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Sovereignty 6

Notes & Transcripts

Sovereignty 6.

I don’t know if you recall, but last time I spoke I set a little homework exercise. You don’t remember? It’s always a good excuse when it comes to homework: “I forgot”! We have been looking at the sovereignty of God, and last time, in particular, His sovereignty over animals. I gave example after example that showed that יְהוָה is in control! [P] But I said that I hadn’t looked at the greatest passage of Scripture dealing with יְהוָה’s sovereignty over animal life – your task (remember?!) was to see if you could find out what I was referring to. Any ideas? Rhoda had worked it out by the time we hit the roundabout on Bower ave. – the final chapters of the book of Job – you might like to turn to chapter 38 because I intend to read extensively from there. I am going to read an extended passage of Scripture – but I am sure no one is going to object to that. Really I don’t need to say anything, just read what יְהוָה Himself said. We are probably all familiar with the story of Job [P], even if we aren’t with the book itself. You can get bogged down in the massive theological debate that is in it. When you read it, you need to pay careful heed to who is speaking, because יְהוָה Himself at the end said; [Job 42:7 יְהוָה said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “My wrath has been kindled against you and against the two of your friends, for you have not spoken to Me what is right as my servant Job has.”] So Job’s friends were saying things that were not right, and we must not take them as being right. And, like them, we can get involved in theological debates where what we say is not right. But you know the story: Job was a wealthy man whom יְהוָה allowed satan to touch. First he took his property, and then he took his health. The only thing that he was not allowed to take was his life – and Job at times wished that he had! In this terrible reversal of fortunes and tremendous suffering, Job had some friends come to him in order give him comfort, advice and counsel. They were there for Job – you have to take your hat off to them – they didn’t rush in with the solution: [Job 2:11-13 Thus Job’s three friends heard of this calamity that had come upon him. So each set out from his own place: (they set aside what they were doing, travelled to be with him in his grief) Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite. And they met together to come to console him and to comfort him. Thus they lifted up their eyes from afar, but they did not recognize him, so they raised their voice, and they wept, and each man tore his outer garment and threw dust on their heads toward the sky.(they mourned for him) Then they sat with him on the ground for seven days and seven nights, but no one spoke a word to him because they saw that his suffering was very great. (No rash trite platitudes, just being with him in his pain)] We are quick to write them off as “Job’s comforters” but they were there with him in his suffering, with real empathy. But they thought they knew the answer to Job’s problems. When you are going through it, having someone with all the right answers is not always what you need. But after 7 days they couldn’t help holding forth with what Job needed to do, what was the problem, where he was at fault and how to put it all right. But their answers didn’t hold true, they didn’t satisfy Job and so the debate went on – from chapter 3 all the way through to the end of chapter 37 – 35 solid chapters of theological debate! And, do you know, that at the end of it they are no further forward than when they started?! They are each still holding to their same positions, just restating the same old thing in a different way. This subject of the sovereignty of God is one that engenders huge debate – but does the long discussion accomplish anything? To my shame, I have to admit that I too have got involved in theological discussions (have you ever spoken to JWs?) – I have found exactly the same thing, each of you becomes more convinced of his original position, marshals his arguments and his proof texts – but no one ever changes their ideas. You don’t get anywhere! You can argue on and on, debate till the cows come home, and you do not progress – each just gets further entrenched in their original opinion. Then, at last, in chapter 38 the arguing stops! Do you know why? יְהוָה appeared! [P] Hallelujah! No longer discussion, ideas, knowledge and concepts but REVELATION! [P] [Job 38:1-3 Then יְהוָה answered Job from the storm, and He said, “Who is this darkening counsel by words without knowledge? Prepare yourself for a difficult task like a man, and I will question you, and you shall declare to Me!] No longer answers, but some questions – getting on for 80 of them! They thought that they had all the answers, so יְהוָה asks them a few questions. We are going to have a look at a few of them – but they are all unanswerable, except to admit “I don’t know”. We don’t have all the answers, and should stop holding forth as if we do. Every mouth is stopped when יְהוָה speaks! Hallelujah! No longer man’s ideas but