Happy Are Those Who Use Power Aright!
“Jehovah is slow to anger and great in power, and by no means will Jehovah hold back from punishing.”—NAHUM 1:3.
1. Why is a person’s having some kind of power no grounds for boasting?
THERE are many kinds of power that intelligent beings can exercise in a right way. Because of natural endowment or due to circumstances, we may possess some particular power of one kind or another. But is this grounds for boasting? Not at all. What do we read at Jeremiah 9:23? “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches.” (New International Version) Why not? The apostle Paul gives a good answer at 1 Corinthians 4:7: “Who makes you to differ from another? Indeed, what do you have that you did not receive? If, now, you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as though you did not receive it?”
2. Why do we need to be on guard when it comes to using power?
2 Why do we need to be on guard against the misuse of any power that we might have? Because “the inclination of the heart of man is bad from his youth up.” (Genesis 8:21) Since all of us have this inherited bent toward selfishness, we need always to be on guard that we use aright whatever power we have. A poet once expressed this thought: “Never a treasure without a following shade of care. Never a power without the lurk of a subtle snare.” Yes, because of inherited imperfection, there is always the tendency to use power selfishly.
Jehovah—Powerful but Also Wise and Just
3. What kinds of power reside in Jehovah?
3 None other than the Creator, Jehovah God, sets us a fine, yes, perfect, example in the use of power. He is not hasty but slow to anger even when there is need to express his power adversely. (Nahum 1:3) No one has greater power than God, for which reason we refer to him as the all-powerful One, the omnipotent One. He rightly applies the title “Almighty” to himself. (Genesis 17:1) Not only does he have full power in the sense of having unlimited strength, but he also has supreme power in that he has all authority by reason of his position as the Sovereign Lord of the universe, which he created. That is why no one can presume to ‘check his hand or say to him, “What are you doing?”’—Daniel 4:35.
4. Why is it the course of wisdom to fear Jehovah?
4 Because of the fact that Jehovah God is almighty, it is the course of wisdom for us to fear to displease him. Yes, “the fear of Jehovah is the start of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Most Holy One is what understanding is.” (Proverbs 9:10) Paul warns us not to incite Jehovah God to jealousy by engaging in any form of idolatry because “we are not stronger than he is, are we?” Absolutely not! (1 Corinthians 10:22) Yet, all who deliberately violate God’s righteous commands are acting as if they were stronger than Jehovah! Paul’s further words underscore this point: “Our God is also a consuming fire.”—Hebrews 12:29.
5. Why do we not need to have a morbid fear of Jehovah because of his almightiness?
5 These facts might cause us to be filled with a morbid fear or dread were it not that Jehovah God balances perfectly his almighty power with his three other cardinal attributes: wisdom, justice, and love. His use of power in an adverse way is always consonant, or consistent, with these qualities. For example, the Flood of Noah’s day was truly a great manifestation of Jehovah’s power. Yet was God’s exercise of power unjust or unloving? By no means! Mankind had so corrupted its way that God felt hurt at heart over what he saw. (Genesis 6:5-11) Since those wicked antediluvians were misusing God’s blessings, he acted properly in wiping the earth clean of them, especially since they ignored the warnings of the “preacher of righteousness,” Noah.—2 Peter 2:5.
6. Jehovah’s dealings with Sodom and Gomorrah show what?
6 When the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah showed themselves to be grossly depraved sinners, by abusing the blessings that they, as part of mankind, were enjoying at Jehovah’s hand, he decreed that the inhabitants should be destroyed. Out of consideration for his friend Abraham, Jehovah told that man of faith of His purpose regarding Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham seemed to think that this would be a great misuse of power, so he asked Jehovah: “Is the Judge of all the earth not going to do what is right?” Abraham, though, labored under a misapprehension. In the end, he had to grant that Jehovah’s decree was indeed righteous, for there could not be found even ten righteous souls in the two cities. Certainly this shows how careful Jehovah God is to use his power justly.—Genesis 18:17-33; Isaiah 41:8.
7. Why did Pharaoh merit receiving an adverse expression of Jehovah’s power?
7 Later, when it came time to deliver the Israelites from unjust slavery in Egypt, Jehovah gave Pharaoh the opportunity to cooperate. This would be without harm to Pharaoh and his people. But that ruler haughtily and stubbornly refused to grant Jehovah’s request. So God gave Pharaoh one demonstration of his power after another in the Ten Plagues on Egypt. (Exodus 9:16) After Pharaoh had let the Israelites go, he stubbornly continued to challenge Jehovah by pursuing the Israelites. Hence, Jehovah justly used his mighty power to wipe out Pharaoh and his military forces in the Red Sea. (Psalm 136:15) In each instance, let it be noted, Jehovah also used his great power to preserve his faithful servants: Noah and his family, Lot and his two daughters, and the nation of Israel.—Genesis 19:16.
