Who’s in control – Ezra 1

Ezra 1 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfil the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing:
2 “This is what Cyrus king of Persia says:
“ ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. 3 Anyone of his people among you—may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem. 4 And the people of any place where survivors may now be living are to provide him with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.’ ”

Cyrus the King of Persia was not a follower of Yahweh the God of Israel. He was not a believer. Yet God moved Cyrus to allow the Exiles to return and rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple in Jerusalem. And God can do that because God is in control, God is Lord, God is Sovereign. God is the Creator and Sustainer and Lord of all things. He can cause even people who do not believe in Him to do His bidding and fulfil His plans. Even Kings and Rulers as important as Cyrus King of Persia! Because behind the scenes God is continually “causing” some events to occur, and “allowing” other events to occur to properly set in motion the proper sequence of events that has to occur in “domino fashion” for everything to fall in place according to His perfect master-plan.

Isaiah 44:24 “This is what the LORD says—your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the LORD, who has made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself,
…….
who says of Jerusalem, ‘It shall be inhabited,’ of the towns of Judah, ‘They shall be built,’ and of their ruins, ‘I will restore them,’
27 who says to the watery deep, ‘Be dry, and I will dry up your streams,’
28 who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please;
he will say of Jerusalem, “Let it be rebuilt,” and of the temple, “Let its foundations be laid.” ’
God is so great he can appoint even an unbelieving secular ruler to serve his purposes.

45 “This is what the LORD says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him and to strip kings of their armour,
to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut:
2 I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron.
……
4 For the sake of Jacob my servant, of Israel my chosen, I summon you by name
and bestow on you a title of honour, though you do not acknowledge me.
5 I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God.
I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me,
6 so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting
men may know there is none besides me. I am the LORD, and there is no other.
7 I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster;
I, the LORD, do all these things.

God is so great he can use even those who do not acknowledge Him to do his will. Because God is in charge. The God of Israel, the Lord, our God, God is Sovereign.
The Sovereignty of God: Sovereignty means supremacy, preeminence, taking the first place, absolute, and unique. The God of Israel is Sovereign – he is the ultimate power and authority in the universe!
1 Chronicles 29: 10 David praised the LORD in the presence of the whole assembly, saying, “Praise be to you, O LORD, God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting.
11 Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendour, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.
12 Wealth and honour come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all.

Everything in heaven and earth belong to God. God is the ruler of all things. God is Sovereign. It is said there is a plaque on the desk of the President of the United States which reads, “The buck stops here.” But that plaque is wrong. The buck actually stops with a much higher authority, the ultimate authority. The buck stops with God – the Sovereign – the ruler of all things.

Christians, as the Jews before us, have always recognised the Sovereignty of God. In his classic book The Sovereignty of God, A.W.Pink puts it this way.
“What do we mean by [the sovereignty of God]? We mean the supremacy of God, the kingship of God, the god-hood of God. To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that God is God. To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that He is the Most High, doing according to His will in the army of Heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, so that none can stay His hand or say unto Him what doest Thou? (Dan. 4:35). 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.”

God rules over all that He created. God was the Sovereign ruler over all His creation. He controls the seasons and the weather, all the storms and floods and earthquakes and volcanos.
The LORD has established His throne in the heavens;
And His kingdom rules over the Universe. (Psalm 103:19)

Psalm 135:5-6, NAS
5 For I know that the LORD is great, And that our Lord is above all gods.
6 Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, In heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps.
God is ruler over all nations and kings and human authorities.
Acts 17:24-26, NAS
24 “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; 25 neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all life and breath and all things; 26 and He made from one, every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times, and the boundaries of their habitation,
God in His Sovereignty raises one government leader up and puts another down.
But God is the Judge; He puts down one, and exalts another. (Psalm 75:7, NAS)
“And it is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings;
He gives wisdom to wise men, And knowledge to men of understanding. (Daniel 2:21, NAS)
God is infinitely elevated above the highest creature. He is the Most High, Lord of heaven and earth. Subject to none, influenced by none, absolutely independent; God does as He pleases, only as He pleases always as He pleases. None can thwart Him, none can hinder Him. Divine sovereignty means that God is God in fact, as well as in name, that He is on the Throne of the universe, directing all things, working all things according to His own will and purposes. God exercises His supremacy – He is Sovereign.

