Grace For The Journey
Yesterday we got an overview of the Bible’s teaching on the sovereignty of God – God is in control. Nothing takes Him by surprise. He’s in control of everything and everyone, including you. Today we will see what the Book of Proverbs teaches on this truth.
Proverbs 16:9 declares, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.” Solomon’s point is that while you and I may have our own ideas about the future, God is the One Who will ultimately guide us in a way that is in accordance with His holy, wise, and good purposes.
Right out of the box we may find ourselves scratching our heads. We may ask, “Well, who’s in control here? Am I the one making decisions about my future or is God guiding me along?” The answer is: “Yes.”
You are making decisions about your future
And God is also guiding you along.
To practically understand this reality, we need to:
1) Respect His Sovereignty.
The verse is a reminder that we are to respect God’s sovereignty. He is an active God, involved and interested in you and your life and your decisions. He gives you freedom of choice, the privilege of prayer and study of His Word, and yet, at the same time – in an admittedly mysterious way – He also guides you in accordance with His good purposes. He is answering your prayer with the perfect answer because He knows best.
Proverbs 16:1 says, “The preparations of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.“ Here again is the idea that man may have his own ideas about a certain thing, but God is also at work. Man plots and plans, but the Lord ultimately gets the last word. God’s good purpose will be finally realized.
Proverbs 16:33 states, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.”
God guides through the smallest of details, even determining the way a lot falls into the lap! In the Old Testament, lots were sometimes cast in order to determine a course of action. I think of it much in the way we roll the dice in a game, rolling the dice before making a move. In fact, the New Living Translation (NLT) of Proverbs 16:33 puts it that was, “We may throw the dice, but the Lord determines how they fall.”
We see God’s determining the outcome of a thing, working in such a way that our free human actions and the answers to our prayers are concurrent with His good purpose.
From our perspective,
We are free beings
Making free choices,
But from God’s perspective,
Our freedom is in perfect
Keeping and harmony
With His sovereign goodness.
No one can fully explain God’s sovereignty. As Moses wrote in Deuteronomy 29:29, “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God.” And God Himself says in Isaiah 55:8-9, “My ways are not your ways; neither are My thoughts are higher than your thoughts.”
But . . .
While we cannot fully explain God’s sovereignty,
We can fully respect God’s sovereignty.
The doctrine of God’s sovereignty is a reminder that God has control and we do not. He is God and we are not. He is the ultimate ruler and we are not.
We would expect God to be sovereign, wouldn’t we? After all, what kind of God is not completely sovereign over absolutely everything, including determining the exact number of turns the dice will take as they bounce across the table?
He’s in control of everything
We needn’t worry about anything!
Jesus said in Matthew 10:29 that no sparrow dies “apart from the Father’s will.” This is the same God who knows the exact number of hairs upon your head (Matthew 10:30). He is sovereign. This teaching brings peace, a peace that surpasses all understanding. He’s in control of everything so you needn’t worry about anything!
The wrong response to God’s sovereignty is to throw our hands up in despair and say, “Well, we all must be a bunch of robots. God has determined everything. We have no freedom.” This is so wrong and borders on blasphemy.
Our inability to fully understand a doctrine does not permit our embracing a heresy. God nowhere teaches that we are a bunch of mind-numbed robots with no freedom, fatalistically moving toward a predetermined course over which we have no influence. We make free choices, we pray, and yet all the while God guides and controls.
Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.” Here is another verse to help us respect the sovereignty of God. Leaders may make decisions, but those leaders are guided by God – even unbelieving leaders.
Again, let’s admit the mystery: some rulers are evil and do evil things. Some leaders do wrong. History records kings who have done wrong, czars who have done wrong, and presidents who have done wrong.
Yet God has held the heart of each one in His hand. Sometimes God has allowed the leader to “get what he wants,” knowing that later he won’t “want what he gets.” At other times, God has intervened more directly, actively causing the leader to make a particular choice. Either way, the leader exercises his or her freedom while at the same time leading in a way mysteriously concurrent with God’s most holy and wise and good purposes. It’s a mystery, but is meant to give us peace.
One of the best biblical illustrations of God’s sovereignty working through unbelieving leaders is the way God worked through Pharaoh in the Book of Exodus. We read Moses saying, “Let my people go.” Then we read about Pharaoh’s heart being hardened. The Bible teaches that there are times God hardens Pharaoh’s heart and there are times that Pharaoh hardens his own heart.
