Lesson #11: God is sovereign over all, even unbelievers
“The day of the LORD is near for all nations.” Obadiah 1:15
There’s a song one of my previous churches used to sing a lot that goes, “Our God is an awesome God.” That refrain is sung over and over throughout the song. I’ve always thought that wording was a bit odd. If we have “our God” then which “god” does anyone else have? Once, after a service, I went up to the pastor and asked him that question. I said, “Shouldn’t that song just say, ‘God is awesome?’” He replied that he’d never thought about it before. So again, there I was asking the weird questions. As someone who not only likes to talk but also write, I sincerely believe that words matter – even words we sing.
In our verse today from the prophet Obadiah he makes it clear throughout the prophecy that there is no “our God” or “your god” but only one God – the God of the Universe, God the Creator of All.
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.” Acts 17:23-26
As Christians it can be dangerous to fall into the trap of “our God.” It leads us to forget that God’s judgement comes to all, eventually. So, we get outraged over the seeming lack of justice in our human concept of time. We forget that God doesn’t just have expectations of us, as His faithful believers, but also of those who have chosen not to believe. Non-believers don’t get a “free pass,” in the realm of eternity.
Were there even one datum of knowledge, however small, un-known to God, His rule would break down at that point. To be Lord over all the creation, He must possess all knowledge. And were God lacking one infinitesimal modicum of power, that lack would end His reign and undo His kingdom; that one stray atom of power would belong to someone else and God would be a limited ruler and hence not sovereign.A.W. Tozer
Even when I was, as a what can only be called a “Christian-lite,” I had to laugh when people put limits on God’s authority and ability. If you listen to an atheist, you’ll hear all the limits they wish to place on a being that is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient. Their expectation is if they can’t figure it out then it just isn’t true.
“It is only the loyal soul who believes that God engineers circumstances. We take such liberties with our circumstances, we do not believe God engineers them, although we say we do; we treat the things that happen as if they were engineered by men.Oswald Chambers
The atheist can be forgiven because, for whatever reason, God has yet to open their eyes to Him. But for the Christian to place limits on God is to deny His sovereignty. As stated in the above quote by Oswald Chambers, we Christians sometimes opt for the “coincidence” excuse when God answers our prayers. Or we take complete credit for the win or the loss. Or worse yet, we just assume God won’t or can’t answer our prayers.
So much of our issue with God’s sovereignty comes back to our limited sense of time. We live in a blink of God’s eye. And yet we have the gift of looking back over the history of God’s work in our human existence and see His hand throughout. I heard a good analogy of how God’s timing works along with the issue of free will:
“Perhaps a homely illustration might help us to understand. An ocean liner leaves New York bound for Liverpool. Its destination has been determined by proper authorities (God). Nothing can change it. This is at least a faint picture of sovereignty.
On board the liner are several scores of passengers (Mankind). These are not in chains, neither are their activities determined for them by decree. They are completely free to move about as they will. They eat, sleep, play, lounge about on the deck, read, talk, altogether as they please; but all the while the great liner is carrying them steadily onward toward a predetermined port.
Both freedom and sovereignty are present here and they do not contradict each other. So it is, I believe, with man’s freedom and the sovereignty of God. The mighty liner of God’s sovereign design keeps its steady course over the sea of history. God moves undisturbed and unhindered toward the fulfilment of those eternal purposes which He purposed in Christ Jesus before the world began. We do not know all that is included in those purposes, but enough has been disclosed to furnish us with a broad outline of things to come and to give us good hope and firm assurance of future well-being.” A.W. Tozer
One of greatest prophesies in the Old Testament is Isaiah 53 and one in which all Christians should be well versed. He writes of the coming of God’s Son, Jesus. Isaiah was called into ministry in 739 B.C. And when you read his prophesy of Jesus you can’t help but be amazed of the details which came true. That’s because God has a plan. He has a plan for every single one of us – believer and non-believer. He uses bad circumstances to bring us closer to Him, if we choose. He never makes a mistake. He never has a “Plan B.”
Our human story that started with Adam and Eve was not a mistake. It is all going according to plan. It may not seem, in our small timeframe, to be going all that well right now. But that is the beauty of faith. Today, during a meeting of my BSGs, we shared how during this pandemic there has been some amazing blessings. Yes, a lot of not so great things have happened. But each of us could share how God has used this terrible time as a means for sanctification in our lives.
His sovereignty means we can hold on to all of the promises He has made. God is not a covenant breaker. If anything, it’s us that likes to break covenants. Our ocean liner is on a steady path to the glorious port He has waiting for us. It’s up to us to decide to have faith in our captain that He will get us through any squalls. Some of us will jump ship thinking we know better. Some might even try to take over the ship and turn it around. But God’s will never fails. So, let’s enjoy the ride and know He will bring us home.
“Good is not always God’s will, but God’s will is always good.”Watchman Nee