God is sovereign over states and nations and He is Sovereign over each of our lives, and over each and every details of our lives. He is Sovereign over the Time and place of our birth and the time and place and circumstances of our death. God is Sovereign over every detail of our personality.
Psalm 139: 1 O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. …..
13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
16 your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

God is Sovereign over our jobs, whether we succeed or fail, whether we get promoted. God is Sovereign over our relationships, who we will marry, whether we will have children, what spiritual gifts we may have. In his Sovereignty God has a perfect plan for each of our lives, what Spiritual gifts we will have, the good works he has prepared in advance for us to do.

God is ruler of all things – God is Sovereign. But I fear that too often Christians today have lost sight of the Sovereignty of God. We have lost confidence in the fact that God is on the throne, God is ruler of all things, God is in control, God is the boss!

1 The problem of innocent suffering.
Suffering like the natural disaster in Haiti. Suffering at the hands of evil men like that of children in Auschwitz and Belsen – the horrors of the Holocaust. How can we believe God is in control, people will ask, when such terrible things happen and there is such awful suffering in the world.
Classically the problem of suffering is expressed like this. If God is all-loving he would not allow suffering. If God is all-powerful he would not allow suffering. But suffering happens – so either God is not all loving or he is not all powerful.
As Christians we major on the God of love. We will defend at all costs the truth that God is love and that everything He does is an act of love. But the result is that many Christians have a much more vague concept of the Sovereignty of God. To preserve our understanding of the love of God when we see innocent suffering we water down our ideas about God as ruler of all things. Perhaps God isn’t in control quite as much as we thought.
Of course the problem is actually in the formulation of the logical proposal. Its first assumption is that if God was perfectly loving he would stop suffering – and that assumption is wrong. In fact God IS all loving BUT he allows some human suffering for purposes which for much of the time we just can’t understand. The presence of suffering in the world is NOT proof that God is not all powerful. Suffering does NOT negate the Sovereignty of God. In fact, If God was not sovereign in all of His ways this world would be in much worse shape than it is now. If God’s protection and restraining hand was not “sovereignly operating” on this earth – we would all be living in a hell on earth.
But God is Sovereign – ultimately nothing happens on earth unless He has allowed it!

Lamentations 3:37-38, NAS
37 Who is there who speaks and it comes to pass, Unless the LORD has commanded it?
38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High That both good and ill go forth?

And even as people suffer, the Sovereign God is at work bringing good out of evil.
Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him who have been called according to his purpose.

2. The question of predestination
The Sovereignty of God is unpopular with some Christians because of the answer it gives to a vital question. Who chooses who is saved and who is lost? Is it the Christian who chooses God? Or is it God who chooses us? Are we predestined to be saved – or do we get to decide for ourselves?
Romans 8:29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

We don’t have time tonight to expand this discussion. I promise I will do so on another occasion soon. But the point is that some people are so keen to defend the idea of human free will that they diminish the Sovereignty of God. Who chose who? Time and time again the Bible makes clear that God is Sovereign. His grace leads some to believe. In other cases the Bible is specific that God hardens some people’s hearts so that they will not believe and be saved. I don’t want to start any arguments about Pre-destination and free will. But I do want to say that so many times the Bible teaches us that God is God – creator and ruler of all things – God is Sovereign!

3. Jesus is only Lord because we let him be Lord.

We saw from Jeremiah 18 before Christmas that God is the potter and we are the clay. The potter who can do whatever he chooses with the clay to make whatever he wishes.

JESUS, YOU ARE CHANGING ME,
By Your Spirit You’re making me like You.
Jesus, You’re transforming me,
That Your loveliness may be seen in all I do.
You are the potter and I am the clay,
Help me to be willing to let You have Your way.
Jesus, You are changing me,
As I let You reign supreme within my heart.

God does invite our cooperation in the work he is doing in us and through us. He wants us to be willing. But don’t ever think that God needs our cooperation. That we need to let God mould us and transform us. God is God! He can do whatever He chooses! God is sovereign. Jesus is not Lord because we invite him or allow Him to be Lord. Jesus is not Lord just of the people who recognise and submit to His Lordship. Jesus is Lord! Exclamation Mark! God is Sovereign. Exclamation Mark.
God is Sovereign even though there is suffering in the world. God is Sovereign even though that gets our heads into a spin about who chooses who is saved – whether we chose God or he chose us. God is Sovereign whether people choose to submit to that sovereignty or not!

Ezra 1 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfil the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing:

Who’s in control? God is Sovereign. God is Ruler of all thing. God is in control. God is the boss!

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