Do you believe that God is directly involved in the affairs of men? Do you believe that he is actively working in the world today? Or, even more important, do you believe that God is actively working in your life today? Many believe that he is not. Sadly, there are Christians in America today who believe in God, but who do not believe that he is involved in their life nor that he is concerned with their life. The old heresy of deism has crept back into American culture. It is the belief that God created the earth and all that is in it, and then stepped back to see what would happen. He watches, but he is unconcerned.
This uninvolved and unconcerned God is not the God of the Scriptures. The Bible is clear in its teaching that God is, God always has been, and God will continue to be intimately, directly and sovereignly involved in his creation—including the lives of men.
This of course begs the question “Why?” Why would an infinite and all-powerful God want to be involved in the lives of puny and impotent men? Why is God at work in my life? Why is God at work in your life? God is at work in your life, and God is at work in my life, and God is at work in His world for one purpose—and that is to glorify and exalt Himself. Listen to the apostle Paul as he writes to the believers at Ephesus:
Ephesians 1:9-12 /"Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ." KJV
Isaiah paints a picture of the God of Israel who has power, complete control over the past, the present, the future. God inhabits eternity; He is not bound by time, space, or any other physical construct. According to our verse, God has a will (surely as I have thought) and both power and authority to accomplish that will (so it shall come to pass).
This historical background of the verse is this: Three important predictions emerge in chapters 13-16: 1) Babylong would break the Assyrian domination of the Mideast; 2) Media would supersede Babylon; and 3) Babylon would disappear forever. Historically, we know that all three of these prophecies came true. Babylon conquered Assyria in 607 B.C., Babylon in turn fell to the Medo-Persian armies in 538 B.C.; and today, all that remains of once mighty Babylon is a few square miles of rubble—all exactly as Isaiah predicted!
More important for us tonight, Isaiah reveals to us three facts about the purpose of God which are full of comfort to every believer.
I. THE PURPOSE OF GOD IS IMMUTABLE
- 'The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand" (v. 24)
- I do not pretend to understand everything the Bible teaches about God's purpose
- but I do know that whatever God's purpose is, it will stand forever
- it is unchangeable, unalterable, immutable
- His counsel will stand
- He will do all his pleasure
- many great men have had big dreams—they have thought of what could be or how things could be changed
- over the course of time they have planed, organized, and sought funding until those thoughts became reality
- the problem is that in achieving their thoughts and dreams, men frequently have failure after failure, disappointment after disappointment, and setback after setback before the dream is realized
- ILLUS. While attempting to invent a long-lasting incandescent light bulb, Thomas Edison failed repeatedly. On one occasion a young journalist challenged Edison saying to him, "Mr. Edison, why do you keep trying to make light by using electricity when you have failed so many times? Don't you know that gas lights are with us to stay?" To this Edison replied, "Young man, don't you realize that I have not failed but have successfully discovered six thousand ways that won't work!"
- here is the difference between God and man
- whatever God has thought —the idea is what God has planned to do, whatever course of action God has thought to take, that plan, that course of action shall come to pass
- God does not need to experiment, He does not need several tries, He does not need any ‘do-overs’
A. GOD DOES WHAT EVER HE PLEASES
- “But he stands alone, and who can oppose him? He does whatever he pleases.” (Job 23:13, NIV)
- weather it’s in heaven or on earth, God does as He pleases
- “All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:35, NIV)
- He is not a capricious God
- that means He is not impulsive in His actions or whimsical in his decisions
- we do not have to wonder from day-to-day weather-or-not God still loves us or if His grace will continue to abound toward us
- ILLUS. For instance, Muslims live in constant fear and condemnation, not knowing whether Allah will be benevolent toward them or angry with them. His moods swing from day to day. They never know how they will find him.
