Summary: A brief message on the sovereignty of God used as part of our Night of Worship.
William Cowper, a British poet and hymn writer composed a piece titled “God Moves in Mysterious Ways”. I don’t know if he was inspired to write that poem after reading the Book of Ecclesiastes, but the thoughts expressed in that poem certainly wouldn’t be at odds with what we’ve discovered in our journey through Ecclesiastes over the last seven months. Let me read to you the first two stanzas:
God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill,
He treasures up his bright designs,
And works his sovereign will.
Qoheleth, the author of Ecclesiastes, certainly would agree with those words. God does indeed move in mysterious ways. In fact, as Qoheleth looked around at life “under the sun” here on earth, much of what he saw didn’t really make sense. The wicked often prospered while the righteous suffered. The poor were oppressed by the rich and powerful. The wise and the fool alike both faced the certainty of death. But through it all, Qoheleth never wavered in his belief that God was in control, that, as Cowper put it, He was “working his sovereign will.”
We’ve discussed the idea of God’s sovereignty throughout our journey through Ecclesiastes and we’ve certainly seen some aspects of that sovereignty demonstrated there. But although we often speak of God’s sovereignty, I’m not convinced that we really have a good handle on exactly what we mean when we use that term. Obviously that’s such an enormous topic that I couldn’t even begin to tackle it in great detail tonight, but I’m convinced that it will profit all of us to spend just a few moments contemplating God’s sovereignty.
We need to begin with the basics and define what we mean by God’s sovereignty. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve looked at dozens of definitions that have been written by all kinds of people. Some of them are very good, but frankly, many of them fall short of defining God’s sovereignty in a manner that is consistent with God’s Word. Perhaps the best definition that I found was this one by A.W. Pink:
To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that God is God.
In other words, God’s sovereignty is not just one in a long list of the attributes of God – like His omniscience, His omnipotence or his omnipresence – but it is the very nature of God Himself and all those other attributes are just aspects of His sovereignty. But as accurate as that definition is, it is not particularly helpful in our quest to understand what we mean by God’s sovereignty. So let’s use this working definition tonight to help us get a better handle on this concept:
God’s absolute right to do all things according to His good pleasure and the power to carry them out.
There are three distinct and significant aspects to that definition. So let’s take a moment to look at each one briefly:
God’s absolute right…
The idea of God’s absolute right to do as He pleases has its foundations in creation itself. Since God is the Originator and Creator of all, he has the absolute right to determine exactly how that creation is to operate.
That shouldn’t be such a surprise to us since we see that same principle operate in a more limited manner in our everyday lives. Some of you may be aware that Pastor Dana has been working with Dr. Hector to develop a specialized wheelchair and they are to the point of applying for a patent for their work. And once they get that patent, they will have the right to control everything related to that chair. They could manufacture it and sell it themselves, they could contract with another company to manufacture the chairs on their behalf, or they could sell their patent rights to another party. But since they are the creators of that chair, they have the right to control everything related to their work.
Obviously God’s absolute right over His creation is much broader and more absolute, but the idea is still the same. As the Creator, God has the absolute right to do whatever He wants with His creation.
That is an idea that we have seen throughout Ecclesiastes. Beginning in chapter 1, Qoheleth described the cycles that God has ordained – the sun and the wind and the water cycle – and he goes to great lengths to make the point that no matter how hard he may try or how wise he might become, man is incapable of altering those God-ordained cycles. However, since He is the one who put them into place, God has the absolute right to alter those cycles however and whenever he wants. And we have Biblical evidence of Him actually doing that at times. In Joshua 10:13, we read how god stopped the sun in the middle of the sky for a whole day. And there are countless examples of God using the wind and the clouds to do His bidding.