Saturday, September 1, 2012

Who is God, part 2

A long while back, I wanted to start a series of posts about who God is.  You might recall I had one post talking about how we can know anything about God, followed up by a post on why we as Christians believe the Bible is the holy, inerrant Word of God given to us for our instruction and faith.

Today, I want to focus on the first of many attributes of God: His Sovereignty.

First, let's answer the question: What exactly does "Sovereignty" mean?
* For something to have sovereignty, that thing contains the absolute or supreme power or authority in the system.  It is the ultimate authority, the ultimate power, the one who sets the agenda and can exercise independent decision making. 

* For God to be sovereign, it means that He is the ultimate authority.  He is fully and wholly in charge.  It means that He is the one who orders and designs the universe.  He is the one who makes the rules, because He alone has the authority to make them. 

Let's look at some verses that declare and demonstrate God's sovereignty, and then we'll consider what this means for us. 

* The LORD reigns forever; he has established his throne for judgmentHe will judge the world in righteousness; he will govern the peoples with justice. (Psalm 9:7-8)

* The LORD reigns, he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed in majesty and is armed with strength. The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved. Your throne was established long ago; you are from all eternity. (Psalm 93:1-2)

* Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises. For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise. God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne. (Psalm 47:6-8)

* The LORD reigns, let the nations tremble; he sits enthroned between the cherubim, let the earth shake. Great is the LORD in Zion; he is exalted over all the nationsLet them praise your great and awesome name-- he is holy. The King is mighty, he loves justice-- you have established equity; in Jacob you have done what is just and right. Exalt the LORD our God and worship at his footstool; he is holy. (Psalm 99:1-5)

* How great you are, O Sovereign LORD! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears.  (2 Samuel 7:22)

* Thus says the LORD, 'Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest? (Isaiah 66:1)

* See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and his arm rules for him. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.  He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance? Who has understood the mind of the LORD, or instructed him as his counselor? Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge or showed him the path of understanding? Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust. (Isaiah 40:10-15)

* You, O LORD, rule forever; Your throne is from generation to generation. (Lamentations 5:19)

* Say among the nations, 'The LORD reigns; indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved; He will judge the peoples with equity. (Psalm 96:10)

* For it is written, 'As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God. (Romans 14:11)

* In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory." At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. "Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty." (Isaiah 6:1-5)

* The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever." (Revelation 11:15)

* And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying: "We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign. The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great-- and for destroying those who destroy the earth." Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a great hailstorm. (Revelation 11:16-19)

Okay, I think you get the idea.  These are just some of the most obvious passages that deal with God's sovereignty.  The question now is, "So what?" 

What does it mean for you to proclaim, "Our God is the Sovereign LORD"? From the verses above, there are a number of conclusions that we can draw:

1) God is uniquely sovereign. 2 Samuel 7:22 declared that there is none like God.  The LORD alone is God.

2) He was sovereign in the past, is sovereign now, and will be in the future.  Revelation 11 reminds us that the LORD is the one who is and was (and is to come, as well).  No matter where you look in time, however, the thing that stays the same is that the LORD is the Sovereign God who reigns..

3) The LORD sits in a position of authority over all the nations of the earth.  Multiple passages above remind us that He "sits above the nations of the earth" and that He alone is in the position to judge the peoples of this world.  And there will be a day when He does judge every soul who has ever lived.

4) God makes the rules; no one tells Him what to do or instructs Him.  He alone has the right to decide what is good, what is not, what is sacred and what is not, what is right and what is not. He does what He wants, whether or not you understand it or agree with it. 

5) There will come a day when everyone - no matter what they believe or don't believe right now - will bow before God and will confess that He is who He says He is.  He is the I Am.  He is the LORD Almighty, the Holy One of Israel, the one and only God, Jesus the Messiah.

So what does all this mean for you and me? I think that all of our take-aways for this can be summed up in one key phrase:

We need to submit to God and His authority. 

* This one is huge.  It means acknowledging that you do not know best.  You are not the decider of truth, as post-modern philosophers love to proclaim. 
*It means confessing (agreeing with God) that you are not the ultimate judge of good, evil, right, or wrong, and you are not the one who decides what is and is not sin. 
* It means you fall on your face and admit that the LORD is God.
* It means you agree to live by His rules, because He is in charge.  To paraphrase many a parent, "My universe, my rules." Even if you think some of those rules stink, you need to submit to them, because He is the one on the throne.
* It means admitting that God - and God alone - defines sin.  Whether *you* want something to be considered "normal" or "natural" or "good," acknowledging that if God has declared it to be sinful, it is.  end of story.
* It means learning to trust that when God allows something, there is a purpose.  When God closes a door and says, "No," learning to trust that He knows what is best for you.  It means learning to trust that when God chooses not to act, He knows best.  And when He chooses to intervene, it is for His purposes. 
* It means taking seriously God's warnings of coming judgment, and loving people enough to tell them the truth before it is too late. 
* It means humbling yourself before the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Living God Almighty and remembering when you speak to or about Him, or when you are worshiping, that He is the one who is sitting on a throne with the train of His robe filling the temple.

So what will your response be?  Will you willingly submit to the LORD now, or will you deny His sovereignty? 

In case you have read this and are thinking, "Why would I want to love and serve a God whose actions I can't question?  That seems like a rotten deal for me," I want to leave you with an assurance: this is only the first attribute of God that we'll look at here.  When we talk about our God, we need to take into account His whole character.  So rest assured - God's sovereignty is intertwined not only with His judgment but also with His love, mercy, and grace.

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