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Sovereignty 2

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Hebrews 1:3Revelation 4:11Matthew 5:45Genesis 1:7Psalm 147:15–18John 3:8Acts 14:17Deuteronomy 28:122 Chronicles 7:13–14Psalm 2:4Joel 3:16James 5:17–18Psalm 107:23–32Isaiah 13:13Isaiah 2:19Psalm 74:17Psalm 60:1–2Psalm 18:7Psalm 104:6–9Psalm 104:32Psalm 144:5Psalm 105:7Psalm 78:13Psalm 65:5–8Psalm 93:3–4Psalm 89:9Leviticus 26:4Deuteronomy 11:13–17Matthew 8:26–27Genesis 7:4Genesis 19:24Genesis 1:9Amos 4:7–9Jonah 1:4Jonah 4:8Job 28:25–27Job 9:6Job 38:8–11Haggai 2:6Isaiah 44:27Exodus 19:18Exodus 15:8Proverbs 8:29Jeremiah 5:22Series on the Sovereignty of GodGod's PowerJudgementNaturalismSovereignty of GodMaterialismScienceRainseaGod in controlWeatherHearing God's VoiceearthquakesSovereignty over inanimate thingsVolcanoesApriori causationWho is driving the car?Mecahnistic causationGod acting in natural events
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Notes & Transcripts

Sovereignty 2.

Did anybody manage to catch the weather forecast this morning? What did they say? What do you reckon? Did they get it right? I don’t know if you knew, but when I left university I seriously considered becoming a meteorologist. I sometimes think that I should have – I mean, they get paid for what they do! If I put out results from the lab with the accuracy they do, I would have been given my marching orders years ago! It would be easier to have a job with that kind of accountability. I sometimes wonder why I bother to listen to what they predict. Do you think God listens to the weather forecast? I think there is a verse that might suggest He does: [Psalm 2:4 He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them.] Man attempts to predict what is going to happen in the weather; but he doesn’t always get it right. But we shouldn’t malign them, it’s not hocus-pocus, or guess work – it is real science with observations and measurements. With satellites and computer modelling they can often give you a fairly good idea of what is coming up [P]. They make observations and take measurements of certain variables – they observe a high pressure system, it will cause fine weather. El Niño and la Niña cause certain weather patterns. Our weather is determined by measurable physical factors: barometric pressure, humidity, wind speed and direction, temperature etc. That is what causes weather, right? But what does the Bible say? [Leviticus 26:4 then I shall give you rains in their season, so that the land will yield its produce and the trees of the field will bear their fruit.] Hang on a minute, יְהוָה is making it sound like He controls the rain! Who is in control? [P] Is it just natural forces and phenomena? [Deuteronomy 11:14 He will give the rain for your land in its season, the early and late rain, that you may gather in your grain and your new wine and your oil.] again in [Deuteronomy 28:12 יְהוָה will open for you His good storehouse, the heavens, to give rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hand.] It wasn’t a slip of the pen, or whatever they wrote with – it sounds like it means it; that יְהוָה controls the weather. In fact the Bible is quite consistent, and insistent, that He does. I could multiply examples and keep you here all morning. Just a couple from the New Testament to show that it wasn’t just some Old Testament thing. Jesus said: [Matthew 5:45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.] Jesus said that the Heavenly Father sends rain – do you believe what He said, or was He mistaken? Of course we know a lot more now, don’t we? More than Jesus?! Never! [Acts 14:17 and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”] – the Bible is quite clear and adamant: יְהוָה controls the weather! Have you ever prayed for fine weather for the Sunday School picnic? Maybe it’s a bit of a selfish prayer, but nonetheless if you have prayed to God concerning the weather, maybe the farmer rain for his crops; you, by implication, are expressing your belief that God has control over the weather – why pray if He can’t do anything about it?! Is it silly to pray about the weather? It is, unless God actually controls it. But it isn’t vain to pray about the weather: [James 5:17-18 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.] It wasn’t Elijah that controlled the rain, but the God to whom he prayed! Praying about the weather, or anything else for that matter, is an admission that God is sovereign over it! Prayer is a confession of the sovereignty of God, or otherwise it is complete futility and merely hot air. Last time I gave an introduction to the subject of the sovereignty of God [P]. We are deliberately looking at things from the Divine perspective – from the “heads” view-point, not from man’s point of view. I said that some people are uneasy with the concept because they feel it violates their free will. So in discussing the sovereignty of God, I thought that I would start with something easier – inanimate things [P] – they have no life, so they have no will, there is no problem with God being sovereign over them; they can’t answer back or exercise their choice or will. But, getting back to the weather, that inanimate phenomenon with no will – does God control it? The Bible clearly says