February 2: The Problem with Power
Exodus 4–6; John 1:19–34; Song of Solomon 1:5–7
Grasping for power is one of the easiest sins to fall into. At first it looks like ambition, then it looks like success, and then it quickly becomes about your success and your power. This can be costly—not just to you, but to all the people you hurt in the process. If anything is done for the purpose of power, it’s not worth achieving. And don’t let the snazzy word “influence” fool you; it’s just a synonym for the same empty desire.
John the Baptist is an example of ambition; he is fueled by passion but constantly checked by God’s calling. He is firm in his words, confident in what he must do, but humble in his understanding of his relationship to God. He is not in it for himself, but for Jesus. When asked, “Who are you?” (a leading question, since many believed him to be the Messiah the people expected), he replied, “I am not the Christ!” (John 1:19–20). When further questioned, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” (the supreme prophet besides the Messiah), he says, “No!” (John 1:21). When asked again about his identity, he finally responds, “I am the ‘voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord,” ’ just as Isaiah the prophet said” (John 1:23).
John affirmed his identity as prophet, but he assumed nothing. He didn’t even assume what ended up being the truth: that he was a type of Elijah, as Jesus would later say (Matt 17:12–13). When given the opportunity to reach for power, to be known as the Messiah, John said no. He would not claim authority that had not been given to him.
And this is where affirmation can be a scary thing. Just because other people think you’re something special doesn’t mean you should go along with what they say about you. Doing so is dangerous. John the Baptist’s humility sets the stage for Jesus, and he ends up getting one of the greatest gifts of all: the chance to baptize Jesus.
The road between affirming God’s calling and grasping for power is narrow and rocky. But when you’re on the right path, you will feel it in your bones, and the Spirit of God will affirm it.
How are you grasping for power? How is ambition throwing off the alignment of your calling?
JOHN D. BARRY
- Then Moses answered, and said, But lo, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The Lord hath not appeared unto thee. And the Lord said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he answered, A rod. Then said he, Cast it on the ground. So he cast it on the ground, and it was turned into a serpent: and Moses fled from it. Again the Lord said unto Moses, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail. Then he put forth his hand and caught it, and it was turned into a rod in his hand. Do this that they may beleive, that the Lord God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob hath appeared unto thee. And the Lord said furthermore unto him, Thrust now thine hand into thy bosom. And he thrust his head into his bosom, and when he took it out again, behold his hand was leprous as snow. Moreover he said, Put thine hand into thy bosom again. So he put his hand into his bosom again, and plucked it out of his bosom, and behold, it was turned again as his other flesh. So shall it be, if they will not believe thee, neither obey the voice of the first sign, yet shall they believe for the voice of the second sign. But if they will not yet believe these two signs, neither obey unto thy voice, then shalt thou take of the water of the river, and pour it upon the dry land: so the water which thou shalt take out of the river, shall be turned to blood upon the dry land. But Moses said unto the Lord, Oh my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither at any time have been, nor yet since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue. Then the Lord said unto him, Who hath given the mouth to man? or who hath made the dumb or the deaf, or him that seeth, or the blind? have not I the Lord? Therefore go now, and I will be with thy mouth, and will teach thee what thou shalt say. But he said, Oh my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him, whom thou shouldest send. Then the Lord was very angry with Moses, and said, Do not I know Aaron thy brother the Levite, that he himself shall speak? for lo, he cometh also forth to meet thee, and when he seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart. Therefore thou shalt speak unto him, and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what ye ought to do. ANd he shall be thy spokesman unto the people: and he shall be, even he shall be as thy mouth, adn thou shalt be to him as God. Moreover thou shalt take this rod in thine hand, whereiwth thou shalt do miracles. Therefore Moses went and returned to jethro his father-in-law, and said unto him, I pray thee, let me go, and return to my brethren, which are in Egypt, and see whether they be yet alive. Then Jethro said to Moses, Go in peace. (For the Lord had said unto Moses in Midian, Go, return to Egypt: for they are all dead which went about to kill thee.) Then Moses took his wife and his