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God's Sovereign Majesty [1-31-21]

My body overreacts to poison ivy. Some people, when exposed, show mild signs of a breakout and then it goes away. My wife is one such fortunate person. If she's exposed to poison ivy, she gets little itchy bumps that are here today, gone tomorrow. Me, the first sign of exposure, I need to go immediately to the walk-in clinic, get a shot and then a prescription for steroid treatment. I still have scars from past outbreaks.

Needless to say, I don't treat poison ivy lightly. I need to be very careful around it. The same goes for the sovereignty of God. We never want to treat it lightly.

Let's start with what Psalm 135:6 says about the sovereignty of God:

Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.

What this means is that God has the power, wisdom, and authority to do anything He chooses within His creation. This is related to the question of suffering when we consider the levels of control God exerts in any given circumstance. Often the concept of divine sovereignty is oversimplified. I can guarantee we are not going to do that today.

Nothing happens outside of God's determining will. Nothing. God knows everything that is going to happen and God knows everything that happens. Here's something you might want to write down:

God's sovereignty is His absolute right to do or allow all things according to His good pleasure.

Here are two big truths about God's sovereignty:

First, the sovereignty of God is governed by his wisdom. “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” {Romans 11:33}. Everything that is unsearchable and inscrutable to us is governed by the deepest divine wisdom. God never does anything or allows anything whimsically — that is, in a meaningless way or randomly or without an infinitely wise purpose. That’s huge. That is a big thing that we must come to terms with when we think about God’s sovereignty.

Second, his sovereignty is governed by his justice and his mercy. “For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him” {Isaiah 30:18}. Or, “Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!” {Romans 9:14}. God never, never wrongs anyone. All that He does is righteous and just, but even justice is not the final and highest aim of God’s wisdom. The ultimate aim is that He be glorified for His mercy and His grace toward undeserving rebels. God sovereignly planned and accomplished salvation for sinners by the death of His Son. Because of that, we read in Romans 15:9: “And in order that the Gentiles [the nations] might glorify God for his mercy.”

Those are the big things to grasp about God’s sovereignty. First, it is unstoppable power and authority over all things, including the human will. Second, it is all in accord with infinite wisdom, infinite justice, infinite mercy through Jesus Christ.

In other words, God is in control. God's sovereignty means He is in control of everything. That's why we can say, with confidence, that God's will is going to be accomplished. No questions asked. While this doesn't mean that everything that happens is always His deliberate will, it does mean that He allows it to happen.

Here's what that means.

Because God is sovereign, he does what he wants and achieves all his purposes.

Nothing can stop God doing His will. Psalm 115:3 says plainly, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” God speaks of himself in Isaiah 46:10, saying, “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.” God is not limited by anything outside of himself, nor can anything thwart his will, whether it be human sinfulness, rebellion or lack of faith, or even demonic schemes. Our God does what he pleases and will always bring his purposes to pass, simply because he is God!

Because God is sovereign, he is in control of the affairs of this world.

Daniel 2:21 says that “He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding.” Nothing in this world happens by random chance, nor has God left us to our own devices to get on with life independently of Him. God is the ruler of this world. God rules over the changing seasons, the raising up of kings and presidents, and also overseeing their downfall – God brings it all to pass. We can rest in this magnificent truth that the government is indeed upon the shoulders of the Lord. Isaiah 9:6 says, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."

But lest we oversimplify things, there's a finesse point about God's

sovereignty and the political/governmental realm. Hot topic right now, eh? God is supremely concerned with His church. God is sovereign over everything, but His passion is not primarily about government; or what is happening in the realms of nations. God is reigning over those things. But His emphasis is the church. That is what He is building. That is what Jesus announced to his disciples. "On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." {Matthew 16:18}

That's why we are in the world but not of the world. How do we live in a foreign land as aliens and strangers? I think Christians, of all stripes, allow themselves to get too caught up in political movements and actions. Lest sanctimony grab hold of us, our passion must align with God's passion… that is, building up the Body of Christ.

Because God is sovereign, he has chosen a people for himself “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4).

Out of no inherent goodness or foreseen faith within us, but purely because he chose to set his love upon us, “he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.” {Ephesians 1:5}. God sovereignly chose us for redemption in Christ, despite ourselves. God remains completely sovereign over our salvation – it is all his work – and because of that he will never let us go; indeed nothing will be able to separate us from his love in Christ Jesus. This is great news for us.

Because God is sovereign, he remains in control even in the face of evil, suffering and injustice.

Acts 2:23 says, “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” While God is never the author or source of evil, he does permit it. The crucifixion of Christ is a perfect example of that. The greatest injustice in history was carried out by evil men; yet it happened according to God’s “definite plan and foreknowledge.” While it is difficult to endure suffering, the fact that God remains sovereign despite it should be of great comfort to us. He is able to use every circumstance to work for His good and glory.

Finally, there's one last question that stirs all kinds of spirited discussion:

Is there a point at which God chooses to allow things that He does not directly cause?

There is so much depth to how this question is answered, I am thankful that our salvation is not dependent on how we answer it.

At times, the Bible describes God as offering us choices. Deuteronomy 30:15-19 says:

“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live.

Then, the Bible describes God as holding us personally responsible for our


You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me.

- Exodus 20:5

Finally, the bible describes God as being unhappy with our actions:

So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel.

- Numbers 25:3

In all these cases, we see how, in His sovereignty, God allows certain things He does not directly cause. These are all fascinating points we could spend much more time on, but for our purpose, we now must move on to how we understand suffering within the context of God's sovereignty.

I'm sure you can hear the question arising from the context of suffering and the sovereignty of God. Perhaps you've asked that question:

How can God be good and sovereign over all things and also allow

intense personal suffering into our lives?

This is a huge question and it is a huge problem for some people.

When I was in 8th grade, my mom had her first surgery for colon cancer. What followed was six years of chemotherapy, experimental radiation, almost two years of blessed remission, followed by another hospitalization, which caused her to miss my high school graduation. She did get to hold her first grandchild before she died at the age of 44.

What was the meaning in those years? What was God's purpose for my mother's life? What was His purpose for my life? How do you live out of the knowledge of God's sovereignty within moments like those?

We look at all of this through the lens of Romans 8:28: "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." That is confidence sown in the truth of God's sovereign will. Built into that confidence is Romans 8:37: "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." In other words, as we struggle with these things, we are grounded in the promise of God's sovereign will working in our lives.

So here is where our next turn is going to take us.

There are micro reasons for suffering. We search for answers for our individual experiences. What is the meaning or purpose for this in my life or the life of someone I love?

Then there are the macro reasons for suffering. These are the big picture ways of looking at suffering.

Obviously, the Bible doesn't speak to the micro reasons. Our personal lives and situations aren't mentioned specifically in the Bible. Are you with me on that? Why this particular suffering? Why this particular person? Why at this particular time? Why with this particular intensity? Why with these particular complications? Why for this particular duration? You hear in all

the particulars that we don't exactly know why.

The Bible does speak directly to the macro reasons. It is explicitly helpful for directly informing our thoughts on suffering. And so, as we read the Bible and look at the macro reasons for suffering, we will draw closer to God. And as we do, we will with great gladness know that in our own weaknesses and frailty, the power of Christ may rest upon us…to the praise of his name. Soli Deo Gloria - To the glory of God Alone!

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