Faithlife Sermons

Sovereignty 3

Notes & Transcripts

Sovereignty 3.

We have been having a look at the subject of the sovereignty of God. Alex led the meeting last time I spoke and did a bit of research: he looked up “sovereignty” in the Bible – only to find that it is not there! Unless you use the NIV which, due to a peculiarity of translation, has it over 300 times. So am I preaching something unbiblical?! The word “sovereignty” may not be there, but the sovereignty of God is found everywhere you look throughout the whole Bible. Not only everywhere you look in the Bible but everywhere around us – if only we open our eyes and see. It depends whether you look from man’s point of view or from the Divine perspective [P] – which side of the coin you are looking at. From the human point-of-view, we try to find out the reason behind things, we trace the cause back looking at the mechanism by which things take place – it gives us an idea of the “how” reason; but it doesn’t tell us the “why” – the real reason – that there is an active will and intelligence that decides, plans, initiates, directs and controls things. [P] The prime cause – someone is driving the car, it is not just the effect of random physical processes. God is in control of all things – He directs them as we control and direct streams of water [P]. Last time I spoke I looked at God’s sovereignty over inanimate things [P] – things that can’t answer back, exercise their will and claim God is violating it.  Last time we looked at יהוה’s control over things on earth: in the atmosphere [P] – the weather; events on land [P] – geological phenomena such as earthquakes and volcanoes – that very afternoon we had a practical demonstration! Then we looked at God’s control over the sea [P]. Land, sea and air – that pretty much covers everything on earth, doesn’t it? But I only got halfway through my sermon! Land, sea and air – God is controlling them all; all that there is – but it doesn’t stop there. His control goes beyond this planet, He controls Celestial events: [P] If you thought God was powerful before, you ain’t seen nothing yet! You may say that I have been speaking of special events; sure, God can intervene in special circumstances – but every day in the so called ordinary things, it is God who is directing all things. If you go down to the beach between 7:00 and 8:00 you can see the dawn. Take with you a precise and accurate scientist with you, ask him what he saw – he won’t say he saw the earth rotate, but that he saw a beautiful sunrise – funny how they malign the Bible for its unscientific language. It happens every day, the sun comes up. Do you know what the Bible says? [Amos 5:8 He who made the Pleiades and Orion (those are constellations of stars in the heavens) and changes deep darkness into morning, who also darkens day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out on the surface of the earth, יהוה is His name.] Each day and night is caused by God Himself. You all know the story of Job – he suffered severely and, understandably, he had a bit of a grizzle Was God in control? Why had this calamity befallen him when he was righteous? He complained a bit about his rights, and wanted to uphold his cause before God – at the end of the book of Job יהוה Himself speaks – and causes Job to see that he is just a man – that God is sovereign, in control of all. He brings Job down a peg – He says: [Job 38:12 Have you ever in your life commanded the morning, and caused the dawn to know its place?!] You don’t need to answer – it is obvious: that is way beyond our control – but the implication is that Someone does call forth the dawn. Jesus told us, didn’t He? [Matthew 5:45 your Father who is in heaven, causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good.] We arrogantly talk of “our solar system” of “our nearest star”, the sun – it is “HIS Sun”! It doesn’t just come up, each day – “He causes it to rise”. No God, no sunrise! We are without excuse! Every day that the sun comes up – we have a reminder of God actively involved, working, extending His grace and goodness – even to those who rile in His face! Celestial events are under the active control of יהוה. He made them in the first place; the very first words of the Bible say: [Genesis 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth— ] [Genesis 1:14-16 And God said, “Let there be lights in the vaulted dome of heaven to separate day from night, and let them be as signs and for appointed times, and for days and years, and they shall be as lights in the vaulted dome of heaven to give light on the earth.” And it was so. And God made two great lights, the greater light to rule the day and the smaller light to rule the night, and the stars.] I just love the compressed brevity “and the stars also” – one day to create all the stars of the heavens – all of the billions of them dismissed in “and the stars”. יהוה made them – cosmologist speak of a “big bang” – a mighty explosion or expansion whereby all the elements were scattered into space which random interactions over vast eons of time coalesced by gravity to form stars. Billions of years and random chance events – or one day and God deliberately making them – you have to decide which you are going to believe! The Bible says that יהוה made them in one day, each individual one. They didn’t just happen together. Do you see how your world-view and philosophy are bound up in your science? If it is just physical forces at work, random – then there is no motivator, no God, no purpose. It’s all a cosmic accident – so too are our lives! The Bible gives no credence to this. The fool says in his heart, “there is no God.” Massive and limitless are the heavens to us, the stars are innumerable, vast in their expanse, huge and powerful [P] – but the psalmist said [Psalm 8:3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which You set in place—] – they are merely the work of His fingers, no great slaving or effort [Psalm 33:6 By the word of יהוה the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host.] And there is a host of them – estimates vary by a factor of 