For the week of September 26, 2009 / 8 Tishri 5770
Torah: Devarim / Deuteronomy 32:1-52
Haftarah: Hosea 14:2-10; Micah 7:18-20; Joel 2:15-17
See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand. (Devarim / Deuteronomy 32:39; ESV)
I have been giving considerable thought lately to the subject of God's sovereignty. This has to do with the issue of how much God is in control of life. I am not looking for philosophical conclusions as much as biblical ones, since I accept that the Scriptures (Old and New Covenant writings) are God's accurate revelation of himself and of life. From my study of the Scriptures throughout the years I have discovered that God reveals his many-faceted truth without necessarily providing how its complexities work together. God is in no way obliged to satisfy our intellect. Rather he has graciously provided us in the Scriptures everything we need in order to live life the way he intended. This includes the command to seek him as to how we are to apply his Word to our lives. This is why we need to work hard at understanding what the Scriptures say and grow in the wisdom of how to live lives firmly based on its teaching.
Therefore struggling over what the Scriptures teach about God's sovereignty and what it means for our lives is not a waste of time. Far from it! It is easy to claim to believe the Bible, but if we don't take the time to grapple with what it is saying, it is doubtful whether or not we have really allowed its teaching to have access to our hearts and minds.
In Jewish tradition the days between Rosh Hashanah (the New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) are a period of introspection, of spiritual house cleaning so to speak. Having a set time each year to do this prevents us from neglecting this much-needed process and also from looking in on ourselves too much. From time to time we need to purposely check ourselves to make sure that we are truly in the faith and that we are right with God and with others. As we do, we then need to make whatever necessary adjustments are appropriate.
The issue of God's sovereignty is most relevant to this period of introspection, for it deals with a concept called primary cause. If God is truly sovereign then he is ultimately responsible for everything that happens. Since we don't normally deal directly with God, but rather with others as well as with both animate and inanimate objects, then if God is sovereign, it is his decisions that are ultimately behind everything that happens through these secondary causes. One of the common philosophical difficulties regarding this subject is the relationship between God and the secondary causes for it seems that this is an area that God has chosen to keep hidden from us.
What we can surmise from what the Bible does teach on this is that while life doesn't always seem to be in God's control, it is. I am well aware of the many other questions that arise, but whether or not there are answers to those questions, that God is sovereign is clear. To believe anything less is to reject God as he is revealed in the Scriptures. If how you comfort your heart and mind over this subject in anyway diminishes this truth, you have also diminished God himself.
To take the time to examine ourselves to make sure that we are right with God and others is a useless exercise if we don't accept God for who he is. If God is not really the Master of the Universe as we say in countless traditional Hebrew prayers, then we will not know what adjustments to make or how to make them. Diminishing God's rulership over the universe to anything less than all powerful raises other forces to places of authority that God never assigned to them.
On the other hand, if we could accept God's own statement as spoken through Moses that life, death, danger and restoration are exclusively in his control, then our focus can be fixed firmly on God, the primary cause of everything that happens to us. Once we accept that God is ultimately in control of all of life, then not only can we learn to relate to him as we ought, but how we relate to others will begin to fall into place.
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