Faithlife Sermons

Sovereignty 5

Notes & Transcripts

Sovereignty 5.

We have been looking at the subject of the sovereignty of God [P]. So often we look at things from man’s perspective; it’s natural because, after all, we are men, living here on earth. We have an earthly perspective, rational and reasoned. We trace things back by their mechanistic cause, to try and work out how it will affect us. We tend to look at things from the tail’s perspective because we are earth bound creatures. But if we look at the other side of the coin, from God’s viewpoint, then we will have a totally different perspective. You can’t see both sides of the coin at the same time, but if you turn the coin over you see the Sovereign, the One who is head over all. From God’s perspective you see His complete and total sovereignty over all. What do I mean by the sovereignty of God? That He rules, that He is in control, that He does as He wishes. Because God is God He does as He pleases, only as He pleases, always as He pleases; His great concern is the accomplishment of His own pleasure and the promotion of His own glory. He is the Supreme Being, and therefore Sovereign of the universe. He does what He wishes, how He wishes, when He wishes, the way He wishes and He doesn’t have to ask your opinion. We have looked at יְהוָה’s absolute control over inanimate things: [P] things on earth [P], land, sea and air; things on earth, also things in the heavens [P], from the inconceivably massive [P] down to the tiniest of seemingly random events. Then last time we started to look at יְהוָה’s control over life. [P] He is the Originator of all life, in Him was LIFE – we looked at plant life [P] – this time, as you may have anticipated, I am going to look at יְהוָה’s sovereignty over animal life [P]. Each time, you may have noticed, I have started with Genesis chapter 1, and this time is no different. You see, God’s sovereignty stems back to His creation – if you make something, then it is yours to decide and use as you choose. That right of choice, is essential to sovereignty. So let’s turn again to Genesis chapter one. [Genesis 1:20-25 And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly over the earth across the face of the vaulted dome of heaven. So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kind, and every bird with wings according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let the birds multiply on the earth.” And there was evening, and there was morning, a fifth day. And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kind: cattle and moving things, and wild animals according to their kind.” And it was so. So God made wild animals according to their kind and the cattle according to their kind, and every creeping thing of the earth according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.] Seven times it says “according to its kind”. God created different kinds of animals. It is salutary having a daughter who is interested in creepy crawlies – we get all these books out of the library with fantastic photos. You might think that insects are pretty small and insignificant but there is an absolutely incredible variety of bugs that God has made, each with special features that enable it to do as it was designed to – incredible design features in the tiniest of frames. Hannah is now a keen budding ornithologist – and so now I have learnt about birds – again an absolutely incredible number of kinds, a wealth of variety, “kinds” that God has made. If it were just mere functionality you could have got by with maybe half a dozen designs. He made them “according to their kind” – created different, separate and distinct. What does evolution tell us? – that all stemmed from one original single celled organism. It is almost as if the Bible anticipated what evolution was going to say in categorically stating they were all created as distinct kinds from the beginning. God made them ALL, He made them distinct, He made them for a purpose and He controls them. He is sovereign over them. Now, the word that we read three times “living creatures” is the Hebrew word נֶפֶשׁ, translated “life” in (Gen 1:30) – the “life” of the flesh is in the blood – it is the same word – it is also translated “soul”. Animals are נֶפֶשׁ, they have a soul but they do not have a spirit. Unlike plants, they have a will; but they do not have a conscience for which they are accountable. For God to control them He has to direct their will. So let’s look at animal life. You see יְהוָה’s sovereignty over them very early on: [Genesis 2:19 And out of the ground יְהוָה God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and He brought each to the man to see what he would call it. And whatever the man called that living creature (נֶפֶשׁ) was its name.] [P] יְהוָה gave man dominion over the animals, and so man named them. So there is Adam whom יְהוָה had made; He had already made all the animals, they were off doing their own thing; then יְהוָה brought the animals to the man. Did this actually literally happen? The Bible says it did - then that means God had control over them – He directed them to come to Adam. Have you ever tried to herd sheep? It’s OK for Murray – but they don’t go where you want them to! And they are domesticated! What about, lions, elephants? They all came because יְהוָה is in sovereign control over them. Well, you might say, that was before the fall when everything was perfect. [P] But in Genesis 6:19,20 יְהוָה told Noah to have two of every kind of animal into the ark that He had told him to build. Then in [Genesis 7:14-16 All the living creatures (נֶפֶשׁ) according to their kind, and all the domesticated animals according to their kind, and all the creatures that creep upon the earth according to their kind, all