1, 2. What amazing things had Elijah seen in his life, but what spectacular events did he witness from the cave on Mount Horeb?
ELIJAH had seen amazing things before. He had seen ravens carrying food to him twice a day while he lived in hiding. He had seen two containers supplying flour and oil throughout a long famine and never emptying. He had even seen fire falling from the sky in response to his prayer. (1 Kings, chapters 17, 18) Still, Elijah had never seen anything like this.
2 As he huddled near the mouth of a cave on Mount Horeb, he witnessed a series of spectacular events. First there was a wind. It must have made a howling, deafening roar, for it was so powerful that it sundered mountains and shattered crags. Next there was an earthquake, unleashing immense forces pent up in the earth’s crust. Then came a fire. As it swept through the region, Elijah likely felt the blast of its searing heat.—1 Kings 19:8-12.
“Look! Jehovah was passing by”
3. Elijah witnessed evidence of what divine attribute, and where can we see evidence of this same quality?
3 All these diverse events that Elijah witnessed had one thing in common—they were demonstrations of Jehovah God’s great power. Of course, we do not need to witness a miracle to discern that God possesses this attribute. It is readily apparent. The Bible tells us that creation gives proof of Jehovah’s “eternal power and Godship.” (Romans 1:20) Just think of the blinding flashes and rumbling booms of a thunderstorm, the glorious cascade of a mighty waterfall, the overwhelming vastness of a starry sky! Do you not see the power of God in such displays? Yet, few in today’s world truly recognize God’s power. Still fewer view it properly. Understanding this divine attribute, though, gives us many reasons for drawing closer to Jehovah. In this section, we embark upon a detailed study of Jehovah’s matchless power.
An Essential Attribute of Jehovah
4, 5. (a) What link is there between Jehovah’s name and his mightiness, or power? (b) Why is it fitting that Jehovah chose the bull to symbolize his power?
4 Jehovah is unique in power. Jeremiah 10:6 says: “In no way is there anyone like you, O Jehovah. You are great, and your name is great in mightiness.” Note that mightiness, or power, is linked with Jehovah’s name. Remember, this name evidently means “He Causes to Become.” What enables Jehovah to create anything he wants and to become whatever he chooses? Power, for one thing. Yes, Jehovah’s ability to act, to carry out his will, is unlimited. Such power is one of his essential attributes.
5 Because we could never grasp the full extent of his power, Jehovah uses illustrations to help us. As we have seen, he uses the bull to symbolize his power. (Ezekiel 1:4-10) That choice is apt, for even the domesticated bull is a huge and powerful creature. People in the Palestine of Bible times rarely, if ever, faced anything stronger. But they did know of a more fearsome sort of bull—the wild bull, or aurochs, which has since become extinct. (Job 39:9-12) Roman Emperor Julius Caesar once observed that these bulls were scarcely smaller than elephants. “Great is their strength,” he wrote, “and great their speed.” Imagine how tiny and weak you would feel standing in the shadow of such a creature!
6. Why is Jehovah alone called “the Almighty”?
6 Similarly, man is puny and powerless when compared with the God of power, Jehovah. To him, even mighty nations are like a mere film of dust on a pair of scales. (Isaiah 40:15) Unlike any creature, Jehovah has unlimited power, for he alone is called “the Almighty.”* (Revelation 15:3) Jehovah is “vigorous in power” and possesses an “abundance of dynamic energy.” (Isaiah 40:26) He is the ever-plentiful, inexhaustible source of power. He depends upon no outside source for energy, for “strength belongs to God.” (Psalm 62:11) By what means, though, does Jehovah exert his power?
How Jehovah Exerts His Power
7. What is Jehovah’s holy spirit, and what is suggested by the original-language words used in the Bible?
7 Holy spirit pours forth from Jehovah in limitless supply. It is God’s power in action. In fact, at Genesis 1:2, the Bible refers to it as God’s “active force.” The original Hebrew and Greek words that are rendered “spirit” may, in other contexts, be translated “wind,” “breath,” and “blast.” According to lexicographers, the original-language words suggest an invisible force in action. Like wind, God’s spirit is invisible to our eyes, but its effects are real and discernible.
8. In the Bible, what is God’s spirit figuratively called, and why are these comparisons fitting?
8 God’s holy spirit is endlessly versatile. Jehovah can use it to carry out any purpose that he has in mind. Aptly, then, in the Bible, God’s spirit is figuratively called his “finger,” his “strong hand,” or his “outstretched arm.” (Luke 11:20; Deuteronomy 5:15; Psalm 8:3) Just as a man might apply his hand to a wide range of tasks requiring varying degrees of strength or finesse, so God can use his spirit to accomplish any purpose—such as creating the infinitesimal atom or parting the Red Sea or enabling first-century Christians to speak in foreign tongues.
