If we wondered in our last reading why only one of the 70 sons of Gideon, the one born to his concubine in Shechem, was mentioned, we now know the answer. The story is shifting, and Abimelech desires to make a name for himself. He is power hungry, in addition to feeling “less” than the others because he is the son of Gideon’s concubine and not one of the wives.
We already know the Israelites are in another period where they turn away from God. Now we see what evil is up to. Abimelech is a good example of how the abuse of power can be used to take over and control a situation.
Sometimes we forget we have the Holy Spirit living inside us. It’s such a perk to being followers of Jesus. Yet, we seem to have this ego or something that wants the recognition. We want to do things our own way and receive approval. Paul would have known this better than most. For years he was a strong Jewish leader. People feared him until his life was transformed by the Holy Spirit.
Now Paul wants to make sure that we, as well as his original readers, don’t ignore the power we have at our disposal. He says, “Do not stifle the Holy Spirit.” Why would we want to smother, restrain, or suppress the power that raised Jesus from the dead? That’s a very good question we should all ask ourselves. Regularly. We have all been gifted our own way of unleashing that power. What, then, is your super power?
Jesus comes forth today not as the Lamb, as he has been portrayed up to now, but as a warrior. But not a warrior in the sense of the word as we would imagine. What images come to your mind when you think of a warrior going to battle? Jesus is not covered in armor. There are not tanks or weapons, fighter jets, or any such military might standing by. Jesus is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, with crowns adorning his head. His only “weapon” was the sword coming from his mouth.
He is clearly identified to us in terms we associate with Jesus. “Faithful and True,” the “Word of God,” “King of all kings and Lord of all lords.” We are bombarded with visions, each beginning with John’s words, “I saw.” By now, we know John isn’t describing real events or occurrences but helping us understand using symbols of real occurrences. The victory is sure, but we don’t necessarily need to be expecting a white horse and rider!
“Babylon is fallen,” the angel proclaims. For John’s contemporaries, they would see this referring to Rome. This vision would surely give them hope. At the time John writes this, Rome is alive and well, carrying out atrocities on God’s people. What was the motivation? Power. The sensuality of wealth. Dominion over all.
Rome did fall. Does this mean the message of Revelation is not for us? On the contrary. The book of Revelation concerns the character and timeliness of God’s judgment not only of persons who are “of the world,” but also nations and authority figures, companies, groups, etc., all who have chosen evil over grace.
What is justice? Having worked for lawyers most of my life, I was surrounded by justice, or at least seeking it for our clients. The opposite is “injustice” or an abuse of power. I have seen plenty of examples of injustice during my years in the legal field. There are also many examples in our world. When we see unfairness in wages, for example, you might say there is an abuse of power at work; and it’s an injustice.
To have justice then, we need to balance the power. God intends good for us. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” It isn’t in God’s plan for us to suffer, be in want, feel unloved, be abused, be poor, be alone, etc. When someone swoops in and steals our joy or abuses their power to hurt us, that is injustice. To God, that is sinful.