One might say, “Well, yes, God may be sovereign over nature, but man has free will.” Yes, that is true, but that doesn’t negate the fact that God is also sovereign over man. I admit this may be difficult to understand. Yet it is what the Bible teaches. All the actions of God’s subjects are under His control. This even applies to rebellious men. They don’t know it, but they are carrying out the secret decree of our sovereign God.
This is clearly illustrated in the case of the Pharaoh in Egypt who refused to let Israel go in the time of Moses. Sometimes we find in the Bible what I call God’s “revealed will” and His “secret will.” These two may seem to contradict each other. However, it is important that we remember not to try to judge God by our standards of fairness or what we think is right or wrong. Often we try to make God into our image. Remember what Paul and Isaiah tell us about this subject:
“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Rom. 11:33).
“ ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord” (Isa. 55:8).
God was clearly in control during the exodus of Israel out of Egypt. God told Moses to ask Pharaoh to let Israel go. Then God also said that it was not His will for Pharaoh to let Israel go. Why? Because God wanted to reveal His power to the Egyptians and His people. God said:
“And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. But Pharaoh will not heed you, so that I may lay My hand on Egypt and bring My armies and My people, the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the children of Israel from among them” (Ex. 7:3-5).
In this passage we see God’s revealed will and secret will stated. His revealed will was for Pharaoh to let Israel go. His secret will was that Pharaoh not let Israel go right away.
“The Bible indicates that the way God deals with evil men is to either allow them to carry out their evil actions or stop or limit them in order to fulfill His eternal purpose. In Pharaoh’s case God allowed him to rebel against His revealed will. However, God limited Pharaoh’s rage against Moses and Israel. Proverbs informs us: “A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps” (Prov. 16:9).
Pharaoh’s evil heart devised plans to stop God from delivering Israel out of Egypt, and in the end he tried to destroy Israel at the Red Sea. However, Israel’s sovereign God overruled the ultimate goal of Pharaoh’s evil plans, allowing him to carry them out only to a certain extent of his evil plans. The evil plans God allowed him to carry out were used by God to reveal His power and greatness before Egypt and Israel. God knew it was important for Israel to experience God’s might and power, and He used Pharaoh to do this.
“There are many plans in a man’s heart, Nevertheless the Lord’s counsel—that will stand” (Prov. 19:21).
It is essential to know this about God when we are waiting in prayer for the Lord to deliver us from some difficult situation. For example, I have seen many cases when an individual becomes convicted to keep the seventh-day Sabbath, but their boss threatens to fire them if they don’t work on God’s holy day. In these types of situations it is comforting to know that God is not in heaven “wringing His hands” in worry hoping this young Christian doesn’t lose his or her job. What kind of God is that who is unable to deliver His children? No, God is sovereign and can direct the boss’s decision. God can either let the evil plan to fire God’s faithful child be carried out, or God can overrule and put it in the heart of the boss to keep the employee. How do I know this? Proverbs tells us that “the king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes” (Prov. 21:1).
Even though we think we know what is best for us at the time, God has a view of the big picture that we do not have. God does allow doors to close when He needs or wants to open other doors. Otherwise, how could He give us an experience that will in the end glorify His name and work out for our good? Therefore, God may allow us to lose a job over the Sabbath issue. But if He does, He has something better planned for us. Such is the case for all His promises to us.
Personal Reflection and Discussion
1. Which is more difficult for you to believe: that God is sovereign over nature or that God is sovereign over man? Why?
2. What evidences has God given us in the Bible that He is sovereign over man?
3. Why is it important that God have sovereign rulership over man?
• Call your prayer partner and discuss this devotional with him/her.
• Pray with your prayer partner:
1. Pray for God to baptize you with His Holy Spirit.
2. Pray for God to revive you and His church.
3. Pray for God to help you place your trust in His sovereign rulership over all of mankind.
4. Pray for the individuals on your prayer list.”
Excerpt From: Dennis Smith. “40 Days.”