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Message for 19th September-2021
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The Sovereignty of God.
Message by J. L.
In difficult times, in times of sadness and loss; no matter in what circumstances we find ourselves, the sovereignty of God is a doctrine that will give us reassurance.
Let’s look afresh at some well known Scripture passages to see God’s sovereign purposes played out.
19 These are the generations of Isaac, Abraham's son: Abraham fathered Isaac, 20 and Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, the sister of Laban the Aramean, to be his wife. 21 And Isaac prayed to the LORD for his wife, because she was barren. And the LORD granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived. 22 The children struggled together within her, and she said, “If it is thus, why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the LORD. 23 And the LORD said to her,
“Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples from within you shall be divided;
the one shall be stronger than the other,
the older shall serve the younger.”
24 When her days to give birth were completed, behold, there were twins in her womb. 25 The first came out red, all his body like a hairy cloak, so they called his name Esau. 26 Afterward his brother came out with his hand holding Esau's heel, so his name was called Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.
27 When the boys grew up, Esau was a skilful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling in tents. 28 Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.
29 Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted. 30 And Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!” (Therefore his name was called Edom.) 31 Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright now.” 32 Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” 33 Jacob said, “Swear to me now.” So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.
The story plays out with Rebecca conspiring to deceive her husband, Isaac into giving the oldest son’s blessing to the younger. No sooner has Isaac blessed Jacob, that Esau comes in to receive his blessing only to find out that it’s been stolen. In Chapter 27 the story continues:
34 As soon as Esau heard the words of his father, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me, even me also, O my father!” 35 But he said, “Your brother came deceitfully, and he has taken away your blessing.” 36 Esau said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob?[a] For he has cheated me these two times. He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing.” Then he said, “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?” 37 Isaac answered and said to Esau, “Behold, I have made him lord over you, and all his brothers I have given to him for servants, and with grain and wine I have sustained him. What then can I do for you, my son?” 38 Esau said to his father, “Have you but one blessing, my father? Bless me, even me also, O my father.” And Esau lifted up his voice and wept.
On meditating about this story one day recently, I asked the question: “If God is sovereign, and He purposed for Jacob to be served by Esau (Genesis 25:23), then why didn’t He simply have Jacob born first?
The Apostle Paul comments on this story in his letter to the Romans:
10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
As we reflect on the question of why God didn’t simply reverse the birth order of the twins to accomplish His purpose, given that He has the power to do so, the answer must be that He had more in His purpose than just the timing of the births.
Let us consider some more examples where God makes His purposes known but then there is (seemingly) delay in those purposes coming to fruition.
In Genesis 37:5-11 God shows Joseph that he will rule over his brothers.
5 Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more. 6 He said to them, “Hear this dream that I have dreamed: 7 Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf.” 8 His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.
9 Then he dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers and said, “Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” 10 But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?” 11 And his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the saying in mind.
You’re probably familiar with the story, Joseph’s brothers, out of jealousy and anger, sell Joseph into slavery.
I the years that follow, Joseph suffers injustice at the hands of his master’s wife and then at the hands of a forgetful cup-bearer.
18 His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” 19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. 21 So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
And so God’s sovereign purpose, as explained in Genesis 37, is fulfilled twenty-two years later. Why so long?
Our third example is found in the book of 1 Samuel.
God said he did not want Israel to have a king, but the people demanded one (Read 1 Samuel 8). The people of Israel chose a man who had all the earthly traits that they wanted, and God had His prophet, Samuel, anoint him as king over them.
1 Samuel 9:1-2
There was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish, the son of Abiel, son of Zeror, son of Becorath, son of Aphiah, a Benjaminite, a man of wealth. And he had a son whose name was Saul, a handsome young man. There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people.
This king’s name was Saul, and he was a failure as King. About twenty-five years into Saul’s reign, God sends his prophet to anoint a new king for Israel.
1 Samuel 16:11-13.
11 Then Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and get him, for we will not sit down till he comes here.” 12 And he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. And the LORD said, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he.” 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up and went to Ramah.
David then spent about fifteen years being persecuted by Saul before he was eventually made King.
Why did God have a “failure” anointed and wait so long for the “man after His own heart” to become king?
God spoke about both Joseph and David and told of the greatness each was to receive, but both had personality issues that needed many years of suffering and struggle before they were fit to rule.
So why didn’t God save a lot of time (and mess) by simply have them born with humility and grace as their strong character traits?
In part the answer can be found in Isaiah 55:8-9
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
And God enacts His purposes for His Name’s sake (for example: Ezekiel 20:9,14,22,44) and for His Glory (see: Isaiah 43:7, 48:11)
Why does it matter if we have a high view of the sovereignty of God? Why does it matter that we have a belief that He is shaping all that we do and orchestrating the universe for His purposes?
Firstly, because Scripture teaches it, here are two examples where it is clearly stated:
The lot is cast into the lap,
but its every decision is from the LORD.
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.
Secondly, because it gives us assurance: Romans 8:29-30 are sweet words to the ears of a Christian:
29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
Thirdly, for Evangelism:
If God is the instigator of salvation,
4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
And has stated that representatives from every tribe, tongue and nation will be saved;
9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
Then no matter where we go, to “closed countries”, to atheist settings; … wherever; if we make the Gospel known and God will bring people to salvation.
Finally, for our well-being.
Let us return to Romans 8, to a verse which is rich in building our confidence to live the Christian life:
28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
This verse is often misquoted: it often is said like this:
“You know, this thing that’s happening is for your good.”
Or it’s said like this:
This thing that’s happening, God will bring good out of it”.
But that’s not what this verse is saying; look at the words: “all things” means everything that occurs, everywhere, for all time. God brings together all the mechanisms of the universe to work for good.
And note that it is all things working “together”; not “this suffering” alone or “this calamity” alone, but “all things – together”.
Only a sovereign God can orchestrate this.
What wonderful news is hard times!
What hope-instilling news in suffering!
Let’s think back to the “Why” questions that were asked after the stories of Jacob, Joseph and David.
God was not just concerned with the birth order of twins, a family bowing down to a spoiled son, or having a king more suited to His tastes; God was working all things for our good.
But there is bad news in this passage also:
If you don’t love God, if he hasn’t called you to Himself then all things are NOT working together for your good.
So if God has not revealed Himself to you in a way that gives you faith to put your trust in Him, for your life and your eternity, I encourage you to pray and ask Him to make Himself known to you in that way.
Pray that He will draw you to Himself and save you from the bondage of sin.
I love to speak and sing of the faithfulness of God. But imagine if God was faithful but not sovereign.
Without His sovereignty He would be incapable of enacting His faithfulness.
But we can have confidence from the Book of Revelation Chapter five. It was written to encourage suffering Christians.
The Scroll represents God’s Will. It contains all of God’s good and gracious and loving and holy purpose for creation, but it’s sealed.
Please be encouraged by Revelation 5
Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. 2 And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” 3 And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, 4 and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. 5 And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”
6 And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7 And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. 8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
9 And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”
11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice,
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honour and glory and blessing!”
13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honour and glory and might forever and ever!”
14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.
Will you join with what is happening in Heaven?
These are two prayers with which we can finish:
(Adapt the words to make them a personal prayer)
17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might
14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.