Our normal practice is to teach through the Bible verse-by-verse but occasionally something happens in our culture that I feel I need to address. Today is one of those days. Our country is in the midst of a "panicdemic." The Coronavirus is causing widespread panic. So what do we do? How do we respond to what is happening? First and foremost, we need to keep in mind what we are told in Revelation:
And from the throne came a voice saying, "Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great." Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, "Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Revelation 19:5-6 ESV
"Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns"—the word "Hallelujah" is an exclamation of praise. It recurs frequently in the Book of Psalms where its meaning is "Praise Yahweh!" This is a praise given to God because of the fact that He is ruling. Is that fact a reality in your life? Do you live as if Yahweh is reigning?
Let me share with you an experience that happened about 40 years ago that the Lord used in my life. When I was in Bible college, I had a professor whom I grew to love dearly. I first met him when I was registering for classes. I told Cathy that I hoped I did not have him for any classes because he seemed weird. Well, you guessed it. He was the teacher in my Systematic Theology class. I didn't sit under his teaching long before I grew to greatly admire him. He had his PH.D. in Bible, and he knew his Bible well. I sat under his teaching for years and learned much from him. Then something happened that confused and disappointed me. The college had decided to close and as he told us about it, I sensed a real fear and anxiety from him about his future. He was worried about the sale of his house and finding a new job. I couldn't understand how such a man of God could be shaken by circumstances. I wondered if he really believed all that he had taught me about God.
I remembered that experience many years ago when I was experiencing anxiety over my own circumstances in life. I had to ask myself if I really believed what I have been teaching for so many years about the sovereignty of God. I went over in my mind what I believed about God and my perspective changed and my countenance was refreshed. As I reviewed my Theology, I asked myself the same question that David asked himself in the Psalms. "Why so downcast oh my soul? Put your hope in God." After reviewing my theology, particularly the doctrine of God's sovereignty, I found myself saying "Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns." Hopefully our study this morning will be a reminder of this truth.
How well do you know your God? By that I don't mean simply what you know about Him. The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the Name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father.
What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God. No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind than thoughts of God. Such humility prepares us to worship our God who resists the proud.
Knowing God is not just a matter of theology. It involves a knowledge that is crucially important for the living of our lives. All conscious behavior is preceded by and arises out of our thoughts. The Bible teaches that God is sovereign. By sovereign we mean that God possesses and exercises supreme authority and control in all creation, including man.
Modern political science and modern religion hold to a theory that sovereignty resides in the individual. We must, therefore, guard our thinking. Left to ourselves we tend to immediately reduce God to manageable terms. We want to get Him where we can use Him. We want a God we can in some measure control. The control of God seems to be an underlying theme of the positive confession movement. Kenneth Copeland has said that "You don't have a God living in you; You are one." Ruth Carter Stapleton, who studied under Agnes Sanford, says that "God is wholeness; and you are God. In you He lives and moves and has His being." E. W. Kenyon teaches that we are to walk as Jesus walked, without any consciousness of inferiority to God. Ken Copeland said that "We have all the capabilities of God. We have His faith." They have a wrong view of God. He is not sufficient in himself because He can only do what he does by using the universal faith-force in obedience to certain cosmic laws. These false teachers have created a god who is not the God of the Bible. Pink summed it up this way: "The god of modern religious thought no more resembles the supreme sovereign of the Bible than does the dim flickering of a candle resemble the glory of the noon day sun."
When we say that God is sovereign, we're saying that God has an absolute right to rule over everything.
Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name. 1 Chronicles 29:11-13 ESV
For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm! God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne. Psalms 47:7-8 ESV
remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,' calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it. Isaiah 46:9-11 ESV
Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. Psalms 115:3 ESV
God calls ALL the shots. He rules over all. Why is that? Because He is God. God defends his sovereignty on the basis of creation in the book of Job. If you were to come home and find your house burned down to the ground with all your belongings and you had no insurance, how would you respond? Would you question God? What if one of your children died or all of your children died? Would you question God? What if you became ill and could no longer work, and you had no insurance? Would you question God? What if you lost everything in one cataclysmic moment, including your job, your cars, your house, your savings, and your children? How would you respond?