9. How extensive is Jehovah’s ruling power?
9 Jehovah also exerts power through his authority as Universal Sovereign. Can you imagine having millions upon millions of intelligent, able subjects eager to do your bidding? Jehovah wields such ruling power. He has human servants, in Scripture often likened to an army. (Psalm 68:11; 110:3) A human is a weak creature, though, compared with an angel. Why, when the Assyrian army attacked God’s people, a single angel killed 185,000 of those soldiers in one night! (2 Kings 19:35) God’s angels are “mighty in power.”—Psalm 103:19, 20.
10. (a) Why is the Almighty called Jehovah of armies? (b) Who is the mightiest of all of Jehovah’s creations?
10 How many angels are there? The prophet Daniel had a vision of heaven in which he saw well over 100 million spirit creatures before Jehovah’s throne, but there is no indication that he saw the entire angelic creation. (Daniel 7:10) So there may be hundreds of millions of angels. God is thus called Jehovah of armies. This title describes his powerful position as Commander of a vast, organized array of mighty angels. Above all these spirit creatures, he has placed one in charge, his own beloved Son, “the firstborn of all creation.” (Colossians 1:15) As the archangel—chief over all the angels, seraphs, and cherubs—Jesus is the mightiest of all of Jehovah’s creations.
11, 12. (a) In what ways does God’s word exert power? (b) How did Jesus attest to the extent of Jehovah’s power?
11 Jehovah has yet another means of exerting power. Hebrews 4:12 says: “The word of God is alive and exerts power.” Have you observed the phenomenal power of God’s word, or spirit-inspired message, now preserved in the Bible? It can strengthen us, build up our faith, and help us make profound changes in ourselves. The apostle Paul warned fellow believers against people engaged in grossly immoral life-styles. Then he added: “Yet that is what some of you were.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) Yes, “the word of God” had exerted its power in them and helped them to change.
12 Jehovah’s power is so immense and his means of exerting it are so effective that nothing can stand in his way. Jesus said: “With God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26) To what purposes does Jehovah direct his power?
Power Guided by Purpose
13, 14. (a) Why can we say that Jehovah is no impersonal source of power? (b) In what ways does Jehovah use his power?
13 Jehovah’s spirit is something far greater than any physical force; and Jehovah is no impersonal force, a mere source of power. He is a personal God in full control of his own power. What, though, moves him to use it?
14 As we shall see, God uses power to create, to destroy, to protect, to restore—in short, to do whatever suits his perfect purposes. (Isaiah 46:10) In some instances, Jehovah uses his power to reveal important aspects of his personality and standards. Above all, he directs his power to fulfill his will—to vindicate his sovereignty and sanctify his holy name by means of the Messianic Kingdom. Nothing can ever thwart that purpose.
15. Jehovah uses his power for what purpose in connection with his servants, and how was this demonstrated in Elijah’s case?
15 Jehovah also uses his power to benefit us as individuals. Note what 2 Chronicles 16:9 says: “As regards Jehovah, his eyes are roving about through all the earth to show his strength in behalf of those whose heart is complete toward him.” Elijah’s experience, mentioned at the outset, is a case in point. Why did Jehovah give him that awesome demonstration of divine power? Well, wicked Queen Jezebel had vowed to have Elijah executed. The prophet was on the run, fleeing for his life. He felt alone, frightened, and discouraged—as if all his hard work had been in vain. To comfort the troubled man, Jehovah vividly reminded Elijah of divine power. The wind, the earthquake, and the fire showed that the most powerful Being in the universe was there with Elijah. What had he to fear from Jezebel, with the almighty God on his side?—1 Kings 19:1-12.*
16. Why can we take comfort in contemplating Jehovah’s great power?
16 Although now is not his time for performing miracles, Jehovah has not changed since Elijah’s day. (1 Corinthians 13:8) He is just as eager today to use his power in behalf of those who love him. True, he dwells in a lofty spirit realm, but he is not far off from us. His power is limitless, so distance is no barrier. Rather, “Jehovah is near to all those calling upon him.” (Psalm 145:18) Once when the prophet Daniel called upon Jehovah for help, an angel appeared before he had even finished praying! (Daniel 9:20-23) Nothing can prevent Jehovah from helping and strengthening those whom he loves.—Psalm 118:6.
Does God’s Power Make Him Unapproachable?
