Many Christians will claim that God is the highest form of good or the highest form of morality and the source of all happiness and joy that we experience and observe on Earth. The strange thing is that when we run into something that we don’t like, say some form of cruelty or injustice we start coming up with a variety of things to say, think, or do to sort of blur our original view of God. Most Christians will also hold that God is in control of everything…..at least they’re fine with saying that while good things are happening. When bad things start happening, we begin to get a bit shaky on that claim as well.
There have been many terrible atrocities done throughout the course of human history and these events continue to happen. It is when examining these events that people start to question God the most. Philosophically, this is called the Problem of Evil and is something that is a struggle no matter what camp you happen to fall into Theologically. I’m not going to attempt a full scale examination of this, but rather try to show just how sovereign God is in what He does.
On Earth, we often look at events like the holocaust and say, “how could God allow that to happen?” and taken farther, we look at Hell and think “a loving God wouldn’t______” or “a loving God would______” but it becomes apparent that we have now applied some sort of outside standard to how we are judging God. What is that standard exactly? If God is the source of all goodness, justice, and morality. How can we judge God by any other standard other than Himself?
“I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.'” – Isaiah 46:9-10
“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” – Job 42:2
“Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” – Psalm 115:3
See the pattern here? God’s plans and purposes cannot be thwarted, changed, or frustrated. God will accomplish everything that He sets out to do. There is an example of great calamity as well, when Jeremiah looks at the destruction of Jerusalem and cries out to the Lord.
“My eyes are spent with weeping; my stomach churns; my bile is poured out to the ground because of the destruction of the daughter of my people, because infants and babies faint in the streets of the city.” – Lamentations 2:11
That’s pretty intense, especially when he talks about the infants and babies. Most of us would stop right there and start questioning God about His purposes or blaming God for doing what He did or allowing it to happen, or not stopping its happening. Jeremiah, however, goes an entirely different route even though he is obviously extremely emotional over the whole ordeal.
“Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?” – Lamentations 3:37-38
John Piper points out that if God reigns as sovereign over the world, then the evil of the world is not outside His design. As an example, he cites Amos “Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it?” – Amos 3:6
“The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will” – Proverbs 21:1; cf. Ezra 6:22
“The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord” – Proverbs 16:33
Not one sparrow “will fall to the ground without your Father’s will” – Matthew 10:29
The pattern here is that not only will nothing happen apart from the will of God, but that nothing is also outside of his control. This undoubtedly will raise questions about free will of final judgments etc. However I will turn to a couple of Biblical examples that I think weigh very heavily on the minds of anyone truly thinking about the sovereignty of God.
The story of Job is truly amazing and is worth reading time and time again. Throughout all that Satan does to Job, he remains steadfast and does not reject God. Starting in chapter 31, Job starts doing a very human thing and starts going through all the things he can think of to come up for an explanation for why this is happening to him. I won’t write it all out but essentially he is asking God why this is happening because as far as he knows, he has done nothing to deserve it.
“Oh, that I had someone to hear me! I sign now my defense-let the Almighty answer me; let my accuser put his indictment in writing.” – Job 31:35
That is, by all logical, Earthly standards and reasoning a perfectly legitimate question. This is how God responds.
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” – Job 38:4 All of Job 38 and 39 contain God asking Job where he was when God did everything, and asking Job who causes all of these things to happen.
The Lord said to Job: “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!”
Then Job answered the Lord: “I am unworthy-how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer-twice, but I will say no more.” (40:1-5)
God again begins to question Job, this time about Job’s intentions and what God is able to do. In the end, at the beginning of chapter 42, Job again replies to the Lord.
“I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without Knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” – 42: 1-6
What happens after all this has taken place? After the back and forth exchange with God?
“After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before.” (42:10) “The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first.” (42:12)
Many times we are unable to see the plans that God has for us, we are unable to grasp the situations that we find ourselves in and we turn to accusations and fear because we don’t understand. Be encouraged, however, by the fact that God knows us better than we know ourselves and He is always looking out for our best interest.
“May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion. May he remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings. May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. We will shout for joy when you are victorious and will lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the Lord grant all your requests. Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed; he answers him from his holy heaven with the saving power of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm. O Lord save the King! Answer us when we call!”
That is an absolutely wonderful way of viewing God, knowing that He will take care of us and protect us when we are in need. We just need to remember our place when it comes to how we think the world should be run and our lives should be run. After all, we are only clay.
“Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” – Isaiah 64:2
Where were you when God created the Earth?