Tag Archives: The Sovereignty of God

A Final Word on the Sovereignty of God

 

This week we close our study on the sovereignty of God.  It is our hope that a better understanding of God’s sovereignty has expanded your trust and confidence in our “all wise God” (Jude 1:25).

Our appreciation of the sovereignty of God will also help us as we attempt to make sense of these tumultuous times.  We know that our future is not dependent on our past or current circumstances but it is based on Who we serve (Ps. 20:7).

We thank God for His grace.  Grace introduced at Creation when we were given God’s image.  We thank Him even more for salvation resulting in our righteousness, sanctification and redemption (1 Cor. 1:30).  All these are ours as a result of sovereign God’s fulfillment of His purpose for mankind.

The Challenge to God’s sovereignty

As a result of God’s grace and love, we are now invited to freely choose a lifestyle that will result in God’s glory and our good.  So why is it so hard for man to operate under God’s sovereign rule?  The challenge to God’s rightful position and authority boils down to a matter of sin.

Man’s resistance to God’s sovereignty is rooted in sin that began in the Garden of Eden and is still manifesting itself today on the world stage. Remember, the wisdom of God, revealed in His purpose and will are foolishness to the world (1 Cor. 3:19).  Such thinking leads to disobedience.  And disobedience to God is a fast track to sin and ultimately death (James 1:14-15).

God’s sovereignty or man’s sin

Unless led by the Holy Spirit, man, by nature, will most often choose to be wise in his own eyes (Prov. 3:5-6).  He is persuaded by his lust of the flesh, the lust of his eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16) which satisfies his fleshly impulses.

However, when led by the Holy Spirit, man can more clearly see and discern the will of God  As it is only by the Holy Spirit who can reveal the sovereignty of God, it is not surprising that when the Spirit has been poured out in such an abundant measure, that this truth has been clearly known and loved.[1]

The biblical account cites many who chose their will over God’s with disastrous results. Yet God’s sovereign will was accomplished (Job 42:2; Is. 14:27).  Many of them were kings, prophets, and people of God.  They “should have known better” but they didn’t do better.  These accounts were written for our learning so that we might not make the same mistakes (Rom. 15:4).  Here are just a few to help illustrate man’s resistance to God’s will.

    • Saul (1 Samuel 10:8; 13:7-10)
    • The children of Israel (Exodus 32)
    • Jonah (Jonah 1)

Alignment with God’s Sovereignty

We can better position ourselves to align with God’s sovereignty when we recognize:  (1) God’s authority and plan, (2) man’s moral responsibility, and (3) believer’s relationship with God.

God’s authority and plan

    • His right—as Creator God, He is the only rightful ruler and authority over His universe.
    • His rule—it is God’s nature, His goodness and greatness that “qualifies” Him to rule.
    • His will—His divine plan of salvation and redemption of mankind is constantly at work.

 Man’s  moral responsibility

    • Our choice—how we exercise our “free will” is an indicator of how we respond to God’s sovereignty.
    • Our love—God is the object of our affection resulting in our loyalty and our obedience.
    • Our obedience—we are to submit to God’s will by actively participating in His eternal purpose.

 Believer’s relationship with God

    • Our reality—it is grounded in the belief that God can do what is needed to bring about His purpose. That belief fosters our trust in God.
    • Our partnership—it gives access to God’s will and ways. This opens up enormous opportunities to join with God in establishing His kingdom rule.
    • Our service—it is a natural outcome of our belief and partnership with God.
Final Words on God’s Sovereignty and You

We conclude this study with remarks from one of my favorite teachers, A. W. Pink.  He shares his “heart” on this matter of sovereignty so that we may grow strong in our faith and witness for the Lord.

The sovereignty of God is something more than an abstract principle which explains the rationale of the divine government: it is designed as a motive for godly fear; it is made known to us for the promotion of righteous living; it is revealed in order to bring into subjection our rebellious hearts.

 A true recognition of God’s sovereignty humbles as nothing else does or can humble, and brings the heart into lowly submission before God, causing us to relinquish our own self-will and making us delight in the perception and performance of the Divine will.

