..but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
and faithfulness the belt around his loins.
O come, Adonai, Lord of might, Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height, In ancient times didst give the law In cloud and majesty and awe. Rejoice ! Rejoice ! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel.
There are those of us who shy away from talking about God as a Lord of might. We find it uncomfortable to think of God as ‘mighty and powerful’. We are embarrassed by language that might echo the battlefield or the physical force that can bruise and bleed. It’s all too macho, too brutal, and too crude. We prefer to think of the God who comes in weakness, as one vulnerable in loving, gentle and warm. We no longer sing hymns about Christian soldiers or speak much of spiritual warfare.
But the Biblical writers have no such hesitation at all. God will strike and kill, and will come like a mighty warrior in the cause of the righteous. What should we make of this? Perhaps they speak as they do because they speak, some of them at least, from among the poorest and the meekest, from those without power themselves, without strength to defend themselves against the wicked, the corrupt and the ruthless. They know that power and strength are not bad things in themselves, not to be ashamed of at all, if they are used in the service of what is good for us all. They recognise that sometimes the weak need to find the power of God if they are to find justice in the world.
Organisations like Christian Aid often think about what it means to be in poverty and what it would mean to overcome it. They say that poverty is not necessarily a lack of things, but it is fundamentally a lack of power; the power to find the basic resources of life yes, but also the power to have influence over the shape of your life, to change your circumstances, the power to challenge or change a government, the power to lift up your own voice. What those who are poor want most of all is not that the rich should give to them out of charity, but that they should find for themselves the real power that comes from justice. To be the recipient of charity is still to be weak, but to gain justice is at last to find your true power.
God is the Lord of might, a God of power, in this sense. God brings to the poor their true power, and we rejoice.
Come, Adonai, Lord of might
and give power to your people.
Come, Adonai, Lord of might
and end the hold of poverty.
Come Adonai, Lord of might
and let your strength
be found amongst the poor.
Come, Adonai, Lord of might,
that your holy power may overcome evil
your love conquer suffering
and your light cast out the dark.
The Rev’d Dr Susan Durber is the minister of Taunton URC and Moderator of the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches.