God’s Sovereignty

Posted: August 6, 2018 in god
Tags: , , , ,

Ever tried to do something, and it didn’t work?

I recently got some nice portabella mushrooms out of the frig to grill and had to throw them away.  

The mushrooms had grown hair!

It’s weird, but I prefer my mushrooms, like my babies — bald.

This week I drove to a meeting only to find it had just been cancelled —  by text —  but I hadn’t looked at my phone for a half-hour and didn’t know that. You don’t check this  (hold up mobile phone) every 15 minutes — you’re history.

Then last week my daughter and I went to our backyard to clean it up and we got so frightened we had to run inside and call the fire department.

I often experience “failure of purpose.” 

And this … has led me to a startling and unexpected conclusion: 

I’m not God! 

Wow! How disappointing.

 And you aren’t either.  

But here is the truth.

Isaiah 46:9-10, God speaking says:

I am God, and there is no other;

    I am God, and there is none like me.

I make known the end from the beginning,

    from ancient times, what is still to come.

I say, ‘My purpose will stand,

    and I will do all that I please.’

God is so different from me. He can do all he pleases!

He can clean up the backyard.

Isaiah 46 is called the book of comfort. It is Isaiah’s words addressed to the Jewish exiles returning home from Babylon. 

After sending his precious ones into exile for their idolatry, God is bringing them home again to Jerusalem.  

Why were they exiled? They had looked to Bel and Nebo, Mesopotamian and Canaanite gods of fertility and wisdom for help, not the one true God.  

And so God said to them, “No, I alone am God. There is no other. Only my purpose stands.”

In other words, God was telling them, I am sovereign.

To say God is sovereign is to say he is in control and that his purpose will be fulfilled.

And what is God’s purpose?

His purpose is clearly stated at the end of Isaiah 46, in verse 13. 

I am bringing my righteousness near,

    it is not far away;

    and my salvation will not be delayed.

God’s purpose is bring us home, from exile, to return us to himself, and make us righteous. 

I spent a good deal of time during July painting the inside of a house. 

I hate paint!

Paint won’t mind. Paint loves to migrate. 

Pry up a paint lid and the paint will literally jump out, and fly onto your hands, up your elbows, onto your face and into your hair. 

Paint reminds us that … we are not sovereign. 

Paint is sovereign! 

No, God is.  

Rev 21:4-6 confirms what we read in Isaiah 46. 

“I am making everything new!” …says God in Christ. “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true … It is done. 

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.

God, is in control of newness, of cosmic paint, of the end product, even when we mess up. 

And, like Israel, we do mess up. 

We bow to the modern, mini-gods of success, image, health, money and work. 

But  God alone … can save. 

He can paint justice where there was oppression, and righteousness where there was sin.

God is sovereign …  and … He is good.

Why add good? 

Why add, “He is good.”

 Because his power can make him seem scary, and some theologians have taken sovereignty too far, and have claimed that God even wills and ordains evil. 

They extend his sovereignty to everything.

But, this not correct. 

Evil is something we do, not God, with our free wills. 

And here is where sovereignty gets quite mysterious.

What is God responsible for and what our we? 

Scripture tells us God is sovereign and yet it also clearly indicates God has given us free will.

This is not a sermon on free will, but when Paul writes in Romans 14:12 that “each of us will [have to] give an account of ourselves to God”  This clearly indicates we have agency, and will be held responsible for our actions.  

It’s quite a complex mess really … and when we add in nature’s role (earthquakes, viruses, dangerous beasts) the whole sovereign thing gets even stickier. 

Last week — as I mentioned earlier — my daughter Rosalind and I were working in our backyard picking up old baseboards we took out of the house. 

Some of the wood was under a roll of carpet we had thrown out, so she asked me to move the heavy carpet. 

I picked it up and underneath, right at my feet was — a diamondback rattle snake!

I went airborne.

 In one-half a nano second Rosalind and I were back inside the house. 

And the equally terrified snake was … back under “his” carpet. 

Life is out control!

Three phone calls later, the fire department came, and they calmly caught the snake with their pincher stick, and put it in a bucket and took it away. 

 I love firemen!

They told me. “Yeah, the snakes are good. They control the rodent population.”

Sheesh!  I’d rather have furry little mice and Ratatouilles.

“Snakes, why did it have to be snakes!”

And the terrified snake is now saying, “Humans, why did it have to be humans with a pincher stick, and a bucket!”

Why?

 Because our sovereign God decided on snakes as part of a healthy natural ecosystem, and then he let them go … where they please!

God is sovereign, but he is also wild, and he made a wild, free world. 

And that wild world is not safe, yikes!

I am learning something else I don’t want to learn. 

God is in ultimate control, but that doesn’t mean he that he micromanages life to be easy or perfectly safe or just what I want.

I think the hardest part of sovereignty is when things don’t go my way.

I want no snakes!

I want no problems!

But the world God made is empowered, wild and free — fires, bacteria, poison beasts, poison people.

And so from a wild, beautiful, snaky, diseased, idolatrous, sin-sick world we cry out Papa, help!

“Oh great God, come save us within this dangerous-beautiful world!

And here is where we can gain hope.

As Isaiah recorded, God saves, he restores, and he brings us home.

And it is in Christ that God works out his ultimate sovereignty and his salvific purpose.

Colossians 1:17-18

 He [Jesus] is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

The salvation promised in Isaiah 46, and confirmed in Rev. 21,  is completed in Christ. 

Jesus is the supremacy and sovereignty of God and by his death for our sin, he has cleaned up our back yard and he will remove the snake!

Jesus fulfills God’s purpose in us — and we are best when we look to him, no matter how out of control life seems. 

My brother Steve has cancer. Many in our church pray for him. 

I asked Steve recently, “How do you pray for yourself. 

Steve wrote back his answer on Friday night:

“How do I pray and live?

 I don’t ask for the cancer to leave. 

I don’t even ask for a mitigated, lighter response.

I ask for God to help me not be a grump, to be thankful and kind to Joyce [his wife], to keep my mouth shut or think and pause a bit before I speak because I am in such an agitated state [because of the chemo, Benadryl,  and steroids].

I am asking God to help me live into the values or ways God calls me to live, Thy kingdom come not mine. 

I’d like to be healthy and not have bruises up and down my left arm & hand from doing yard work.

 I’d like not to be up right now, in the middle of the night. 

I’d like to carry the idol called health and image, the one most bowed to here in Southern California, but it ain’t happening.

[But, he finishes] I do believe God will bring good to me during this season.”

Steve is rejecting the lesser-California gods of health and image. 

And he is rejecting the false notion that he is god, and can control his life. 

 Steve is looking to Christ to fulfill God’s purpose in his life.

 Bruised and battered, Steve is living Romans 8:28, for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Using our free wills wisely, we can align with God’s purpose, and pray to be loving — no matter what is happening — and choose to whine less. 

Do this: Choose no other god than God.

And do this. Believe that God is sovereign.

He is sovereign over mushrooms, meetings, paint, snakes, California culture, our bodies, our souls —  over everything.  

God, has got it! 

God, has got us! 

God alone will save us and brings us home from our exiles.  

It is a great mystery, but we, his people, through God’s sovereignty, will be okay. 

I am God, [says the Lord] and there is no other.

Isaiah 46:9

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