The God Who is Sovereign
How does God's sovereignty and free will coexist? Joshua reminds us of God's sovereignty in Genesis and the cross, and encourages us to trust in this good and loving God who is in control.
I didn’t want to be late. I wanted to make sure I got to my meeting early so I left the house 15 minutes earlier than usual to make sure that I would be punctual. As I left the house and made my way down to the bus stop, it seemed as though everything was going according to plan. The bus came on time just as expected and I boarded, contentedly happy that I was going to be early.
As I was waiting on the bus, something didn’t seem right. The bus started to slow down gradually until it finally came to a stop. Then after a few minutes to my relief, we started moving again, but then the same thing happened—we slowed down and came to a stop…again. Who would have guessed that the traffic would be horrifically bad on the day I wanted to be early. In the end even though I intended to be 15 minutes early, I ended up being 15 minutes late. My plans got completely derailed.
Has this ever happened to you? I’m sure you don’t have to think very hard to recall when things didn’t go according to your plan. It goes to show how little control over our lives we really have. But God is not like this, God is always in control and completely sovereign.
We’ve been studying the book of Genesis and time and again, we see that God is the only One who is truly good and consistent. The fallenness of man really highlights how different God is from us. Throughout the stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, we are shown the character of God and His many attributes, and for this article I wanted to focus on God’s sovereignty.
God’s Sovereignty in Genesis
Our recent sermons have been in Genesis chapters 25-27 which describe the life of Isaac and his relationship between his two sons, Jacob and Esau. This is what God said about Isaac and Rebecca’s sons in Genesis 25:23—
“Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples from within you shall be divided;
the one shall be stronger than the other,
the older shall serve the younger.”
Fast forward a few chapters and we can see God’s prophecy unfolding as Jacob steals both Esau’s birthright and blessing in Genesis 27:36—
Esau said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has cheated me these two times. He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing.”
There is no doubt that God knew all these things, but God not only knew, He is the One who sovereignly orchestrated these things.
The events of this story were not accidental, all these things were intended by God and according to His plan. God had planned and arranged for Jacob to receive Esau’s birthright and blessing, just as He said in chapter 25 (c.f. Romans 9).
From these few chapters we get a glimpse of God’s sovereignty, and it is present throughout the rest of Genesis. A statement by Joseph at the end of Genesis (Gen 50:20) serves as a great summary showing God’s sovereignty:
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.
God didn’t just magically make good out of these situations, God meant for these events to happen for good. God doesn’t just know what’s going to happen then dynamically works His plan, He is in the midst of all these situations and is actively in control. God intentionally works to achieve His good purposes.
God’s Sovereignty for Us
God’s sovereignty is not just present in Genesis. If we believe that God is the same yesterday, today and forever, this same God is sovereign today. There are many Bible passages which speak of God’s sovereignty. Jesus tells us in Matthew 10:29–31 that the extent of God’s sovereignty is that even the sparrows do not fall without Him.
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
If at any point we conclude that God is not sovereign and not in control, we take away from who God is. God ceases to be all powerful. If God is not sovereign and dependent on something, then He can be manipulated and we take away from who God is. He is no longer completely sovereign.
Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. (Prov 19:21)
Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (Jas 4:14–15)
Trust in the Sovereignty of God
God's sovereignty is so amazing that our minds cannot fully comprehend it. Does that mean that God causes people to sin? How can God be sovereign when I have free will and control over my decisions? Do I really have a choice or is God influencing me? These are some questions that may come to mind when we think about God’s sovereignty.
And these are good questions. We know that God is always good and holy, hence the answer is no, God does not cause people to sin. We also have to remember the nature of man. People are sinful and make bad choices. If left to our own devices, we make decisions that will only lead to death and eternal separation from God.
The exact workings of how our free will and God’s absolute control simultaneously coexist is not revealed to us yet, but if we understand that God is good and that He chooses good for us (Eph 1:4, Rom 8:28), then perhaps it is okay for these things to remain a mystery. Afterall, He had us in mind before the world was even created, and He formed and chose us before we even existed (Ps 139:13–14). He can be trusted.
How else can we be sure that God is for our good? Simply look at the cross. God in His sovereignty planned for Christ, His Son, to die on the cross for us so that we can be made righteous. He did this for our greatest good, eternal life with our Creator.
Why would you not want this good and loving God in control of your life? God in His infinite knowledge and sovereignty make things work for our good, even if it’s not what we may expect. You are not where you are by accident, God has sovereignly placed you where you are and is actively working in your life whatever situation you may be facing. We can trust that He is for our good, even if it means sometimes being late. While we like being in control, we do not always make the best decisions. God is not like that, He always makes the best decisions for us, isn't that better?
Does that mean we remain passive and just wait? By no means! This should also give us an amazing sense of confidence and boldness knowing that God is in control. Since our actions cannot derail His plans for us, we can boldly step out in faithful obedience to Him.