so; but surely that rain was caused by a deep depression off the east coast bringing a southerly blast? Who is right the meteorologist or the Bible? It depends which side of the coin you look at – the human perspective or the Divine. With the accuracy of weather forecasts, I know where my money lies! But our science, which we revere and worship, says that it knows the cause – we have studied, measured and found out – it is just physics. To try and help understand this dilemma may I first try and explain an expression we use in our family? I sometimes say: “Who is driving the car?” [P] Hannah knows what I mean, but it has nothing to do with cars. Here is our car [P], do you recognize where it is? – right outside this building! Now how did 1400Kg of metal get to be there? – it wasn’t there yesterday. But science has the answer to all things. You observe, and reason and explain. Careful observation will reveal that that great heap of metal is resting on 4 round black pieces of rubber, further observation has shown that they can rotate, hence moving the car. So our car is here because of the rotation of the wheels. But we don’t stop there with our observation – science explores to the limits, it knows no bounds. Further study reveals that those wheels rotate due to the movement of complex set of cogs and shafts. But science goes further – we trace that rotation to the front of the car to a large block of metal in which a fire burns. So that car is there because of petrol burning inside a block of metal. Further specialists are called in, men like Alex, whose interest is in electronics – this is no mere fire, it is finely and precisely controlled by finely tuned electrical impulses. That is why the car is there! Others study different causes and find out that the front two wheels can move out of alignment, enabling the movement to be directed. You can study further and further back as to why that car is there – you start at the end result and trace the causes back. But you know why the car is there, don’t you? Rhoda got in it this morning and decided to drive it here! There was an intelligence and a will behind what took place! The mechanism of how it got here tells you nothing about why it is here. [P] And the “Why?” is the really important question; that is the real reason. So when I say: “Who is driving the car?” – Hannah knows that I am talking about prime cause as opposed to the mechanistic reason. Man tries to find out causes starting with the end result and looking at the mechanistic reason, tracing it back – what is called the teleological cause. But to find the real reason you have to start at the start! – the a priori cause. [P] The meteorologist can look at the low pressure system that causes the rain, the wind, the temperature – but he will never by that means find out who is driving the car! God controls the weather; His is the will that determines what takes place with the pressure, temperature and whatever other parameters there maybe. The mechanism is of no significance – what matters is the will that is behind it, driving all that takes place. What is life all about? – the reason I am here? The “how” reason is that my Dad and Mum got together; but the “why” reason is what matters: that God had a purpose and a plan for my life, a tiny part to play in His awesome drama! Without a Motivator, that intelligence with a will and a purpose, someone driving the car; without a sovereign God in control, there is no purpose. There are some who don’t believe in any god; some believe in a god with limited power or influence; others have the vague concept that god kind of started things but no longer has any direct influence – everything takes place according to natural material processes – there is no supernatural intervention. Science has removed God from the sphere of active influence, materialistic causes are the only ones admitted. But God is sovereign, in control of all that takes place. We are not the product of endless chance, natural happenings – there is a purpose in ALL that takes place. God is directing it, driving the car – even the natural processes. If God directs the minds of kings like man does the water brooks [P], how much more easily the brooks themselves, the physical processes. [P] יְהוָה’s sovereignty goes all the way back, before creation – but in creation, the fact is that all exists because He called it into being. [Revelation 4:11 “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honour and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.”] Why do they exist – because of the will of יְהוָה! That is why they exist – the why, as well as the how. יְהוָה is driving the car! Nothing exists apart from Him, and in fact is dependent upon Him for His continual sustaining: [Hebrews 1:3  (speaking of Jesus) …. He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.] He made everything, and made it for a purpose and is in control of it. Let’s have a look at a few inanimate things over which He is sovereign: Weather: [P] Let’s start with the air, with events in the atmosphere. We have already had a bit of a look at this – but it is a strong and consistent theme in Scripture. Early on in Scripture we read: [Genesis 7:4 “For after seven more days, I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights; and