Understanding the Sovereignty of God, 1



In our past two lessons we’ve briefly examined what God is like – his attributes and the characteristics by which he has revealed himself.  We’ve discovered that by understanding more about God’s nature we can develop a sense of peace, assurance, and confidence in our relationship with him.  Understanding what God is like also provides a foundation for sincere worship and service to him.  In this lesson we want to explore how God works.

People often don’t understand the degree to which God is involved in the affairs of their life, history, and world events.  Some might assume that God has created the worlds, set time and mankind on their course, and went on vacation, or casually observes what is going on from his throne in heaven.  Some might assume that God is frantically trying to pull together an army of believers because Satan and his host are just about to take over and thwart his plan and purpose.

In this lesson we will affirm that God is sovereign over all the universe and its inhabitants and that he is continually working behind the scenes to accomplish his will and purpose.  We will discuss how God does this and what it means to us.

The Sovereignty of God:  It’s Scope

It’s important for us to know that the events in life are not happenstance. God is intricately weaving within the affairs of man a strategy to accomplish his will in the life of the believer, the church, and the world. As we shall see, knowing that God is in control brings great assurance in times of adversity and times of prosperity.

God’s sovereignty may be defined in the following way:

Our infinitely wise and powerful God is everywhere present, in all of time, orchestrating all events, great and small, to accomplish his purpose, yet without violating the free will of anyone.

Consider what the Bible says about God’s influence in the following areas:

God is sovereign over the physical universe.

“He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”   Matthew 5:45

“Lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding.”   Psalm 148:8

“Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain, and a path for the thunderstorm.”   Job 38:25

These are just a small sampling of the verses that declare that God is involved in what takes place in the physical universe.  God has set up laws by which the sun, moon, stars and elements of the universe and earth operate, but he is the one who holds it all together and at times chooses to intervene either to cause something to happen or to stop something from happening.

We have evidence in the Scriptures that God at times caused a famine, storm, or earthquake.  This can be seen in ten plagues he brought against Egypt through Moses.  At other times he may have known that a physical event was going to occur and he orchestrated events to coincide with what he foreknew to be going to happen.

God is also sovereign over plant and animal life.

“In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.”   Job 12:10

 “But the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.”   Jonah 1:17

It is God who gives life to all animals and mankind.  God can use animals to accomplish his will and purpose such as directing a great fish to swallow Jonah, or sending pheasants to provide meat for Israel, or serpents to bite them.

What we can learn from this is that not all natural events are natural events!  God is at times directly influencing physical activities and plant and animal life to accomplish his overall purpose for the world, a nation, or a person.

God is sovereign over the nations of the earth.

“For dominion belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations.”   Psalm 22:28

You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle and be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes.”   Daniel 4:25

“Woe to the Assyrian, the rod of my anger, in whose hand is the club of my wrath!  I send him against a godless nation, I dispatch him against a people who anger me, to seize loot and snatch plunder, and to trample them down like mud in the streets.”   Isaiah 10:5-6

One of the most interesting aspects of the sovereignty of God is that God is at work in the nations of the earth.  The Scriptures emphatically declare that God uses nations, tribes, and people groups to accomplish his will.  God raised up nations such as Assyria, Babylon, and Egypt to execute judgment on Israel and Judah while they were in rebellion against him.  God’s intention was for these nations to respond to him and acknowledge him as Savior.  Most didn’t, therefore, God eventually brought judgment on them as well.

As we shall see, there are times when God directly influences a national leader or group of people to do a specific thing he wants accomplished, and at other times he allows them to fulfill the intent of their hearts, but uses what they have initiated themselves to accomplish his will and purpose.

God is sovereign over each man’s existence.

“Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”   Psalm 139:16

“Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”    John 21:19

“The LORD had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians.”

Exodus 12:36

“The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.”   Proverbs 16:33

God knew you before you were born.  He knew what your physical frame would be like – the color of your hair, eyes, height, and any physical weaknesses or strengths.  Because of his omniscience he knows your future.  He has a path which he desires for you to walk in.  In fact, the Bible seems to indicate that God has a book of your life which includes his perfect plan for you and how you will respond to that plan.

The Bible teaches that there are no accidents with God.  He is sovereign over each person’s birth, career, and death.  He is sovereign over the successes and failures of each person and even the most trivial circumstances, such as the people you are introduced to in life, the teachers you have, the churches you attend.  Take for example the King of Persia:

That night the king could not sleep; so he ordered the book of the chronicles, the record of his reign, to be brought in and read to him.”  Esther 6:1

It just so happened that the scribe opened to the very section which recorded how Mordecai saved the king’s life.  As a result, Mordecai was honored and ultimately the entire Jewish race saved from annihilation.  The scribe could have opened to any section of the records of the king, but God directed him to this section because it would fulfill his ultimate purposes.  God didn’t force the man to obey him, but he must have planted the thought in his mind to open to a certain section and the man responded – and he wasn’t even a believer in Yaweh!

While God does not violate the free-will choice of any person, nevertheless, he is behind the scenes planting suggestions in people’s minds, influencing them to do one thing or another in order for them to fulfill his ultimate purposes.

Satan is not in control of the events of this world or your life.  God is in control, and is wisely, carefully, and systematically accomplishing his purposes in the earth.  As we shall see, God will even take the evil intentions of a person and cause them to work out for our good and his purposes.

This should do two things for us:

  1. It should make us very attentive to what is taking place in our life – both the good and the evil – what we’ve planned and what has occurred by “accident.”

God is at work in these circumstances, and as we commit our way to him, he will guide and direct us.

  1. It should give us a sense of destiny.

God has a plan for our lives.  He is doing what he can to direct us to the fulfillment of that plan.  We should do all we can to live the kind of life to fulfill that plan.

More to come tomorrow….


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