GOD’S GLORIOUS ATTRIBUTES
HIS SOVEREIGNTY – Part 1
By Rayola Kelley
I have been praying about what I was to write for this newsletter. In the past I’ve written on the reality of God, but some still wonder who is God and how does a person come to a healthy life of service and worship where He is concerned? The great challenge for today is that if we do not know God, we could easily be deceived. Granted, He knows how to preserve us and will pull us out of delusion, but we need to avoid the pitfalls of seduction. We need to know what is real so that we can discern the pseudo from the genuine, but to know God we need to keep His attributes in a proper perspective.
The tendency of human beings is to erect a god and transfer their ideas, or that image, onto the God of the Bible. What they end up with is an idol that will fail them down the line, but sadly they keep on insisting on their understanding of God as they operate in denial about who the real God is. They have a tendency to emphasize the attributes of God that they are comfortable with, such as “God is love,” while causing a greater imbalance in their understanding of Him. Often they take the definitions of the world and apply them to God’s eternal attributes. This type of imbalance will create an idol or a lopsided view of God that will strip Him of His authority and glory in the person’s mind. Such individuals will either hide behind the extreme while defining God according to it, or they ignore and deny altogether certain aspects of His character to advance a personal narrative. The end result is that they will end up with a god of their own liking that is lifeless and will ultimately fail them.
Here is the challenge for every Christian. For every attribute of God, there must be an acceptable response on the believer’s part that shows God and the world that he or she understands who He is in a way that aligns each heart attitude and faith walk to Him in adoring love, gratitude, and honor.
A.W. Tozer is the person who challenged me the most to consider the attributes of God. No doubt my different descriptions in this article along with those that follow will probably fall short of his presentation, but my understanding of who God is has greatly changed the way I consider and approach Him. In fact, my understanding of Him has enlarged my faith to embrace Him in greater ways.
As I meditated on which attribute to begin with, I realized that my premise must begin from what it means for God to be God. When the Lord introduced Himself to Moses, He stated, “I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you” (Exodus 3:14).
What does it mean for God to be the great I AM THAT I AM? No doubt there would be a variety of answers. But, when I hear that name, He becomes all-encompassing and wherever He is, is the present reality of a matter. There is no time when it comes to eternity. God is not bound to time, the earth, seasons, and days as we are. He is the one who will work out certain events to bring about what is known as, “the fullness of the time.” God sets up the right temperature for a matter to come to fruition and then inserts a promise such as His Son into time and history to fulfill His plan.
The one aspect of His character that clearly defines His deity is His sovereignty. I must admit, I struggle with this word because it speaks of God in ways that reveal He cannot be measured, comprehended, captured, controlled, or brought to some place of understanding or become subservient. He is supreme; therefore, He answers to no one: no being or entity will be able to rise above Him or cause Him to fall from His heights. This reality is clearly brought out in Isaiah 14:12-14, “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the side of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds: I will be like the most High.”
Clearly the above statement reveals arrogance, but the reality is that any being who dares stand before God in such loftiness will eventually be brought down and exposed as pointed out by Isaiah 14:15-17, “Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms; That made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; that opened not the house of his prisoners.”
The prophet Isaiah makes various claims about God that are noteworthy when it comes to establishing His supremacy, “…and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no savior (43:10c, 11), I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God” (44:6), “…and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else” (45:14, 15).”
It is clear that God stands alone as to who He is and what He is capable of doing. One of the most significant aspects of His sovereignty is His creation. Creation declares there is a God, a creator, someone who designed every intricate detail of it. God put everything within creation to function, properly interact, and bring Him glory. Whether it is the beauty, the uniqueness, the vastness, the depth, the height, or the unexplainable aspects of creation, it has never swayed from its main function to point upward to the Creator and bring glory to Him even though it groans under the great weight of sin (Romans 8:22). The only part of creation that often fails to bring glory to God is man, who was created and formed to reflect His glory in creation.
In the book of Job, God clearly stipulates the uniqueness of creation. In fact there are at least 15 scientific facts that are found in Job (and over 100 in the entire Bible). Some have been discovered recently and it is clear that objective scientists are now catching up with the scientific reality of the Bible. Even though man tries to downplay God by tacking on godless theories and situate science to fit his narrative to what is seen, he cannot explain the clear distinction found among God’s creation. God asked, “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou hast understanding?” (Job 38:4). When God speaks, man is silenced because he cannot answer such a question. The wisdom behind God’s sovereignty is often shrouded in mystery that can be observed, but not fully explained. A good example of this great wonderment found in creation is DNA.
Scientists have tried to recreate the function of DNA in order to explain it and fit it in their often godless narratives, but each attempt has ended in failure. The only conclusion that can be rightfully drawn is that there is a Designer and when He created man, He did so with everything intact so man could fully function in an environment that had already been prepared for him to live.
The Lord is self-governed. He does not need to have some law to keep Him above board or keep Him in line and morally upright. He is the one who established the holy Law and provided the means in which man could stand justified before Him, but the means required His Son to die on the cross so that you and I could be redeemed.
The Lord is self-contained, all-inclusive without beginning or end and has He no need of anything. I have shared this story many times in the past but it would be beneficial to repeat it. There was a time I was wrestling before the Lord because challenges were many and I could not understand why the Lord would allow such struggles to greatly hinder me since I was working so hard to serve Him. In a nice way He showed me that He didn’t need me. The air of arrogance was knocked out of me as I silently sat before Him. He let that simple truth sink in for a few seconds and showed me that maybe He didn’t need me, but He desired to use me, but it had to be on His terms.
