Tuesday, January 25, 2005

IS HE OR ISN'T HE? This week, I heard of two attacks on the sovereignty of God from people who should know better.

The first came from a speaker at a college student function. My daughter called me worried because the speaker told them God did not have a specific person for them to marry, there were numerous people they could marry and they had to learn how to do it.

I looked the guy up on the internet and found he had a degree in apologetics from Talbot Seminary. I found a little irony in this. He studied to defend the faith, but is attacking the sovereignty of God in his speeches.

I began to quote verses to my daughter until she felt better about it. First, God directs our steps. Proverbs 16:9 says “in his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” Second, not a sparrow falls to the ground outside the will of our Father. (Matthew 10:29) Third, we should make all plans saying if God is willing. James said "You do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. . . . You ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that'" (James 4:14-15).

The second attack came from a pastor. It was also full of irony, for he was preaching about God revealing himself to Abraham as El Shaddai, or God Almighty. The pastor began to explain what God Almighty meant, how God is all powerful or omnipotent, then said, but God is not a God who would send a Tsunami.

If he didn’t do it, who did? One option is that no one did it, the Earth just did it. That assumes that God, although he made the Earth and upholds all things by his power, lets the Earth do its own thing outside his control and direction. We could call this the Andrew Flew theory. The second theory is that God is not omnipotent but impotent and cannot stop it. The other theory is that God did not make it happen, but allowed it to happen. This theory suffers from the same flaw as the first one. In addition, it does not make God look any better, although that is its intention. If God could stop it from happening and does not, does that really make you feel better about him than if he made it happen? Would you feel any better about me if I let your kid get run over by a bus when I could have stopped it, just because I was not driving the bus? No, you would be mad that I stood there and let it happen when I could have grabbed your child and pulled him to safety.

In the Bible, God makes clear that he is in control. In Job 38, God says that he controls the sea. Job 41:31 says “He [God] makes the depths churn like a boiling caldron and sirs up the sea like a pot of ointment. Behind him he leaves a glistening wake; one would think the deep had white hair.” (NIV) Remember the words of the hymn: “billows his will obey”? He clearly has the power to bring a Tsunami; He destroyed the world by water once before. He also gave Moses the power to part the sea. Jesus walked on water and calmed the storm. The disciples exclaimed that even the wind and sea obeyed him (Mark 4:39).

He caused the earth to split open and swallow those who infringed on His glory. He destroyed Sodom and Gomorra. Psalm 1:6 says “For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” Psalm 29:10 says “the Lord sits (or, sat) enthroned over the flood”.

Question 27 of the Heidelberg Catechism says "The almighty and everywhere present power of God . . . upholds heaven and earth, with all creatures, and so governs them that herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, yea, all things, come not by chance, but by his fatherly hand."

In Deuteronomy 32:39 God said "There is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal, And there is no one who can deliver from My hand."

Even the pagan king, Nebuchadnezzar recognized this. In Daniel 4:35, he said God “does according to his will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him ‘what are you doing’”.

Centuries later, Charles Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers, believed it. He said: “I believe that every particle of dust that dances in the sunbeam does not move an atom more or less than God wishes – that every particle of spray that dashes against the steamboat has its orbit, as well as the sun in the heavens – that the chaff from the hand of the winnower is steered as the stars in their courses. The creeping of an aphid over the rosebud is as much fixed as the march of the devastating pestilence – the fall of . . . leaves from a poplar is as fully ordained as the tumbling of an avalanche.”

When faced with calamity, how should we respond? Job said “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10) He accepted God’s sovereignty and determined to glorify God even when he suffered.
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