I will blot out from the face of the land every living thing that I have made.”] It is speaking of Noah’s flood (it was actually יְהוָה’s flood). God was controlling the weather – and He did so for a purpose. He was saying something through the physical processes that took place. Israel was a nation whose economy and life centred around agriculture, they depended upon what grew in their fields – and for that to take place they needed water, rain. When יְהוָה gave them the land He said [Deuteronomy 11:13-17 “It shall come about, if you listen obediently to my commandments which I am commanding you today, to love יְהוָה your God and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul, that He will give the rain for your land in its season, the early and late rain, that you may gather in your grain and your new wine and your oil. “He will give grass in your fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied. “Beware that your hearts are not deceived, and that you do not turn away and serve other gods and worship them. “Or the anger of יְהוָה will be kindled against you, and He will shut up the heavens so that there will be no rain and the ground will not yield its fruit; and you will perish quickly from the good land which יְהוָה is giving you.] If it didn’t rain, then it got their attention. If they turned back to God, then He would restore the rain: [2 Chronicles 7:13-14 “If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.]. יְהוָה controlled the weather they got depending upon their relationship to Him. [Amos 4:7-9 “Furthermore, I withheld the rain from you while there were still three months until harvest. Then I would send rain on one city and on another city I would not send rain; one part would be rained on, while the part not rained on would dry up. “So two or three cities would stagger to another city to drink water, but would not be satisfied; yet you have not returned to Me,” declares יְהוָה.] God uses the weather to get our attention, but do we take any notice? Or do we just accept is as what happens, as the product of natural physical processes? יְהוָה communicated to them through what happened with the weather. Do you see?! As soon as we reduce weather to merely pressure, temperature and humidity, we close our ears to God speaking to us! I referred earlier to the 3½ year drought in Elijah’s time – יְהוָה withheld the rain because His people had rejected Him for idols – it was judgement, and it was to turn them back to Himself. It didn’t “just happen”; God was controlling the weather to accomplish His purposes. I could multiply instances and be here all day – a couple from the story of Jonah: [Jonah 1:4 יְהוָה hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up. Jonah 4:8 When the sun came up God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah’s head] But we say it is just El Niño, it is just what happens, chance, random physical forces at work – but יְהוָה could well be trying to get our attention and we completely miss it! We are not open to that possibility because we do not regard יְהוָה as being sovereign! Is it just on special occasions to get our attention that יְהוָה intervenes in the weather? No it’s in the normal seasons that take place: [Psalm 74:17 You have established all the boundaries of the earth; You have made summer and winter.]  The every-day weather: [Psalm 147:15-18 He sends forth His command to the earth; His word runs very swiftly. He gives snow like wool; He scatters the frost like ashes. He casts forth His ice as fragments; who can stand before His cold? He sends forth His word and melts them; He causes His wind to blow and the waters to flow.] [Job 28:25-27 He imparted weight to the wind and meted out the waters by measure, when He set a limit for the rain and a course for the thunderbolt, then He saw it and declared it; He established it and also searched it out.] No, it is all that takes place in the atmosphere – even down to the path a lightning bolt takes! Now if that doesn’t amaze you and leave you staggering in awe, then I don’t know what will! One of the things that shows Jesus to be God is this characteristic of being sovereign over weather: [Matthew 8:26-27 He said to them, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm. The men were amazed, and said, “What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?!”] He wasn’t just a man – He is GOD! SOVEREIGN! There are far too many instances to cite, go home and do a study for yourself, check me out – see if you can find anywhere in the Bible where the weather just happens and is not under Divine control. The nearest I can find is [John 3:8 “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going;] but that is likening the wind to the Holy Spirit – it is man who doesn’t know what is going to happen, not God who sends the Holy Spirit just as He sends and directs the wind. יְהוָה uses the so called “natural forces” of weather to speak to mankind, to get their attention. Do you think He was trying to get our attention recently? We have experienced a series of rather unpleasant earth quakes. Let’s talk about: Geological events: [P] But we live in a geologically active area, on the border of the Pacific and Australasian tectonic plates. There are fault lines, continental drift – may I ask: “Who is driving the car?” Not the mechanism by which they happen; but the reason behind why they occur. It has been preached from this pulpit that God does not act in judgement, that the earthquake had nothing to do with that. But the Bible says that He does act in judgement. Listen to what it says about earth quakes. [Psalm 60:1-2 O God, You have rejected us. You have broken us; You have been angry; O, restore us. You have made the land quake, You have split it open; heal its breaches, for it totters.]