What a HUGE concept and what a comforting yet also at times disconcerting realization.
Isaiah 46:9-11 Remember the first things of old, that I am God and there is no other; I am God and there is none like Me.[I] tell the end from the beginning, and from before, what was not done; [I] say, ‘My counsel shall stand, and all My desire I will do.’ [I] call from the east a swift bird, from a distant land the man of My counsel; yea I spoke, I will also bring it; I formed it, I will also do it.
Another translation says:
Isaiah 46:9-11 Remember the former things of old; for 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,’ calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.
Comforting because there is something, someone, who is in full control of every single aspect of every single little thing, even when from my human perspective, the world, or people or my situations feel out of control. What that really is saying is out of “my control.” And that is absolutely so. I do not possess the control. But someone does.
God declares how things turn out long before they ever happen.
God declares not just natural events but human events; happenings, things that are not yet done.
When God “declares” ahead of time what will be, God says that He will accomplish all of His purpose. God possesses that authority, the freedom, the wisdom, and the power to bring about everything that He intends to happen. And therefore, everything He intends to come about does come about. God plans and governs all things.
We are called to pray. For healing and about every situation we are brought to. And while we may pray in accordance of God’s perfect will, not every prayer we pray will be answered in the way we hope. Not every person in need of a healing will be healed here on earth. Not every situation will turn around to be what would be the best result to the best of our knowledge. The list goes on. Does that mean we do not pray? No. We pray because God tells us to pray. But we do not and can not make God do something, even when our prayers line up with what His word says. Psalm 5:3 Hearken to the voice of my cry, my King and my God, for I will pray to You. 1 John 5:14 And this is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us.
Now for the disconcerting realization. The sovereign will of God can be divided into His efficacious will (producing His desired result) and His permissive will. It is crucial to make the distinction because while God is sovereign and He does permit all events that occur, God does not directly cause every single thing to happen.
Permitting something does not always put God’s stamp of approval on it. There are many things God allows to happen that He takes absolutely no pleasure in. And yet, God is allowing it to happen. That on it’s own, can be a disconcerting realization.
All the horrific things that go on in life, our lives, the world, and God is allowing it? Yes. Some may question what kind of God would allow such atrocities. Some may say if that is your God, well, I don’t want anything to do with Him. Well, first of all, none of us have a choice. God is God. We are not. We can “disown” Him but that is simply our foot stomping. He still remains our Creator and He still remains in charge, whether or not a person wants to believe it or accept it.
So, we have this God who is in full control of every aspect of everything and
who allows things to go on that are horrific? Why?
That brings us to God’s efficacious will (producing His desired result.) Some of what occurs is efficacious (it directly contributes to the fulfillment of God’s desire.)
Other things are permissive (allowing for an indirect fulfillment of God’s desire yet not His perfect will.) This means not what He approves of but what He is allowing because of the reality of people’s sinful nature.
God’s sovereign will is often hidden from us until after it comes to pass, and sometimes even then as we may not see the big picture.
However, there is one aspect of His will that is completely clear, His preceptive will, which is what He desires us to do and how He desires us to behave. That is found in Scripture. We do not have the authority to violate it however we definitely have the ability to disobey. That is called sin.
It may be God’s sovereign will that we be allowed to sin as He brings His purposes to pass even through the means of the sinful acts of people. However, it makes the sin no less evil, God does not take pleasure in seeing the sin manifest in people, and yet He allows it. This is exactly what happened with Adam and Eve back in Genesis. God created Adam and then Eve knowing full well what would happen after. He already had a plan of redemption all laid out, even before the creation of Adam and Eve, even before the creation of the world. Mind blowing, eh? I would say so.
So is God this sadistic being deriving some perverse pleasure in watching destruction? No. So how to reconcile God and His purposes for allowing horrific events and situations for what?
Genesis 50:20 Indeed, you intended evil against me, [but] God designed it for good.
Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
I realize that realizing and accepting God’s absolute sovereignty over all things is hard to fathom. However I am not helped at all by removing God from the equation, by making him a spectator watching the tragedy unfold.
God holds complete sovereignty over all of our actions, while also preserving our genuine freedom. Our actions are as free as they can be. We form our intentions and carry them out. God does not act on our will from the outside, manipulating us to get his way. He actually has created us as beings that possess will. If he had not done this, there would be no “us” to will at all. Evil exists so that Good can triumph.
God could have created a world without evil. If God had not created anything, there would be no evil. If God created a world where people could not choose, God could force everyone to stop before they were able to carry out evil behavior. But is such a world where freedom does not exist good?
If you do not grasp the infinite holiness of God then you may think that somehow the suffering in this world is out of proportion to what is deserved. Meanwhile, the point of our sufferings, pain, miseries, corruption is to teach us the horror of sin and alongside of it, the beauty and preciousness of redemption and hope.
It is good for me that I was afflicted, in order that I learn Your statutes. Psalm 119:71
Suffering in it’s all encompassing, simplest definition is receiving something that we do not want or not receiving something that we do want. And yet, the psalmist says that it is good. Romans 5:3-4 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope. Rejoice? Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Glory?
Isaiah 35:10 And the redeemed of Zion shall return, and they shall come to Zion with song, with joy of days of yore shall be upon their heads; they shall achieve gladness and joy, and sadness and sighing shall flee. Isaiah 51:11 And the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and they shall come to Zion with song, and [with] everlasting joy on their heads; gladness and joy shall overtake them; sorrow and sighing shall flee. Revelation 21:4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.
Salvation means that after we die here on earth, we go to live with God in eternity, full healed, fully whole, complete, lacking nothing. We get a taste of this here on earth, but nothing compares to the fullness of what we receive after. Our inheritance.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12
When you pass through water, I am with you, and in rivers, they shall not overflow you; when you go amidst fire, you shall not be burnt, neither shall a flame burn amongst you. Isaiah 43:2
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33
I pray this day that God renews and deepens our thinking, quiets our hearts,
and deepens our worship and understanding of who He is.
May the truth of God’s gospel of Jesus become bigger and deeper in us expanding our trust and faith in Him.