8. For what good reason did Jehovah deal with Sennacherib the way he did?
8 Centuries later, in the time of King Hezekiah, Jehovah God manifested his great power in a most striking and righteous way when the Assyrian monarch Sennacherib threatened Jerusalem. Jehovah’s people, with God-fearing and loyal King Hezekiah at their head, appealed to Him for help. They were serving him faithfully, so God acted on their behalf. The emissary of King Sennacherib, on the other hand, had boasted: ‘Do not listen to Hezekiah, do not let him allure you by promising that Jehovah will deliver you. Have any of the gods of the other nations been able to deliver their people out of Sennacherib’s hand? Since none of these gods were able to do so, why do you imagine that Jehovah will be able to deliver you?’ (Isaiah 36:13-20) Because of such a boast, God simply had to exert his great power, causing 185,000 soldiers to fall in one night, proving that there was, indeed, a difference between the gods of the nations and Jehovah.
9. What other examples can be cited that show that Jehovah is careful as to how he uses power?
9 Consider just a few more of the many examples that could be given. When Jehovah struck Miriam with leprosy, that was a perfectly just and wise expression of his power. Miriam deserved such punishment for speaking so presumptuously against her brother Moses, God’s appointed one. (Numbers 12:1-15) It was similar when King Uzziah brazenly invaded the sacred temple sanctuary and presumed to offer up incense upon the golden altar, haughtily refusing to be dissuaded by the Levite priests. Jehovah showed his power by justly smiting the king with leprosy. (2 Chronicles 26:16-21) Even as their sins were not to the same degree, so was Jehovah’s punishment of them: Miriam’s leprosy was temporary, but Uzziah died a leper. We can thus see that at all times Jehovah is careful to use his power in a wise and just way, being able to preserve the faithful who love him and to destroy the wicked.—Psalm 145:20.
The Example of Jesus Christ
10, 11. What incidents show that Jesus was concerned with using power aright?
10 God’s Son was truly a fine imitator of his Father in the use of power. Among the earliest instances was the time when Satan disputed with him over the body of Moses. The Logos could easily have censured Satan severely. Instead, the Logos leaned over backward, so to speak, to let the rebuke come from Jehovah God himself.—Jude 8, 9.
11 The very first temptation that Satan presented to Jesus in the wilderness was related to this matter of misusing power. Satan tempted Jesus to use his supernatural power for a selfish purpose, to turn stones into food. This was quite a temptation because Jesus had not eaten for 40 days, and “he felt hungry.” Satan presented this temptation in such a way as to trap Jesus into taking a selfish course, for he began with, “IF you are a son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” He no doubt hoped that Jesus would respond, ‘Why of course I am a son of God, and to prove it I’ll turn those stones into bread.’ Jesus, rather than being tempted or trapped into acting selfishly or foolishly, replied: “It is written, ‘Man must live, not on bread alone, but on every utterance coming forth through Jehovah’s mouth.’” (Matthew 4:1-4) He ignored the implied doubt as to whether he was a son of God, and he refused to misuse the power with which God had endowed him.
12. How did Jesus further show that he was not greedy for power?
12 Later, after Jesus Christ had fed 5,000 men besides many women and children, the Jews wanted to make him king. Had he accepted their offer, that would have been a misuse of the power he had to influence people through his miracles. He knew he had to keep neutral as to worldly politics and to wait for Jehovah God to give him kingship. (John 6:1-15) Still later, when the mob came to take him prisoner, he could have asked for 12 legions of angels and thereby prevented his being taken prisoner. However, that would have been a misuse of power, for it was his Father’s will that he submit.—Matthew 26:39, 53.
Others Who Did Not Misuse Power
13, 14. (a) What fine example did Gideon set, showing he was not greedy for power? (b) How did Saul set a good example when he first became king?
13 Among imperfect humans who resisted the temptation to misuse power, Judge Gideon must be mentioned. After he delivered Israel from the hand of Midian, the people wanted to make him their king. Gideon refused, rightly stating: “I myself shall not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. Jehovah is the one who will rule over you.” Yes, the modesty that he displayed at the very beginning of his career as judge was still present. And Gideon’s response reflected the way Jehovah God himself felt about Israel’s having a human king. We can recognize that in God’s response to Israel’s wanting a king in the time of prophet Samuel.—Judges 8:23; 6:12-16; 1 Samuel 8:7.
