KEY TEXT(S): 1 Chronicles 29:11-12; 2 Chronicles 20:6; Nehemiah 9:6; Psalm 103:19.
The sovereignty of God is one of the attributes of God revealed in the Bible. It is an attribute of God that incorporates virtually all that God is. But before going into the details it is important we define the sovereignty of God. So what does the sovereignty of God mean? According to A.W Pink in his book, The Sovereignty of God : “To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that He is the Almighty, the Possessor of all power in Heaven and earth, so that none can defeat His counsels, thwart His purpose, or resist His will (Psa. 115:3). To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that He is ‘The Governor among the nations’ (Psa. 22:28), setting up kingdoms, overthrowing empires, and determining the course of dynasties as pleaseth Him best. To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that He is the ‘Only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords’ (1 Tim. 6:15). Such is the God of the Bible”.
THE NATURE AND FEATURES OF THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD
By way of summary, below is the nature and features of the sovereignty of God, which we must take to heart as intercessors as we pray for our nation.
(i) God is supreme and above all. He is addressed as “the Most High” and as “the Highest”, the only Potentate, King of kings and Lord of lords, Omnipotent, Almighty, all powerful., the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and Omega.(Ps.83: 18; Dan. 4:24,25,34; Lu.1:35; 1Tim.6:15,16; Rev.1:8; Rev.4:8; Rev.19:6; Rev.17:13,14; Rev.19:16; Rev.22:12,13;
(ii) God has prearranged the course and destiny for men and nations. (Eph.2:10; Jer.1:5; Deut.32:7, 8; Acts 17:26; Amos 9:7; Deut.2:17-23; Matt.23:37-39)
(iii) God’s will is both decretive and permissive. His decretive will is his original and perfect plan while in His permissive will He makes allowance for the exercise of man’s free will. These two aspects of His will date back to the Garden of Eden and were represented by “the tree of life” and “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” respectively. Since God created man a free moral agent, He made room for man to voluntarily choose His decretive will or otherwise.
(iii) God works out all things in accordance with His will, in accordance with His decretive and permissive will. (Eph.1:11; Acts 14:14-17; Jer.18: 7-10)
(iiv) God has a set time, programme or timetable for the outworking of His predetermined purpose. He works out His Kingdom purpose progressively or in stages. These stages and set times are referred to as seasons and dispensations. (Gen.21:1, 2; Ps.102:13; Acts1:7, 8; Acts 17:26; Dan.9:24-27; Dan.12:4, 9; Gal.4:4; Ro.11:1-5; Lu.19: 41-44; Lu.21:24) In these Scripture passages, we read of “set time”, “times and seasons”; “times before appointed”; “fullness of time”; “time of visitation”; “present time”, “time of the end”; “times of the Gentiles” etc. There more scriptures to cite, but all of these show that God works according to set times and seasons. God has a Prophetic Time Clock, and He works out His purpose according to that Divine Time Clock. As intercessors, we need to find out where we are in God’s Prophetic Time Clock for the nation, and labour accordingly.
(v) Nothing can thwart God’s decretive will. Though man has chosen to go the opposite of God’s decretive will, ultimately God’s decretive will or His original and perfect plan for nations will prevail.(Isa.14:24-27; Isa..25:7; Isa.43:13; Dan.4:35). Although the nation’s today are in undesirable and chaotic state, God has given us a Preview in His Word how things will turn out at the end. (See Isa.2:1-4; Isa. 11:4-9; Rev.21:24-26)
(vi) Whenever man opts for God’s permissive will, represented by “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”, there will always be undesirable and unpalatable consequences. This God made clear to Adam and the children of Israel when they requested for a king. Today, men and nations are operating on God’s permissive will, and the result has not been so pleasurable. However, His permissive will is intended to be a pedagogue or school master, driving us to desire and seek His perfect will, which is His Kingdom.(Acts 14:15, 16; 2Chron.15:3-6; Hos.3:4,5; Hos.2:6-7)
(vii) There are two broad phases in the outworking of God’s will and the exercise of His sovereignty – The Present Phase and the Future Phase. While His Kingdom is His perfect will and the answer for man’s needs and troubles, there is the “present” and “not yet” aspects of the Kingdom. There is the present phase and the future phase of the Kingdom. And we cannot mix the two. The present phase gives us a foretaste of the future phase of the Kingdom. The future phase is about the fullness of the Kingdom, when all evil will be completely stamped out. In the present phase, the wheat and the weeds grow together. In the future phase the weeds and all that cause stumbling will be no more. It will be complete paradise and a life of total bliss where there will be no tears, weeping or gnashing of teeth as the book of Revelation says.
