Pastor David B. Curtis

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Trusting God - Part 3

God's Sovereignty

08/09/1998

In his book, "The Sovereignty of God," A.W. Pink recalls an incident that happened in England in 1902. Queen Victoria was dead, and the date for the coronation of her eldest son, Edward, had been set for April 1902. Pink says, "In all the announcements which were sent out, two little letters were omitted-- D.V.-- Deo Volente: God willing. Plans were made and all arrangements completed for the most imposing celebrations that England had ever witnessed. Kings and emperors from all parts of the earth had received invitations to attend the royal ceremony. The Prince's proclamations were printed and displayed, but, so far as the writer is aware, the letters D.V. were not found on a single one of them. A most imposing program had been arranged, and the late Queen's eldest son was to be crowned Edward the Seventh at Westminster Abbey at a certain hour on a fixed day. And then God intervened, and all man's plans were frustrated. A still small voice was heard to say, 'You have reckoned without Me,' and Prince Edward was stricken down with appendicitis, and his coronation postponed for months."

Was the omission of "God willing" from the proclamation and the subsequent postponement of the coronation merely a coincidence, two events without any relation to one another? Or did God cause Prince Edward to have an appendicitis to show that He was "in control"? We don't know why the situation happened as it did. One thing we do know, however; we cannot carry out any plan apart from God's sovereign will. The Bible clearly teaches this:

Lamentations 3:37 (NKJV) Who is he who speaks and it comes to pass, When the Lord has not commanded it?
Proverbs 16:9 (NKJV) A man's heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.
Proverbs 19:21 (NKJV) There are many plans in a man's heart, Nevertheless the Lord's counsel; that will stand.

God is in control; He is sovereign. He does whatever pleases Him and determines whether we can do what we have planned. No one can do anything apart from God's sovereign will.

It is of the utmost importance that we understand this if we are to trust in God in times of adversity. No one can harm you in anyway apart from the decree of your loving heavenly Father. What an encouragement to the child of God!

We are studying the subject of "Trusting God." We have seen that it pleases God when we trust Him, and it angers Him when we do not. He wants us to trust Him for every detail of our lives. The writer of Proverbs puts it this way:

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV) Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.

Throughout Proverbs we see the reward of trusting (lit. "clinging to," with the idea of setting one's hope and confidence upon) in the Lord as opposed to the futility of resting in one's own wisdom, and seeking one's own way. God designed His creation to have a dependency upon Him. Even in the ordinary decisions of a day, we need to trust God for wisdom and direction. We need to trust God in and for everything. Faith pleases God.

Confidence in the sovereignty of God, in all that affects us, is crucial to our trusting Him. If there is a single event in all of the universe that can occur outside of God's sovereign control, then we cannot trust Him. His love may be infinite, but if His power is limited, and His purpose can be thwarted, we cannot trust Him. But the Scriptures teach us that there is NOTHING outside of the sovereign control of God.

GOD RULES OVER THE PLANT AND ANIMAL CREATION. In the book of Jonah, we see God's control over a fish, a plant, and a worm-- that's right, a worm.

Jonah 1:17 (NKJV) Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
Jonah 4:6-7 (NKJV) And the LORD God prepared a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be shade for his head to deliver him from his misery. So Jonah was very grateful for the plant. 7 But as morning dawned the next day God prepared a worm, and it so damaged the plant that it withered.

The Hebrew word for "prepared" is manah; to weigh out; to allot or constitute officially; to appoint, prepare.

We see God's sovereignty over the fish as Peter fishes all night and catches nothing. Then the Lord tells him to cast out his net, and he can't bring it in for all the fish. God had all the fish in the sea head for Peter's net. We see Ballam's donkey speak. That's probably not a big deal, though, I'm sure you've heard plenty of "donkeys" speak. And how about all the animals lining up to get into the ark before the flood? You don't think that Noah went out and caught all those animals do you? And how about how God fed Elijah by the Brook Cherith:

1 Kings 17:4-6 (NKJV) "And it will be that you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there." 5 So he went and did according to the word of the LORD, for he went and stayed by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. 6 The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the brook.

