We have had a bit of an interlude, there was Christmas and the holidays; and then I did a couple of talks on what happens when you die. But you may recall that last year I started a series on the sovereignty of God, and today I want to take up that theme again. This morning I want you to take your shoes off! Well not literally – I will spare the one sitting next to you. But as we look at the sovereignty of God – we are looking at His very nature and being!! We are on holy ground! [P] Many struggle trying to understand the sovereignty of God, their minds struggle with the implications – but we are dealing with the very nature of God! Do you think that your mind can understand Him?!! It is not a matter of comprehending with you mind but of taking our shoes off and worshipping. If we look with natural understanding we will run into a mental impasse; so let us simply accept what the revelation of God tells us; because the human mind cannot comprehend God; but these things are revealed to us by the Spirit. [1 Corinthians 2:9-10 but just as it is written, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him.” For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.] As the saying goes: “there are two sides to the coin”; so it is with the sovereignty of God. [P] We are so accustomed to viewing things from man’s perspective, from our view-point; that we often ignore the other side of the coin. And I would like to redress that imbalance – to look at the Sovereign, the one whose head is on the coin, the One who is on the throne, who acts according to His own will and is accountable to none. Like any coin you can only see one side at a time, and if you are looking from an earthly point of view you will see the tail, man’s affairs; and be unable to see the Sovereign, the Head over all. If your memory is good, you will recall that I started by talking about יהוה’s sovereignty over inanimate things: [P] things on earth, [P] the land, geological events; sea, the One in control of the waves; the air the One who controls the winds, the weather. Then I looked further, [P] beyond our planet, to יהוה’s control over the unimaginably vast heavens, the stars. Then from the massive I looked at God’s control right down to the most miniscule detail, [P] the seemingly random quantum events. There is nothing outside יהוה’s control! Glory to His Name! He is almighty in power, control, in knowledge and wisdom directing every event from the most huge and powerful right down to the most tiny and insignificant. יהוה has a will and His will prevails! That is OK for inanimate things than have no will of their own; so I then moved on to יהוה’s control over life [P] – first vegetation then animals. He is sovereign over all. You may get the impression, and you are probably right, that I am skirting around the issue of the sovereignty of God over man – because that is where we run into the most problems – the conflict of us having a free will with the fact that God is in sovereign control over all. Well, it is something I want to address, …… but not just yet. You may say that I have talked about יהוה’s sovereignty over inanimate and living things; things on earth and in the heavens, the massive and the miniscule – what is left? In actual fact, a vast amount! The thing is, that I have only talked about the natural realm, visible, tangible things. Many in our society would think that that is all there is – the ruling philosophy is naturalism/materialism. But there is a whole realm that they completely overlook! There is a whole area that they deny and it is very real, very present and very powerful and pervasive! There is a whole spiritual realm. [P] We patronizingly refer to “primitive” societies that worship spirits – but those spirits are very real and have real tangible power – as many a missionary has found out. It is not primitive superstition and ignorant imagination. Jesus spent a lot of His ministry on earth casting out demons – were they the imaginary superstition of the people?! Did Jesus imagine them? They spoke and acted! They were real alright! Did spirits cease to exist, sort of become extinct? They are not mortal, they don’t die! No, they are just as real, present and powerful today! In fact more powerful today because our denial of their existence gives them completely free reign. Yes, the spirit realm is real – and yet all our science and cleverness completely ignores a present reality, overlooks a vast proportion of creation – it is woefully incomplete in its understanding of the universe. The so called “primitive” tribesman is actually less ignorant than many in the western world. There is not only a natural realm there is a spiritual realm – the Scripture acknowledges it and gives much insight into that which our natural senses cannot perceive – and as with everything else that we have considered, the Bible reveals that יהוה is in absolute sovereign control over all. Look how much of our popular culture is based on the idea of goodies and baddies – the good battling evil in a titanic struggle. The baddies almost win but the goodies prevail in the end: Starwars, the Lion King, the old westerns, Harry Potter, Batman – it’s all the same basic idea – it is called dualism [P] – light and dark good and evil in an eternal battle. It is so much a part of our culture that it has infected our theology – there is satan and God battling it out; the Kingdom of God fighting the kingdom of the devil. It affects some of the weird concepts of spiritual warfare that are around. Let me say that it is utterly and completely WRONG! [P] Do you not know that the battle has been won?!! That יהוה is sovereign over all?!! [P] Including all the spiritual realm?! Let us look at what the Bible says about יהוה and the spiritual realm. It reveals an Almighty Sovereign who is in absolute control, on the throne directing all according to His will. He is vastly, supremely and infinitely more powerful than all else! Hallelujah! [P] He made them! This is no dualism, no close fought fight! If you get involved in casting out demons, it had better be based on a sound theology that יהוה is sovereign! Else you might end up like the sons of Sceva! So let’s look at that realm that is unseen but very real – spirit beings. There are spiritual beings that God created. As with everything else we have looked at God’s sovereignty stems back to, and is based on, the fact that He made them. If you make something it is yours to do with as you please. God made spirit beings and He made them as His servants – to carry out His bidding – we call them angels [P]. The word means “messengers”, those that are sent on errands. They are glorious beings and we revere them because they are powerful and mysterious and supernatural. But they are simply servants sent on errands. John, who was closer to the LORD than any other disciple, had a vision of angels that overwhelmed him. [Revelation 22:8-9 And I, John, am the one who heard and who saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed these things to me. And he said to me, “Do not do that! I am your fellow slave, and of your brothers the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God!”] Hear how the angel described himself? John, who had seen a vision of Jesus in His glory, fell down to worship the angel – but the angel called himself a “fellow-slave”. He was a slave, he carried out orders; he simply existed to do the will of his Master. Who is his Master? יהוה! He is sovereign, in control; He gives His orders and His slaves carry them out. He is sovereign over the angels. [Hebrews 1:14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?] We have this lofty idea about “ministering” and “ministry” – but the word simply means “service” – angels are servants and they serve – that is their role. [Hebrews 1:7 And concerning the angels He says, “The one who makes His angels winds, and his servants a flame of fire,” ] Hebrews is quoting [Psalm 104:4 who makes His messengers the winds (or spirits), His attendants a flame of fire.] where winds can also mean spirit – it equates angels with servants, spirit beings are His messengers, they wait upon Him to do His bidding. [Psalm 103:20-21 Bless יהוה, you His angels, mighty in strength, who perform His word, obeying the voice of His word! Bless יהוה, all you His armies, you who serve Him, doing His will.] It says it over and over again in that verse – they are powerful but they “perform His word” – they do what יהוה tells them to; they “obey the voice of His word” – they obey, simply do what they are told to by יהוה; they “serve Him” – servants who do His bidding, they “do His will” – in just one verse 4 times it tells us that angels are simply servants that do what they are told to by יהוה – He gives the orders, they carry them out. He is sovereign, in control, directing them, telling them what to do. This is what we see יהוה doing in: [Psalm 91:11 For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.] They help mankind, protect, but only at יהוה’s bidding – servants under direction and control of their Master – He is sovereign over angels. We see the same thing in the NT, particularly in the Christmas story – God sent a number of angels as messengers at that time, He sent another to get Peter out of prison. We do not have time to look at all the instances – but in every case they are sent by God, they are His “messenger-boys” – I will just site one reference as an example, it is what God will do at the end of the age: [Matthew 24:31 “And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.] God is sovereign over the angels, He sends them out; but, in explaining the parable of the tares; Jesus said: [Matthew 13:41 “The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, ] Jesus also sends the angels, He is sovereign over them. Jesus is acting sovereignly, in a way that is solely the prerogative of יהוה Himself – an indication that Jesus Himself is God because He exercises sovereignty over the spiritual realm. But then the Bible tells us that there was a rebellion among the spirit beings, satan was cast out and, along with him, fellow spirit beings. Doesn’t this mean that יהוה is not in control? After all, they rebelled and did their own thing, not His will. So let us look at those spirit beings that rebelled – what we call demons [P] – evil spirits who aligned themselves with satan. They are opposed to God, they are in rebellion; their will is adamantly opposed to God. But, do you know what? יהוה is still sovereign! We just get glimpses of how the spirit world operates – but you will find Scripture consistent. Take a look at: [P] Judges 9:23 – it is the time of the Judges and the nation of Israel was in a low place spiritually. They would turn from יהוה and He would place them under the power of the surrounding nations. Periodically יהוה would send them deliverers to rescue them from their oppressors. One we know well was Gideon, he had 70 sons and another, by the name of Abimelech, by a concubine. After Gideon died, Abimelech killed all bar one of Gideon’s sons and had the people of Shechem appoint him king. He was a bad number and so were the men of Shechem – and God did not let their treachery go unnoticed [Judges 9:23 Then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech,] This ended up being the downfall of both Abimelech and Shechem; but, did you hear what it said? God sent an evil spirit! Surely it is satan who is command of evil spirits. No, the Bible is quite consistent and insistent – יהוה is sovereign over all – evil spirits included. A story we are more familiar with is, is that of Saul and David [P] [1 Samuel 16:14-17 Now the Spirit of יהוה departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from יהוה terrorized him. Saul’s servants then said to him, “Behold now, an evil spirit from God is terrorizing you. “Let our lord now command your servants who are