sons, and put them on an ass, and returned toward the land of Egypt, and Moses took the rod of God in his hand. And the Lord said unto Moses, When thou art entered and come into Egypt again, see that thou do all the wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, and he shall not let the people go. Then thou shalt say to Pharaoh, Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, even my firstborn. Wherefore I say to thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I wil slay thy son, even thy firstborn. And as he was by the way in the Inn, the Lord met him, and would have killed him. Then Zipporah took a sharp knife, and cut away the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Thou art indeed a bloody husband unto me. So he departed from him. Then she said, O bloody husband (because of the circumcision). Then the Lord said unto Aaron, Go meet Moses in the wilderness. And he went and me thim in the Mount of God, and kissed him. Then Moses told Aaron all the words of the Lord, who had sent him, and all the signs wherewith he had charged him. So went Moses and Aaron, and gathered all the elders of the children of Israel. And Aaron told all the words, which the Lord had spoken unto Moses, and he did the miracles in the sight of the people. And the people believed, and when they heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel, and had looked upon their tribulation, they bowed down, and worshipped. then afterward Moses and Aaron went and said to Pharaoh, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may celebrate a feast unto me in the wilderness. And Pharaoh said, Who is the Lord, that I should hear his voice, and let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go. And they said, We worship the God of te Hebrews we pray thee, let us go three days’ journey in the desert, and sacrifice unto the Lord our God, lest he bring upon us the pestilence or sword. Then said the King of Egypt unto them, Moses and Aaron, why cause ye the people to cease from their works? get you to your burdens. Pharaoh said furthermore, Behold, much people is now in th eland, and ye make them leave their burdens. Therefore Pharaoh gave commandment the same day unto the taskmasters of the people, and to their officers, saying, Ye shall give the people no more straw, to make brick (as in time past) but let them go and gather them straw themselves. Notwithstanding lay upon them the number of brick, which they made in time past, diminish nothing thereof: for they be idle, therefore they cry, saying, Let us go to offer sacrifice unto our God. Lay more work upon the men, and cause them to do it, and let them not regard vain words. Then went the taskmasters of the people and their officers out, and told the people, saying, Thus saith Pharaoh, I give you no more straw. Go yourselves, get ye straw where ye can find it, yet shall nothing of your labor be diminished. Then were the people scattered abroad throughout all the land of Egypt, for to gather stubble instead of straw. And the taskmasters hasted them, saying, Finish your day’s work every day’s task, as ye did when ye had straw. And the Officers of the children of Israel, which Pharaoh’s taskmasters had set over them, were beaten, and demanded, Wherefore have ye not fulfilled your [task] in making brick yesterday and today, as in times past? Then the officers of the children of Israel came and cried unto Pharaoh, saying, Wherefore dealest thou thus thy servants? There is no straw given to thy servants, and they say unto us, Make brick: and lo, thy servants are beaten, and thy people is blamed. But he said, Ye are too much idle: therefore ye say, Let us go to offer sacrifice to the Lord. Go therefore now and work: for there shall no straw be given you, yet shall ye deliver the whole tale of brick. Then the officers of the children of Israel saw themselves in an evil case, because it was said, Ye shal ldiminish nothing of your brick, nor of every day’s task. And they met Moses and Aaron, which stood in their way as they came out from Pharaoh. To whom they said, The Lord look upon you and judge: for ye have made our savor to stink before Pharaoh and before his servants, in that ye have put a sword in their hand to slay us. Wherefore Moses returned to the Lord, and said, Lord, why hast thou afflicted this people? wherefore hast thou thus sent me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in thy name, he hath vexed this people, and yet thou hast not delivered thy people. Then the Lord said unto Moses, Now shalt thou see, what I will do unto Pharaoh: for by a strong hand shall he let them go, and even be onstrained to drive them out of his land. Moreover God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the Lord. And I appeared unto Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob by the Name of Almighty God, but by my Name Jehovah was I not known unto them. Furthermore as I made my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, wehrein they were strangers: So I have also heard the groaning of the children of Isael, whom the Egyptians keep in bondage, and have