Archives for posts with tag: God’s sovereignty

Psalms 89:9 – You rule the swelling of the sea;
When its waves rise, You still them.

Yahweh—creator of the sea—is also sovereign ruler of the sea, so when he speaks, the seas obey: When its waves rise, You still them.

I’m studying Jonah right now because I have to preach on it in July, and after God tells Jonah to preach to Nineveh, he promptly gets passage on a ship going the opposite direction! When the seas become very stormy and the sailors ask him about his situation, Jonah replies: “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land.” (Jonah 1.9) Jonah is fleeing from the God who made the sea, on the sea!! That should work out well [unsurprisingly, it does not].

When Jesus rebukes the wind and sea on the Sea of Galilee and they obey him and cease, it draws us back to passages in the Old Testament like this one. Who can get nature to obey except the one who rules the swelling of the sea?

In truth there is nothing on earth or in the seas or in the heavens that is not ruled by God, that is not under his sovereign authority, which would include me…oh, and you also.

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““He makes the nations great, then destroys them; He enlarges the nations, then leads them away. “He deprives of intelligence the chiefs of the earth’s people, And makes them wander in a pathless waste. “They grope in darkness with no light, And He makes them stagger like a drunken man.” (Job 12:23–25 NASB)

Without naming names, it’s pretty obvious that this statement is just as true today as it was when Job made it.  God is sovereign.  He makes nations greats; he destroys nations.  Whether or not that nation acknowledges God or even believes in him, they are under his authority just as much as any individual man.  When he lifts a nation up it becomes great, when he tears it down, it will fail.

God is sovereign not only over nations, but over the leaders of those nations.  When it is in his plan he deprives of intelligence the chiefs of the earth’s people.

God is sovereign over nations, over leaders of nations, over individuals in those nations.  He has authority over all things because he created all of it, from individuals to nations to nature to the world to the entire cosmos.

What else to do in light of this but fall down before him and worship?

 

“Then they sat down to eat a meal. And as they raised their eyes and looked, behold, a caravan of Ishmaelites was coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing aromatic gum and balm and myrrh, on their way to bring them down to Egypt.” (Genesis 37:25 NASB)

Joseph is cast into a dry pit while his brothers work up the courage to kill him because they hate him.  Meanwhile, Reuben—eldest brother—has designs to get Joseph out of that pit and deliver him back to his father.  God has other plans. At just the perfect moment, Joseph’s brothers raise their eyes and behold, a caravan of Ishmaelites was coming from Gilead.

Suspiciously good timing, this.

Joseph’s brothers—without Reuben present—decide to sell him into slavery.  He gets taken down to Egypt and he is sold as a slave to Potiphar, Pharaoh’s officer, the captain of the bodyguard.

Why does God want Potiphar to buy Joseph?  He has a wife with a wandering eye and Jospeh’s life is going to get worse before it suddenly gets better.

God’s story is so unexpected and extraordinary, that not one of the actors in the story can predict what is going to happen, especially not Joseph who is going to spend 13 long years going from the frying pan of Potiphar’s house to the fire of an Egyptian prison, and of course from there to number two man in Egypt.

Yeah, I saw that coming.

Our God is God of the unexpected.  His ways and methods are so far beyond ours that we struggle to understand what he is doing and why.  No doubt Joseph spent a lot of time pondering the mystery of his fate, until in the blink of an eye he is yanked out of prison and put in administrative control of Egypt, because…a famine is coming and his brothers are going to need food.

 

I’m on Day 31 of my trip through the NLT Chronological Bible reading it as I would a novel.  Today we are in the years 730 BC to 680 BC.  The prophets Micah and Isaiah are active and Judah under King Hezekiah receives very unwelcome visitors.

I had a couple of takeaways from the portion of Isaiah that I read listened to today:

  1. Yahweh is God of ALL the Nations. In today’s reading we see God addressing prophecies to many nations: Ethiopia, Egypt, Babylon, Edom, Arabia, and Tyre, in addition to Israel and Judah.  Yahweh is God of all the nations and he acts as if he is in control of events even in nations that do not know him, nor care about him.
  2. We begin to see that Judah appears as if it will follow in the steps of Israel. Idolatry in Judah raises its ugly head and the reader begins to be concerned that Judah has not learned from the object lesson of what happened to her sister kingdom, Israel at all. “Though you are such wicked rebels, my people, come and return to the Lord.” (Isaiah 31:6, NLT)

Micah, who lives during the time that Israel is carried into exile in Assyria is a prophet to both the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. We read the same message in Micah that we see in Isaiah: Israel’s leaders are not faithful to Yahweh, the people are oppressed by the wealthy, the people are being drawn into idolatry, and judgment is coming.

The startling thing that we find in both Isaiah and Micah is that God repeatedly stops in the middle of warnings and prophecies about coming judgment to remind the people that he has not and will not abandon them:

Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return. They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness.” (Isaiah 35:10, NLT)

Meanwhile, Assyria–superpower of the day–invades Judah and even threatens the capital city of Jerusalem.  King Hezekiah is in deep, deep trouble, indeed it appears as if his goose is cooked.  What will become of Judah?  We won’t find out until tomorrow.  However, the prophet Isaiah has been busy.  Here is what he prophesies about this great superpower, Assyria:

What sorrow awaits you Assyrians, who have destroyed others but have never been destroyed yourselves. You betray others, but you have never been betrayed. When you are done destroying, you will be destroyed. When you are done betraying, you will be betrayed. (Isaiah 33:1, NLT)

God acts as if he is more powerful than the most powerful country of the day.  Is he?  We will soon find out.

“But go, act, be strong for the battle. Why should you suppose that God will cast you down before the enemy? For God has power to help or to cast down.”” (2 Chr. 25.8, ESV)

A “man of God” to King Amaziah of Judah, just before he dismisses 100,000 mercenaries from Israel, and then attacks Seir with only soldiers from Judah.

Amaziah’s problem was that the enemy (Seir) seemed mightier than God, at least in a practical sense.  I’m sure Amaziah would have theoretically believed that God had power to help or cast down, his problem was that he produced an insurance policy to help God out. He was hedging his bets.  His formula was basically God + some extra mercenaries = certain victory.  The man of God reminds him that God + nothing = victory.

Isn’t this how we often operate?  We give lip service to God’s sovereignty, to his providence, but when it comes to acting on that belief we like to hedge our bets, to help God out a little, to trust in God + our own actions, assuming that this formula will give us the best chance of success.  I’ve been guilty of this dozens and dozens of times, so I can hardly throw stones at Amaziah.

The result?  God gives Amaziah a mighty victory over Seir.  Great story, right?  It would be if Amaziah hadn’t immediately fallen into idolatry:

After Amaziah came from striking down the Edomites, he brought the gods of the men of Seir and set them up as his gods and worshiped them, making offerings to them. (2 Chr. 25.14, ESV)

Spiritual victory is no guarantee of future faithfulness.

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).