THE PLACE OF PRAYER IN THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD
AND THE OUTWORKING OF HIS PLAN
Although God is sovereign, He has chosen to partner with man in the outworking of His plan for the nations and has hinged the fulfillment of His plan on the ministry of prayer and intercession. After unveiling His plan for Israel in Isa.62:1-5, in verses 6 and 7 of the same scripture, we read:
“Isaiah 62:6 I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night: ye that make mention of the LORD, keep not silence, 62:7 And give him no rest, till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth”.
When things were going wrong in the nation of Israel, the Bible said God “wondered that there was no intercessor”; that there was “none to uphold” and that there was “none” to “stand in the gap”. (Isa 59:16; Isa 63:5; Ezek. 22:39)
When God planned to send rain after the three and half years of famine in the days of Elijah, the Bible reported that Elijah prayed to make this divine plan a reality,(1Kgs 18:1,41-46).
Historically, those who understood the relationship between prayer and the sovereignty of God accomplished so much to the glory of God. John Piper in his book Let the Nations Be Glad tells us a bit of the stories which is worth considering: He wrote:
“In order to magnify his glory, he [God] will exert his sovereign power and complete the mission he has commanded. This confidence in the sovereignty of God and the triumph of his course is essential in the prayers of God’s people and the mission of the church. It has proven to be a powerful force in the history of missions. The first missionary endeavor of the Protestants in England burst forth from the soil of the Puritan hope.
“They had a view of God’s sovereignty that produced an undaunted hope in the victory of God over the world. They were deeply stirred by a passion for the coming of God’s kingdom over all the nations.
“This is what gripped the Puritan mind and eventually gave birth to the modern missionary movement in 1793. William Carey was nourished on this tradition………were David Brainard and Adoniram Judson, Alexander Duff and David Livingstone, John Paton and a host of others who gave their lives to reach the unreached peoples of the world. The modern missionary movement did not rise in a theological vacuum. It grew out of a great Reformation tradition that put the sovereignty of God square in the center of human life”.
WHEN THINGS DO NOT GO AS WE PRAYED
Prayer based on the sovereignty of God is the tradition of our fathers. Our God is a God that answers prayers. It is on the basis of this fact that He invites us to pray. The Psalmist wrote: “O thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come”. (Ps.65:2). However, we know from practical experience that sometimes things do not go as we prayed, (See Malachi 3:14, Isaiah 59:9,11; Isaiah 58:3, Isaiah 26:17, 18). So there could be failed expectations in prayer. However, when things do not go as we prayed, the first thing to do is not to think or assume that God has sovereignly over-ruled us. Many factors could be responsible for unanswered prayers and failed expectations, (See Matt.17:19-21; James 4:3; Isa.58:4; 2 Chronicles 36:15, 16).
If nothing is wrong with us and our prayers, if we are not praying in unbelief, if our lives are right before God, if we are not asking amiss, and sovereignly over-rules, then we must be rest assured that it is for our own good both as individuals and as a nation, and for the advancement of His cause as Paul wrote in the following scriptures: 2Cor.12:7-10; Rom.8:28; 2Cor.417, 18.
Our God is sovereign, all powerful, all knowing. Knowing the sovereignty of God, its nature and features is of tremendous benefit. We must treasure this knowledge of God as it will affect our work and walk with God.