Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Applying God's Sovereignty and Means

My church recently went through 1 and 2 Samuel and I've recently been going through 1 Chronicles in my personal time with God. As the Lord has been teaching me through these portions of scripture, I've noticed something that the Spirit has recently brought conviction about.

My observation is that there are a number of stories where people act in such a way as to bring about a certain result. That result then comes, i.e. the people are successful. Then the text does something perhaps unexpected: it says that God did it. It doesn't say "so such and such happened because the people planned well, tried hard, etc." It just says "such and such happened because God did it." Let me give a few examples:

"And Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “The counsel of Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel of Ahithophel.” For the Lord had ordained to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, so that the Lord might bring harm upon Absalom." - 2 Sam. 17:14

"and Jehozadak went into exile when the Lord sent Judah and Jerusalem into exile by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar." - 1 Chron. 6:15

"But he took his stand in the midst of the plot and defended it and killed the Philistines. And the Lord saved them by a great victory." - 1 Chron. 11:14

"And the fame of David went out into all lands, and the Lord brought the fear of him upon all nations." - 1 Chron. 14:17

In each of these cases, something happens that we could explain without God. We could say Absalom perferred Ahithophel's counsel because Ahithophel was a wise guy and Absalom was prideful. We could say Judah and Jerusalem went into exile because King Nebuchadnezzar was a powerful, dominating, king. We could say Israel defeated the Philistines because they had a better army. We could say the nations feared David because he was killing a bunch of their surrounding nations.

But God does not choose to reveal Himself in that way in scripture. He inspires the writers of scripture to instead ascribe these various events as being done by the Lord Himself. They don't say "God allowed such and such to happen," they say that God Himself did it. How are we to understand this? Another text from 2 Chronicles is helpful here.

"But it was ordained by God that the downfall of Ahaziah should come about through his going to visit Joram. For when he came there, he went out with Jehoram to meet Jehu the son of Nimshi, whom the Lord had anointed to destroy the house of Ahab." - 2 Chron. 22:7

Here God ordains both the downfall of Ahaziah and the means through which it happens. God uses means, but is just as sovereign and in control of those as He is the ends. As a result, in any situation we would be right to say that if it happened, God ordained it to happen.

So what does this have to do with real life? Well for me I experienced conviction in the fact that I rarely if ever speak of events in this way. I especially see this come out in the successes of others. For instance, beats me in a sport, has more people in a Bible study, raises more money than I have for their ministry, I'm quick to explain it by "well you know they play more, they're more extroverted, they know more Christians." I'm not saying those things aren't true, it just seems the scriptures might choose to emphasize it differently. I find I hesitate to do so because I don't want to believe that God's plan for my life might not include the same level of "success" as others.

But the fact that everything in my life happens according to God's will is good news, because His will is to conform me to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:28-29), and this is the best thing for me!

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