. Who made the land quake? I didn’t quite catch it – God did. [Psalm 18:7 Then the earth shook and quaked; and the foundations of the mountains were trembling and were shaken, (why?) because He was angry.] יְהוָה shook the earth; furthermore He did it because He was angry. [Job 9:6 Who shakes the earth out of its place, and its pillars tremble; Haggai 2:6 “For thus says יְהוָה of armies, ‘Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land. Psalm 104:32 He looks at the earth, and it trembles; He touches the mountains, and they smoke. Isaiah 2:19 Men will go into caves of the rocks and into holes of the ground before the terror of יְהוָה and the splendour of His majesty, when He arises to make the earth tremble. Isaiah 13:13 Therefore I will make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken from its place at the fury of יְהוָה of armies in the day of His burning anger. Joel 3:16 יְהוָה roars from Zion and utters His voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth tremble. But יְהוָה is a refuge for His people and a stronghold to the sons of Israel.] Do you get the idea?! It is יְהוָה who makes the earth tremble. Again, I have cited a mere selection of many references. Again, God uses so called natural process to speak to people, to get their attention, to express His anger. But do we listen? No, it is just the Pacific plate colliding with the Australian plate – there is a 50% probability of magnitude 5 quake in the next year. It is science, measurable. Look, I am called a Medical Laboratory Scientist – science is my profession. But science is the god that we worship that makes us think that man is in control, we can predict, we can measure, we can give the reason; and if not, we will give it a complicated Greek name! God is controlling tectonic activity. But if we look to natural mechanistic material causes only – we are going to fail to hear what God is saying. He can be using a megaphone (as I believe He has) and we just get on with our lives, rebuild and try to carry on as normal! What does He have to do to get our attention?! We speak of the thickness of the earth’s crust, the pressure of molten magma – that is the cause of volcanoes, right? But what does the Bible say: [Exodus 19:18 Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because יְהוָה descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently.] Why did Sinai smoke? Because יְהוָה descended! [Psalm 144:5 Bow Your heavens, O יְהוָה, and come down; touch the mountains, that they may smoke.] When יְהוָה touches the mountains, they smoke – there is a volcano. [Psalm 104:32 He looks at the earth, and it trembles; He touches the mountains, and they smoke.] There was an event that became symbolic, proverbial, of יְהוָה’s judgement – the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. יְהוָה sent His angels to see if the report of the evil activity of those cities was accurate; tragically, it was. It says in [Genesis 19:24 Then יְהוָה rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from יְהוָה out of heaven ] Who rained fire and sulphur down on Sodom? יְהוָה did – says it twice in that one verse. We say He is a loving God, He wouldn’t do anything like that; He doesn’t act in judgement. But that is not what the Bible says. יְהוָה is quite big enough to take responsibility for what He does; He doesn’t need us to make excuses for Him because what He does doesn’t match our conception of how He ought to be. He doesn’t have to be as we say He ought to be – He is sovereign! This volcanic activity took place directly at the hand of יְהוָה. There is a God in control of geological activity. [Psalm 105:7 He is יְהוָה our God; His judgments are in all the earth.] There is mighty power in His hand. We only saw a tiny portion of it in the earthquake we experienced – but it wrecked hundreds of homes, shifted the land weighing billions of tons – no problem, all in under a minute. Mighty power all under His precise and exact control – surgical precision - He destroyed Sodom, but righteous Lot was saved. He is indeed an awesome God, awesome in power. Marine events: [P] Not only on land but also on the sea. Do you want a practical demonstration? After church drive down the road to the beach, wait till the tide has gone right out, walk down to the edge of the water, draw a line in the sand and then when the tide starts to come in, tell it to stop and go no further. Ridiculous? Well that is just what God does [Job 38:11 And I said, ‘Thus far you shall come, but no farther; and here shall your proud waves stop’?] That is Job an ancient book, in poetic language. We know that it’s the effect of gravitational pull of the moon and sun, the centrifugal effect of the earth’s spin – no, God tells it to stop. The Bible is quite clear, that God controls it.  