Our notions of God often fall into one of two stereotypes: the commanding God of the Old Testament or the forgiving God of the New Testament. But such juxtaposition neglects the paradoxes of Scripture. He's omnipotent in both strength and weakness.
We associate power with strength because that's how power works in the world. The powerful have authority to get things done. Habakkuk's cry, "How long, O LORD" in 1:2-4 demonstrates a longing for God's power familiar to anyone who has ever wondered at his silence. But sometimes power expresses itself more subtly.
God displays both kinds of power in Scripture. He casts violent judgments upon individuals, cities, and even the entire human race. But he also tells us to turn the other cheek. He forgives people who have done horrible things, and through Jesus, humbly submits himself to death at the hands of the Roman authorities (Luke 22:39-23:56).
Jesus' meekness in surrendering himself to the cross reflects great power that's demonstrated in astounding love. Surely the disciples felt akin to Habakkuk as they watched Jesus die on the cross. But it was in this moment that he actually conquered sin by accepting the punishment we deserve. In redemption there is power; he does for us what we cannot do on our own. It is this power that transforms lives by bridging the gap between us and the holy, all-powerful God.
[Q] When, like Habakkuk, have you felt most frustrated by God's seeming lack of power?
[Q] Why do you think God has decided to display his power not only in strength but also in weakness?
Make a Change: "O God omnipotent, you are able to do that which you mercifully intend, in apparent weakness and in seeming strength. Help us to know and trust your power, if not fully comprehend it, that we might rest secure in the knowledge that nothing can alter your loving purpose toward us and your creation. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
For an expanded version of this study, download "God of Power, God of Love."