POWER/ABILITY: koakh. Masculine Noun. (Strong’s 3581).
Sounds like: koe’akh
There’s nothing cooler in the cinema these days than a super hero… men and women who have some sort of extraordinary power. Maybe they have superhuman strength, or the ability to fly, the ability to teleport, or the ability to read minds. All of those things are abilities, impossible though they be. And that is what power is in the Bible; power is not strength (although strength could be a power). Power is the ability someone or something has. The question is, what is your power?
The first time this word, koakh, shows up in the Bible the word isn’t connected to God or humans, it is connected to the power of creation, which is quite remarkable really. We see power in creation every day… the way the sun shines, the awe of a thunderstorm, the wild winds of Prince Edward Island. The Bible’s first mention of the word, koakh, was in relation to the earth’s ability (power) to produce crops.
Cain, the farmer, spilled his brothers blood onto the earth and as a result the earth would no longer yield its power over to him. What the earth was able to do, (produce crops), it would no longer share with Cain. Cain’s days as a farmer were over:
Then YHWH said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”
He [YHWH] said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground. Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you cultivate the ground, it will no longer yield its strength power/ability [kokhah] to you; you will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth.”
Humans were created to be image-bearers of God; we were to be caretakers and subduers of the earth; we were called to carefully cultivate the earth and encourage nature to flourish. But humans didn’t want to be image-bearers of God, they wanted to be gods themselves. Cain tried to be a god and used his abilities to take the life of his brother. As a result he could no longer farm the earth. The earth recognized that he was not a benevolent care-taker, he was a merciless life-taker.
Creation made with YHWH’s POWER
The power of creation is quite an amazing thing, but it was through the power of YHWH that creation came into being. The word koakh (power) appeared five times in the book of Jeremiah (Jer.10:12, 27:5, 32:17, 48:45, 51:15). Four of those times it was associated with the power of creation:
YHWH: “I have made the earth, the men and the beasts which are on the face of the earth by My great power [b’kokhi ha-gadol] and by My outstretched arm, and I will give it to the one who is pleasing in My sight.”
Jeremiah constantly opposed the paganism that had creeped into Jewish life. The gods who did not make the heavens and the earth would die away, they had no existence beyond the existence that humans gave them:
But YHWH is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure His indignation. Thus you shall say to them, “The gods that did not make the heavens and the earth will perish from the earth and from under the heavens.” It is He who made the earth by His power [b’kokhow], Who established the world by His wisdom; and by His understanding He has stretched out the heavens.
The heavens are reflections of God’s power/abilities. Isaiah and the Psalmist used the imagery of stars to highlight YHWH’s power:
He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to all of them. Great is our Lord and abundant in strength power [koakh]; His understanding is infinite.
Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these stars, the One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; because of the greatness of His
might vigour [ownim] and the strength might [wey-amitz] of His power [koakh], not one of them is missing.
Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, “My way is hidden from YHWH, and the justice due me escapes the notice of my God”? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, YHWH, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable.
strength power [koakh] to the weary, and to him who lacks might vigour [ownim] He increases power might [atz’mah].
Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for YHWH will gain new
strength power [koakh]; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.
The play between words vigour [ohn], might [ammits], and power [koakh] gets tossed about by most translations and the word strength often gets substituted into the picture. But koakh isn’t about strength, it’s about the abilities you have been given. It’s your “super-power” so to speak.
YHWH has ultimate POWER
YHWH is the ultimate super-power; He is the Most Able, and YHWH’s amazing abilities were often used to make a point:
YHWH to Pharaoh: “Let My people go, that they may serve Me. For this time I will send all My plagues on you and your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is no one like Me in all the earth. For if by now I had put forth My hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, you would then have been cut off from the earth. But, indeed, for this reason I have allowed you to remain, in order to show you My power [kokhi] and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth. Still you exalt yourself against My people by not letting them go.”
This was the critical moment in Jewish history, when God freed the people through the event of Passover. He led them out of Egypt and directed them to the promised land. It was through God’s great power that this was achieved.
ANGELS have been given POWER
The Heavenly Host, or YHWH’s “crew” also have power. Angels (God’s messengers) have mighty abilities which they use to obediently serve God:
YHWH has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all.
Bless YHWH, you His angels, mighty in
strength power/ability [koakh], who perform His word, obeying the voice of His word!
Bless YHWH, all you His hosts, you who serve Him, doing His will. Bless YHWH, all you works of His, in all places of His dominion; Bless YHWH, O my soul!
God does not reserve power for heavenly beings alone. Throughout the Tanakh (Old Testament) it was made very clear that God gave power/ability to humans. YOU have been given power through YHWH.
The prophet Micah recognized that YHWH gave him power:
On the other hand, I am filled with power/ability [koakh]— with the Spirit of YHWH— and with justice and courage to make known to Jacob his rebellious act, even to Israel his sin.
Micah’s power was to courageously stand up and point out Israel’s sin… to get them out of their sin and into righteous living. But that power, he recognized, came through the Spirit of YHWH.
Don’t rely on your own POWER
Humans have many abilities. We study and work hard to gain new powers. We get degrees and certificates to further our careers. We practise to fine tune our abilities. We take great pride in the things we can do. The Tanakh warns us that we should never boast in our own power or abilities:
“He [YHWH] led you through the great and terrible wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water; He brought water for you out of the rock of flint. In the wilderness He fed you manna which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do good for you in the end. Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power [kokhi] and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’”
“But you shall remember YHWH your God, for it is He who is giving you power [koach] to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.”
