God’s decrees never lack power … an Advent meditation

“Nothing is impossible with God.”

"The Annunciation," a painting by William Brassey Hole

"The Annunciation," by William Brassey Hole (1846-1917)

We know this … we believe it … we confess it with our mouths.  It’s a great theoretical statement that underlies our confidence that God cannot be defeated.  But this thought can also be a bit distant.  Just because God can do something, just because God is all-powerful, doesn’t necessarily impact our everyday lives.

In Luke 1:26-38 is recorded the story of the angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary, telling her that God has chosen her to bear his son.  We all know the story … Mary is amazed and asks Gabriel the quite-natural question “how is this going to happen, since I’m a virgin?”  Gabriel’s answer, as recorded in nearly every Bible translation I can find, contains this statement:  “Nothing is impossible with God.”

An Advent meditation isn’t usually the place to critique Biblical translation, but according to the original text, that isn’t actually what Gabriel said.  The declaration recorded in the Greek manuscript of Luke 1:37 is much more potent, and much more tangible.  Literally, Gabriel’s words were “not powerless is any decree from God,” or to phrase it better, “God’s decrees never lack power.”

We’ve heard this sort of language elsewhere.  Perhaps the most eloquent expression of it is God’s word through the prophet Isaiah:

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return there until they have watered the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11 ESV)

This is so much more than just God’s ability.  Gabriel’s testimony to Mary, and to us, is that when God says he’s going to do something—when he issues a decree—he both can accomplish it, and he will.  Because nothing is impossible with God, yes.  But more so, because God keeps his word, and his word is powerful.

And if this is true of God’s word of decree, how much more so the Word which became flesh and dwelt among us!  That Word, sent to this world because God loved the world so much he didn’t want to leave it to die.  Jesus became a man because of that love, and he came with power.  The darkness around us not withstanding, the purpose for which Jesus came will succeed …

because God’s decrees
lack power!


(Originally published in an advent series for our church)

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