Is God Really in Control?: Sovereignty

            It is presupposed in the very act of God creating. It is affirmed in God’s promises of future fulfillment of his promises. It is stated explicitly by Jesus prior to his ascension, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18). It is the basis of the eternal security of all who trust Jesus for their salvation (Rom. 8:31-39). It is the absolute, unqualified, insurmountable sovereignty of God. It identifies God as God.

There is perhaps no place in Scripture where this is made more abundantly clear than the book of Isaiah, and brought into astonishing focus in Isaiah 44:24-45:7.

Isaiah 44:24-45:7 can be divided into two sections that are identified by the same statement: “Thus says the LORD” (44:24; 45:1). From 44:24-28 the reader and listener are accosted with God naming himself by what he does.

Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer,

who formed you from the womb: “I am the LORD,

who made all things,

who alone stretched out the heavens,

who spread out the earth by myself,

who frustrates the signs of liars and makes fools of diviners,

who turns wise men back and makes their knowledge foolish,

who confirms the word of his servant and fulfills the counsel of his messengers,

who says of Jerusalem, “She shall be inhabited,” and of the cities of Judah, “They shall be built, and I will raise up their ruins”;

who says to the deep, “Be dry: I will dry up your rivers”;

who says of Cyrus, “He is my shepherd, and he shall fulfill all my purpose”; saying of Jerusalem, “She shall be built,” and of the temple, “Your foundation shall be laid.”

Then 45:1-7 continues to proclaim what God will do and does because he is God.

Thus says the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped, to subdue nations before him and to loose the belts of kings, to open doors before him that gates may not be closed; “I will go before you and level the exalted places, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron, I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who call you by your name. For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me. I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is no one besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the LORD, who does all these things.

Cyrus, a pagan king, is called God’s anointed or messiah, because God was going to cause Cyrus to bring God’s Old Covenant People, Israel, back to their land. The point of all this is that God is sovereign over everyone, everything and every place. Nothing that goes on in heaven and on earth is out of his control. It culminates, among other things, in Isaiah 45:17 telling us: “But Israel is saved by the LORD with everlasting salvation; you shall not be put to shame or confounded to all eternity.” And, it is the Lord Jesus Christ, who is that LORD. And this true “Israel” of God, saved by him finds its complete fulfillment in the Church, which contains both Jews and Gentiles (Acts 2:14-41; 10:1-48; 11:1-18; 13:47; cf. Isaiah 49:6). And it is of the true church, of those who have salvation, that Paul stated that God the Father “chose in him [Christ] before the foundation [creation] of the world (Eph. 1:4).

            The solution to the Christians earthly troubles, anxieties, distresses and cares is the knowledge that their all-glorious and all-good Triune LORD is in total control of all things. We are never helpless victims of earthly calamities, but in all circumstances of life “we overwhelmingly conquer through him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37) and loves us still and forever. Here is the source of a prayerful, peaceful and praised filled life.

To fail to affirm that the only living and true Triune God does these things or to fail to believe the implications that follow from him doing them, while claiming to trust him, is to take God’s name in vain (3rd commandment).

David P. Smith (Ph.D.) is the author of B. B. Warfield's Scientifically Constructive Theological Scholarship (Wipf & Stock) and co author with Ronald Hoch of Old School, New Clothes: The Cultural Blindness of Christian Education Wipf & Stock). David is Pastor of Covenant Fellowship A.R.P. Church in Greensboro, North Carolina.