“His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation, and all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and no one can ward off His hand and say to Him, ‘What hast Thou done?’ ”
I sat with two friends for breakfast not long ago and the subject of God’s providence was brought up. The individual who was a church elder and adult teacher commented, “I’ve searched my concordance from one end to the other and have never found the word ‘sovereignty.’”
Coming from a Pentecostal background, he bristled at the idea that God should have the audacity to infringe on man’s free will to assume some sovereign authority over the affairs of men, let alone the decision of an individual to decide for himself whether or not to accept Jesus as Savior. Needless to say, I was grieved and astounded that this individual had been a professing believer for over 60 years and had somehow missed learning about one of the cardinal teachings found in the Holy Scripture. I almost sensed it a waste of time to confront him with the words of King David, the “man after God’s own heart:”
“The Lord has established His throne in the heavens and His sovereignty rules over all” (Psalm 103:19).
Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, had a different opinion from my friend at the breakfast table. God spoke to the King through His prophet Daniel. Because of his stubbornness and pride the King would be divested of his kingship, driven from mankind to become like a beast, eating grass and having the appearance of a beast. Why? Because he boasted in his ability to rule by his personal greatness. While he looked over his kingdom,
“A voice came from heaven, saying, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty has been removed from you. You will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field. You will be given grass to eat like cattle, until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it upon whom He wishes’” (Daniel 4:31-32).
Would to God that my proud friend would recognize that God is sovereign in all of human history. God decrees all things that come to pass, whereby, as the Westminster Confession states regarding God’s Eternal Decrees,
“God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established” (Chapter III).
Granted, it will take a lifetime to absorb and understand that statement. But one approaching the Bible with “plain sense” cannot help but find historical, grammatical evidence that the truth of God’s sovereignty weaves its way through all the pages of Holy Scripture. It is only a distorted view of God’s rule in human history that denies that it is God who takes the initiative in fulfilling His purposes in human history. Think of this:
Jesus – “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).
Paul – quoting God’s word to Moses – “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but God who has mercy” (Romans 9:15-16).
James – “In the exercise of His own will He brought us forth by the Word of truth, so that we might be, as it were, the first fruits among His creatures” (James 1:18).
Peter – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope” (I Peter 1:3).
Paul – to his son in the faith, Timothy – “Do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, or of me His prisoner; but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity” (II Timothy 1:8-9).
One of the characteristics of the emerging church movement in American Evangelicalism is to approach the Scriptures with the assumption that what the Bible says is open to each individual’s private interpretation. If one doesn’t like the idea of God’s sovereignty over human destiny, simply skip over those passages of scripture that appear to teach it.
Nebuchadnezzar found out differently. Jonah, spewed from the mouth of a great fish, found out differently. Paul, struck to his knees on the Damascus road, found out differently. Would to God that those who boast in their self-determination will submit to God’s sovereign rule before God judges them for their pride.
I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew
He moved my soul to seek Him, seeking me;
It was not I that found, O Savior true;
no, I was found of Thee.
Thou didst reach forth Thy hand and mine enfold;
I walked and sank not on the storm-vexed sea –
’twas not so much that I on Thee took hold,
as Thou, dear Lord, on me.
I find, I walk, I love, but O the whole
of love is but my answer, Lord, to Thee;
for Thou wert long beforehand with my soul,
always Thou lovedst me.
By George W. Chadwick, 1893