 When we speak of the sovereignty of God we mean very much more than the exercise of God’s governmental power. Truly to recognize the sovereignty of God is to gaze upon the Sovereign himself.  It is to come into the presence of the august “Majesty on High.”[2]

[1]   The Sovereignty of God,  A. W. Pink

[2] Ibid.

Is God really in control? Man’s free will versus God’s sovereignty

Last week we discussed man’s responsibility in light of God’s sovereignty.  I put forth the thought that although God is all powerful, everywhere present, and knowing all things, we are expected to act prudently and biblically responsible (Titus 2:11-12).

We, as believers, are to use the resources available to us to accomplish the purpose and plan of God.  This includes our gifts and talents.  This mindset of acting responsibly begins with the conscious choices we make through our free will (Gal. 6:7-8).

While mindful of the theological discussions on the relationship between God’s sovereign plan of salvation and man’s free will, they will not be addressed in today’s teaching.  For those interested in pursuing this area further, I have included this reference to begin your personal study and for follow-up discussions with your pastor.

What is free will?

What is free will and how does it fit with God’s exercise of sovereignty?   Free will simply put is having the “freedom to choose”.  When God created man in His own image (Gen. 1:26-27), He empowered him with a gift that no other creature possessed. Man could operate under his own volition (the faculty or power of using one’s will).

Webster defines freedom as not under the control or in the power of another.  It denotes one’s personal sovereignty with the right of self-determination and self-expression.  Will in the Hebrew language is most often used to define the inner man.  It includes the soul—mind, will, and emotions (heart).

Adam and Eve chose to exercise their personal sovereignty and pursued their soul’s desire.  It is here that the core of sin began in the independent use of mind and will to choose what was good and what was evil (Gen. 3:5,22).

It is not surprising (and with intention) that God included these core elements of the soul in His great commandment (Deut. 6:4-5):  “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD; and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”  Isn’t it remarkable that love for God had to be “commanded”?

Free will—not force

God does not force us to follow Him.  However, God’s plan will be accomplished either with us or without us.  God may even choose to use another means by which to accomplish His plan.  But His plan and purpose will be achieved (Is. 23:9).  Remember the icebergs?

While we are working in the external realm, God is exercising His authority, in both the external and eternal realm to bring into fruition His plan resulting in His glory and our good (Is. 14:27).  As the noted writer and theologian A.W. Tozer noted, “God’s plan will continue on God’s schedule.”

Choice not coercion

God’s placement of His image in man demonstrated His great love for His creature.  Mankind was the apex of His creation.  The result of this unique relationship was to have been God living in unbroken fellowship with man and man loving God.

However, “The God-who-Sees” must have known that with the gift of free will would also come the risk of a “divided heart” (1 Kings 18:21; 1 Sam. 7:3).  Adam and Eve chose “free will” over God.  The reality that began in the Garden is the same reality we must acknowledge in 2020—alignment with God’s sovereign will is really a matter of choice.

Our Free Will-Our Choice

After contrasting man’s free will with God’s sovereignty, my takeaway is to be more intentional and prudent in the choices I make.  My choice—large or small—is a reflection of how much I love and trust God.  It is my acknowledgement of God’s wisdom, love, and sovereignty.

Abdicating my will to God is not based on coercion or fear.  It is “freely given” to the one whose image I bear (1 Cor. 15:49) and who gave His life for me (John 3:16).

As in every area of our life, Jesus is our supreme example of perfect obedience to the will of God without the lessening of personal choice.  Although Jesus was fully aware of His purpose and the outcome of His life, He still prays in Gethsemane, “Father, if thou art willing remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” (Luke 22:42)   Let all the redeemed of the Lord follow Jesus’ example.

Is God really in control? Man’s responsibility versus God’s sovereignty

God's sovereignty vs Man's responsibility

What is man’s responsibility in light of God’s supreme authority and power over everything?  Does God’s predetermined plan and purpose negate man’s responsibility to move forward with his own personal plans?  Where does God’s sovereignty end and man’s responsibility begin?