B. GOD DOES WHATEVER HE PURPOSES
- “But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.” (Psalm 33:11, NIV)
- God is sovereign over all the earth, and his purpose will triumph in spite of arrogant human schemes and systems
- Kings, and Parliaments, and Congresses may plan and purpose, but those plans will not stand unless they fit in to God’s providential plans for His world
- God is working in the world, bringing events to pass, so that everything moves in one direction—to bring glory and honor to Himself and the praise of angels and men and even creation itself
- we are creatures who make choices
- we make things happen
- God has given us freedom within the parameters he has set for His creation
- yet the causal power we exert in this world is secondary
- God’s sovereign providence stands over and above our actions
- He works out His will through the actions of human choice, without violating the freedom of human wills
- ILLUS. Take, for example, the biblical story of Esther. The name of God does not occur anywhere in the book of Esther, but His hand of providential working is seen everywhere in that story. Consider the four main characters of the story. There is Vasti. She is the self-willed queen who rebels against the king and refuses to attend a banquet held in her honor. There is Esther. She is an unlikely candidate for becoming the queen of the great nation. She is an orphan and she is a Jew. Through a series of circumstances she becomes part of the King’s harem, and ultimately Queen of the nation. There is Mordecai. He adopts Esther – who is his niece – and raises her as his own child. After Esther is made Queen he becomes a trusted adviser to the king. While holding that office he discovers a plot to assassinate the king. The plot is defeated and he gains even more stature in the monarch’s eyes. Then, there’s Haman. He is the chief adviser to the king. He is a very proud man. When Mordecai refuses to bow to him, Haman is incensed and begins to plot the death of Mordecai, but not only his death, but the death of every Jew in the country. Mordecai discovers this plot and communicates it to Queen Esther. Through her bold intervention before the king, Haman’s plot is thwarted and he is hung on the very gallows he has erected to hang Mordecai. Not only are Mordecai and Esther saved from death, but the nation of Israel is preserved. In memory of this great deliverance, the Jews to this day celebrate the feast of Purim.
- which, by the way, brought glory and honor to His name
II. THE PURPOSE OF GOD INCLUDES ALL THINGS
- "This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth: and this is the hand that is stretched out upon all the nations" (v.26)
- what is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth?
- v. 25 tells us: His yoke will be taken from my people
- Israel is under the yoke of bondage in Babylon
- they are not free, but captives in a strange land where horrible things happen to them
- Psalm 137 is a Psalm of Lament that speaks of the experiences of the Hebrews while they are in captivity
- “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” How can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy. Remember, O LORD, what the Edomites did on the day Jerusalem fell. “Tear it down,” they cried, “tear it down to its foundations!” O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us— he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.” (Psalm 137, NIV)
- nothing happens by chance
- nothing is determined by man
- nothing is controlled by Satan
A. SALVATION WAS NOT AN AFTER-THOUGHT WITH GOD
- “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” (Acts 2:22–24, NIV)
- this was the purpose God has purposed since before the world began
III. THE PURPOSE OF GOD IS EFFECTUAL AND MUST BE ACCOMPLISHED
- "For the LORD of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? And his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?" (v. 27)
- the Lord our God is one whose purpose cannot be thwarted, whose will cannot be resisted, whose power cannot be defeated
- He is God alone (Psa. 115:3; 135:6)
- He always does what he wills
- and this is what he wills—the salvation of his people!
- we worship a God of purpose
- the immutability, universality and efficacy of his purpose is the basis of our faith and confidence in him
What does all this mean for us?
1) First of all, it means that He reigns everywhere. There is not one inch of the universe which is out of God’s complete control.
2) Secondly, God’s providence means we don’t have to be afraid, worried about every little thing that happens or might happen.
3) Third, God’s providence means our moral actions matter. How does God’s proactive intervention in human affairs and His sovereignty relate to our decisions and choices? Are you ready? This is profound. I don’t know. I know God is sovereign. I know we are not merely marionettes. The image I find helpful is that of a leaf carried along in a stream. It twirls this way and that on the water, side to side, but finally gets taken where the current wills. But the decisions we make and the roads we take matter.