Thursday, October 1, 2015

God's Sovereignty

“In the beginning, God…” (Genesis 1:1a)

The first four words of the Bible teach us that God is God. He’s the sovereign ruler of the universe, the one who upholds creation moment to moment by His power (Heb 1:3). He decides what goes on in it, and He is moving it toward His appointed end (Eph 1:11). It was created by Him, for Him, and through Him (Col 1:16) and to Him belong all things (Rom 11:36). This is what it means to say God is sovereign. But since this is a large concept and it helps to have details, when the Bible says God is sovereign it specifically means:

He is Sovereign over Matter


Being the one who set the laws of physics in place, from the pull of gravity to nature of fusion power, His control is first and foremost seen in His total command over non-living objects.
He can make iron float (2 Kings 6:6), use force to push over stable statues and break them in specific places (1 Sam 5:3), or bring down thick city walls (Josh 6:20). He can walk across a lake as if it were solid (Mark 6:49), or enable others to do the same one moment and sink the next (Matt 14:29). He can cut a dry channel through the sea and have people walk between walls of it (Ex 14:29), or dry up a river at flood time (Josh 3:17). He can silence storms with a rebuke (Matt 8:26), or expunge nearly all life on the Earth with rain (Gen 6:17). He can send hail in such sizes and quantities that animals and plants are killed by it (Ex 9:19), or at such times and locations that enemy combatants are crushed by it (Josh 10:11). He chooses to send the gentle showers their season so the plants could be watered (Lev 26:4), or to shut up the heavens so that it gives no rain at all (2 Chron 6:26).
He can make a bush burn without being consumed (Ex 3:2), hurl down a fireball that consume a specific offering on a single mountain (1 Kings 18:38), or specific men on a mountain a number of times in a row (2 Kings 2:10-14). He make men immune to a furnace hot enough to kill even the strongest of soldiers (Dan 3:27), hang a moving a fire in the sky (Ex 13:21), or rain down so much sulfur that an entire culture is annihilated (Gen 19:24).
He can free certain selected captive prisoners with an earthquake (Acts 16:26), make the Earth open up and swallow a guilty crowd (Num 16:32), or hold back the rotation of the globe (Josh 10:13). But as impressive to us as this may be the sovereignty of God also means that it’s not just the inanimate matter which obeys Him. 

He is Sovereign over Life


Plants, animals, and all things which live and reproduce are also fully under His control.
He multiplies microscopic bacteria or viruses so that they become lethal (Deut 28:22) when He pleases, and keeps them from increasing when He doesn’t (Ex 15:26). He directs them in the form of a plague (Ezek 14:19) which can cause anything from sickness (Ex 23:25), to tumors (1 Sam 6:4), to death (2 Sam 24:25), or remove them if He so desires (Mark 1:34). He can send a specific disease like leprosy on those who don’t obey Him (2 Kings 15:5) and recall it from those do (2 King 5:14).
He controls the spread of molds and mildew (1 Kings 8:37), choosing either to send them (Amos 4:9), or to withhold them (Ex 15:26). He can cause a single, specific plant to grow in a day or allow it to die on the next (Jonah 4:6-7). He can cause all plants across an entire nation to grow poorly (Ezek 14:13), or multiply abundantly (Acts 14:17), including a dead tree branch which has for years been used as a walking stick (Num 17:8).
He can call for famine upon the land so that there’s nothing to eat (Ps 105:16), or multiply ordinary food so that a simple meal for one feeds thousands (Luke 9:16-17). If He wants He can open the windows of heaven and supernaturally feed millions of people every day for forty years (Ex 16:15). He causes cattle to breed successfully (Gen 26:12) or not at all (Joel 1:18), because all of them belong to Him (Ps 50:10). When the birds cry out in hunger, He feeds them (Job 38:31), for He knows all of them (Luke 12:6), and not a single one can fall to the ground without Him permitting it (Matt 10:29).
The wild animals go where He tells them to (Deut 32:24), attack who He tells them to (2 Kings 2:24), when He tells them to (Amos 9:3), and become tame when He tells them to (Dan 6:22). The fish swim where He instructs them (Luke 5:5-6), eat what He commands, and become caught when He wills it (Matt 17:27). They grow to the size He wants (Jonah 1:7). He can make them do things in accordance with their nature (Jonah 2:10), or He can make them do things against it, such as having cows leave their nursing calves behind (1 Sam 6:12), or having ravens drop bread where He wills it (1 Kings 17:6). He can direct anything from a single creature (1 Kings 20:36), to a swarm (Ex 10:14), to an unthinkably large horde (Num 11:31). He can make them appear naturally (Ex 8:6), or supernaturally, by making sticks into snakes (Ex 4:3), or insects from the dust of the earth. Even the smallest and most insignificant living creatures are regarded and cared for by Him, because in everything He is actively, continually, thoughtfully governing the world He’s made. And this includes the pinnacle of His creation as well—us.