14 When, nonetheless, a king was chosen, Saul at first set a fine example of restraint in the use of power. Some good-for-nothing men said: “‘How will this one save us?’ Accordingly they despised him . . . But he continued like one grown speechless.” He could have acted rashly, with his kingly power, but he did not. Similarly, after Saul had gained the victory over the Ammonites, some of his people thought this would be a fine time to pay back those who had despised Saul. So they said to him: “Who is it saying, ‘Saul—is he to be king over us?’ Give the men over, that we may put them to death.” Saul, though, was not of that mind at all. He countered: “Not a man should be put to death on this day, because today Jehovah has performed salvation in Israel.” We can see that Saul indeed started out well and in modesty. (1 Samuel 9:21; 10:20-23, 27; 11:12, 13) How sad that he began to misuse his royal power and so came to a bad end!—1 Samuel 28:6; 31:3-6.
15, 16. (a) Judge Samuel was able to give what testimony as to his use of judicial power? (b) What like example did King David provide?
15 Samuel, the prophet who also judged Israel, set a fine example. God used him mightily from his earliest youth on. Samuel justly judged his people and effected deliverance for them. Did he ever take advantage of his position for selfish gain? Absolutely not! He said in his farewell speech to the people: “Here I have listened to your voice as respects all that you have said to me, that I should cause a king to reign over you . . . Here I am. Answer against me in front of Jehovah and in front of his anointed one: Whose bull have I taken or whose ass have I taken or whom have I defrauded or whom have I crushed or from whose hand have I accepted hush money that I should hide my eyes with it?” His people had to admit that Samuel’s course was blameless in all these matters. He had not misused the power of his judicial office.—1 Samuel 12:1-5.
16 Nor ought we to overlook the fine example David set. Twice he had King Saul within his power and could have killed him. David could have reasoned: ‘Saul is out to get my life, so it is his or mine.’ Or he might selfishly have reasoned: ‘Since Samuel has anointed me to be the coming king of Israel, this is the way it must come about eventually. Why not now?’ No, David waited patiently until it was Jehovah’s time to give him the kingdom. (1 Samuel 24:1-22; 26:1-25) However, sad to say, after David became king, on two occasions he misused his power: in causing the death of Uriah and in numbering Israel’s army.—2 Samuel 11:15; 24:2-4, 12-14.
17. How did Paul show that he was never greedy and that he did not misuse his power?
17 Among the followers of Jesus Christ, the apostle Paul set a fine example in this regard. He could have demanded support from the congregations he served. But he did not take advantage of this. He told the elders of Ephesus: “I have coveted no man’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands have attended to the needs of me and of those with me.” (Acts 20:33, 34) When writing to the congregation at Corinth, the apostle expressed himself even more strongly on this point. (1 Corinthians 9:1-18) He had authority to refrain from secular work, for whoever serves as a soldier at his own expense? Did not Moses say not to muzzle the bull that is threshing out the grain? “But,” Paul explained, “I have not made use of a single one of these provisions.” What was his reward? “That while declaring the good news I may furnish the good news without cost, to the end that I may not abuse my authority in the good news.”
18. (a) How should we feel about Jehovah’s fine use of power? (b) Why can those who imitate him in this respect be said to be happy?
18 Truly it can be said, ‘Happy are all those who do not abuse their power.’ What an excellent name Jehovah God has because of setting such a fine example, letting his almighty power always be balanced by his other attributes of wisdom, justice, and love! We can, thus, say with the psalmist David: “Bless Jehovah, O my soul, even everything within me, his holy name.” (Psalm 103:1) All who have followed Jehovah’s example in the proper use of power are indeed happy. The examples we have considered from the Scriptures prove that even though we are imperfect humans, we, too, can use aright the power that we have. Doing so, we can have not only a clear conscience but also the approval of God and the respect of our fellowmen.
Do You Recall?
□ Why is counsel regarding the misuse of power necessary?
□ What examples show that Jehovah God uses his power aright?
□ Why can it be said that Jesus was careful not to misuse power?
□ What Hebrew Scripture characters showed that they did not abuse power?
□ How did the apostle Paul show himself exemplary in the use of power?
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Jehovah’s principal qualities are perfectly balanced
Love Power Justice Wisdom
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God justly displayed his power:
by the Flood
at Sodom and Gomorrah
at the Red Sea