Our abilities are not our own. Our power comes from YHWH. But if we are weighed down by sin, our power will fail because we are not relying on God, we are relying on ourselves. No matter what power we possess, if we don’t seek God out, our abilities are of little use:
The king is not saved by a mighty army; a warrior is not delivered by great
strength power/ability [koakh]. A horse is a false hope for victory; nor does it deliver anyone by its great strength valour [khelow].
Behold, the eye of YHWH is on those who fear Him, on those who hope for His lovingkindness, to deliver their soul from death and to keep them alive in famine.
Ultimately it’s not the might, or power, of the world which will ultimately reign, but the Spirit of YHWH:
Then he said to me, “This is the word of YHWH to Zerubbabel saying, ‘Not by might nor by power [b’koakh], but by My Spirit,’ says YHWH of hosts.
Use your God given POWER
God-followers have been given power through the Spirit, but we must not use it for ourselves.. we have a job to do:
Get yourself up on a high mountain, O Zion, bearer of good news, lift up your voice mightily with power [ba-koakh], O Jerusalem, bearer of good news; lift it up, do not fear. Say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!”
The Good News was that YHWH promised a redeemer, a King who would be in the midst of Zion. And that Messiah would take on the sins of the world and overcome death. In the week of Passover, he would be the sacrificial lamb, put on trial and executed to save the world. But he would only be on the earth for a short period of time. Afterwards, it would be the Spirit that would give us power.
POWER through the Spirit
John 14:16-17, 25-27
Jesus: “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you… These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”
He spoke of a time when the Spirit would be sent to dwell within each follower of God and this would be even more amazing than having Jesus (Yeshua) on earth. Yeshua could only travel so far, but with the Spirit in each follower, the power of YHWH could much more quickly reach the ends of the earth!
“But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.”
“I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.”
The words the disciples could not bear to hear at that time was the details of his upcoming death. Not long after, Yeshua would be arrested, tried, and executed.
Messiah at the right hand of POWER
When Yeshua was put on trial, it was the word power [dynameos, in Greek] that really condemned him:
Some stood up and began to give false testimony against Him [Jesus], saying, “We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands.’” Not even in this respect was their testimony consistent. The high priest stood up and came forward and questioned Jesus, saying, “Do You not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?” But He kept silent and did not answer.
Again the high priest was questioning Him, and saying to Him, “Are You the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”
And Jesus said, “I Am; and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”
Tearing his clothes, the high priest said, “What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy; how does it seem to you?” And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death. Some began to spit at Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him with their fists, and to say to Him, “Prophesy!” And the officers received Him with slaps in the face.
They all knew exactly what Jesus meant when he said he would sit at the right hand of Power. The Great Able One, the One who spoke the world into existence, the All-Power-filled God was the One who promised the Messiah. Jesus was claiming to be the Anointed One, the Son of God. And they nailed him on the cross for it.
Psalm 22 outlined the agony that the Messiah would experience on the cross:
Many bulls have surrounded me; strong bulls of Bashan have encircled me. They open wide their mouth at me, as a ravening and a roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; It is melted within me.
strength power/ability [kokhi] is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaves to my jaws; and You lay me in the dust of death. For dogs have surrounded me; a band of evildoers has encompassed me; they pierced my hands and my feet.
I can count all my bones. They look, they stare at me; They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots. But You, O YHWH, be not far off; O You my help, hasten to my assistance.
Many scholars have made the connection between Psalm 22 and the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ death (pierced hands and feet, his garment divided and lots cast, no bones were broken, the mocking of him, and the general horror of it all), but note the line, “my power is dried up like a potsherd”. While Jesus was on the cross all the abilities he had were stripped from him. He was completely powerless. As he was fed the sins of humanity there was nothing he could do but swallow them whole. The weight of what he had to carry would have been crushing.
Clothed with POWER
But He came back. Death could not hold Him down and His power was returned. When Yeshua came back to his disciples He spoke these words:
Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”
Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising God.
What did this mean, clothed with power from on high? This was the receiving of the Spirit found in Acts 2, where the Spirit of God fell on the people like fire. This event occurred on the day of the Jewish festival known as Shavuot (feast of weeks); in Greek it was called Pentecost. This was an alarming phenomenon and it occurred in Jerusalem during one of the busiest times of the year. Thousands would have been overcome with bewilderment, and at that moment Peter took the opportunity to deliver a sermon:
Acts 2:22-24, 32-33
“Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know— this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.”
…“This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.”
The power/ability of death had no hold over God… and through Yeshua’s death it no longer had a hold on humanity. For followers of YHWH, life could not be snuffed out. Death on this earth would only be a gateway to eternal life with Him.
In the final book of the B’rit Chadashah (New Testament) the great creatures and elders of John’s Revelation make this claim:
Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honour and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.
God was worthy to receive power, but God doesn’t NEED anything from us, really. He doesn’t need more glory or more honour or more power… but He will accept any genuine offering we give. By offering glory, we ourselves become more glorified. By honouring God in our lives we become honoured in His sight. By offering our abilities we can become powerful vessels in the name of our Saviour, by the way of His Spirit.
The apostle Paul was filled with the power of the Spirit and he recognized what true power was. Just as God’s concept of kingship was upside down from how the world saw kingship, a true king wasn’t to raise himself up above others, but was to lay his life down in front of his subjects. The same was to be said about power. Power wasn’t about showing off your might, it was about exposing your weakness and being vulnerable and letting God become your power:
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of [the] Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”
Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Messiah may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Messiah’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
We think human “power” comes in the form of wealth, prestige and notoriety, but that’s not what it’s about. Our real super-power comes from having the Spirit of the Messiah dwell within us. Each breath we take is given to us by YHWH… but by laying it all down in front of our Creator, as an offering, He will take our lives upon Himself and allow our Spirits to soar!
Next week: Gate