Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is Yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; You are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from You; You are the ruler of all things. In Your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. (1 Chronicles 29:11-12)
Jesus is Lord
Scripture teaches that God (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is never in a hurry, but He is always on time. Human beings drive on through history, but the Lord holds the reins. God is so powerful that He directs bad things to a good ending in Christ. Even when the devil tries to frustrate the Lord’s goodness, God overrules and advances His kingdom anyway. The Lord is the first Causer in human history and the final Causer, and He uses people and events to accomplish His agenda. Nothing happens by accident, chance, or outside of God’s control. He works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will.1
After Christ’s resurrection, He told His disciples: All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me….And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.2 He is King of kings and Lord of lords (His transcendence) and also our Elder Brother and Everlasting Father who stick close to us (His immanence). The scope of Jesus’ control, authority, and presence is the entire universe. And one day, every knee will bow at Jesus’ name and every tongue acknowledge that Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.3
God’s sovereignty is a giant theme in Scripture, maybe the biggest theme, stated or implied in every chapter of the Bible. Here are some (but not all) thoughts on this topic used recently in teaching, counseling, and prison ministry. This builds on God is Sovereign.
Proverbs 16:9 In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.
We are to make plans; God requires that. Planning is our responsibility as His image bearers. We are in charge of managing His creation. But Scripture condemns our plans that forget and ignore God. Only the Lord determines outcomes and whether our plans ever come to pass. Scripture calls us to keep on remembering that.
In the first century AD, Rabbi Saul of Tarsus traveled to Damascus, Syria, planning to persecute the Christian believers there. But the Lord arrested and converted Saul and made him a believer and a super-zealous Christian missionary.4 This was a surprise to Saul and other people, but it was just another step in the unfolding of Jesus’ eternal plans. Later on, a servant named Onesimus decided to rob his boss, Philemon, and planned to run away forever. But God converted Onesimus and brought him back to his old job with a new heart, serving Christ faithfully by serving his employer.5 That’s what all of us are to do.
The Lord calls us to live a life of loving others, faithfulness, and righteousness as He defines those virtues. That’s our job and He will judge our motives and deeds to reward or punish us as He sees appropriate. We are 100% responsible to choose God-honoring paths. That’s our full-time job. But it is the Lord’s job to overrule or establish our paths in life and their results. Let’s stay in our own lane.
Proverbs 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.
Casting the lot was a tool of chance to make a choice, like rolling dice or tossing a coin. But God doesn’t want us to use devices to determine His will. His general rule for guidance is stated in Proverbs 3:5-6:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.
The point of Proverbs 16:33 is that God, not chance, controls our lives and destiny. What people call “chance” is under the Lord’s sovereignty. He unfolds His predetermined plans inch by inch, day by day, in His own way.
Proverbs 21:1 The king’s heart is a stream of water in the Lord’s hand. He turns it wherever He will.
Leaders in civil government, business, and God’s church never have absolute power and they must never be autocratic. They are always accountable to God as their Ruler. They are never free to be arbitrary or self-willed. Here are some of the duties that God requires of those in authority toward people under their care:
As is appropriate to the position they have received from God, those in authority should love, pray for, and bless those under them. They should teach, advise, and warn them, approving, praising, and rewarding those that do well while disapproving, blaming, and punishing those who do wrong. They should also protect those under their care and provide the things they need for soul and body. Those in authority should also be examples of serious, wise, and holy behavior to bring glory to God and honor to themselves and rightly use the authority God has bestowed on them.6
God’s standards for leaders is very high. He warns that leaders will be judged more strictly by Him.7 But God is able to overrule even the bad decisions and bad actions leaders make. Scripture is full of these examples and I’ll just mention two. Near 1400 BC, Egypt’s Pharaoh tried to kill all the Hebrew male babies. But the Lord intervened and caused Moses to be adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter and receive a first-class Egyptian education and become powerful in speech and action.8 Centuries later, Caesar Augustus, decreed a census in the entire Roman world to raise taxes. The Lord intervened and used this census to bring Joseph and Mary back to Bethlehem where Jesus was born. This fulfilled Micah’s prophecy spoken 700 years before Christ that Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.9
This is good news! God is sovereign over all the rulers and leaders on earth, and He uses them to accomplish His eternal purposes. Leaders on earth are never all-powerful; the Lord alone is!
Although Lord Jesus is most high, on lowly ones, He bends His eye.
But those who proud and haughty are, He knows them only from afar.10
To be continued
Notes (various Bible translations used): 1 Eph 1:11. 2 Matt 28:18-20. 3 Phil 2:10-11. 4 Acts 9:1-19. 5 Book of Philemon. 6 Westminster Larger Catechism, Modern English version, Q+A #129. 7 James 3:1. 8 Exodus chapters 1-2; Acts 7:22. 9 Luke 2:1-14; Micah 5:2-4. 10 Psalm 138B Book of Psalms for Singing.