armies, from a people drawn out and scoured, even from a people fear-inspiring everywhere . . . to the place of the name of Jehovah of armies, Mount Zion.” (Isaiah 18:7) Although the nations do not recognize Jehovah’s sovereignty, they have at times acted in ways that benefit Jehovah’s people. In some lands the authorities have enacted legislation and rendered court decisions giving legal rights to faithful worshipers of Jehovah. (Acts 5:29; Revelation 12:15, 16) And there are other gifts. “Kings will bring gifts to you yourself. . . . Bronzeware things will come out of Egypt; Cush [Ethiopia] itself will quickly stretch out its hands with gifts to God.” (Psalm 68:29-31) Today, millions of modern-day “Ethiopians” who fear Jehovah are bringing “a gift” in the form of worship. (Malachi 1:11) They are sharing in the immense task of preaching the good news of the Kingdom in all the earth. (Matthew 24:14; Revelation 14:6, 7) What a fine gift to offer to Jehovah!
The Heart of Egypt Melts
25. In fulfillment of Isaiah 19:1-11, what happens to ancient Egypt?
25 Judah’s immediate neighbor to the south is Egypt, long an enemy of God’s covenant people. Isaiah chapter 19 recounts the unsettled state of affairs in Egypt during Isaiah’s lifetime. There is civil war in Egypt, with “city against city, kingdom against kingdom.” (Isaiah 19:2, 13, 14) Historians present evidence of rival dynasties ruling different parts of the country at the same time. The vaunted wisdom of Egypt, with her ‘valueless gods and charmers,’ does not save her from “the hand of a hard master.” (Isaiah 19:3, 4) Egypt is successively conquered by Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. All these events fulfill the prophecies of Isaiah 19:1-11.
26. In the larger fulfillment, how will inhabitants of modern-day “Egypt” react to Jehovah’s acts of judgment?
26 However, in the Bible, Egypt often symbolizes Satan’s world. (Ezekiel 29:3; Joel 3:19; Revelation 11:8) Therefore, does Isaiah’s “pronouncement against Egypt” have a larger fulfillment? Yes, indeed! The opening words of the prophecy should give everyone cause to take notice: “Look! Jehovah is riding on a swift cloud and coming into Egypt. And the valueless gods of Egypt will certainly quiver because of him, and the very heart of Egypt will melt in the midst of it.” (Isaiah 19:1) Jehovah will soon move against Satan’s organization. At that time, the gods of this system of things will be seen to be valueless. (Psalm 96:5; 97:7) “The very heart of Egypt will melt” in fear. Jesus foretold that time: “There will be . . . anguish of nations, not knowing the way out because of the roaring of the sea and its agitation, while men become faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth.”
27. What internal divisions were foretold for “Egypt,” and how is this being fulfilled today?
27 Of the time leading up to his execution of judgment, Jehovah says prophetically: “I will goad Egyptians against Egyptians, and they will certainly war each one against his brother, and each one against his companion, city against city, kingdom against kingdom.” (Isaiah 19:2) Since the establishment of God’s Kingdom in 1914, “the sign of [Jesus’] presence” has been marked by nation rising against nation and kingdom against kingdom. Tribal massacres, bloody genocides, and so-called ethnic cleansings have claimed millions of lives during these last days. Such “pangs of distress” will only get worse as the end draws nearer.
28. In the day of judgment, what will false religion be able to do to save this system of things?
28 “The spirit of Egypt must become bewildered in the midst of it, and I shall confuse its own counsel. And they will be certain to resort to the valueless gods and to the charmers and to the spirit mediums and to the professional foretellers of events.” (Isaiah 19:3) When Moses appeared before Pharaoh, the priests of Egypt were put to shame, unable to match Jehovah in power. (Exodus 8:18, 19; Acts 13:8; 2 Timothy 3:8) Similarly, in the day of judgment, false religion will be unable to save this corrupt system. (Compare Isaiah 47:1, 11-13.) Eventually, Egypt came under “a hard master,” Assyria. (Isaiah 19:4) This foreshadows the bleak future facing this system of things.