In either case, Pharaoh’s freedom is not impinged upon in any way. He is merely being who he is, acting according to his nature, choosing a response that happens to be in perfect keeping with God’s good purposes. It’s quite remarkable, really. This teaching causes us to respect God’s sovereignty.
Proverbs 21;30-31 states, “There is no wisdom or understanding or counsel against the LORD. The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but deliverance is of the LORD.” A good illustration of this truth is seen in the actions of Ahab, the wicked king of Israel who hoped to outwit and outsmart Elijah’s prophecy that he would die. As he went out to battle, Ahab disguised himself in his chariot, believing he would be unrecognizable to the enemy and escape death. He fooled some people, but he didn’t fool God. We read the remarkable account that “a certain man drew a bow at random, and struck the king of Israel between the joints of his armor” (1 Kings 22:34). God guided the fulfillment of this prophecy. God guided the intricate details: a “certain” man, a warrior who drew a bow “at random” and struck the king, not just anywhere but “between the joints of his armor.” It is utterly fascinating and should increase our respect for God’s sovereignty.
Hear again Solomon’s words: “The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but deliverance is of the LORD.” However much we may prepare, or train, or study a situation ultimately we’d better not put our faith in ourselves, but in the Lord God.
2) Rest in His Sovereignty.
We have made this point already. God’s sovereignty is meant to encourage us and to comfort us. His sovereignty is meant to give us peace.
Proverbs 16:3 declares, “Commit your works to the LORD, and your thoughts will be established.” The Hebrew word “commit” means “to roll.” It pictures the turning over of something to another person for the purposes of management and care. The idea is: “I’m not ultimately relying upon my management of this situation; I’m going to rest in the fact that God is taking care of it for me.”
The word “thoughts” there refers to our “plans.” When we pray, we “roll over” our concerns to God.
Proverbs 3:5-6 proclaims, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”
Incidentally, when Solomon writes “and lean not on your own understanding,” he does not mean “Don’t think!” God uses our mind and abilities as He works through us. A favorite biblical example of God’s working through us is the account of David and Goliath in 1 Samuel 17. A giant of a man named Goliath taunts the smaller, young David, but David is undaunted and unafraid. He says to Goliath, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the LORD.” David “trusts in the Lord with all his heart.” And most of us know David “slayed the giant with a single stone and sling.” Just one stone! But the Bible says David had earlier chosen five smooth stones. If it only took him one stone, why did he choose five? Did he not trust God to deliver him? It is interesting that in 2 Samuel 15-22 the Bible tells us that Goliath had for sons. Perhaps David thought he might need the extra stones to deal in the same way with them. But there is a much simpler explanation: David chose five stones because he didn’t know how many stones it would take. I suppose five was as many stones as he could pick up at the moment as he prepared for battle. What is more, David didn’t pick up just any rocks, but he picked up five smooth stones, stones better suited to fly through the air when hurled at the enemy.
Here’s the point . . .
David used his head.
He thought it through.
David illustrates that “leaning not upon your own understanding” does not mean, “Don’t think,” or, “Don’t exercise your freedom of will.” David used his mind, but he rested in God’s sovereignty.
Use your reason,
Using our reason includes the wisdom of seeking counsel when making especially difficult decisions.
Proverbs 11:14 says, “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” We may discover God’s guidance by talking with others. Counsel is helpful. Indeed, if we refuse to seek the counsel of others, then we increase the chances of our “leaning upon our own understanding.”
In his classic book, Knowing God, J. I. Packer warns: “It is a sign of conceit and immaturity to dispense with taking advice in major decisions. There are always people who know the Bible, human nature, and our own gifts and limitations, better than we do, and even if we cannot finally accept their advice, nothing but good will come to us from carefully weighing what they say.”
When you have a decision to make – a career move for example – talk to other people about it. Get their counsel. Believe that God often guides you through the wisdom of others. Never forget: “where there is no counsel, the people fall, but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.”
Charles Spurgeon, in a sermon entitled, “Divine Sovereignty,” says: “There is no attribute more comforting to His children than that of God’s sovereignty.” He adds, “Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe trials, they believe that sovereignty has ordained their afflictions, that sovereignty overrules them, and that sovereignty will sanctify them all.”
Amen! Rest in God’s sovereignty today.
This is God Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”