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TEXT: Daniel 4:35
SUBJECT: God is Sovereign #1: How to Look at It
Today, with the Lord's blessing, we will begin a Sunday afternoon study called God is Sovereign. To affirm this in a Christian church seems unnecessary because, in fact, all Christians assume it is true and affirm it (in one way or another) every time they go to church. So why teach what we all already know and believe?
The answer is: When we affirm the sovereignty of God, we're not all affirming the same thing. Not that we're lying when we do it, but Christians understand the term differently. One goal of this study, therefore, is to explain what the Sovereignty of God is, so that, in the words of Paul, we can-
By common consent, confess the great mystery.
Before we get to that, however, I ought to say a couple of preliminary things.
TWO PRELIMINARY THESES
In the first place, while the sovereignty of God remains a deep mystery, it has been sufficiently revealed in the Bible that we can understand it, at least to some degree. To say 'It's mysterious' is true, but to say 'Because it's mysterious, it cannot be known (or known to ordinary people)' is false. God has revealed His sovereignty, most fully and clearly in the Bible, but also in what's sometimes called, 'The Book of Nature'. (More on that later).
Like God Himself, the Sovereignty of God is incomprehensible (which means it cannot be fully known), but its is also knowable (which means we can know true things about it).
In the second place, the sovereignty of God is a good thing. Some Christians believe in the sovereignty of God, but are somewhat embarrassed by it. They may affirm it to people whom they know agree with them, but apologize for it to people who don't.
I would be the first one to caution wisdom in using the word around unbelievers you're trying to win to faith in Christ. (Because it tends to get you off-track). But 'caution' and 'shame' are very different things!
If you're not ashamed of Jesus Christ, you shouldn't be ashamed of the Sovereignty of God-because He wasn't ashamed of it!, Luke 10:21-
I praise you, Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in your sight.
Here, our Lord is praying about the most ticklish aspect of God's Sovereignty, which is His choosing some for salvation, while passing others by. But even here-on the very point which makes us most nervous-Jesus publicly praises God for being sovereign and exercising His sovereignty in the way He does!
What our Lord felt and said about the sovereignty of God was shared by His people, both under the Old Covenant and the New. The Psalms, in particular, celebrate God's sovereignty, Psalm 97:1-
The Lord reigns: let the earth rejoice, let the multitude of the isles be glad.
This is an extraordinary passage because, the Psalmist sees the Rule of God as good, both for Israel (that's what he means by 'the earth'-the land of Israel), and also for the Gentiles, whom he refers to as 'the multitude of the isles'.
Rather than apologizing for it, keeping it under wraps, feeling funny about it, the Psalmist-and the people who sang the Psalm-celebrated it!
What's true of the saints under the Old Covenant, goes even more for us, under the New Covenant. The most sensitive point of Paul's theology is the Fate of Israel, his people, the people for whose salvation he would happily lay down his own life. The Salvation of Israel would occur, but not in the way Paul had expected it to, and instead of grumbling that he and his people got a bad deal, he.what? He extols God for it, Romans, Romans 11:35-
For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.
If the witnesses of God's People under both Covenants are not enough, today's passage clinches the deal. Who is quoted in Daniel 4:35? It is Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon and the greatest Emperor of the ancient world. The man was a pagan, who had some time before, set up a golden image and commanded everyone to worship it on pain of death. Three Jews refused his order, and while he mocked their god for not being able to save them for himself, their God, did just that-and Nebuchadnezzar praised Him for it, and issued a law against speaking ill of Him. That's Daniel 3.
In Chapter 4, the same man has a dream of Empire. He himself is the king, but because of his pride the True King, God, cuts him down to size. When the dream comes true, Nebuchadnezzar loses his mind and starts eating grass as though he were a cow. But then his mind is given back to him, and the first thing he does is praise God, and in particular, God's Sovereignty.
And so, we have four witnesses to the fact of God's sovereignty: Israel, the Church, pagans, and God Himself in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ.
And so, the next time you affirm the Sovereignty of God, do it with confidence and joy! You're on the right side! You're on the winning team! God is sovereign!
What does this mean? Several years ago, I read a very long and detailed book on the subject, but after poring over hundreds of pages )with thousands of footnotes), it occurred to me that the Sovereignty of God means just what it sounds like-
God controls everything.
He controls both Himself and all He has made, which is everything without exception. God controls the material world and the immaterial. He controls angels and demons. He controls humans and animals and plants. He controls the sun, stars, and planets we can see, and the ones we cannot see. If there is life on other planets, He controls it as well as the life on this planet.
There is nothing-absolutely nothing-God does not control. Including, ironically, chaos, which by definition, is that which is uncontrolled! (We'll take this up next time, God willing).
Does the Bible actually teach this? It does. Ephesians 1:11, being the easiest proof text to memorize. Speaking of God the Father, it says, He-
Works all things after the counsel of His will.
This is not only directly taught in the Bible, but other things the Bible teaches assume it and cannot be true if God is not in control of all things. Two examples will suffice.
Firstly, we have the Lordship of Christ. Acts 5:31 says it is God who exalted Christ to the place of Lordship. Philippians 2 says His Lordship extends to everything-
Things in Heaven, things on earth, things under the earth.
The Gospels depict Christ's Lordship over a wide variety of things, from dangerous waters, to demonic powers, to sickness, human minds, even death.
Since the Lordship of Christ is received from God the Father, and extends to all things, it follows that God is in control of all things. Otherwise, what sovereignty is there to give Christ?
Secondly, we have the issue of God's trustworthiness. Psalm 62:8 says-
Trust in Him at all times.
I never met a man more dependable than my father. I asked him to do many things for me, and everything he said he would do, he did do. I cannot think of one time he went back on his word. But his trustworthiness only extended over some things and some time.
I could ask him to clear my sewer pipe and he would. I never asked him to cure my cancer, because he couldn't. For more than fifty years, I asked for his help, but since January 4, 2011, I haven't. Because that's the day he died.
My father was a man you could count on-for some things and some time. But our needs are far greater than any man can meet. We need Someone to unburden ourselves to; we need Someone to whom we can-
Cast all of our cares.
The only way God can be that Someone is if He is sovereign, Lord over everything, from clogged sewer pipes to cancerous kidneys, births, deaths, salvation. God can only be trusted insofar as He can do something. And that's why we can trust Him for anything, because He do anything. In other words-
God is Sovereign!
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