29. When Jehovah’s day comes, of what use will politicians be?
29 What, though, of the political leaders? Can they help? “The princes of Zoan are indeed foolish. As regards the wise ones of Pharaoh’s counselors, their counsel is something unreasonable.” (Read Isaiah 19:5-11.) How unreasonable to hope that human counselors will be of any use in the day of judgment! Even with all the world’s knowledge at their disposal, they lack godly wisdom. (1 Corinthians 3:19) They have rejected Jehovah and have turned to science so-called, philosophy, money, pleasure, and other substitute gods. As a result, they have no knowledge of God’s purposes. They are deceived and disconcerted. Their works are in vain. (Read Isaiah 19:12-15.) “The wise ones have become ashamed. They have become terrified and will be caught. Look! They have rejected the very word of Jehovah, and what wisdom do they have?”
A Sign and a Witness to Jehovah
30. In what way will ‘the ground of Judah become to Egypt a cause for reeling’?
30 However, while “Egypt’s” leaders are weak, “like women,” there are still some individuals who look for godly wisdom. Jehovah’s anointed ones and their companions ‘declare abroad God’s excellencies.’ (Isaiah 19:16; 1 Peter 2:9) They are doing what they can to warn people of the coming demise of Satan’s organization. Looking ahead to this situation, Isaiah says: “The ground of Judah must become to Egypt a cause for reeling. Everybody to whom one mentions it is in dread because of the counsel of Jehovah of armies that he is counseling against him.” (Isaiah 19:17) The faithful messengers of Jehovah go forth telling people the truth
31. How does it come to pass that “the language of Canaan” is spoken in cities of Egypt (a) in ancient times? (b) in modern times?
31 What is the surprising result of this proclamation work? “In that day there will prove to be five cities in the land of Egypt speaking the language of Canaan and swearing to Jehovah of armies. The City of Tearing Down will one city be called.” (Isaiah 19:18) In ancient times this prophecy was apparently fulfilled when the Hebrew language was spoken in Egyptian cities by Jews who had fled there. (Jeremiah 24:1, 8-10; 41:1-3; 42:9–43:7; 44:1) Today, there are people in the territory of modern-day “Egypt” who have learned to speak the “pure language” of Bible truth. (Zephaniah 3:9) One of the five figurative cities is called “The City of Tearing Down,” signifying that part of the “pure language” is related to exposing and “tearing down” Satan’s organization.
32. (a) What “altar” is in the midst of the land of Egypt? (b) How are the anointed like “a pillar” beside Egypt’s boundary?
32 Thanks to the proclamation work of Jehovah’s people, his great name will certainly become known in this system of things. “In that day there will prove to be an altar to Jehovah in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to Jehovah beside its boundary.” (Isaiah 19:19) These words point to the position of anointed Christians, who are in a covenant relationship with God. (Psalm 50:5) As “an altar” they are offering their sacrifices; as “a pillar and support of the truth,” they are bearing witness to Jehovah. (1 Timothy 3:15; Romans 12:1; Hebrews 13:15, 16) They are “in the midst of the land,” being found
33. In what ways are the anointed “a sign” and “a witness” in “Egypt”?
33 Isaiah continues: “It must prove to be for a sign and for a witness to Jehovah of armies in the land of Egypt; for they will cry out to Jehovah because of the oppressors, and he will send them a savior, even a grand one, who will actually deliver them.” (Isaiah 19:20) As “a sign” and “a witness,” the anointed take the lead in the preaching work and exalt Jehovah’s name in this system of things. (Isaiah 8:18; Hebrews 2:13) Throughout the world the cries of oppressed people can be heard, but by and large, human governments are unable to help them. However, Jehovah will send a Grand Savior, the King Jesus Christ, to liberate all the meek ones. When these last days reach their climax at the war of Armageddon, he will bring relief and everlasting blessings to God-fearing humans.