In the book of Job we have a true story about a real man who lost it all. Let's look at how he responded.
Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD." In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. Job 1:20-22 ESV
Notice that Job didn't view Yahweh as passive. He didn't say that "Yahweh let this happen" or "Yahweh allowed Satan to do this to me." He said "Yahweh has taken away." He viewed this as from the hand of God, and his response is worship. In the midst of the worst calamity he worships God.
But he said to her, "You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips. Job 2:10 ESV
We all think God is good when he gives us what we consider as good, but He is good all the time—even when He brings calamity upon our lives. Job's response is nothing short of amazing. What an incredible man! How would you do in his sandals? As this trial went on it began to wear on Job. He begins to question God.
I will say to God, Do not condemn me; let me know why you contend against me. Job 10:2 ESV
Oh, that I had one to hear me! (Here is my signature! Let the Almighty answer me!) Oh, that I had the indictment written by my adversary! Job 31:35 ESV
Job asks, "Why is this happening to me? Show me? I've lost everything except my wife, why?" He gets no answer, just the arguments from his peers. In chapter 38 God speaks. He doesn't answer Job's questions; He asks some questions of his own.
Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: "Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? Job 38:1-5 ESV
Job has absolutely no right to question God. In a series of questions on cosmology, oceanography, meteorology, and astronomy, God challenged Job's competence to judge His control of the world.
"Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Job 38:4 ESV
Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth? Declare, if you know all this. Job 38:18 ESV
And the LORD said to Job: "Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it." Then Job answered the LORD and said: "Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further." Job 40:1-5 ESV
In verse 6 of chapter 40 through chapter 41 verse 34, God focuses on two animals—
behemoth and leviathan. They are not real animals but chaos monsters. The Bible uses all kinds of images to talk about the spiritual forces of evil, images such as serpents, dragons, sea monsters, and other creatures of chaos. The Bible uses chaos monster imagery all over the place to depict God's power over chaos/evil. Yahweh shows Job that he could not even control these chaos monsters let alone take over God's job of controlling the universe. God in effect says, "I created everything, I own everything, and I control everything, so who are you to question me?" Notice Job's response in chapter 42.
Then Job answered the LORD and said: "I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. 'Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?' Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. 'Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.' I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes." Job 42:1-6 ESV
Job says, "I understand that you are God and you are sovereign, please forgive me. I was wrong for not recognizing your sovereign right to give and to take away. I hate myself. How could I ever question you?"
Job was a remarkable man. How could he be so strong in his faith? I think we get a clue from:
I have not departed from the commandment of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food. Job 23:12 ESV
God's Word was more important to Job than his food. Is that true in your case? How many meals have you missed this week? How many spiritual meals have you missed? Job learned of God's sovereignty. He created and He controls.
Sovereignty is the exercise of his moral power whereby it is lawful for him to do what he will with his own creation, even if we don't like it. Think about what it would be like if God were not in control. What if there was nothing more that the natural laws of nature to depend upon. Man is totally helpless against the elements.
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV
Keep that in mind. It is only because of the Lord's mercy that we are not consumed.
The Scriptures show us that God exercises sovereign rule over all of the physical universe--over plant and animal creation, over the nations of the earth, and over all individuals. Let's look at what the Scripture says about God's rule of His creation.
GOD RULES OVER THE PHYSICAL UNIVERSE:
Scripture tells us that God controls the Sun, wind, rain, hail, snow, and ice. The heavenly bodies, the sun, stars, and planets obey his will.
