Archives for posts with tag: God’s sovereignty

So Samuel took a nursing lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. And Samuel cried out to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him. As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel. But the Lord thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were defeated before Israel.” (1 Samuel 7:9–10, ESV)

The Philistines take the occasion of Samuel offering a burnt offering to attack Israel.  Samuel’s correct and faith-filled response was to cry out to the Lord…and the Lord answered him.  The result was the first [and perhaps only] time when the Lord defends his people by thunder.

One can only imagine what kind of thunder this was to send the Philistines retreating in confusion and fear.  It must have been terrifying.

As we saw yesterday, God uses animals to accomplish his sovereign will.  Today we find that he also uses natural events; he harnesses them to bring about his design.  In this case, his plan was to fight for Israel using thunder to defeat the Philistines.  Needless to say, God succeeded.

Have you an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like his?” (Job 40:9, ESV) God asks Job this question towards the end of the book of Job.  The answers to these questions are: no, and no. Only God can thunder like God.

We cannot say it enough, God is sovereign over all things and bends everything: animals, nature, time, people, events, to the control of his will.  Everything serves our sovereign God.  Everything.

And they put the ark of the Lord on the cart and the box with the golden mice and the images of their tumors. And the cows went straight in the direction of Beth-shemesh along one highway, lowing as they went. They turned neither to the right nor to the left, and the lords of the Philistines went after them as far as the border of Beth-shemesh. (1 Sam 6.11-12, ESV)

What strikes me about this story is that the writer of Samuel wants the reader to see what happened and feel what happened and understand what happened in the march of the milk cows.

The Philistines have captured the Ark of the Covenant and it has been a disaster and the Philistines know it. Whatever city into which the ark is placed, the population begins to experience terrible things. Very soon, they want nothing more than to be rid of the ark. After some hemming and hawing the Philistine leaders decide to send the ark back…if the milk cows will take the ark back of their own accord. Our verses record what happened. The milk cows go back straight down the main highway to Beth-Shemesh turning "neither to the right nor to the left."

The Philistine leaders do not become followers of Yahweh, but they understand that Yahweh would have his ark back, and he got it back.

Here is the faith lesson in these verses. God is sovereign over milk cows. They are nothing but dumb animals, but they must obey God's command just like everything else in this universe, and so they do obey his command and take the ark straight back to Israel, because even dumb animals are servants of Yahweh. He is sovereign over them.

If this is true for milk cows, then it's true for us as well. God is sovereign over our ways and the course of our life (Ps. 139.1-6).

What can the righteous accomplish
When truth’s pillars are destroyed and law and order collapse?
Yet the Eternal One is never shaken–
He is still found in his temple of holiness
Reigning as Lord and King over all.
He is closely watching everything that happens.
And with a glance, his eyes examine every heart.
For his heavenly rule will prevail over all. Psalms 11:3-4 (Passion Translation)

There is something chilling in these verses and something hopeful.

  • Chilling – David makes the correct observation that when truth’s pillars are destroyed and law and order collapse then there is not much that the righteous can do.  There are times when evil runs amok and never more so than when truth is stifled and every man does what is right in his own eyes.  I think we are seeing the beginning of this today.  Society cannot long survive without truth.
  • Hopeful – David reminds us that, even in a time when truth’s pillars are destroyed we can have hope because the Eternal One is never shaken. God is not moved, nor worried, nor anxious when men reject truth.  This is no more threatening to him than an ant threatens an elephant.  David knows that God’s heavenly rule will prevail over all.

The upshot for we who take in David’s words?  In a time when truth is denied and denigrated, when evil seems to have the upper hand more and more, when mankind seems to become ever more blind by the minute; God still reigns.  He is still in control. He will still accomplish his ends and ultimately all will be well.

“So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace; being built up, and walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it increased in number.” (Acts 9:31)

There is an interesting juxtaposition in Acts 8 an 9.  At the beginning the fledgling church is under threat by Saul of Tarsus:

“But Saul was making havoc of the church; entering every house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.Now those who were scattered went from place to place preaching the word” (Acts 8:3–4)

While Saul was rabidly persecuting the church, the church was under pressure and so Christians fled away from Jerusalem to various parts of Israel and even beyond.  Then Saul got radically saved while on the way to Damascus to continue his oppression of Christians there.  He suddenly began preaching for faith in Christ!

The result is listed in our verse.  Paul was no longer in pursuit of Christians and so the broader church was at peace and then: It increased in number.

When the church was under pressure it was increasing in number due to Christians being spread out and preaching the word.  When it was at peace it was also increasing in number.  This is something that only the Lord could bring about in his sovereignty.  It should also make us think twice about our assumptions of how and where the Word of God will bear fruit.