17. In what sense does Jehovah’s power promote fear in us, but what kind of fear does it not promote?
17 Should God’s power cause us to fear him? We must answer both yes and no. Yes, in that this attribute gives us ample reason for godly fear, the profound awe and respect we discussed briefly in the preceding chapter. Such fear, the Bible tells us, is “the beginning of wisdom.” (Psalm 111:10) We also answer no, however, in that God’s power gives us no reason to feel a morbid dread of him or to shy away from approaching him.
18. (a) Why do many mistrust powerful people? (b) How do we know that Jehovah cannot be corrupted by his power?
18 “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” So wrote English nobleman Lord Acton in 1887. His statement has often been repeated, perhaps because so many people see it as undeniably true. Imperfect humans often abuse power, as history has confirmed again and again. (Ecclesiastes 4:1; 8:9) For this reason, many mistrust the powerful and withdraw from them. Now, Jehovah has absolute power. Has it corrupted him in any way? Certainly not! As we have seen, he is holy, utterly incorruptible. Jehovah is unlike the imperfect men and women of power in this corrupt world. He has never abused his power, and he never will.
19, 20. (a) In harmony with what other qualities does Jehovah always exercise his power, and why is this reassuring? (b) How might you illustrate Jehovah’s self-restraint, and why is it appealing to you?
19 Remember, power is not Jehovah’s sole attribute. We have yet to study his justice, his wisdom, and his love. But we should not assume that Jehovah’s attributes come to the fore in a rigid, mechanical manner, as if he exercised only one quality at a time. On the contrary, we will see in the ensuing chapters that Jehovah always exercises his power in harmony with his justice, his wisdom, and his love. Think about another quality that God possesses, one that is rarely present in worldly rulers—self-restraint.
20 Imagine meeting a man so huge and powerful that you feel intimidated by him. However, in time you notice that he seems gentle. He is ever ready and eager to use his power to help and protect people, especially the defenseless and vulnerable. He never abuses his strength. You see him slandered without cause, yet his demeanor is firm but calm, dignified, even kind. You find yourself wondering if you would be able to show the same gentleness and restraint, especially if you were that strong! As you come to know such a man, would you not begin to feel drawn to him? We have far more reason for drawing close to the almighty Jehovah. Consider the full sentence that is the basis for the title of this chapter: “Jehovah is slow to anger and great in power.” (Nahum 1:3) Jehovah is not quick to use his power against people, not even the wicked. He is mild-tempered and kind. He has proved to be “slow to anger” in the face of many provocations.—Psalm 78:37-41.
21. Why does Jehovah refrain from forcing people to do his will, and what does this teach us about him?
21 Consider Jehovah’s self-restraint from a different angle. If you had unlimited power, do you think you might, at times, be tempted to make people do things your way? Jehovah, with all his power, does not coerce people to serve him. Even though serving God is the only way to everlasting life, Jehovah does not force us into such service. Rather, he kindly dignifies each individual with freedom to choose. He warns of the consequences of bad choices and tells of the rewards of good choices. But the choice itself, he leaves to us. (Deuteronomy 30:19, 20) Jehovah simply has no interest in service performed out of coercion or out of morbid fear of his awesome power. He seeks those who will serve him willingly, out of love.—2 Corinthians 9:7.
22, 23. (a) What shows that Jehovah delights in empowering others? (b) What will we consider in the next chapter?
22 Let us look at a final reason why we need not live in dread of Almighty God. Powerful humans tend to be fearful of sharing power with others. Jehovah, however, delights in empowering his loyal worshipers. He delegates considerable authority to others, such as his Son. (Matthew 28:18) Jehovah also empowers his servants in another way. The Bible explains: “Yours, O Jehovah, are the greatness and the mightiness and the beauty and the excellency and the dignity; for everything in the heavens and in the earth is yours. . . . In your hand there are power and mightiness, and in your hand is ability to make great and to give strength to all.”—1 Chronicles 29:11, 12.
23 Yes, Jehovah will be pleased to give you strength. He even imparts “power beyond what is normal” to those who want to serve him. (2 Corinthians 4:7) Do you not feel drawn to this dynamic God, who uses his power in such kind and principled ways? In the next chapter, we will focus on how Jehovah uses his power to create.
The Greek word rendered “Almighty” literally means “Ruler Over All; One Who Has All Power.”
The Bible states that “Jehovah was not in the wind . . . , the quaking . . . , the fire.” Unlike worshipers of mythical nature gods, Jehovah’s servants do not look for him within the forces of nature. He is far too great to be contained within anything that he has created.—1 Kings 8:27.