These are questions that have been debated for centuries among many great theologians and dedicated scholars.  Today we will begin to explore how to better operate (cooperate) within the sovereign rule of God.

Defining man’s Responsibility

How we define our responsibility in light of God‘s sovereignty is often shaped by one of two common views.  One view holds the belief that man has no role and therefore, no responsibility.  This belief contends that all events are predetermined and therefore inevitable regardless of what man does.

This is seen as a somewhat fatalistic view with a submissive outlook.  Man is seen as a mere “puppet” in accomplishing God’s sovereign plan and purpose.  If this were true, why then would God created us with free will?  (Next week’s discussion)

Another view of responsibility

Another view is the belief that although God is sovereign, man does retain responsibility for his life.  Through use of our gifts and talents, by our response to trials and tribulation, through the choices we make, we are continually (perhaps unknowingly) participating with the Creator as He executes His plan and purpose.

This partnership can be illustrated by how icebergs move.

In the frigid waters around Greenland are countless icebergs, some little and some gigantic. If you’d observe them carefully, you’d notice that sometimes the small ice floes move in one direction while their massive counterparts flow in another. The explanation is simple. Surface winds drive the little ones, whereas the huge masses of ice are carried along by deep ocean currents. When we face trials and tragedies, it’s helpful to see our lives as being subject to two forces—surface winds and ocean currents. The winds represent everything changeable, unpredictable, and distressing. But operating simultaneously with these gusts and gales is another force that’s even more powerful. It is the sure movement of God’s wise and sovereign purposes and the deep flow of His unchanging love.[1]

Sovereignty and Pray

While we may feel incapable of fully understanding God’s plan, He has revealed what we need to know to move forward in our lives.  While the secret things belong to God, the revealed things belong to us—to guide our behaviors and actions (Deut. 29:29).  One of the areas God has revealed to us is our responsibility to pray.

Believers are biblically instructed to pray (Rom. 12:12).  We are even directed for whom we are to pray—our leaders, our enemies, and the unsaved.  We often close our prayer recognizing the sovereignty of God with the pronouncement, “Thy will be done” (Matt. 6:10).

Prayer assumes the sovereignty of God.  If God is not sovereign, we have no assurance that He is able to answer our prayers.  It is in our prayers that we proclaim the power and ability of God to accomplish that which we are praying (1 John 5:14-15).  Prayer is the expression of our trust in God’s sovereignty.  It is our responsibility to pray.

Sovereignty and Prudence

We as believers are also responsible to act with prudence. I never fully appreciated this word until I understood its use in the context of God’s sovereignty.  Though not frequently highlighted in the biblical text, its application is noteworthy in both the Old and New Testament record.

In the framework of God’s sovereignty, prudence is the “use of all legitimate, biblical means at our disposal to avoid harm to ourselves and others AND to bring about what we believe to be the right course of events.”[2]

In the King James translation, prudence is used on three occasions.  Prudence—good sense and insight—is attributed to Solomon for his ability to accomplish the building of the temple in Jerusalem.  (2 Chron. 2:12).  In Proverbs 8:12, wisdom is said to dwell together with prudence—both important for knowledge and discretion.  The Apostle Paul includes prudence—knowledge and holy love of the will of God—as one of the spiritual blessings received by believers as a result of being in Christ (Eph. 1:8).   It is our responsibility to practice prudence.

Do Our Part

Although we recognize the reality that we operate within God’s sovereign purpose and plan, it does not negate our responsibility to “do our part”.  It is with the knowledge of God’s sovereignty that we are to take action with the specific means provided to us to address the situations in our life.   This includes both prayer and prudence.