During Jesus’ day there were Jewish leaders who thought that since they were biologically related to Abraham they were going to slide into the fullness of God’s promises; but, John the Baptist clearly stated that an axe was going to be taken to their religious system, and when the religious leaders were criticizing Jesus for receiving the acknowledgment and adoration of the people on what we call, “Palm Sunday,” Jesus made this statement, “I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out” (Luke 19:40) (Matthew 3:10).
The truth of the matter is that the Lord can use anything to do His bidding, whether it is Balaam’s donkey, the rocks crying out, a servant girl pointing the military leader, Naaman to seek out Elisha for healing, or a child leading by example (Numbers 22:22-32; 2 Kings 5:1-4; Matthew 18:3). God is clearly not limited as to the instruments He is able to use, but as an instrument man will determine how much God can use him and in what way. He might use him as a vessel of honor such as Moses and Paul, or he might use him as a vessel of dishonor like Pharaoh and Judas Iscariot (2 Timothy 2:19-22).
God can move around individuals and still bring about His will in other matters, use circumstances to place a person in a certain place at a certain time to use him or her in a particular situation, or work through man based on how open and willing he is to be used. As stated many times before, man has his own free-will, and God will not step over it but He is never going to be limited by man when it comes to carrying out His will and plan.
Being sovereign entails God being able to bring a matter about. He is God Almighty, Creator and mighty in strength and power. We know there is nothing too great or small to God. His power disciplines all other power, as eventually all will submit to Him in one way or the other and declare what every believer knows, “That He is Lord” (Philippians 2:9-11). Yet, the Lord is aware of every little detail of our lives such as the number of hairs on our head (Matthew 10:30). He is faithful with the small things, practical in providing man’s needs, and miraculous in deliverance.
It is important to remember that God has all power to bring about a matter, but He will never abuse His power. Abuse of any type corrupts power that will prove to be out of order and destructive. God uses His power to bring about His will, but He does not step outside of His character of holiness to do it. He will not use His power to force others to agree or comply with Him because such power proves to be oppressive. He will not use His power to seduce or force people to bend to His will, for that is a form of deception and witchcraft. His power will ensure freedom for man to make the right choice, to choose the excellent way of righteousness and worship.
In His sovereignty the Lord is also all-knowing. There is nothing that God does not know from its inception to its end. He will never be surprised by world events because He is directing them. He will not be thrown off by man’s rebellion, and He will not be caught off guard when disaster strikes. God is behind the scenes in all matters. He may be allowing matters to bring about a certain end, He could be directing events to make sure of the right results, or He could be ensuring the right circumstances to produce the fruits He is after. It is clear He has inserted Himself into time and history according to events, as well as stepped into time during His times of visitation, and ultimately directs the paths that time is to take.
God’s sovereignty decides when and how He does something. He is not subject to some formula. He works within righteousness because of who He is, but He is not subject to unseen forces. It is easy to see His patterns and ways in Scripture, but there is no set formula in how something is going to turn out.
The reason there is no set formula is because man would work according to the formula instead of walking by faith. He would rely on his ability to work the formula to his benefit without obediently walking out the Christian life. In the end, he might do what was required of him but not what would be acceptable to God. Christianity is a heart matter and must be worked into our heart by faith, worked through it by obedience, and worked out of it by love.
Because He is sovereign, God can use what He wants to use when He so wills and He will ultimately be successful in whatever He does. He is the great chess player in the workings of the universe and knows every move beforehand that will be made and He will make the appropriate move when necessary to bring about a great checkmate at the end of this age.
The big problem people have with God’s sovereignty is they realize they cannot dictate, influence, or control Him. They cannot figure Him out or keep one step ahead of Him no matter how much they try. At times they see Him as contradictory and unfair, for He does not fit in what they consider to be fair and just, but His ways and thoughts are much higher and He considers matters from a heavenly perspective.
Regardless of how we might deem God’s ways and work as being questionable at times, we will always find that He is God and we can pray to Him to move on our behalf knowing that whatever He does is not because we deserve it, or He owes it to us, but because of grace. We have to keep in mind just because He moved once on our behalf in a certain way, that does not mean He will move the same way the next time, nor will He do the same for us as He does for another. I realize I have said the same thing about His sovereignty in different ways in light of various subjects, but we must quit trying to put God in a nice controllable box by operating according to assumptions and wishful thinking. We cannot, nor will we ever, figure out God. That is why He is God and we are merely part of His creation.
This brings us to a very important point about God’s autonomy. His mercy and grace operate according to His sovereignty. He can show mercy to whom He will and pour out His grace onto whom He will. He is not beholden to us because we believe in Him; rather, we are beholden to Him because He cared enough to give His only begotten Son on our behalf.
God’s sovereignty always adds that element of mystery that will ultimately force us to cast ourselves upon Him to avoid judging Him based on circumstances, wrestle with Him because everything is out of control, and walk away from Him because nothing makes sense. In spite of God being hidden at different times, we can learn what it means to have child-like faith towards Him. After all, He is our parent who is not able to explain matters to us because it is beyond our comprehension. He is like our guide, and regardless of how much He may show us His plan in the Bible, we still need to follow Him through the dense jungle of the world. He is our Lord who must daily put forth our responsibilities, our Savior who must continue to meet us in our plight, our friend who wants to share important matters with us, and our God whom we must draw near to in faith for Him to meet us in a personal way.
I have often been mystified by God’s sovereignty, but I realize that it is His sovereignty that clearly distinguishes Him as deity. If I could understand Him in His sovereignty, He would not be God and we would all be hopeless wretches, still lost in our sin and facing an uncertain and frightening future.
The next time you run up against God’s sovereignty, instead of becoming frustrated, take courage, sit back and let Him be God. Trust Him to be God, holy in character, righteous in His ways, perfect in His will, and committed and faithful to saving and preserving each of us to the end.