remembered my covenant. Wherefore say thou unto the children of Israel, I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from the burdens of the Egyptians, and will deliver you out of their bondage, and will redeem you in a stretched out arm, and in great judgments. Also I will take you for my people, and will be your God: then ye shall know that I the Lord your God bring you out from the burdens of the Egyptians. And I will bring you into the land which I sware that I would give to Abraham, and to Isaac, and to Jacob, and I will give it unto you for a possession: I am the Lord. So Moses told the children of Israel thus: but they hearkened not unto Moses, for anguish of spirit and for cruel bondage. Then the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Go speak to Pharaoh King of Egypt, that he let the children of Israel go out of his land. But Moses spake before the Lord, saying, Behold, the children of Israel hearken not unto me, how then shall Pharaoh hear me, which am of uncricumcised lips? These be the heads of their father’s houses: the sons of Reuben the firsborn of Israel are Hanoch and Pallu, ezron and Carmi: these are the families of Reuben. Also the sons of Simeon: Jemuel and Jamin, and Ohad, adn Jachin, adn Zohar, adn Shaul the son of a Canaanitish woman: these are the families of Simeon. These also are the anmes of the sons of Levi in their generations: Gershon and Kohath and Merari (and the years of the life of Levi were an hundred thirty and seven years). The sons of Gershon were Libni and Shimi by their families. And the sons of Kohath, Amram and Izhar, and Hebron, and Uzziel (and Kohath lived an hundred thirty and three years). Also the sons of Merari were Mahli and Mushi: these are the families of Levi their kindreds. And Amram took Jochebed his father’s sister to his wife, and she bare him Aaron and Moses (and Amram lived an hundred thirty and seven years). Also the sons of Izhar: Korah, and Nepheg, and Zithri. And Aaron took Elisheba daughter of Amminadab, sister of Nahshon to his wife, which bare him Nadab, and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. Also the sons of Korah: Assir, and Elkanah and Abiasaph: these are the families of the Korahites. And Eleazar Aaron’s son took him one of the daughters of Putiel to his wife, which bare him Phinehas: these are the principal fathers of the Levites throughout their families. These are Aaron and Moses to whom the Lord said, Bring the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt, according to their armies. These are that Moses, and Aaron, which spake to Pharaoh King of Egypt, that they might bring the children of Israel out of Egypt. And at that time when the Lord spake unto Moses in the land of Egypt, When the Lord, I say, spake unto Moses, saying, I am the Lord, speak thou unto Pharoah the King of Egypt all that I say unto thee. Then Moses said before the Lord, Behold, I am of uncircumcised lips, and how shall Pharaoh hear me? Exodus 4–6
- Then this is the record of John, when the Jews sent Priess and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art hou? And he confessed and denied not, and said plainly, I am not that Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elijah? And he said, I am not. Art thou that Prophet? And he answered, No.Then said they unto him, Who art thou, that we may give an answer to them that sent us? What sayest thou of thyself? He said, I am the voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the Prophet Isaiah. Now they which were sent, were of the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptized thou then, if thou be not that Chirst, neither Elijah, nor that Prophet? John answere dthem, saying, I baptise with water: but there is one among you, whom ye know not. He it is that cometh after me, which was before me, whose shoe latchet I am not worthy to unloose. These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John did baptize. The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold that Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man, which was before me: for he was better than I. And I knew him not: but because he should be declared to Israel, therefore am I come, baptizing with water. So John bare record, saying, I beheld, that Spirit come down from heaven, like a dove, and it abode upon him, And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, he said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see that Spirit come down, and tarry still on him, that is he which baptizeth with the holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is that Son of God. John 1:19–34
- Regard ye me not because I am black: for the sun hath looked upon me. The sons of my mother were angry against me: they made me the keeper of the vines: but I kept not mine own vine. Show me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou liest at noon: for why should I be as she that turneth aside to the rocks of thy companions? If thou know not, O thou the fairest among women, get thee forth by the steps of the flock, and feed thy kids by the tents of the shepherds. . Song of Solomon 1:5–7