before you. Let them seek a man who is a skilful player on the harp; and it shall come about when the evil spirit from God is on you, that he shall play the harp with his hand, and you will be well.” So Saul said to his servants, “Provide for me now a man who can play well and bring him to me.”] Saul had disobeyed יהוה and יהוה was no longer with him. The Spirit of יהוה left him and what? An evil spirit from יהוה came to him. Who sent the evil spirit? יהוה did! And Saul’s servants knew that God had sent this evil spirit – that didn’t trouble their theology at all. Three times it says in that passage that the evil spirit was from God. The evil spirit tormented Saul, made him go insane – but one thing that would calm him was music (music can have spiritual power, both for good and evil). [1 Samuel 16:22-23 Saul sent to Jesse, saying, “Let David now stand before me, for he has found favour in my sight.” So it came about whenever the evil spirit from God came to Saul, David would take the harp and play it with his hand; and Saul would be refreshed and be well, and the evil spirit would depart from him. ] Again it says that the evil spirit came from God. [1 Samuel 18:10-11 Now it came about on the next day that an evil spirit from God came mightily upon Saul, and he raved in the midst of the house, while David was playing the harp with his hand, as usual; and a spear was in Saul’s hand. Saul hurled the spear for he thought, “I will pin David to the wall.” But David escaped from his presence twice. ] The Bible is totally consistent – the evil spirit came from God. [1 Samuel 19:9-10 Now there was an evil spirit from יהוה on Saul as he was sitting in his house with his spear in his hand, and David was playing the harp with his hand. Saul tried to pin David to the wall with the spear, but he slipped away out of Saul’s presence, so that he stuck the spear into the wall. And David fled and escaped that night.] Are you getting the message?! – six times it says that the evil spirit that came to Saul, came from God. Let us move later on, to the reign of King Ahab [P]. He was planning a military campaign and called in the prophets to see how they would get on. King Ahab wanted to defeat the Syrians, but it was יהוה’s purpose that he meet his death in this battle. Universally the prophets gave a favourable report – well all except one – he told the truth. His name was Micaiah, and, unlike the rest, he was a prophet of יהוה. He spoke the word of יהוה and prophesied a rout. [2 Chronicles 18:18-22 Micaiah said, “Therefore, hear the word of יהוה. I saw יהוה sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing on His right and on His left. יהוה said, ‘Who will entice Ahab king of Israel to go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said this while another said that. “Then a spirit came forward and stood before יהוה and said, ‘I will entice him.’ And יהוה said to him, ‘How?’ “He said, ‘I will go and be a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ Then He said, ‘You are to entice him and prevail also. Go and do so.’ Now therefore, behold, יהוה has put a deceiving spirit in the mouth of these your prophets, for יהוה has proclaimed disaster against you.”] It is quite an insight to what goes on in the heavenly realm! The spirits appear before יהוה in the heavenly court. Here is an evil spirit, doing evil – he plans to deceive. God tells him to entice Ahab, and the spirit’s deceit will prevail – it would not prevail unless יהוה sovereignly ordained it. יהוה commands the spirit to go and do it, to deceive. The plan to deceive came from the heart of evil, but God is sovereign, in control, directing all. There are spirits intent on evil but they cannot prevail unless God allows them to. We will see more of this a little later. Look at the life of Jesus here on earth [P] – He had many encounters with demons, and whenever He did, they fled; He cast them out with a word. They had to obey His command. They didn’t want to go but they recognized his authority. They have more sense than men – they may be opposed to God, but at least they know His power and authority. They dare not disobey because He is sovereign. I don’t have time to go through all the references but the record is consistent – just an example of many: [Matthew 8:16 Now when it was evening, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed, and He expelled the spirits with a word.] Jesus spoke the word and they had to go, He gave the command because He is sovereign over the spirits. It all comes down to who has the greatest authority – the Jews of Jesus day knew it. So, when He cast out a demon from a mute man, they knew that He had to have greater authority. Rather than ascribe that authority to God, the only other explanation was that Jesus got it from the ruler of the demons. Jesus showed them how ridiculous that idea was: [Luke 11:14-22 And He was expelling a mute demon. Now it happened that when the demon came out, the man who had been mute spoke, and the crowds were astonished. But some of them said, “By Beelzebul the ruler of demons He expels demons!” But He, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. So if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I expel demons by Beelzebul. But if I expel demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you! When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his possessions are safe. But when a stronger man attacks him and conquers him, he takes away his full armour in which he trusted and distributes his plunder.]