Gideon and Elijah: The Power of the Spirit

“Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” Zechariah 4:6

This verse in Zechariah shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Lord’s work is not carried on by human wisdom and strength, rather by the Holy Spirit. This is illustrated well in the capture of Jericho we read about in Joshua. It is not the might of the Israelite army that causes the walls to fall down and allows the Israelites to capture the city, but God who delivers the city into their hand, with a power that is divine rather than human. When the priests blow their trumpets seven times, the walls collapse. (See Joshua 6) Likewise, in the story of Judges 7, if Gideon had depended on his army he could never have defeated the Midianites. His army, cut down in several stages from a mighty 22,000 to a meager 300 men, uses unconventional weaponry and earthenware pitchers with torches inside. These strange weapons were not like the classic military weapons, yet they put to flight the mighty Midianite army. God’s power flows through these unorthodox weapons and gives them victory over their enemies.

Another story that shows God’s power in action is in 1 Kings 18:20-40, where we read the story of Elijah’s victory on Mount Carmel. It demonstrates the power of God in contrast to the empty name of Baal. Elijah purposefully removes any possibility that any human might be able to kindle the fire on the altar by pouring twelve barrels of water over it. When the fire comes, it consumes the sacrifice, pulverizes the stones of the altar and vaporizes the water. This is only the work of God and not of human hands.

Let us also consider the story of the miraculous catch of fish in Luke 5:1-11. Seasoned fishermen, these men claim they have fished all night trying every known means to catch fish. Despite their combined skill, they have caught nothing. Their situation provides the Lord an opportunity to show His disciples that the power for fruitful and effective service must come from Him.

Some think that money is the greatest power that extends and builds up the kingdom of God. Others might think that high-powered promotional programs, the psychological manipulation of people, or clever oratory are keys to success. However, the key to success really lies in God’s work not accomplished by human might, power or any of the aforementioned things. Blessing comes from the Holy Spirit. Much of the so-called Christian work today can still continue if the Holy Spirit is removed completely. But even our own sanctified self is still a poor substitute for the glorified, perfect Christ. We must learn that true spiritual power comes exclusively from the Holy Spirit. Robert Murray McCheyne, the well-known minister and preacher once said, “For every look you take at self, take ten looks at Christ.” We should take note of this advice as believers, because this is indeed a good balance for us to remember as we seek to remember from where our blessing, power and might come – not from ourselves, but from God!