revelation of GOD! That is what we need! Job came face to face with יְהוָה! And everything changed! What stops the arguments and the speculations is a dose of revelation of the Sovereignty of God! [P] We waste so much time discussing; more answers would be found on our knees bowing before the Sovereign. Job and his fellow men were brought down to size before an Almighty Sovereign God! יְהוָה made them realise that they were only men! So follow with me in Job chapter 38 because basically all I am going to say is what the Bible says. Now יְהוָה has spoken for some time about His sovereignty over inanimate things, He gets to His sovereignty over animals in: [Job 38:36 Who has put wisdom in the ibis, or who has given understanding to the rooster?] – well, what is the answer? It is יְהוָה! He alone gives creatures the understanding that they have. Robin and I were discussing, after last time, Monarch butterflies – in America they migrate, flying over a thousand kilometres to one particular grove of trees in Mexico. Their offspring, who have never been there, fly back to the exact same bush from which they left! And how big is a butterfly brain?! What amazing aerodynamic control and navigation! Who gave that understanding to a butterfly? It is יְהוָה who is sovereign over all His creatures and gives them the attributes He chooses in order that they might live and bring glory to His Name. [Job 38:39-41 Can you hunt prey for the lion? [P] – well, no, I can’t! And can you satisfy the hunger of strong lions when they are crouched in the dens, when they lie in the thicket in an ambush?] Again: “No!” We are not talking about designing or making a lion – just providing its dinner. Even this little thing is beyond us. But in each of these questions we need to look behind it to its implication: that there is in fact someone who does provide prey for the lion – a sovereign God is behind all these natural processes, providing food for the creatures that He has made. [Who prepares for the crow its prey, when its young ones cry to God for help, and they wander around for lack of food?] [P] Well it’s not me, it is יְהוָה who does. Moving on to: [P] [Job 39 “Do you know the time when the goats of the rocks give birth?] [P] Yet again: “NO!” We boast of our knowledge but we don’t really know, but יְהוָה does. [Do you observe the doe deer’s giving birth?] No, but יְהוָה is watching over it. He is sovereign – in control. [Can you number the months they fulfil, and do you know the time of its giving birth? No! Who has sent forth the wild ass free?] Not, me; then who? – יְהוָה! [P] [And who has released the wild donkey’s bonds, to which I have given the wilderness as its house and the salt flat as its dwelling place?] Who gave it donkey the wilderness – יְהוָה says that He did. It is יְהוָה’s doing. He is sovereign! He is in control! [It scorns the city’s turmoil; it does not hear the driver’s shouts. It explores the mountains as its pasture and searches after every kind of green plant.] It is completely independent of man. [“Is the wild ox willing to serve you, or will he spend the night at your feeding trough?] Yet again the answer is: “No!” [Can you tie the wild ox with its rope to a furrow, or will it harrow the valleys after you? Can you trust it because its strength is great, or will you hand your labour over to it? Can you rely on it that it will return your grain and that it will gather it to your threshing floor”] Well, can you? Will it? No, no, no! The answer is consistently “no”. How man boasts, but fronted up to יְהוָה, he comes to look pretty small and impotent. Man is not in control at all. Notice, יְהוָה is not answering their complaints or discussing their arguments – He is just drawing back the veil to give them a glimpse of how great He is. You see how great He is and your questions disappear. How dare you question Him! But He has hardly started. [The wings of the female ostrich flap— are they the pinions of the stork or the falcon? Indeed, it leaves its eggs to the earth, and it lets them be warmed on the ground, and it forgets that a foot might crush an egg, and a wild animal might trample it. It deals cruelly with its young ones, as if they were not its own, as if without fear that its labour were in vain, because God made it forget wisdom, and he did not give it a share in understanding.] Have you heard people criticize God’s design in creation? – as if they could do better! Here is the ostrich which it seems God didn’t do so well with, in His design … but: [When it spreads its wings aloft, it laughs at the horse and its rider.] Sovereignly יְהוָה made it how He did – and He made each creature differently, giving each the capabilities suited to its own situation. [“Do you give power to the horse? Do you clothe its neck with a mane? Do you make it leap like the locust?] The answer is the same, isn’t it! [The majesty of its snorting is terrifying. They paw in the valley, and it exults with strength. Does the hawk soar by your wisdom?] Again, “No!” Then by whose wisdom does it soar? יְהוָה’s – He designed, gave it that ability. He determines the character of each creature, gives it the ability it has, watches over them. He is in control! He is sovereign!  [Does it spread its wings to the south? Or does the eagle fly high at your command and construct its nest high?] Again the answer is “No!” We don’t tell it what to do, it is directed by יְהוָה. Man needs bringing down to size. When you look at it – we control precious little! יְהוָה is overwhelming Job with a revelation of His sovereignty over just a small part of His creation. How dare mere man question the Sovereign! The One who is in control. יְהוָה said: [P] [Job 40:1-2 Then יְהוָה answered Job and said, “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? Anyone who argues with God must answer it.”]  Confronted with יְהוָה’s sovereignty over the creatures that He had made, Job was starting to get the message: [Job 40:3-5 So Job answered יְהוָה and said, “Look, I am insignificant. What shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. Once I have spoken, and I will not answer; even twice, but I will not proceed.”] But יְהוָה was not finished yet. Job thought that he had got the message – but this message needs to be hammered home! We need to appreciate our utter insignificance and impotence before an Almighty, Transcendent, Holy God! They had criticized God and His dealings – dared to question His sovereign dealings! Accused Him of being unjust! Questioned His right to deal with Job as He had. Job was quietly trying to back out of the things that he had said – he had claimed that he wanted to argue his case with God. Well now יְהוָה calls him to do so: [Job 40:6 Then יְהוָה answered Job from the storm, and He said, “Prepare yourself for a difficult task like a man, and I will question you, and you shall declare to Me. Indeed, would you annul My justice? Would you condemn Me, so that you might be righteous?”] What does יְהוָה do? – He reveals more of Himself in His creation, in His dealings with what He has made. As Romans says [Romans 1:19-20 what can be known about God is evident among them, for God made it clear to them. For from the creation of the world, His invisible attributes, both His eternal power and Deity, are discerned clearly, being understood in the things created, so that they are without excuse.] So יְהוָה continues: [Job 40:15-24 Look, Behemoth, which I have made just as I made you; (יְהוָה made these creatures, He does with them as He chooses – and He made us too …. “just as I made you” ….) it eats grass like the ox. Look, its strength is in its loins and its power in the muscles of its stomach. Its tail is like a cedar; the sinews of its thighs are tightly wound. Its bones are tubes of copper, its limbs like rods of iron.] Here is a creature that’s description sounds very much like one of the gigantic sauropod dinosaurs [P]. [It is the first of God’s actions; the one who made him furnishes it with his sword. Can anyone take it by its eyes? Can he pierce its nose with a snare?] Here is a creature that is way beyond the ability of man to defeat or control. This is just a mere creature, what about the Creator who made it – has He not far greater power?!  But יְהוָה is not finished yet! [P] There is a creature even more terrifying! Even more powerful and untameable! It has features of a dragon and it is an aquatic creature. The description is such that some dismiss it as a mythical beast – but יְהוָה’s questions to Job make no sense if it didn’t actually exist and Job was not familiar with it. Job knew what it was like: [P] [Job 41 “Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook? Or can you tie down its mouth with a cord? Can you put a rope in its nose? Or can you pierce its jawbone with a hook? Will it make numerous pleas for mercy to you? Or will it speak gentle words to you? Will it make a covenant with you? Will you take it as a slave forever? Will you play with it as with birds and put it on a leash for your girls? Will guildsmen bargain over it? Will they divide it between tradesmen? Can you fill its kin with harpoons or its head with fish spears?] The answer to all these questions is “NO!” [Lay your hands on it; think about the battle—you will not do it again! “Look, the hope of capturing it is false. Will one be hurled down even at its sight? Is it not fierce when somebody stirs it? Who then is he who would stand before it?] This is just one of יְהוָה’s creatures, just something that He made, that Job dare not face or confront. Yet He would dare to confront יְהוָה! The One who made it – the Sovereign GOD! [Who has come to confront Me, that I should repay him? Under all the heavens, it belongs to Me.] This great and awesome creature belongs to יְהוָה! [P] It is His. He is sovereign over it. [I will not keep quiet concerning its limbs or concerning the extent of its might and the gracefulness of its frame. Who can strip off its outer covering? Who can penetrate its double harness? Who can open the doors of its face? Its teeth all around are fearsome. Its back has scales of shields; it is shut up closely as with a seal. They are close to one another— even the air cannot come between them. They are joined one to another; they cling together and cannot be separated. Its snorting flashes forth light, and its eyes