“But right away Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I! Do not be afraid.”” (Matthew 14:27)

In the Greek when Jesus speaks he says just five words.  They look like this: θαρσεῖτε, ἐγώ εἰμι· μὴ φοβεῖσθε, which is to say Take courage, it is I! Do not be afraid. [I realize Jesus spoke in Aramaic, but all we have is what the gospel writers gave us, so bear with me here for a minute].

The disciples rightly believed that they were in existential danger in the middle of the night in an open boat when a nasty storm suddenly bore down on them in the middle of the Sea of Galilee [the Sea is known for such storms even to this day].  There is nothing quite so dark and liable to bring one’s fears than a stormy night at sea.

Jesus comes along walking along the water and he speaks as if he doesn’t have a concern in the world [which he certainly did not].  He says five words.  Just five.  “Courage men.  It is me.  Don’t be afraid any more.” [Because I understand that you certainly are afraid]  Jesus gets into the boat.  The wind and waves calm down immediately.  The disciples realize that they are in the presence of someone who is not a normal person. Truly you are the son of God, they say. [And of course, he was and is]

Five words and men are saved from mortal danger.  Five words and the wind and waves calm down.  Five words and Jesus has upended our understanding of the world for all time.  Danger is a handmaiden to Our Sovereign God.  It can go just as far as He who holds danger in his hand, but not one millimeter further.  The wind and waves can blow, but only within his sovereign will and completely subject to his word.

I’m not a rocket scientist, but I’m willing to bet that every other force of nature is just as likely to respond to Jesus’ words as the wind and waves.  Indeed, I know that not only natural forces, but the spiritual forces of darkness, are just as subject to the command of Jesus as storms are.  Nothing.  Not. A. Thing. Is outside of and independent of Our God.

Oh…Paul agrees with me:

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38–39, ESV)

 

 

“Thine> is the day、 Yea <thine> the night,
||Thou|| didst establish moon and sun; ”
https://ref.ly/Ps74.16;emphbbl

In the middle of a section of this psalm when Asaph breaks out in an extended meditation on God’s power, he writes this little gem.  The day is Yahweh’s; the night is Yahweh’s.  Could this fact be any more obvious, because Thou didst establish moon and sun? The moon and sun are the great lights that rule the night and day respectively and since God created those, then it follows that he owns the day and the night.  Indeed, God owns time itself which serves him at his word and command, and will serve him until time has completed its purpose and served its Creator well and faithfully, and is no longer necessary.

If this is true then everything else will serve its Creator until its service will no longer be required, from animals to plants to rocks and inanimate objects to every molecule, atom, proton, electron, neutron and beyond. I believe that this is why Scripture so often refers to inanimate objects as if they were alive and breathing.  As in Psalms 148:

“Praise the Lord from the earth,
you great sea creatures and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and mist,
stormy wind fulfilling his word! ”
https://ref.ly/Ps148.7-8;esv

The stormy wind serves at the command and behest of its Creator, as do fire and hail, and snow and mist.  They will serve him faithfully and well and accomplish the purpose for which they were created.

If inanimate objects can do this, then how much more ought we to serve our Creator at his command with gladness and thanksgiving and willingness to sacrifice and be sacrificed at our Creator’s call and purpose.  Dierich Bonhoeffer once wrote: When God calls a man, he bids him come and die.  Could their be any more glorious death than that of ourselves to the One who formed us from the womb? If the wind and rain and rocks and ants can do it, then how much more should we give ourselves willingly in the service of our Great God?

 

 

“The oracle concerning the wilderness of the sea.
As whirlwinds in the Negeb sweep on,
it comes from the wilderness,
from a terrible land.”
https://ref.ly/Is21.1;esv

While this is an enigmatic start to an oracle, we assume from vs. 9 that it is against Babylon.  However, who the oracle is against is not so important for my purposes.  As I’ve read through Isaiah 13-21, I’ve been wondering, what is the purpose of all this?  Why does the Lord take pains to put all of these oracles against foreign nations into the book of Isaiah? The passage kind of drags along and is frankly difficult to read through because it seems so far removed both from our main focus, Israel, and obviously from our own 21st century culture.  Why does God spend so much time on this?

I’m wondering if God doesn’t include these oracles so that we understand that he is God of all the nations, whether or not those nations acknowledge it.  Babylon is under his authority and power; Edom is under his authority and power; Egypt, Ethiopia, and Syria are all under his power and he controls their destiny and prophecies their future.  If this is true, and it is, then God is God of the United States, and of Europe, and of Asia, and of Africa, and of Australia, and of South America, and of every nation, landmass, and ocean drop on the earth.

I have not a shred of doubt that none of the nations mentioned in Isaiah 13-21 and following cared in the least what the prophet of Israel’s God said about them. They should have because, unbeknownst to them, he created the earth and everything in it and all of it is under his sovereign power and authority.

Leave it to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon and no worshipper of Yahweh, to put this truth the best:

At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
or say to him, “What have you done?” (Dan 4.34-35)