God rules over the plant and animal kingdom. You probably have no problem with that, but do you know that the Bible also teaches that;

GOD RULES OVER PEOPLE:

Proverbs 21:1 (NKJV) The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.

God controls the king's thinking. This is demonstrated throughout Scripture. We see this in the account of Cyrus, king of Persia, when he issued a proclamation to allow the Jews to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple.

Ezra 1:1 (NKJV) Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying,

This pagan king issues a proclamation because God moved his heart. Now, if God controls the hearts of kings, surely He controls the hearts of all men.

We see in Scripture that God does, in fact, control the hearts of all men. When the Israelites finally left Egypt after the ten plagues, they didn't leave empty handed. The Egyptians gave them all their wealth.

Exodus 12:35-36 (NKJV) Now the children of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, and they had asked from the Egyptians articles of silver, articles of gold, and clothing. 36 And the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they granted them what they requested. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.
Exodus 12:36 (GWT) The LORD made the Egyptians generous to the people, and they gave them what they asked for. So the Israelites stripped Egypt of its wealth.

The Egyptians did something very strange and quite unnatural, they voluntarily gave away all their wealth to the Israelite slaves. Why did they do this? They did it because the Lord sovereignly moved them to. The Bible tells us, "The LORD made the Egyptians generous to the people." So the Egyptians acted freely of their own will, but they did so because God moved them to.

God's sovereign control is not mechanical. It's not that the Egyptians didn't want to give the Israelites their money, but they couldn't help themselves-- they gave away all their money willingly!

God usually works out His sovereign plan through ordinary circumstances. God uses means to accomplish His ends. This is seen very clearly in the book of Esther. As you read Esther, you see the hand of God in every circumstance. God was as sovereignly at work through ordinary circumstances in the time of Esther as He was through the miracles in the time of Moses.

Let's look at the book of Esther and see how God sovereignly moves to protect His people. Esther is the story of an orphaned Jewish girl who became queen of Persia, and delivered her people with the help of her faithful uncle. The narrative itself teaches the story without mentioning God or giving prophetic explanations.

Esther 1:1 (NKJV) Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus (this was the Ahasuerus who reigned over one hundred and twenty-seven provinces, from India to Ethiopia),

"Ahasuerus" is the Hebrew form of the Persian name "Khshayarsha," better known by his Greek name Xerxes I. He ruled the Persian Empire for 21 years, from 485 to 465 b.c. He is mentioned elsewhere in the Bible only in Ezra 4:6 and Daniel 9:1. Judah was one of the provinces over which the king ruled (cf. Neh. 1:2).

The King was having a party with his friends and he sent his chamberlains to get his wife:

Esther 1:11-12 (NKJV) to bring Queen Vashti before the king, wearing her royal crown, in order to show her beauty to the people and the officials, for she was beautiful to behold. 12 But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king's command brought by his eunuchs; therefore the king was furious, and his anger burned within him.

Her action was a breach of etiquette (not to mention a assault on the male ego). The king was used to getting whatever he desired whenever he desired it. Why did she refuse to come to the King? The text doesn't tell us, but as we read, we see that God was removing her so that Esther could take her place as Queen.

The king has Vashti put away from him and decides to look for a new queen. Out of all the women brought before him, he chooses Ester.

Esther 2:17 (NKJV) The king loved Esther more than all the other women, and she obtained grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins; so he set the royal crown upon her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.

Esther was an orphan who was raised by Mordecai. They were both Jews, but Mordecai has asked Esther not to let her kindred be known.

One day Mordecai over heard a plot to kill the king and told Esther who reported it to the king.

Esther 2:23 (NKJV) And when an inquiry was made into the matter, it was confirmed, and both were hanged on a gallows; and it was written in the book of the chronicles in the presence of the king.

What Mordecai had done was written in the chronicles.

The king had promoted a man named Haman to the number two spot in the kingdom, and Haman came to hate Mordecai, Esther's uncle.

Esther 3:2 (NKJV) And all the king's servants who were within the king's gate bowed and paid homage to Haman, for so the king had commanded concerning him. But Mordecai would not bow or pay homage.