At that time Joshua spoke to the LORD in the day when the LORD gave the Amorites over to the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, "Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and moon, in the Valley of Aijalon." And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies. Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in the midst of heaven and did not hurry to set for about a whole day. There has been no day like it before or since, when the LORD heeded the voice of a man, for the LORD fought for Israel. Joshua 10:12-14 ESV
Yahweh literally stopped the sun from moving. In another incident, God opened up the earth, swallowed Korah, and then closed it up again. God uses the beneficent elements as expressions of his goodness and love and the destructive elements as instruments of discipline and chastening.
GOD RULES OVER THE PLANT AND ANIMAL CREATION:
In the book of Jonah, we see God's control over a fish, a gourd, and a worm—that's right, a worm.
And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. Jonah 1:17 ESV
Now the LORD God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered. Jonah 4:6-7 ESV
The Hebrew word for "appointed" is manah, (maw-naw); to weigh out; to allot or constitute officially; to appoint, prepare.
The book of Jonah blows away all of the soul-winning techniques taught in our day. Jonah says, "Repent," and the whole city turns to God. God is sovereign over the salvation of man.
We see God's sovereignty over the fish when 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 swim for Peter's net. We see Balaam's ass speak. That's probably not a big deal though because I'm sure you've heard an ass or two speak. And how about all the animals that lined 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?
You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there." So he went and did according to the word of the LORD. He went and lived by the brook Cherith that is east of the Jordan. And the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook. 1 Kings 17:4-6 ESV
This is the original bird feeder.
God moved his people out of captivity in Egypt by controlling water, insects, animals, disease, and death. It is clear that God sovereignly rules over the physical universe and the plant and animal creation.
GOD RULES OVER THE NATIONS:
This is seen so clearly in the book of Daniel. In the face of the might and splendor of the Babylonian empire, which had swallowed up Palestine, and with the prospect of further great world empires to follow that would dwarf Israel by every standard of human calculation, the book of Daniel as a whole forms a dramatic reminder that the God of Israel is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. In it we see that God's hand is on history at every point and that history is indeed no more than His-story. The central truth taught all through this book is this: "That the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, Gives it to whomever He will." We see in Daniel 1:9 that God brings Daniel into favor with the prince of the eunuchs. In chapter 2 God controls dreams and removes and sets up kings.
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; Daniel 2:21 ESV
In chapter 3 we see God controlling fire so that it has no effect on his servants. In chapter 4 we see God controlling men's hearts.
Let his mind be changed from a man's, and let a beast's mind be given to him; and let seven periods of time pass over him. Daniel 4:16 ESV
In chapter 5 God sets up and removes kings. In chapter 6 God controls the lions. Daniel knew God was sovereign. His theology kept him strong in the midst of terrible circumstances. Because Daniel knew that God was totally in control, in the midst of a lions' den, he got a good night's sleep. On the other hand, in the palace the king was a wreck because he had no sense of the sovereignty of God.
God sovereignly rules over the physical creation, the plant and animal creation, the nations.
GOD RULES OVER ALL OF THE AREAS OF EACH MAN'S EXISTENCE.
God is sovereign over the birth of man.
But to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the LORD had closed her womb. 1 Samuel 1:5 ESV
For the LORD had closed all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham's wife. Genesis 20:18 ESV
Jacob's anger was kindled against Rachel, and he said, "Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?" Genesis 30:2 ESV
God is not only sovereign over our birth, but He also takes oversight over our career and our death as well. God provides for all of our needs.
"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:25-33 ESV
Strictly speaking, the Greek word basileia, translated here as "kingdom," has reference to "sovereignty," rather than to territory; to "dominion," rather than to a geographical sphere. The "kingdom of God" signifies the rule of God. To seek the kingdom of God is to come under His kingship, to come into subjection to Him as King.
Now please notice the end of the verse "… and all these things shall be added unto you." What things? They are all of the things the Gentiles seek and strive for with the sweat of their brow. The Lord is telling us not to worry about those things. Just walk in obedience to Him, and He will provide them. We do not need to strive for material things. "… and all these things shall be added unto you," is the great reward for those who walk in the obedience of faith.