100 but it is reckoned that there are around 1022 stars [P] – it says in: [Psalm 147:4 He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to all of them.] [Isaiah 40:25-26 “To whom then will you liken Me that I would be his equal?” says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these stars, the One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, not one of them is missing.] יהוה calls them out by name – you would have a job thinking up that many names – but if you could, and you could remember them all, and called 10 names a second (which I very much doubt) – it would take you over a million, million years non-stop to call them all out. יהוה calls them each by name, every night! Not just a mass of millions of stars but each one individually, by name. They are His: [Psalm 89:11 The heavens are yours, the earth Yours as well, the world with its fullness, because You founded them.] We read in Genesis 1 that when יהוה made the stars He said: “let them be as signs” – signs are meant to be taken notice of, you look at them, they tell you something, they have significance, they point to something! We are meant to take notice of the stars! Why so many stars? What do they point to? Well, one thing they demonstrate is the vastness of יהוה, His power and awesome greatness! They show that He is God and utterly above and beyond puny man. Listen to what יהוה said to Job: [Job 38:31-33 “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades, or can you loosen the cords of Orion? Can you lead forth the southern constellations at their appointed time, or can you lead the Bear with its children? Do you know heaven’s statutes, or can you establish their rule on the earth?] Well, can you?! But יהוה does! Hallelujah! [Isaiah 42:5 Thus says God, יהוה, who created the heavens and stretched them out.] [Isaiah 48:13 Indeed, My hand founded the earth, and My right hand spread out the heavens; when I summon them, they stand in position together.] [Psalm 74:16-17 Yours is the day, Yours also is the night; You have prepared the light and the sun.] They are His and He controls them. They do His bidding. There is the everyday movement, not random but held together in constellations, at their appointed time. Stars mark time – in fact their whole existence is bound up in the fabric of time. But יהוה is sovereign – He controls them to do His specific will. In the days of Joshua conquering the Promised Land, they were involved in a battle against the Amorites – they were routing them, but they were running out of daylight [Joshua 10:12-14 Then Joshua spoke to יהוה, on the day יהוה gave the Amorites over to the Israelites, and he said in the sight of Israel, “Sun in Gibeon, stand still; and moon, in the valley of Aijalon.” And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation took vengeance on its enemies. Is it not written in the scroll of Jashar? The sun stood still in the middle of the heaven and was not in haste to set for about a full day. There has not been a day like this before it or after that יהוה listened to the voice of a man; for יהוה fought for Israel.] I have heard it argued that the sun didn’t actually stand still, that if the earth had stopped rotating the sea would have sloshed in mighty tidal waves; it was refraction of light – well maybe – but surely if God can stop the earth rotating, He can also control the sea as well. But the “how” God did it isn’t important, rather the fact that He actually did it. He is in sovereign control over the heavens.  There was a most momentous event in history: God’s own Son was going to be born in human form! The stars are for signs! So יהוה wrote a message in the heavens – He called forth a special star – presumably the star was visible across the entire northern hemisphere, but it seems that only a few wise men from the east saw it as a sign and understood its significance. They travelled to Jerusalem and made inquiry of king Herod [Matthew 2:2 saying, “Where is the One who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star at its rising and have come to worship him.”] They were told where the Messiah was prophesied to be born [Matthew 2:9-10 After they listened to the king, they went out, and behold, the star which they had seen at its rising led them until it came and stood above the place where the child was. Now when they saw the star, they rejoiced with very great joy], it led them! יהוה was directing the heavens, the exact position and timing of this star – in sovereign control. When Jesus was crucified [Matthew 27:45-46 Now from the sixth hour, darkness came over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)] Have you ever seen a solar eclipse – they don’t last 3 hours; anyway it is the wrong time of the month. No, again the “how” is not important but the “who” and “why” – יהוה did it, there was His Son bearing the sin of the world in His body and the Father hid His face from Him, forsook Him – and as He turned His face the light was blotted out. יהוה intervened in the celestial order and He did so with a will and a purpose – it was a sign, He was saying something through His sovereign control over inanimate things. The cosmologists say that the heavens have been there for billions of years and will last billions more – but to יהוה they are transient. They are serving His purpose but they will wear out. He will be finished with them. The end will come and: [Joel 2:30-31 and I will set wonders in the heavens, and on earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun will be changed to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of יהוה.] [Isaiah 34:4 and all the host of heaven shall rot. And the skies shall roll up like a scroll, and all their host shall wither like the withering of a leaf from a vine, or like the withering from a fig tree.] יהוה is going to act – exercise His sovereign control over celestial events. The heavens will come to an end and יהוה says that He will do it: [Haggai 2:6 For thus says יהוה of armies: ‘Once again, in a little while, I will shake the heavens. Ezekiel 32:7-8 “I will cover the heavens and darken their stars; I