Mordecai would not bow to Haman (cf. Es. 5:9) because he (Mordecai) was a Jew.

Esther 3:5-6 (NKJV) When Haman saw that Mordecai did not bow or pay him homage, Haman was filled with wrath. 6 But he disdained to lay hands on Mordecai alone, for they had told him of the people of Mordecai. Instead, Haman sought to destroy all the Jews who were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus; the people of Mordecai.

Haman wants his revenge but does not want to make it look like a personal matter between him and Mordecai. So he began to plot a scheme to whip up anti-Semitic feelings.

Haman goes to the king with a plan to destroy all the Jews in the kingdom because they don't obey the king's laws. The king agrees to the plan, and letters were sent throughout the kingdom.

Esther 3:13 (NKJV) And the letters were sent by couriers into all the king's provinces, to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all the Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, and to plunder their possessions.

Mordecai hears of the plan and tells Esther, asking her to go to the king and intercede on behalf of the Jews. In the mean time, Haman builds a gallows to hang Mordecai.

Esther, chapter 6, reveals, in a remarkable way, how God sovereignly uses the most ordinary circumstances to accomplish His purpose.

Esther 6 (NKJV) 1 That night the king could not sleep. So one was commanded to bring the book of the records of the chronicles; and they were read before the king. 2 And it was found written that Mordecai had told of Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king's eunuchs, the doorkeepers who had sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus. 3 Then the king said, "What honor or dignity has been bestowed on Mordecai for this?" And the king's servants who attended him said, "Nothing has been done for him."

Was it just an accident that the king couldn't sleep on this particular night? This was the very night that Haman was coming to ask permission to hang Mordecai. Why would the king ask to have read to him a register of facts? Why didn't he ask them to play some soft soothing music? Was it just an accident that the reader happened to read from the particular section of the book where Mordecai's actions were recorded? Was it an accident that this happened on the very night that Mordecai was to be hung on the gallows? Why had not Mordecai been rewarded before now? Why didn't the king reward Mordecai at the time when he saved his life?

4 So the king said, "Who is in the court?" Now Haman had just entered the outer court of the king's palace to suggest that the king hang Mordecai on the gallows that he had prepared for him. 5 The king's servants said to him, "Haman is there, standing in the court." And the king said, "Let him come in." 6 So Haman came in, and the king asked him, "What shall be done for the man whom the king delights to honor?" Now Haman thought in his heart, "Whom would the king delight to honor more than me?" 7 And Haman answered the king, "For the man whom the king delights to honor, 8 "let a royal robe be brought which the king has worn, and a horse on which the king has ridden, which has a royal crest placed on its head. 9 "Then let this robe and horse be delivered to the hand of one of the king's most noble princes, that he may array the man whom the king delights to honor. Then parade him on horseback through the city square, and proclaim before him: 'Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor!'" 10 Then the king said to Haman, "Hurry, take the robe and the horse, as you have suggested, and do so for Mordecai the Jew who sits within the king's gate! Leave nothing undone of all that you have spoken." 11 So Haman took the robe and the horse, arrayed Mordecai and led him on horseback through the city square, and proclaimed before him, "Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor!"

That must have been pretty hard for Haman to proclaim. Why did Haman show up at that moment to ask the king's permission to hang Mordecai? Just a coincidence?

The answer to all these questions was that God was sovereignly orchestrating the events of that night to save His people.

Esther goes to the king and tells him she is a Jew, and of Haman's wicked plot to destroy all the Jews. So Haman is hanged on his own gallows, Mordecai is promoted to the number two spot in the kingdom, and the king sent out an order stopping the slaughter of all the Jews.

Esther 8:16-17 (NKJV) The Jews had light and gladness, joy and honor. 17 And in every province and city, wherever the king's command and decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a holiday. Then many of the people of the land became Jews, because fear of the Jews fell upon them.

Since we see that God was sovereignly working out the events in Esther for the good of His people, are we justified in concluding that God always orchestrates the events of our lives to fulfill His purpose? According to Romans 8:28, I believe we are. The sovereign God is in control of all events that happen in our lives.