He is Sovereign over Mankind


Although we are un-coerced moral agents with desires, affections, and abilities, even so we remain just as much under the hand of God as the rest of creation. We may be autonomous, but we’re not independent.
It is He who gives us life and breath (Is 42:5), and He who takes it away (Job 1:21). He can kill directly (2 Sam 6:7), through the work of an angel (Is 37:36), with man’s sword (Lev 26:6), with disease (2 Kings 1:2, 17), or allow us to die of old age (Gen 49:33). If He chooses He can raise the dead in response to a prayer (1 Kings 17:22), or not in response (1 Kings 13:31), after the person has recently died (Luke 8:49, 55), or after the body had started to putrefy (John 11:39, 44). He can keep men from dying altogether (2 Kings 2:11). He shuts the womb of some women (Gen 21:18), and opens it in others (Gen 29:31), regardless of her age (Luke 1:7), or virginity (Luke 1:35).

He’s in control over every aspect of our health, not just our life and breath. So although He can kill men with venomous serpents (Num 21:6), He can also cure them when they look at a statue (Num 21:8), or keep them from becoming ill to begin with (Acts 28:6). To those who are sick
He can heal with a spoken word (Matt 8:8), with a touch (Luke 8:44), a shadow (Acts 5:15), or from a handkerchief that one of His servants had once owned (Acts 19:12). He can make ordinary medicine administered by doctors effective (Jer 51:8), or ineffective (Mark 5:26). To some he sends blindness (2 Kings 6:18), and to some He restores their sight (John 9:6-7). To some He takes away the ability to walk (2 Sam 4:4), and to some He gives it back (Acts 3:6). To some he gives great strength (Judges 15:14), and to some great wisdom (1 Kings 5:29). Some he created deaf, some dumb, some blind, and some with all their senses (Ex 4:11).
And if selecting the genetic makeup of everyone, their time of conception, the circumstances of it, their location, (Acts 17:26) personalities, inherent strengths and weaknesses, their families, and parents (Ps 139:13) wasn’t enough, He is sovereign over our inner person just as much as the outward circumstances of our lives.
He has total control over our emotions. He can frighten a small ship’s crew (Jonah 1:5), or entire cities (Josh 2:9). He can delight local wedding coordinators by changing water into wine (John 2:10) or the whole Earth by revealing His goodness (Jer 33:9). He can make men stubborn (Ex 4:21) or pliable (Ezekiel 11:19). He can, and does, change our desires and affections by moving them from one state and nailing them permanently into another (Ezekiel 36:26).
He knows our minds completely (Ps 33:13-15), including the thoughts we don’t even admit to ourselves (Ps 44:21). He hears all of them (Ps 94:11), for there is nothing private to Him (Matt 6:4). He can put dreams into our heads as we sleep (Judges 7:13) or share those dreams with others (Dan 2:28). He makes us dull by hiding the truth of things from us (Matt 11:25) or perceptive by revealing it to us (1 Cor 2:10). He can put thoughts into our heads (2 Kings 4:27). He can change our mind as a man might divert the flow of water in a river (Prov 21:1), or permanently rewrite our mental makeup (Jer 24:7).
He has absolute control over the decisions we make. He sees our intentions to stand or sit before we do it (Ps 139:2). When flipping a coin and deciding which result would get which decision, He directs us to the outcome He wants (Prov 16:33). He decides where we go and when we go there (Acts 16:6).
And because He owns the space between our thoughts and our spoken words (Prov 16:1), He’s sovereign over our tongues as well.
He can confuse our languages (Gen 7:11), or enable us to overcome the translation barrier (Acts 2:8). He can expand it and make us to understand animals (Num 22:28). He can make some men eloquent when the moment arises (Matt 10:19), or render even the most compelling speaker unpersuasive (1 Sam 17:14).
And if that were not enough, His power extends over our actions just as much as our thoughts. He can make an unarmored shepherd boy defeat a giant seasoned warrior (1 Sam 17:50), or direct the course of a battle to the outcome He wants (Deut 32:30), regardless of the number of men fighting (Josh 23:10). He can whistle for entire nation as we would call for our dog (Is 55:5). By His decision some are cast into poverty, while others rise into wealth. (1 Sam 2:7). He can protect them and ensure nothing bad happens to them (Job 1:10), or take away His protection and send ruin and devastation into their lives (Isaiah 5:5). He tears down or builds up as He sees fit, planting peoples and kingdoms like we would a tree (Jer 1:10).
There is no God like Him, a God that kills and makes alive, a God who wounds and heals, a God that nobody save from (Deut 32:39), and inasmuch as we are amazing creatures were still as an ax or hammer to Him (Jer 51:20), a saw (Isaiah 10:15), or a pot (Is 45:9)–mere vessels created to do His bidding (Rom 9:21). Every action of ours, every thought, every word and deed, no matter how small or insignificant is part of His vast plan (Esth 6:1-2).
And that is why His power extends over not just space, but time as well.