the birds according to their kind, every winged creature. And they came to Noah to the ark, two of each, from every living thing in which was the breath of life. And those that came, male and female, of every living thing, came as God had commanded him. And יְהוָה shut the door behind him.] He brought 2 of every kind to Noah - Noah didn't have to search for them, they came - not flocks, just 2, a male and female except for the clean animals. Why did they come? God sent them; it says that “God commanded them” - God controls them. יְהוָה is in control! [P] He is sovereign. [P] He did the same in Egypt, remember? He summoned frogs, gnats, flies, locusts. Later He summoned huge numbers of Quail. Was it natural swarming? No, it happened directly at God's command. [Psalm 105:34 He spoke and there came locusts and young locusts without number.] It happened at יְהוָה’s command. יְהוָה is in control! [P] He is sovereign. [P] Later on, when Israel was in the Promised Land, they turned away from God, and יְהוָה raised up the Philistines as their enemy. In the course of battle the Ark of the Covenant got captured. Plagues came upon the Philistines so they decided to return it. You remember the story: the Philistines put the ark on a cart pulled by two cows. Now these cows had never had a yoke on them, they would not want to pull a cart. Furthermore, they were both suckling calves. The deck was stacked – naturally the cows would want to return to their bellowing young, go their separate ways. If they went to Beth-Shemesh, to the Israelite town, it just had to be יְהוָה, and the Philistines knew it. [1 Samuel 6:9 You must watch; if it goes up by the way of its territory to Beth Shemesh, He has caused this great disaster to come on us. But if not, then we will know His hand has not struck us; it was by chance that this happened to us.] What happened? [1 Samuel 6:12 The cows went straight on the way on the road to Beth-Shemesh, on the one main road, lowing as they went. They did not turn aside to the right or to the left, and the rulers of the Philistines were walking after them up to the border of Beth-Shemesh.] The Philistines knew it was יְהוָה! That He was in sovereign control – His sovereign control over animals demonstrated to them that it was indeed God’s hand at work that had caused the trouble that they had suffered. יְהוָה is in control! [P] He is sovereign. [P] A bit later on in Israel’s history – again they had turned away from God and He withheld the rain – there was a drought, food was scarce – but יְהוָה looked after His servant Elijah. He commanded ravens to feed Elijah [1 Kings 17:2-6 Then the word of יְהוָה came to him, saying, “Go from this place and turn to the east; you must hide yourself in the Wadi Kerith which faces the Jordan. It shall be that you shall drink from the wadi, and I have commanded the crows to sustain you there.” So he went and did according to the word of יְהוָה. He went and stayed in the Wadi Kerith which faces the Jordan. The crows were bringing bread and meat in the morning for him and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the wadi.] Food is scarce; you would think the scavenging crows would eat whatever they could find. But no, they brought it to Elijah because יְהוָה had commanded them. יְהוָה is in control! [P] He is sovereign. Or again, a story about Elisha we never tell in Sunday School, just two verses: [P] [2 Kings 2:23-24 Then he went up from there to Bethel; as he was going up along the way, young boys came out from the city and mocked at him and said to him, “Go up, baldhead; go up, baldhead!” When he turned around and saw them, he cursed them in the name of יְהוָה. Then two bears came out of the forest and mauled forty-two boys among them.] Some young tearaways had the audacity to mock יְהוָה’s servant. So יְהוָה sent 2 she bears to attack 42 of Elisha's tormentors. It wasn’t because they were hungry – they might have taken on one each – there were 42 of them attacked – perhaps they were crazed, attacking indiscriminately. No, Elisha was not touched. They were directed by יְהוָה to carry out His wrath. יְהוָה is in control! [P] He is sovereign. Elisha was not harmed – neither was Daniel. [P] Daniel’s fellow administrators were jealous of him and tricked the king into making a law which made the punishment for prayer, being thrown into a lions’ den. Daniel continued his habit of praying and so was sentenced to this fate: [Daniel 6:16-17 Then the king gave the command, and Daniel was brought in and they threw him into the lion pit. The king said to Daniel, “Your God, whom you serve faithfully, may He rescue you!” And a stone was brought and it was put on the entrance of the pit, and the king sealed it with his signet ring and with the signet rings of his lords, so that nothing would be changed concerning Daniel. Daniel 6:19-22 Then the king got up at daybreak, at first light, and he went in haste to the lion pit. And when he came near to the pit, he cried out to Daniel with a distressed voice, and the king spoke and said to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, your God whom you serve faithfully, was He able to rescue you from the lions?” Then Daniel spoke to the king, “O king, live forever! My God sent His angel and he shut the mouth of the lions and they did not hurt me, because before Him I was found blameless, and also before you, O king, I have not done any wrong.”] And just in case you thought that the lions were overfed, or tame or something – see what happened when the king had some others thrown in there: [Daniel 6:24 The king then commanded, and these men were brought who had accused Daniel, and they threw them and their children and their wives into the lion pit, and they had not reached the floor of the