Power: Like a Bridegroom Coming out of His Chamber

God is all powerful. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. In the beginning God commanded, and words crackled and burst into flowers and leopards and stars and Eve. In the beginning God spoke, and the words were obedient and became flesh and then they kept on speaking. In the beginning the words became light and heaven, moons and seas, dragons and chickadees, chipmunks and a man. And since they are words, they speak. They speak with their fins and their claws and their snouts and their molecular compositions. They speak in obedience, in submission, under the thrall of their Omnipotent Speaker. And they all have the same message in their varying tongues; they all say the same word in their pentacostal way. They all say “glory.” They all thunder and chirp and buzz and clap and shout the word “glory.” And at the center of this world, in the midst of this cacophony of words, the voice that seems to rise above the others is an enormous globe of fire, a thermonuclear explosion held together by angels and magic. The heavens declare the glory of God, and they are lit up by the sun which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber and rejoices like a strong man to run its race. They all shout power; they all sing strength; they all say glory. For God to have created the world, for God to command the world into existence and for those very commands to in turn perform and beckon and speak is for God to be full of power and authority and strength. Isaiah says, “Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name, by the greatness of His might and the strength of His power; not one is missing.” (Is. 40:26)

God’s power is His freedom. God is not bound. God is not limited. God is not hemmed in. Even the nothingness has potential. There are no dead ends, and this is evidenced by the existence of zebras and killer bees and cheese cake and comets and belly buttons. God is at ease, and the heavens declare His glory. The firmament stretches out to the horizon unveiling the sculpture of the universe: too many colors to name, too many smells, too many different sounds and tastes and textures, too many animals to catalogue, not to mention grains of sand, stars, galaxies, insects, and hairs on our heads.

The heavens declare the glory of God. Creation constantly talks about its Creator. Giant African elephants and carrots and dung beetles and fields of grain and cumulonimbus clouds all conspire together. They are constantly practicing their lines, rehearsing their parts, putting on their costumes and touching up their makeup. They take turns on the stage of the universe, under the lights, like six year olds in their first grade play. “He’s THIS big,” they seem to be trying to say… this powerful, this glorious. Hurricanes and solar storms and tsunamis seem a little closer to the truth, a little more Shakespearian to this reality, but even our own solar system burning and exploding isn’t big enough, isn’t exhaustive enough, spinning in the ether flinging large rocks and gas balls around like entertainment at a party, like so many yo-yos or hula hoops. Watch this! Creation shouts trying to get everyone’s attention, like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, rejoicing like a strong man about to run a race.

Because God is Creator, God is King. He has spoken the first authoritative words, and His words have blossomed and begotten descendents with fur and petals and beaks and tide pools and rosy cheeks. Their line has gone out through all the earth. They are the heralds of the King, they blow their trumpets and announce His reign. They call upon the nations to bow down and worship, to throw down their arms, to renounce their rebellions, to pay their homage. For He is mighty; He is powerful. He speaks, He commands, and it is done. Look, there are penguins, worship the Triune God.

But this is not how we usually describe power. Power has become a bad word for us. Philosophers deconstruct the world according to conspiracies to grasp power. Tyrants crush the weak and the powerless in the machinery of war and hunger, poverty and disease. When we think of power and might and authority, we are skeptical, we are afraid. Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, we say.

Of course with power comes responsibility, we might say half-heartedly, somewhat hopefully. But we have seen this story play out too many times: Abusive rulers, abusive husbands, abusive fathers. And even when power is not corrupt, too often it is capricious, erratic, arbitrary, random. One minute it smiles, and one minute it crushes. It vacillates. It’s a purring cat that may lash out at any moment. Power is not safe at any speed. It is radioactive, poisonous, and so we put up the yellow caution tape and orange cones with flashing lights. There might be a few men in hard hats standing around with signs, but they are not in charge, we assure one another. They have no authority, no power.

And the world does seem dangerous. Life is not certain. The sea rages and gnashes its teeth between sunsets that we take pictures of and put on calendars and refrigerators. The wind brings gentle rain, and then in a moment it bends cars in half and flicks the roofs off concrete buildings. No wonder the ancients thought to appease the gods. No wonder they left offerings for Poseidon and Zeus.

But power is not merely strength. It is not merely ability. It is not merely freedom. Power, according to Scripture, is essentially creative. Authority and power and rule go all the way back to the beginning, back to the original command, back to the first order given. And that order, that command was a word, a poem, a song. This world does not function according to its misuses, according to its rebels – for that would be to admit defeat, that would mean that the rebels have true power, that they are in charge of this planet after all. But if God is indeed King, if His word is indeed the law of the land, and if the heavens do indeed proclaim His glory, His might, His rule, His authority, then mere mass and force and speed is not power. Mere weight and pressure is not power. Coercion is an evil parody of power, but it is a counterfeit, forged with guns and steel.

