God is Sovereign Part Four
We’ve examined the fact that God exercises sovereign rule over the universe, angels, history, and nations. Now we will examine other spheres subject to His sovereignty.
Sovereignty Over Rulers, Counselors, and Judges
Assertions of Sovereignty. The Scriptures declare, “The Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men” (Dan. 4:17, 25, 32). In Isaiah 40:23 God asserts that He “bringeth the princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity.”
Psalm 107:40 states that God “poureth contempt upon princes, and causeth them to wander in the wilderness, where there is no way.” Isaiah 3:1–12 indicates that the Lord judged Jerusalem and Judah by taking away good, capable leaders and giving them oppressive leaders who should not have ruled. Thus God gives a nation the kind of rulers or leaders it deserves.
Examples of God’s Sovereignty. God told Pharaoh of Egypt that He raised him up to his ruling position to exhibit His power in him “that my name may be declared throughout all the earth” (Ex. 9:16; Rom. 9:17). God accomplished that purpose by sending ten devastating plagues on Egypt to break Pharaoh’s stubborn refusal to free the people of Israel from slavery to him.
Because the ruler of Tyre claimed deity for himself, God declared He would bring foreign nations against him to cause his death (Ezek. 28:1–10).
Powerful King Sennacherib of Assyria attacked God’s holiness by claiming Jehovah was no different from the gods of the nations he had already conquered (2 Ki. 18:28–35; 19:8–13). God stated that Sennacherib had reproached and blasphemed “the Holy One of Israel” (2 Ki. 19:22).
He declared that, as a result of what He would do to Sennacherib, the king would return to Assyria where God would cause him to be killed by the sword (2 Ki. 19:7, 28). In one night the angel of the Lord killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in their camp outside Jerusalem (2 Ki. 19:35). This event caused Sennacherib to return home, where two of his sons killed him with a sword (2 Ki. 19:36–37).
God called King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon His servant, the ruler whom he used to judge Judah, Egypt, and other nations (Jer. 25:9–11; 27:6–11; 43:10–13). But because Nebuchadnezzar became consumed with pride, God inflicted him with a form of mental illness that caused him to live for a time like a wild animal (Dan. 4:28–37).
God gave King Jehoiakim of Judah into the hand of King Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 1:1–2).
God called King Cyrus of Medo-Persia His “anointed” and declared that He enabled Cyrus to conquer nations, terrify other kings, break through defenses, and gain treasures and entrance to secret places (Isa. 45:1–3). In addition, the Lord “stirred up the spirit of Cyrus” to exhort the Jewish people to return from Babylon to Jerusalem to build the second Temple (Ezra 1:1–3).
In the future God will raise up the Antichrist to work His sovereign will on Israel, but then He will judge him severely (Zech. 11:15–17).
Near the end of the future Tribulation, the Antichrist, kings, and rulers of the earth will gather their armies and try to prevent God and His Messiah from establishing His theocratic, millennial rule over the world (Ps. 2:2–3; Rev. 19:19). God will laugh at them, mock the puniness of this opposition, vex them, and subject them to His divine wrath (Ps. 2:4–5).
The Antichrist will be cast alive into “a lake of fire burning with brimstone,” and the rest will be killed by the Messiah (Rev. 19:20–21).
Sovereignty Over Ministries
Scripture indicates that spiritual gifts are God-given abilities to minister to other people (1 Pet. 4:10). In addition, the Bible reveals they are given to believers by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:7–11) and that the giving of a gift is an act of God’s grace. (The major part of the word translated “gifts” is the New Testament word for “grace”; compare with Romans 12:6 and 1 Peter 4:10.) Thus God is the sovereign creator or source of these abilities to minister.
Although the apostle Paul told the Corinthian Christians to “covet earnestly the best gifts” (1 Cor. 12:31; cf. 14:1), he made it clear that the Holy Spirit distributes the gifts according to His sovereign will. After listing several different gifts the Spirit gave to believers (1 Cor. 12:8–10), Paul declared, “But all these worketh that one and the very same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will” (1 Cor. 12:11).
Paul further stated, “But now hath God set the members, every one of them, in the body, as it hath pleased him” (1 Cor. 12:18). This means that believers have no guarantee that they will receive the specific spiritual gifts they desire. Thus God is the sovereign distributor of these abilities to minister.
In 1 Corinthians 3:5–7 Paul wrote,
Who, then, is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So, then, neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth, but God that giveth the increase.
Paul thereby indicated that it is God, not the gift possessor, who sovereignly causes the beneficial results of ministry.
The Holy Spirit sovereignly directed the leaders of the church in Antioch of Syria to set apart Barnabas and Paul for the missionary ministry to which He had called them (Acts 13:1–4). The Spirit also sovereignly prevented Paul and his companions from going to Asia Minor and Bithynia because He wanted them to minister in Macedonia (Acts 16:6–10).
Sovereignty Over Nature
God created the heavens (plural in the Hebrew text), the earth, the sea, and all that is in them (Ex. 20:11). Thus He is the sovereign source of all of nature.