pit before the lions had overpowered them and they had crushed all of their bones.] יְהוָה is in control! [P] He is sovereign. Last time I referred to the book of Jonah and יְהוָה sovereignly causing a plant to grow to shade Jonah from the sun. There are a couple of other incidents in that book where we see יְהוָה’s sovereignty over animal life – both large and small. [P] We all know the story of the prophet who ran away to sea, to get away from doing what יְהוָה told him to. How יְהוָה sent a storm that threatened to sink the ship so Jonah was thrown overboard – there he was far from land in the depths of the sea – just one single wayward man about to drown – but [Jonah 1:17 And יְהוָה provided a large fish to swallow up Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.] יְהוָה controlled that large fish and directed it to swallow Jonah, to save Him; and to vomit him up precisely three days later. Not only that, He was speaking prophetically of His great future purposes – picturing Jesus’ burial and resurrection three days later. God directed this fish to be a prophetic message. It was יְהוָה’s doing! יְהוָה is in control! [P] He is sovereign. [P] But there was another animal, much smaller, hardly even worthy of the name of an animal. It was a worm! Now I don’t know how much brain or understanding a worm has – but it’s not much. But there was that plant that יְהוָה made grow over Jonah [Jonah 4:7 So God appointed a worm at daybreak the next day, and it attacked the plant, and it withered.] God told a little worm to attack a specific plant, so that it died. Isn’t that amazing control! Right down to individual worms! יְהוָה is in control! [P] He is sovereign. Indisputably these animals were acting on יְהוָה’s command, but they were doing what was within their natural capabilities. But יְהוָה’s sovereignty is absolute – He can cause creatures to do what is completely outside of their natural capability. [P] Remember Balaam, who the king of Moab hired to curse Israel as they amassed on the border of the land of Canaan? יְהוָה had determined to bless His people and did not want Balaam to go and curse them. But Balaam was more keen on the financial reward and that influenced his action – something not unknown in our own day! So Balaam set off on his donkey. Twice יְהוָה’s angel stood in the way and the donkey avoided him, each time Balaam beat the donkey. The third time there was no way around, so: [Numbers 22:27-30 When the donkey saw the angel of יְהוָה, she lay down under Balaam, so Balaam became angry, and he struck the donkey with his staff. יְהוָה opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What did I do to you that you struck me these three times?” Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you made a mockery of me! If only I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now!” The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden all your life until this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?” He said, “No.”] The donkey spoke!! We’ve seen Shrek, we used to it! But in reality donkeys don’t speak! How did it do it? Why? – it says: “יְהוָה opened her mouth!” יְהוָה made the donkey rebuke Balaam. The funny thing is that Balaam was so incensed that he continued a conversation with the donkey as if it was nothing unusual! יְהוָה later endorsed what the donkey said. He gave the power of speech to a not so dumb donkey. יְהוָה is in control! [P] He is sovereign. And it is not just in the Old Testament. [P] I have been reading in my own quiet time recently the incident where the collectors of the temple tax asked Peter if Jesus paid the tax. Despite not being obliged to, Jesus arranged for the tax to be paid – now He didn’t get out his wallet, or go to Judas who looked after the finances. [Matthew 17:27 But so that we do not give offense to them, go out to the sea, cast a line with a hook, and take the first fish that comes up. And when you open its mouth, you will find a four-drachma coin. Take that and give it to them for Me and you.”] He had a fish pay His taxes – I wish I could do that! Have you thought what was involved? You had to get the fish to swallow a coin – now some fish are attracted to shiny things – but this was a coin of exactly the right denomination to pay the tax. The fish had swallowed it prior to Peter being asked about the tax. Furthermore, even with a mouthful that fish still had to be hungry for more bait. Then it had to be in exactly the right part of the lake where Peter was throwing in his line, and be the very first fish to take the bait! Come on! What is the likelihood of that?!! It is amazing exact and detailed control and that well before the event, in preparation for it. It shows that Jesus is God – His sovereignty over animal life shows Him to be, because that is the preserve of God alone! יְהוָה is in control! [P] He is sovereign. Do you remember just before His death Jesus entered Jerusalem [P] [Mark 11:2 and said to them, “Go into the village before you, and right away as you enter into it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it.] His disciples did as He said [Mark 11:7 And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, and he sat on it.] And Jesus rode into Jerusalem to the adulation of the crowd. I am no expert on riding horses or donkeys for that matter, but it says specifically that this colt had never been ridden - I’ve seen the movies, you can’t even put a blanket on the animals back without it bucking and creating a fuss. But Jesus was sovereign [P], in control - the animal submitted, meekly let Him ride. Another incident when Jesus knew what the animal would do ahead of time [P] – there was the cock that crowed three times when Peter denied Jesus. Not that cock’s crowing is unusual – but in my experience they tend to do it a bit more than three times. But it is the exact timing of it [Matthew 26:74-75 Then he began to curse and to swear with an oath, “I do not know the Man!” And immediately a rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the statement Jesus had said, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times,” and he went outside and wept bitterly.] That rooster crowed just when יְהוָה told it to! יְהוָה is in control! [P] He is sovereign. The animals do His bidding. [P] One of the most ubiquitous of birds is the sparrow, passer domesticus, utterly insignificant and worthless. But יְהוָה is in control of every one of them: [Matthew 10:29 “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.] There are flocks of thousands of them but not one dies without יְהוָה, apart from Him! [Luke 12:6 “Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten (neglected, overlooked) before God.] He is watching over each one! יְהוָה is in control! [P] He is sovereign! The animals do His bidding – so יְהוָה says as judgment upon His people [Ezekiel 5:17 And I will send against you famine and fierce animals, and they will make you childless; and plague and blood will pass through you, and I will bring the sword upon you. I, יְהוָה, I have spoken!”] I could go on – but I think you get the idea! Look the Bible was not written to tell us about יְהוָה’s dealings with animals, but His dealings with man! Animals are incidental really to the message, but everywhere they figure we see יְהוָה in control of them. They are “dumb animals” but they have more sense than some humans – [Isaiah 1:3 An ox knows its owner and a donkey the manger of its master. Israel does not know; My people do not understand.] They know who their Master is, know who is in control, who provides  for them [Psalm 104:21 The young lions are roaring for the prey and seeking their food from God. Psalm 104:27-28 They all wait for You to give them their food at the proper time. You give to them; they gather it. You open Your hand, they are filled with what is good. Psalm 145:15-16 The eyes of all look hopefully to You, and You give them their food in due time, opening Your hand, and satisfying the desire of every living creature.] But do we know who our master is?! Who do we look to provide our food? Our skill, our job, our wage packet, the sweat of our brow? [Matthew 6:26 Consider the birds of the sky, that they do not sow or reap or gather produce into barns, and your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth more than they are?] I have cited case after case shows that יְהוָה is sovereign over the living creatures – yet I haven’t referred to the greatest passage on יְהוָה’s sovereignty over the animals. I propose to deal with that next time – you might, in the mean time, like to consider to which passage I am referring – a little puzzle for you for homework. Look, it has really been a one point sermon! I hope you have managed to pick it up: יְהוָה is in control! [P] He is sovereign! You may think I am labouring the point - pedantically going through יְהוָה’s control over every single atom of His universe, animate and in animate, on earth and in the heavens, big and small, plant and animal. But we are so used to considering that we are in control; or used to being told that all happens by naturalistic mechanisms, by chance natural means – that we have got used to the concept of there being no Divine intervention, no Sovereign in control – things just happen. And if there is no Sovereign, then there is no One to serve, no Authority to be accountable to. Life is just one big chance hiccup on a vast plain of meaningless randomness. All that we have shouting in our ears all the time is telling us that God is not there, or if He is then He is not involved. There is no purpose, God has no purpose, things are out of control, they just happen. But יְהוָה is in control! There is a Sovereign, a Ruler on the throne. [P] [Psalm 103:19 יְהוָה has established His throne in the heavens, and His kingdom rules over ALL.] Non-living, living, plants, animals over ALL! We need to establish that foundation, before we extend it to see where His universal sovereignty is over man as well. This fundamental principle is so attacked that we need to establish it solidly on the basis of God’s Word – because its ramifications for us are enormous and far reaching. We need to change our mindset – our way of thinking – to see YHWH in all. [Romans 11:33-36 Oh, the depth of the riches and the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how incomprehensible are His ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counsellor? Or who has given in advance to Him, and it will be paid back to him?” For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory for eternity! Amen.] Fundamentally, to deny or downplay the sovereignty of God is to rob Him of His GLORY! Why am I making such a big deal and devoting such a lot of time to the sovereignty of God? Because to acknowledge His sovereignty is to give Him glory – glory that is due to His Name! Constantly we are making God too small, denying His scope of influence – His sovereignty is over ALL! Let us see Him in everything. Let us give Him the glory, the honour and the praise that is due to His Name! [Psalm 95:3-7 For יְהוָה is the great God, and the great King over all gods, in whose hand are the unexplored places of the earth, and the heights of the mountains are His, to whom belongs the sea that He made, and the dry land that His hands formed. Come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before יְהוָה, our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.] Let us bow before His SOVEREIGNTY

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