Many Christians will accept the fact that God is sovereign over nature and impersonal circumstances, but they reject the sovereignty of God over the decisions and actions of people. Believer, if God is not sovereign in the decisions and actions of other people as they effects us, then there is a whole major area of our lives where we cannot trust God; where we are left to fend for ourselves. But the Scriptures clearly teach that God is sovereign over people and moves them to accomplish His purpose.

The rulers in Babylon granted Daniel's request because God moved their hearts:

Daniel 1:8-10 (NKJV) But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. 9 Now God had brought Daniel into the favor and goodwill of the chief of the eunuchs.

God brought Daniel into favor with them so they granted his request. So, God gives us favor with our enemies. I think this is clearly demonstrated in:

Proverbs 16:7 (NKJV) When a man's ways please the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.

God makes our enemies to be at peace with us, God changes their hearts.

God also restrains people from decisions or actions that would hurt us. Remember Abraham lied about his wife, Sarah, saying she was his sister? As a result Abimelech took Sarah as his wife, but God keeps Abimelech from touching her.

Genesis 20:6 (NKJV) And God said to him in a dream, "Yes, I know that you did this in the integrity of your heart. For I also withheld you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her.

Was it that Abimelech tried to sleep with Sarah, but some mysterious power held him back? Was he physically unable to do what he wanted? NO! Abimelech had no conscienceness that the Lord was restraining him, but He was.

A good illustration of God's restraint of people is given in:

Exodus 34:23-24 (NKJV) "Three times in the year all your men shall appear before the Lord, the LORD God of Israel. 24 "For I will cast out the nations before you and enlarge your borders; neither will any man covet your land when you go up to appear before the LORD your God three times in the year.

God commanded all the men to drop their normal activities three times a year to appear before Him. But along with the command, He promised them that no one would covet their land during those times. Not only would no other nations attack them, they would not even desire to do so.

God moves in the hearts of people to accomplish His will. Our first response to this truth should be one of trust. Our careers and destinies are in His hands; not the hands of bosses, commanding officers, professors, coaches, and all other people who, humanly speaking, are in a position to affect our futures. No one can harm you or jeopardize your future apart from the sovereign will of God. You can trust your future to God.

Confidence in God's sovereignty in the lives of people should also keep us from becoming resentful and bitter when we are treated unjustly or maliciously by others.

Because God is sovereign over the hearts of men doesn't mean that things will always turn out as we would like them to. All things will work together for our good, but we may not like how they turn out. We need to trust God in the bad times as well as the good.

In Acts 12, we read about two apostles, James and Peter, who had very different events happen to them. James is put to death and Peter is miraculously set free from prison.

Put yourself in the shoes of James's wife and then Peter's. One is grieving over the murder of her husband; the other rejoices over the miraculous deliverance of hers. Peter's wife rejoices over the sovereignty of God, but what does James's wife do? Was God any less sovereign in the death of James than He was in the deliverance of Peter? Is God sovereign only in the "good" circumstances of our lives?

The Bible teaches that God is sovereign over both good and bad circumstances.

Ecclesiastes 7:14 (NKJV) In the day of prosperity be joyful, But in the day of adversity consider: Surely God has appointed the one as well as the other, So that man can find out nothing that will come after him.
Isaiah 45:7 (NKJV) I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the LORD, do all these things.'
Lamentations 3:38 (NKJV) Is it not from the mouth of the Most High That woe and well-being proceed?

God is in control of both good and bad circumstances. He is in control of the bad circumstances--directing them to His glory and our good.

James' wife must trust in God and in His sovereign control over her life, and the death of her husband. In the midst of her heartache and grief, she may respond with, "Lord, I know You were in control of this dreadful event. I do not understand why You allowed it to happen, but I trust You."

We honor God by choosing to trust Him when we don't understand what He is doing, or why He has allowed some adverse circumstances to occur. God is sovereign. He controls all events and He wants us to trust Him. Do you? If you can't trust Him, you don't know Him well enough.

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