God appointed man to be his earthly representative with the responsibility to administer God’s rule over all of nature on this earthly province of God’s universal Kingdom (Gen. 1:26–29). But man fell away from God. As a result, God judged man by sovereignly placing nature under a curse.
He cursed the soil of the earth, apparently with a reduction of fertility, and caused it to produce thorns and thistles, all of which would make man’s work of growing food more difficult (Gen. 3:17–19). The curse also changed animal nature from being tame and vegetarian in diet (Gen. 1:30; 2:19–20) to being wild and flesh-eating.
In light of these radical changes, the apostle Paul wrote, “Creation was made subject to vanity” and “the bondage of corruption,” and “the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” (Rom. 8:20–22).
Since the fall of man, God has demonstrated His sovereignty over nature in multiple ways. For example, because man became so evil and violent, God judged the world with a devastating flood during the days of Noah (Gen. 6:5–8, 13–22).
God used various aspects of nature (frogs, lice, flies, hail, fire, locusts, darkness) and afflicted areas of nature (death of livestock, boils on humans and animals, destruction of vegetation) to force Pharaoh to free the people of Israel from their slavery in Egypt (Ex. 8—10).
God caused a strong wind to part the waters of the Red Sea and dry its bed to enable the Israelites to cross safely from Egypt to the Sinai Peninsula (Ex. 14:21–22). He then let the sea return to its natural state to destroy the chariots and horsemen of Pharaoh when they entered the parted sea to pursue the Israelites (Ex. 14:23–28).
Scripture indicates that God sovereignly rules and stills the raging sea (Ps. 89:9), commands and raises the stormy wind (Ps. 107:25), calms the storm (Ps. 107:29), turns rivers into a wilderness and water springs into dry ground (Ps. 107:33), turns a fruitful land into barrenness (Ps. 107:34), turns the wilderness into a pool of water and dry ground into water springs (Ps. 107:35), causes vapors to ascend from the earth, and makes lightnings with rain (Jer. 10:13).
Jesus Christ exhibited sovereign rule over nature by calming a storm (Mk. 4:36–41), walking on water (Mt. 14:25–26), turning water into wine (Jn. 2:7–11), and changing the nature of a colt that had never been sat upon from wild to tame in order to ride it calmly in His triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Mk. 11:1–11).
During the future Tribulation God will judge the world with a great earthquake and cosmic disturbances (Rev. 6:12–14); hail and fire that will burn one-third of the trees and all green grass (Rev. 8:7); a burning object that will turn one-third of the sea into blood and kill one-third of sea creatures (Rev. 8:8–9); a burning object that will turn the water of one-third of the rivers and fountains into deadly poison (Rev. 8:10–11); darkness of one-third part of the sun, moon, and stars (Rev. 8:12); and lightnings, thunderclaps, an earthquake, and great hail (Rev. 11:19).
Also, the sea will become like the blood of a dead man with the resultant death of every living thing in it (Rev. 16:3). The rivers and fountains will become blood (Rev. 16:4); the sun will scorch with great heat (Rev. 16:8–9); darkness will cover the earth (Rev. 16:10); the Euphrates River will dry up (Rev. 16:12); and thunders, lightnings, an unparalleled earthquake, and very heavy hail will prevail (Rev. 16:18–21).
When Jesus Christ will establish the future Millennial Kingdom, He will remove the curse of sin from nature. Nature will experience “the regeneration” (literally, “genesis again,” Mt. 19:28), “the times of refreshing” (Acts 3:19), “the times of restitution of all things” (Acts 3:21).
Once again all animals will be tame, harmless, and herbivorous (Isa. 11:6–9). There will be beneficial changes in the earth’s climate and natural elements (Isa. 30:23–26; Ezek. 47:1–12; Joel 2:23). Food will abound (Joel 2:22, 24; Ezek. 36:29–30; Zech. 8:11–12), and animals will produce greatly (Ezek. 36:11; 47:8–10).
Sovereignty Over Individuals
Scripture also reveals that God exercises sovereign control over individuals. For example, God gives life and breath to all persons (Acts 17:25). Sometimes God closes wombs to prevent conception (Gen. 20:18), and other times He opens them (Gen. 29:31–32).
He gives “power to the faint” and strength “to those who have no might” (Isa. 40:29). God used the selling of Joseph into slavery by his brothers as His means of elevating Joseph to power in Egypt (Gen. 45:5–8; 50:20). God extended Hezekiah’s life for fifteen years (2 Ki. 20:1–7), delivered Daniel from the lions’ den (Dan. 6:21–22) and Daniel’s three friends from a fiery furnace (Dan. 3:26–28).
Because of Jonah’s disobedience, God prepared a great fish to swallow him (Jon. 1:17). Jesus increased the life spans of Jairus’ daughter (Mk. 5:22–42), the son of the widow of Nain (Lk. 7:11–15), and Lazarus (Jn. 11:43–44) by raising them from the dead.
Consequently, believers should find comfort in the fact that God exercises sovereign control over individuals.