At creation: [Genesis 1:7 God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. Genesis 1:9 Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so.] He set a boundary [Job 38:8-11 “Or who enclosed the sea with doors when, bursting forth, it went out from the womb; when I made a cloud its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and I placed boundaries on it and set a bolt and doors?] [Proverbs 8:29 When He set for the sea its boundary so that the water would not transgress His command, when He marked out the foundations of the earth;] Talking about the flood in Noah’s day: [Psalm 104:6-9 You covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters were standing above the mountains. At Your rebuke they fled, at the sound of Your thunder they hurried away. (who did it?) The mountains rose; the valleys sank down to the place which You established for them. You set a boundary that they may not pass over, So that they will not return to cover the earth.] Who established? Who set a boundary? The Bible is quite consistent God controls the sea: [Jeremiah 5:22 ‘Do you not fear Me?’ declares יְהוָה. ‘Do you not tremble in My presence? For I have placed the sand as a boundary for the sea, (the waves erode cliffs of rock, yet the יְהוָה contains them with sand) an eternal decree, so it cannot cross over it. (who gave the decree?) Though the waves toss, yet they cannot prevail; though they roar, yet they cannot cross over it.] You cannot prevail against יְהוָה’s sovereignty! You may claim that it is just a poetic description – here is a poem, a song that was sung: [Exodus 15:8 At the blast of Your nostrils the waters were piled up, the flowing waters stood up like a heap; the deeps were congealed in the heart of the sea.] Now, I don’t get poetry, there is no poetry in my soul. When it says that the seas piled up, I think it means the seas piled up. But tell me, if the seas didn’t pile up, if it is just poetry, how did the best part of 2,000,000 cross the Sea of Reeds? That song was sung after they crossed the Sea of Reeds on dry land. It literally happened. The Bible says that it was at יְהוָה’s direct action: [Psalm 78:13 He divided the sea and caused them to pass through, and He made the waters stand up like a heap.] יְהוָה takes the credit for doing it: [Isaiah 44:27 “It is I who says to the depth of the sea, ‘Be dried up!’ And I will make your rivers dry.] יְהוָה is in control of the sea: [Psalm 65:5-8 By awesome deeds You answer us in righteousness, O God of our salvation, You who are the trust of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest sea; who establishes the mountains by His strength, being girded with might; who stills the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the tumult of the peoples. They who dwell in the ends of the earth stand in awe of Your signs; You make the dawn and the sunset shout for joy. Psalm 93:3-4 The floods have lifted up, O יְהוָה, the floods have lifted up their voice, the floods lift up their pounding waves. More than the sounds of many waters, than the mighty breakers of the sea, יְהוָה on high is mighty.] Robin read this Psalm a week or so back: [Psalm 107:23-32 Those who go down to the sea in ships, Who do business on great waters; they have seen the works of יְהוָה, and His wonders in the deep. For He spoke and raised up a stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. (Tell me, where did the stormy wind come from?) They rose up to the heavens, they went down to the depths; their soul melted away in their misery. They reeled and staggered like a drunken man, and were at their wits’ end. Then they cried to יְהוָה in their trouble, (they knew who was in sovereign control) and He brought them out of their distresses. He caused the storm to be still, so that the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad because they were quiet, so He guided them to their desired haven. Let them give thanks to יְהוָה for His loving-kindness, and for His wonders to the sons of men! Let them extol Him.] We can go down to the beach and tell the waves to stop, and of course nothing happens – this sovereign control of the sea, restless and untameable as it is, is the province of God alone. It is He who rules the sea: [Psalm 89:9 You rule the swelling of the sea; when its waves rise, You still them.] Who stills the raging of the sea? יְהוָה! So when there was a storm on the sea and [Matthew 8:26-27 Jesus said to them, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm.] He was displaying an attribute that belongs to God alone: sovereignty over the sea. Jesus demonstrated that He is GOD! God is sovereign over ALL – land, sea and air – nothing on earth is outside His control – but we have scratched merely the surface of His control over in animate things – in the words of Bachman, Turner Overdrive: “You ain’t seen nothing yet!” God willing, we will see even further reaches of His sovereignty next time. [P] [Psalm 105:7 He is יְהוָה our God; His judgments are in all the earth.] – land, sea and air. There are His works all around us if only we have eyes to see them and ears to hear what He is saying through His sovereign control over inanimate things; and bow before the sovereignty of God.

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