34. (a) How will Jehovah come to be known to “the Egyptians,” and what sacrifice and gift will they give to him? (b) When will Jehovah deal a blow to “Egypt,” and what healing will follow?
34 In the meantime, it is God’s will that all sorts of people gain accurate knowledge and be saved. (1 Timothy 2:4) Hence, Isaiah writes: “Jehovah will certainly become known to the Egyptians; and the Egyptians must know Jehovah in that day, and they must render sacrifice and gift and must make a vow to Jehovah and pay it. And Jehovah will certainly deal Egypt a blow. There will be a dealing of a blow and a healing; and they must return to Jehovah, and he must let himself be entreated by them and must heal them.” (Isaiah 19:21, 22) People from all nations of Satan’s world, individual “Egyptians,” come to know Jehovah and render him sacrifice, “the fruit of lips which make public declaration to his name.” (Hebrews 13:15) They make a vow to Jehovah by dedicating themselves to him, and they pay their vow by living a life of loyal service. Following the “blow” that Jehovah will deal this system of things at Armageddon, he will use his Kingdom to heal humankind. During Jesus’ Millennial Reign, mankind will be elevated to spiritual, mental, moral, and physical perfection
“Blessed Be My People”
35, 36. In fulfillment of Isaiah 19:23-25, what connections came to exist in ancient times between Egypt, Assyria, and Israel?
35 The prophet then foresees a remarkable development: “In that day there will come to be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and Assyria will actually come into Egypt, and Egypt into Assyria; and they will certainly render service, Egypt with Assyria. In that day Israel will come to be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, namely, a blessing in the midst of the earth, because Jehovah of armies will have blessed it, saying: ‘Blessed be my people, Egypt, and the work of my hands, Assyria, and my inheritance, Israel.’” (Isaiah 19:23-25) Yes, one day friendly relations will exist between Egypt and Assyria. How?
36 When Jehovah rescued his people from the nations in times past, he made for them highways to freedom, so to speak. (Isaiah 11:16; 35:8-10; 49:11-13; Jeremiah 31:21) A limited fulfillment of this prophecy took place after the defeat of Babylon when exiles from Assyria and Egypt, as well as from Babylon, were brought back to the Promised Land. (Isaiah 11:11) But what of modern times?
37. How do millions today live as though there were a highway between “Assyria” and “Egypt”?
37 Today, the remnant of anointed spiritual Israelites is “a blessing in the midst of the earth.” They promote true worship and are declaring the Kingdom message to people in all the nations. Some of these nations are like Assyria, heavily militaristic. Other nations are more liberal, perhaps like Egypt
38. (a) How will Israel “come to be the third with Egypt and with Assyria”? (b) Why does Jehovah say “Blessed be my people”?
38 How, though, does Israel “come to be the third with Egypt and with Assyria”? Early in “the time of the end,” most of those serving Jehovah on earth were members of “the Israel of God.” (Daniel 12:9; Galatians 6:16) Since the 1930’s, a great crowd of “other sheep,” with an earthly hope, have appeared. (John 10:16a; Revelation 7:9) Coming out of the nations
Some scholars suggest that the expression “land of the whirring insects with wings” refers to the locusts that occasionally swarm in Ethiopia. Others point out that the Hebrew word for “whirring,” tsela·tsalʹ, resembles in sound the name given to the tsetse fly, tsaltsalya, by the Galla, a Hamitic people living in modern Ethiopia.
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Philistine warriors charging their enemies (Egyptian carving from the 12th century B.C.E.)
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Stone relief of a Moabite warrior or god (between 11th and 8th century B.C.E.)
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Syrian warrior riding a camel (ninth century B.C.E.)
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“The sea” of rebellious humanity churns up discontent and revolution
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The priests of Egypt were unable to match Jehovah in power