Perhaps our fear of power and authority is most evidenced in our modern culture in the many ways that we tend to avoid this language in our families, and in particular in marriage. “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” (1 Cor. 11:2) And those of us in conservative, Bible believing circles certainly do not deny what Paul says, but we frequently wince, wondering what some idiot husband is going to do with that verse. “For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for woman, but woman for the man. For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head…”

On one end of the spectrum the high priests of the universities and political action networks point to these passages as proof of the intrinsic misogyny of the Bible, whipping themselves into Dionysian frenzies with speeches and processions and sacrificial victims. On the other end of the spectrum, all the champions of these kinds of passages beat their savage chests and rule their homes like middle eastern monarchs, treating their wives little better than beasts of burden.

But God’s power, God’s might, His freedom and strength and authority is creation. It bursts with light and life, it is full of gifts and magic, and though it is fierce and terrible, it is not capricious or random or vacillating. And His power is certainly not materialistic. It is not brute force, mass and pressure multiplied eternally crushing the world into the mold of His will. And this is evident by the simple fact that it is God’s Word that is His power. His Word robed in the glory of the Spirit, His Word carried on the music of the Spirit. God’s power is His love that woos the world into His glory. God’s authority and might are evidenced in the fact that His coercion (if we can even call it that) is found in the poetry of the universe. Day and night, sea and land and strawberries, stars and sun, birds and fish, raccoons and people – that is God’s power and might, that is God’s rule, His authority, His commanding words echoing through the ages, to the ends of the world. And what do they say? They say ‘glory.’ And at the end of the ages, the Word became flesh, wrapped in the glory of the Spirit, revealing the glory of the Father. Here is the glory and power of God unbounded, limitless, crying in a manger, feeding the hungry, healing the blind, making fun of the proud, bleeding on Calvary, walking in a garden alive again, which is a like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoicing like a strong man to run his race.

If power means creation, if authority means giving life, if strength means glorifying, then a Christian marriage is a microcosm of the universe. If headship is like the calling of an artist, like a chef or a baker, like a poet, like composer, then a wife really is a husband’s glory, really is like his body, really is his crown. A woman submitting to her own husband is like a sunset obediently burning across the Pacific in a dreadful, haunting glory. The submission of a godly woman to her own husband is like the obedience of the stars in their orbits, like the sweet smell of rain on freshly mown grass, like the intricate beauty of sands carved by the wind, like wine on the lips. And a husband who loves his wife, like Christ loved the church, gives himself for his bride. He gives himself for her and to her like an artist studying his canvas, like a composer laboring at the keys, like an author searching for lovely words. Which is more important: the artist or his art? Which has more authority: the sun or the moon? Which has more strength: the Spirit or the wind? Who has more glory: the Father, the Son, or the Spirit?

Matt, I charge you to love your wife as God has loved this world, as Christ has loved the church, as the Spirit has glorified all things. I charge you to look at creation, to look to Christ, to look at your bride and remember that it all says ‘glory.’ And it is all a gift to all of us, and she is a particular gift for you. And today you become her head, and she becomes your body. Today you become one flesh; she becomes your crown, your glory. This means that you are being given authority and power and strength, but it is only power insofar as you imitate our King. Authority creates. Authority glorifies. In a small but significant way, she is your masterpiece, your creation. One of the greatest sins of husbands is that they are lazy. They want all the perks with none of the work. They look for short cuts and abdicate and then shift the blame. You must not do that. Study her, love her, know her, and glorify her so that in every way, she is without spot or wrinkle, so that she with all that she is and all that she becomes says ‘glory.’ And this will be hard work and you will only be able to do this by continuing to place your faith in Jesus. For there you will find endless glory and love to give and share. He is the great Bridegroom; He is the strong man who does not grow weary in running the race.

Michelle, I charge you to submit your husband, to respect him, to obey him. But in this world, in the universe that God made, that is nothing more than to call you to beauty and glory and strength. Today you become Matt’s glory, his crown, his body. This is your authority, your power, your might. Just as Matt is called to glorify you; you are called to be his glory. And as you do this, you glorify him. Wisdom is a woman, as Proverbs teaches, and wives see things their husbands can’t see. The temptation of most wives is to be critical of their husbands rather than respecting them. This doesn’t mean that you don’t give input; this doesn’t mean that you have nothing to say. But it has everything to do with remembering where your power is. Your strength is in your beauty, in your grace, in your gentle and quiet spirit. As you submit to your husband, and look to him as your lord, God promises to make you a daughter of Sarah. And this means that wherever the barrenness of sin still resides in you or your husband or in the world around you, as you look to Christ in faith, His Spirit will hover over you and fill you with life overflowing, with laughter like a son in old age.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen!

 

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