will cover the sun with a cloud and the moon will not give its light. “All the shining lights in the heavens I will darken over you and will set darkness on your land,” Declares the Lord יהוה.] Jesus confirmed this, He said: [Matthew 24:29 “And immediately after the tribulation of those days, ‘the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven will be shaken.] The witness of Scripture is completely consistent: [2 Peter 3:10-13 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will disappear with a rushing noise, and the celestial bodies will be destroyed by being burned up, and the earth and the deeds done on it will be disclosed. Because all these things are being destroyed in this way, what sort of people must you be in holy behaviour and godliness, while waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by being burned up and the celestial bodies will melt as they are consumed by heat! But according to his promise, we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness resides. Revelation 6:14 And the sky was split apart like a scroll that is rolled up.] יהוה, in His mighty power, is in control of the vast heavens [P]. But even more amazing is His exact and precise control over the tiniest detail. From celestial events, the massive, let us turn to the tiny – what I have termed quantum events [P]: Now relax, I am not going to give you a lecture on quantum mechanics. But something very peculiar occurs when you get down to the very small, to fundamental particles. When you get down to the size of electrons and smaller, your observation actually influences what you are observing. The upshot of this is that you cannot know exactly what one of these tiny particles is doing and at the same time know where it is. Not that we just don’t know now but might do one day – rather, it is unknowable, period. Scientists stated this in what is known as the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. Instead of knowing exactly, there is probability formula. You can tell what happens on average, but not the individual particle. At the most fundamental level – things are random – there is only a certain probability, chance, of where something is and what it is doing. This results in all sorts of bizarre consequences. Einstein took objection to this interpretation and came out with his famous statement: “God does not play dice!” Evolution, cosmology and quantum physics all say that things are due to chance, utterly random, directionless and pointless – determined to exclude God. Now the Bible does not mention quarks, photons, it has nothing to tell us about quantum events. But it says [Psalm 103:19 יהוה has established His throne in the heavens, and His kingdom rules over all.] “ALL”: both the vast heavens and the infinitely small. It indicates that God’s control extends to the very small, that there is nothing that is random. It is my personal belief that God not only knows but controls both the momentum and position of every quark, the tiniest particle there is. Jesus said [Matthew 5:36 And do not swear by your head, because you are not able to make one hair white or black.] I cannot make one of my hairs white or black – but someone can. Someone does! Who determines what colour each hair individual hair is? Do you want evidence of the on-going work of God in my life? – look at the number of hairs He is changing from brown to white! I mean you can use a bottle of dye to cover up the work God is doing – but leave it a week and you will see that that hair is still white at root. The insignificant is an individual to God – not a sparrow falls to the ground apart from Him. He is in control down to the very small, down to the level where the outcome of randomness is determined – down to each quantum decision. We are used to chance, to the principles of randomness – but it is quite foreign to the Bible because it regards יהוה as sovereign! He is in control of ALL. So to Einstein, and to us, dice indicates a game of chance, a random outcome; but the Bible says: [Proverbs 16:33 The lot will be cast into the lap, but all of its decisions are from יהוה.] Not a chance event, but a decision. There is a Divine will behind it. We don’t know what to do, so we toss a coin – we get a random outcome – 50% probability of heads. But in the Bible it is not a chance outcome but one determined by יהוה Do you remember when Israel attacked the city of Jericho, Achan took some spoil which it was forbidden to do. This sin caused the Israelites to be defeated. יהוה told them to remove the sin from their midst. They did it by casting lots. The probability of picking out Achan, according to mathematics is less than 1 in 600,000 – fairly long odds! [Joshua 7:16-19 So Joshua rose early in the morning and brought forward Israel, tribe by tribe, and the tribe of Judah was selected by lot. And he brought forward the clans of Judah and selected the clan of the Zerahites by lot. Then he brought forward the clan of the Zerahites, one by one, and Zabdi was selected by lot. He brought forward his family, one by one, and Achan son of Carmi son of Zabdi son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was selected by lot. And Joshua said to Achan, “My son, please, give glory to יהוה the God of Israel, and give praise to Him. Tell me, please, what you have done; do not hide it from me.”] Four times the lot was cast – and each time it was bang on. It was not a random selection, יהוה controlled the lot. We frown on such practices because we see it as chance selection. But the Bible never views it that way – it was not wrong; in fact יהוה stipulated that is how His will was to be determined for the division of the land. It wasn’t: here are some parcels of land, let’s roll the dice to see who gets what. Rather it was something holy – they cast the lot and יהוה gave His decision through it. It was how יהוה instructed them to do it: [Numbers 26:55 Surely the land will be divided by lot. They will inherit according to the names of the tribes of their ancestors.] And that is what Joshua did: [Joshua 14:1-2 These are the territories that the Israelites inherited