He is Sovereign over The Future


He knows it completely. He knew specifically what Pharaoh King of Egypt would do before he did it (Ex 3:9), what Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon would do (2 Chron 36:17), and what Cyrus of Persia would do hundreds of years before he was born (Is 44:28). He knew His people would rebel against Him (Deut 31:16). He knew Peter would deny Him (Mat 26:34), and Judas would betray Him (John 17:12). Therefore we can tell if a prophet speaks for Him when they make a specific prediction of the future and it comes to pass (Deut 18:22), for only He can enable us to know things about the future that we wouldn’t otherwise know (Gen 41:25).
But He doesn’t merely see our ways, He also numbers our steps (Job 31:4). Before we were born He knew us, having planned our lives (Jer 1:5), predestining not just who we are, but what we’d do (Eph 1:11). Before we were born He’d numbered all the days of our lives (Ps 139:16). Those who come to Him were predestined by Him to do so (Rom 8:29), because to Him the future is fixed (Rev 4:1). He knows the end from the beginning, His purposes stand and He does what He pleases (Is 46:9-10). Whatever comes to pass, even evil, happens because He decreed it would be so (Acts 4:28).
This does not mean we are not free moral agents, for He who keeps our soul will one day weigh our hearts and give judgment to us for our actions (Prov 24:12), whether good or bad (Ecc 12:14), no matter how secret or hidden (Rom 2:16). It just means His thoughts are higher than ours thoughts, and His ways are above our ways (Is 55:8-9). It means that all the inhabitants of the Earth are accounted as nothing before Him and that He does whatever He pleases (Dan 4:35).
Much more could be said of course. We could talk of His absolute sovereignty over good angels (Heb 1:14) and evil ones (1 Kings 22:22), over large matters like the rise and fall of nations (Dan 2:39), or small ones like games of chance (Acts 1:26). But this is enough to show what the Bible means when it says God is sovereign, when it say that the Earth is the LORD’s and all of its fullness; the world and all that dwell upon it (Ps 24:1). 

1 comment:

Dean Sherman said...

NOBODY who is alive in Jesus and owns a Bible doubts that God is a Sovereign God. NOBODY! And by the way we all have Bibles containing all the verses. The issue is: are we going defend some theological theory BY the use of the word Sovereignty when we could have just looked it up in a dictionary and proceeded with honesty