are red like dawn. Torches go from its mouth; sparks of fire shoot out. Smoke comes from its nostrils as from a kettle boiling and burning bulrushes. Its breath kindles charcoal, and a flame comes from its mouth. (this is one fearsome beast! Like nothing you have ever encountered!) Strength abides in its neck, and dismay dances before it. Its flesh’s folds of skin cling together; it is cast on it—it will not be moved. Its heart is cast as stone; yes, it is cast as the lower millstone. When it raises itself, the mighty ones are terrified; they retreat because of its thrashing. Reaching it with the sword does not avail, nor with the spear, the dart, or the javelin. It regards iron as straw, bronze as rotten wood. An arrow will not make it flee; sling stones are turned to stubble for it. Clubs are regarded as stubble, and it laughs at the short sword’s rattle. “Its under-parts are shards of a potsherd; it moves over mud like a threshing sledge. It makes the deep boil like a cooking pot; it makes the sea like a pot of ointment. Behind it, it leaves a glistening wake; one would think that the deep has gray hair. “On the ground it has no equal— a creature without fear. It observes all the lofty; it is king over all that are proud.”] All יְהוָה has done has pointed out a portion of His creation. 13 creatures: ibis, rooster, lion, crow, goats, deer, wild donkey, wild ox, ostrich, horse, eagle, Behemoth, Leviathan. What do we see? What is revealed is יְהוָה’s care for His creatures – He provides them with food, watches over their reproduction, imparted wisdom to them, He controlled their character or nature and behaviour – it is He who gives them the characteristics that they have. He says that they are His, that He made them; that He controls them, knows what each one of them is doing. יְהוָה is sovereign over the creatures that He has made! Question after question! You don’t want to sit an exam that יְהוָה sets – all you do is reveal your ignorance! יְהוָה speaks, brings revelation [P] – things beyond the knowledge and capability of man. I counted about 79 questions [P] that יְהוָה asked Job – 50 had the implied answer: [P] “No!” or “No, not me”; 17 had the implied answer: [P] “Not me but יְהוָה!” and 4: [P] “I don’t know”. Others are rhetorical, unanswerable. When יְהוָה questions, there is no adequate reply that we can give – we are totally overwhelmed. We strut around with our ideas and theories, think we know the answers but when God starts asking questions – we lay our hand on our mouth. [P] [Job 42:1-6 Then Job answered יְהוָה and said, “I know that You can do all things, and any scheme from You will not be thwarted. (Job had got the message! יְהוָה us sovereign! He does as He wants and no one can stop Him!)‘Who is this darkening counsel without knowledge?’ (that is the words of יְהוָה – Job is referring to what He said in 38:2, quoting Him) Therefore I uttered, but I did not understand; things too wonderful for me, but I did not know. (maybe it’s just proud me, but how hard it is for those words to be squeezed from our lips!: “I don’t know”)  There is a Psalm I love: [Psalm 131 O יְהוָה, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty; nor do I involve myself in great matters, or in things too difficult for me. Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child rests against his mother, my soul is like a weaned child within me. O Israel, hope in יְהוָה from this time forth and forever.] No longer having all the answers but simply trusting the One who does. יְהוָה did not answer Job’s complaints or questions – after a revelation of His sovereignty they were utterly irrelevant. Instead of railing at God (have you ever done that, questioned why He has done what He has?) He stands in AWE! [P] Worship before and almighty sovereign God, rather than being self-satisfied with a logically consistent systematic theology with all the answers. What we need is to know GOD, not the answers! Revelation, not information. [‘Hear and I will speak; I will question you, then inform Me.’ (again, that is the words of יְהוָה – Job is quoting what He said in 38:3) By the ear’s hearing I heard of you, (he’d heard the teaching, had the answers) but now my eye has seen you! (He’d seen יְהוָה – had a revelation of who He is! Awesome! Majestic! Sovereign!) Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”] No, more questions, but self-humbling and repentance. Job had received revelation [P]– he had seen יְהוָה – not a complete revelation, just a very small part of Him as revealed in His creation, in but a few of the creatures that He had made – but it was enough. Job was brought to his knees before a sovereign God, having seen His sovereignty over the creatures that He had made. Job was overwhelmed by the revelation of יְהוָה! Man is not the centre, he is not in control, he can do precious little. Life doesn’t revolve around me and my possession, and my aches and pains. יְהוָה does not have to answer to him. He is sovereign. We need a change in our perspective. Man is not in control – it is all in the hands of someone BIGGER, STRONGER and GREATER than I! [P]

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