. Satan isn’t going to destroy his own realm – it doesn’t make any sense! The only other alternative is that Jesus cast the demons out by the “finger of God”. God has authority over them – in fact it only takes His finger to cast them out. They cannot but obey Him, because His authority is supreme. We see no battle, no dualism; just One who is sovereign over all! Hallelujah! The demons must obey and submit to the Name of Jesus. And it is in that Name, that we have authority over demons There is no titanic dualistic battle with demons – they are defeated foe: [Colossians 2:14-15 having destroyed the certificate of indebtedness in ordinances against us, which was hostile to us, and removed it out of the way by nailing it to the cross. When He had disarmed the rulers and the authorities, (that is the spiritual rulers in the heavenly realm) He made a display of them in public, triumphing over them by it.] Jesus humiliated them by leading them in procession in a public triumph. We are going to end up with egg on our face, or worse, if we try dealing with the demonic other in the Name of Jesus; other than on the basis of the Sovereignty of God. [Acts 19:13-16 But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, “I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.” Seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. And the evil spirit answered and said to them, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. ] We are dealing with beings far more powerful than we! Unless we are solidly based on the sovereignty of God and acting in the Name of Jesus, we will accomplish nothing. So OT and NT are consistent that demons are subject to God. But what about satan? [P] He is the one who rebelled in the first place, he comes to steal kill and destroy. He is bent on destroying all that God creates; is in utter and adamant opposition to God and all that He stands for and all that He does. Surely he is not subject to יהוה, under His sovereignty? Well, what does the Bible tell us? When we first encounter the satan in the Garden of Eden and he leads man into sin, יהוה pronounced judgement upon him: [Genesis 3:14-15 Then יהוה God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, you will be cursed יהוה than any domesticated animal and more than any wild animal. On your belly you shall go and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. And I will put hostility between you and between the woman, and between your offspring and between her offspring; he will strike you on the head, and you will strike him on the heel.”] What happened? The serpent forever after went on its belly, and there was hostility between it and the woman. Who put the hostility there? יהוה did! What יהוה decreed concerning the serpent, took place. Satan couldn’t prevent that, he was under the control of יהוה. Then very early on in the record of revelation we have the account of Job, [P] where we have insight into the operation of satan – satan said Job only worshiped יהוה out of self interest: [Job 1:12 Then יהוה said to satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.” So Satan departed from the presence of יהוה.] Satan could only do what יהוה allowed him to do. יהוה gave him permission to do what he did and set limits on it. Having taken all Job had satan then wanted to touch Job himself: [Job 2:6 So יהוה said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your power, only spare his life.”] Again satan could not touch Job unless יהוה let him, and again יהוה put limits on what he could do. Sure, satan was bent on evil but he was under יהוה’s control – and in the end, what happened? יהוה used the whole incident to bring Job to a greater understanding of Himself and through his life brought a mighty revelation of Himself to all mankind! Job ended up far better off than he started, satan did not destroy him as he wanted. Tell me, whose will ended up being carried out? יהוה’s or satan’s? Who is in control? Who is sovereign?! Here is the amazing genius and absolute wonder of God! Evil is doing its darndest yet God works it to accomplish His own purpose. You see this in a most amazing way at the cross. [P] This was when as Jesus said in [Luke 22:53 This is your hour and the domain of darkness!”] Satan had his hour, he was intent on killing the Messiah, God’s Son. He knew who Jesus was and that all God’s plan depended on Him. So, true to his nature, he set out to destroy Him. He personally entered Judas in order to accomplish his plan [Luke 22:3 And Satan entered into Judas, the one called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve.] Satan did as he purposed, carried out his plan – or did he? Regarding Judas Jesus said: [John 13:18 I know whom I have chosen, but in order that the scripture would be fulfilled, ‘The one who eats my bread has lifted up his heel against me.’] Satan was fulfilling Scripture – the plan that יהוה had worked out and foretold beforehand! Satan doing his very worst; was actually carrying out the will of יהוה that He had decided and purposed beforehand. Again speaking about Judas, Jesus said: [Luke 22:22 “For indeed, the Son of Man is going as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!”] It had been determined in God’s will and plan from before the foundation of the world: [Acts 2:23 this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.] It was all יהוה’s predetermined plan! Isaiah said: [Isaiah 53:10 But יהוה was pleased To crush Him, …., And the good pleasure of Job will prosper in His hand. ] Satan had not a clue what he was doing! [1 Corinthians 2:7-8 but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory;] Again, speaking of the delivering over of Jesus to death Paul said to the Jews: [Acts 4:28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.] It was predestined; יהוה had worked it all out, planned and purposed it beforehand. Satan, even at his most despicable, is under the sovereign control of יהוה. [P] He is sovereign over all. Things are never out of His control! Hallelujah! Jesus is God!: [Colossians 2:9-10 in Him all the fullness of deity dwells bodily, who is the Head over every ruler and authority, 1 Peter 3:22 who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, with angels and authorities and powers having been subjected to Him.] He is sovereign over every spiritual power! Praise and glory to His Name!