We are not to be anxious about the necessities of life like the Gentiles were. We do not need to add anxiety to our labors. We must "… seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness," and then we will have all the necessities of this life which He will provide. It seems that few Christians today live at this level spiritually. It is the reason why we have so much anxiety and dissatisfaction in our lives.
God's sovereignty is exhaustive! It includes the germ as well as the galaxies, the fly as well as the Pharaoh, the mosquito (malaria) as well as the monarch. God determines who lands on Park Place. Some of you are familiar with the poem the following poem:
For want of a nail the shoe was lost;
For want of a shoe the horse was lost;
For want of a horse the rider was lost;
For want of a rider the battle was lost;
For want of a battle the war was lost.
If God doesn't control the "nails," then wars cannot be controlled. R. C. Sproul, in his book, The Sovereignty of God, recalled how one of his childhood heroes, race car driver Bill Vukovich, was killed in the Indianapolis 500 when he was going around a turn and his car lost control. The reason for the fatal crash was a $.10 cotter pin that broke. James says, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that." Our lives are under God's sovereign control.
Think about this. The fulfillment of any one prophecy requires control of the whole universe, lest something prevent its occurrence. Judas and Pontius Pilate had to be born in a certain century, and therefore, their parents had to marry at a given time. Many other conditions had to be carried out—conditions that depended upon even more remote events.
The omnipotent God who reigns cares for us.
casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 ESV
The sovereign God who orders every event of the universe cares for us. That ought to give you great comfort and peace. God gives us safety. God works all things out for our good.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 ESV
This could not be true if God were not controlling everything. God protects, provides for, and sustains His people through natural and supernatural means.
So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, "Get up quickly." And the chains fell off his hands. Acts 12:5-7 ESV
Drop down to verse 10:
When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. When Peter came to himself, he said, "Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting." Acts 12:10-11 ESV
How could Peter get a good night's sleep when he was going to be killed the next day? He knew and trusted in God's sovereignty. What else could explain it? Yeshua told Peter he would die when he was old. Peter trusted in the words of Yeshua.
Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go." (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, "Follow me." John 21:18-19 ESV
Here are some examples of God's providential care:
But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. Acts 14:19-20 ESV
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone's bonds were unfastened. Acts 16:25-26 ESV
and the rest on planks or on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all were brought safely to land. Acts 27:44 ESV
When Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand. He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. Acts 28:3, 5 ESV
Our God is in control of everything. God controls disease. You can gargle with Listerine every day and take all the vitamins you want, but the bottom line is that God is sovereign over germs. I'm not saying that you shouldn't take steps to guard your health because I believe God uses means to accomplish His ends. In 2 Chronicles 26 he smote Uzziah with leprosy. In Acts 12 he smote Herod with worms and he died.
God controls battles. You remember the battle that Gideon fought in Judges. His army consisted of 300 men armed with pitchers and torches and trumpets. And Joshoshaphat won the battle depicted in 2 Chronicles by putting the singers out front and praising God.
God determines the time and circumstances of our death (2 Timothy 4:6-8). Do you get the picture? God is absolutely sovereign over the universe. The sovereignty of God is the ground of peace and confidence to all His people. They rejoice that the Lord God omnipotent reigns. Neither chance nor the malice of men control the events of life and all their issues.
We believe the Biblical accounts, yet we seem to doubt God's control in our everyday lives. Yes, God protected, preserved, and cared for his saints, but I'm not sure he can get me through this. Doesn't that sound ridiculous?
God is sovereign. He controls everything. He loves you. What more could we ask for? If we worry or fret, it is only because, as Martin Luther said to Erasmus, "Your thoughts of God are too human."
May we see God for who he is and trust Him in and for everything. What a mighty God we serve!