in the land of Canaan, which Eleazar the priest, Joshua son of Nun, and the heads of the families of the tribes of the Israelites gave as an inheritance to them. Their inheritance was by lot, just as יהוה commanded through the hand of Moses, for the nine tribes and the half-tribe.] There is no such thing as a random event, יהוה controls down tiniest detail. Again and again the lot proved itself to be non-random. On one occasion Saul’s son Jonathon, inadvertently broke an oath his father had made. Even although it was a dumb oath, the oath breaker was accurately determined: [1 Samuel 14:41-42 Then Saul said to יהוה the God of Israel, “Render a decision perfectly.” Jonathan and Saul were chosen by lot and the people went out. Then Saul said, “Let them cast the lot between me and my son Jonathan,” and Jonathan was chosen.] God used His control over what we would call a chance process to reveal His will. The high priest carried two stones called urim and thummim: [Numbers 27:21 He will stand before Eleazar the priest, who will ask for him by the decision of the Urim before יהוה. On His command they will go out, and at His command they will come in, both he and all of the Israelites with him, the entire community.”] God communicated what His will was – it wasn’t random, it was controlled. In the Bible the lot is never regarded as chance or random but because they believed in the sovereignty of God – it was viewed as a valid way of God revealing His will. So when the disciples needed to find a replacement for Judas as the Scripture instructed them to, they committed it to God to reveal His will and then cast lots: [Acts 1:23-26 And they proposed two men, Joseph and Matthias. And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show clearly which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to depart to his own place.” And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was added to serve with the eleven apostles.] It wasn’t we don’t know, so “eeny, meeny, miny, moe”; “toss a coin” – no, it was LORD you know, You have chosen, You show. In each of these cases it was something done before the LORD trusting Him to control and over rule. But He is in control even when it is the heathen – there were these idolatrous sailors on a ship that was sinking in the storm. Someone was to blame and they wanted to find out who: [Jonah 1:7 And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots so that we may know on whose account this disaster has come on us!” And they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah.] Again, יהוה controlled the lot and accurately picked out the culprit. I challenge you to find a chance incident in the Bible. Our view of luck and chance is the effect of pagan influence who worshipped these as gods – in particular the Persians: remember Haman cast lots (purim) to find when to destroy the Jews. But יהוה overruled the gods of the Persians and on the day determined by the purim, His people were delivered. He ruled over the purim, that is why the Jews celebrate the festival of purim. When you buy a Lotto ticket you are paying tribute to the god of chance. Regarding things as chance is a denial of the sovereignty of God; who is control of the seemingly random, the tiniest detail. There is an incident that appeals to me: good king Jehoshaphat of Judah went to war allied with evil king Ahab of Israel. It was a bad choice. A prophet had predicted Ahab’s death, so he decided to go into battle in disguise, so they wouldn’t know who he was and aim for him. Jehoshaphat was to go in His king’s robes, let him take the risk. I can’t believe he went along with this! Anyway they went into battle:  [2 Chronicles 18:31-34 So when the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, they said, “It is the king of Israel,” and they turned aside to fight against him. But Jehoshaphat cried out, and יהוה helped him, and God diverted them from him. When the captains of the chariots saw that it was not the king of Israel, they turned back from pursuing him. A certain man drew his bow at random and struck the king of Israel in a joint of the armour. So he said to the driver of the chariot, “Turn around and take me out of the fight, for I am severely wounded.” The battle raged that day, and the king of Israel propped himself up in his chariot in front of the Arameans until the evening; and at sunset he died.] A random arrow just happened to land in the one gap in the armour – it wasn’t random at all. יהוה controlled it accomplishing what He had decided and announced beforehand. Sovereign control over the flight of a random arrow – right down to the tiniest quantum event. The other week I got a puncture on my way home. The next day, since I hadn’t got around to fixing it, I took Rhoda’s bike to work –I was just crossing the Dallington Bridge – and you guessed it – a staple went through the rear tire. Bad luck? NO! God is in control! My house got red zoned, I have a house that is a heap of rubble – is that bad luck?  Is it good luck that my house completely escaped damage in the earthquake? NO! God is sovereign! Look, I know some of you have gone through some real hard stuff, had to face real calamity – life and death stuff – but God is in control! [P] [Psalm 103:19 יהוה has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.] That is ALL – from the biggest to the smallest – from the incomprehensibly massive and powerful control of the heavens; down to the control of the most minute, seemingly insignificant quantum event. He has power to control the great, but is concerned about the smallest detail: [Isaiah 40:26-29 Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these stars, the One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, not one of them is missing. Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, “My way is hidden from יהוה, and the justice due me escapes the notice of my God”? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, יהוה, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. ] Furthermore He cares for and supports His own.

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