The Expository Files


Is God on His Throne?
Is God's control of history evident today?

We live in a time of great uncertainty on many levels; moral, spiritual, economic, social, national and international. It is easy to allow ourselves to be filled with anxiety. What does the future hold? Will things get better, or only worse?

What attitude should the Christian have in uncertain times such as these? Should we fear the future? Shall we worry for our well-being?
The answer can be found in remembering that God is in control. But is He really? Even in times of uncertainty and anxiety? It may help to understand by considering the sovereign rule of God.

The Sovereignty of God in the Old Testament
What it means for us today
The prophets often spoke of God's supreme rule in His universe, of which we all are a part. On any given day, with a few notable exceptions, it might have been very difficult for a person to have comprehended God's involvement in the current events of the day. A man or woman trying to be faithful to God in an apostate nation of Israel, or Judah, may have been hard pressed to find any evidence that God was involved at all. There was idolatry and immorality and threat of foreign invasion and then things went downhill from there. If asked “Where is God and what is He doing and why doesn't He fix this mess?” what would a person living in Jeremiah's day or Isaiah's day be able to say?

But God was there! How do we know? Simply this: In spite of a lack of what we would term as “tangible evidence” of God's involvement during some of these dark periods, everything the prophets said would take place did take place; both things predicted to occur later in the same generation as well as things to take place many centuries in the future. Everything! Even the most unlikely things! Now, looking back at all the things that God said He would do, and seeing how all those things were done in history, we are further filled with confidence in the authority of His word and His rule. We learn that just because we might not be able to figure out how God's rule figures into modern day events does not mean it is not there!

Isaiah and the Sovereignty of God
Isaiah prophesied that God would have the Medes overthrow Babylon (Isaiah 13:17-20). This prophecy dates from about 160 years before the fulfillment in history. There were no clues in Isaiah's day that the Medes would be the ones to conquer Babylon. Isaiah further tells us that the motive would not be booty (silver and gold). It wasn't; it was power and revenge. Cyrus brought Babylon power to an end in 539, but left the city intact. Then, in 518 Darius destroyed the walls. Later, Alexander the Great wanted to rebuild it but died before starting, and then Xerxes destroyed the temple Belus in 312. From then on, it is described as a “desert”. Here we see God's sovereignty at work as history fulfills all that He had spoken through His prophet Isaiah over a century and a half before.

Isaiah also proclaimed God's judgment upon such nations as...

1) Babylon - Isaiah 13-14
2) Assyria and Philistia - Isaiah 14
3) Moab - Isaiah 15-16
4) Damascus - Isaiah 17
5) Ethiopia and Cush - Isaiah 18
6) Egypt - Isa 19
7) Edom and Arabia - Isa 21
8) Jerusalem - Isa 22
9) Tyre - Isa 23

All these judgments came true as prophesied; verifying God's existence and sovereignty (Isaiah 46:8-11).

Daniel and the Sovereignty of God
When God, through Daniel, revealed Nebuchadnezzar's dream and its interpretation, Nebuchadnezzar came to admit the sovereign rule of God (Daniel 2:19-21). In this, by God's power and rule, Daniel used Nebuchadnezzar's dream to prophesy the rise and fall of the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek and Roman empires (Daniel 2:36-40). This covered about five centuries of “future history” from Daniel's perspective. We have the modern convenience of recorded history and can look back and see the fulfillment of Daniel's prophecy.

God's Sovereignty and National Righteousness
God does not rule arbitrarily. His decisions include considering a nation's righteousness as part of the equation (Proverbs 14:34). A righteous nation is exalted, but a sinful nation is disgraced. There are no perfect nations, of course, but there are blessed nations (see also Jeremiah 18:7-10).

Also, we need to note that a nation's present prosperity is not an indication that God is pleased with them. The prophet Habakkuk had complained about the wickedness in the land. “Why doesn't God do something about it?” God answered and said that He was doing something about it. He was going to send in the Babylonians to conquer Judah (Habakkuk 1:5-11). But Habakkuk still had a complaint: he said that the Babylonians were even worse than Judah (Habakkuk. 1:12-13). God assured Habakkuk that He knew how evil the Babylonians (Chaldeans) were and that, in His time, He would punish them as well (Habakkuk 2:4,5).

God's Sovereignty Seen In His Son
God still reigns today, through the throne of His Son Jesus. The Old Testament had often spoken of the time to come when the rule of the Son would take place (Isaiah 9:6-7; Daniel 2:44; Psalm 110:1,2; etc.). When, after He rose from the grave, Jesus gave the “great commission” to His apostles, He claimed to have been given “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18-20; cf. Ephesians 1:20-22; Revelation 1:5). Jesus is “Lord of lords and King of kings”! ( cf. 1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14; 19:16). His purpose will be achieved, and, just like in Old Testament times, this will be so whether we can discern His rule at a particular time or not. Nothing can change the outcome from what He decides it will be; it is as if He rules the nations with a rod of iron as far as His purpose is concerned (Revelation 3:26-27). He continues to “judge the nations” (Revelation 17:14) and will use various means to judge the nations of the earth; war, famine and so forth (Revelation 6:1-8). And, do not forget, such judgment may involve using one wicked nation against another!

My Response to God's Sovereignty
The best thing a Christian can do for the welfare of his or her country is to live by faith and spread the gospel (Romans 1:16,17). We can pray to the True Sovereign Ruler in behalf of our nation (1 Timothy 2:1-3). Remember that our true strength is in the Lord. We need not look to the future with anxiety for the one in control is our Lord Jesus. His righteous ones still live by their faith whatever the current circumstances and events may be. I do not have to know where things are headed or how'll they get there; all I need to remember is that they have always ended up where God had said that they would.

By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 16.10; October 2009