    • Peter and John though directed by Jesus to “preach to all nations” when threatened by the Jewish Sanhedrin prayed that God would “enable then to speak with boldness” (Acts 4:24, 28-29).
    • Nehemiah saw God sovereignly position Israel to rebuild the wall in Jerusalem, yet he posted guards day and night (Neh. 4:7-9) and insured his workers were armed as they worked (Neh. 4:16-20).
The Bottom-line

As believers, we cannot use the sovereignty of God as an excuse not to actively engage in the challenges and opportunities God presents in our lives. God’s sovereignty by no means negates our responsibility to use every means at our disposal to promote the right outcomes.  Those outcomes should be based on what God reveals to us through His Spirt and His Word.  These are proven principles by which we can align with and serve the purpose of God. 

Lastly, when we feel as though we are drifting without purpose and direction, remember the “icebergs”.  They operate simultaneously with gusts and gales AND with another force that’s even more powerful.  We too operate simultaneously—by God’s sovereign purpose AND by our moral responsibility as He works in the ordinary circumstances of our lives (Rom. 8:28).

[1]   Contributor unknown

[2]  Jerry Bridges, Is God Really in Control:  Trusting God in a World of Hurt

Is God really in control? Knowing the God who sees

 

knowing the God who sees

Knowing God (theology) is central to our faith and our hope of salvation.  It fuels our trust during times of adversity and hardship.  Our view of God provides the framework on which we as believers live our life.  In knowing God we can better understand His sovereignty—His rightful position of supreme authority and power.

Seeing God through His attributes

We learn about God by understanding His attributes.  Attributes are the qualities which characterize God’s nature.   Some believers define these attributes into two (2) general categories:  His goodness and His greatness

Others understand God’s nature viewed through:

  • His omnipotence:   God is all powerful. (Ps. 66:5-7)
  • His omniscience:    God knows all things actual and possible.  (Is. 46:9-10)
  • His omnipresence: God is everywhere present.  (Ps. 139:7-10)

In reading these brief samplings of God’s attributes, believers have reason to be encouraged and hopeful knowing that God is more than able to handle any of the problems we face today including health pandemics, social inequities, and racial discord.

God in Action

In the Bible we witness God’s sovereignty through His divine attributes.  God’s attributes are most often seen through nature (Ps. 19:1-3) and through His relationship with man.  One notable relationship was the one He established with Abram.

Abram, like Adam, would play an important role in God’s sovereign plan of salvation (Gen. 12:2).  It was from Abram’s descendants that Jesus, the promised Messiah, would emerge.  Through Jesus Christ, not only would Israel be blessed but the whole world would become beneficiaries of God’s divine grace (Gal. 3:6-9).

The LORD made a covenant with Abram to “give His descendants land” (Gen. 15:18). However, after ten (10) years in Canaan, Abram and his wife, Sarai had “no baby”.  Sarai, thinking she was barren (and that God needed some help), persuaded Abram to take her handmaiden, Hagar, to fulfill the promise God had made to them. (Gen. 16:3).

Did God see what was happening? God not only saw what was happening but He also knew the resulting effect of Sarai’s misguided plan. God in His omnipresence and omniscience saw and knew that there would be impacts from Sarai and Abram’s scheme that would reach even into the 21st century.

The God who knows and sees

The situation that had been engineered by man (or woman, in this case Sarai) was the perfect setting for Jehovah, the God Who sees, to exercise His sovereignty in redirecting the fate of not only Abram, but also the future of an Egyptian slave girl named Hagar.

While Sarai’s plan of offering her maid to Abram to bear him a child was acceptable within the social custom of the day, there were still consequences that Sarai and Abram had not considered.  More importantly, they were working outside the will of God and His plan for their life.

Is this not the case for mankind in the 21st century? God has given us instruction on how we are to live. However, many times we attempt to accomplish God’s purpose through counterfeit and fruitless efforts. We are guilty like Sarai and Abram of accepting society’s customs and values in making life decisions that often lead to disharmony and confusion.

Working outside God’s Sovereignty

After Hagar conceived, the relationship between she and Sarai began to “go south.” Hagar began to despise Sarai (Gen. 16:4, 5).  Sarai began to mistreat Hagar.  So Hagar fled to the desert, headed for her homeland. But the God Who sees had other plans for the runaway. It was here that the Angel of the LORD (the first reference to the Angel of the LORD in the Old Testament) began to speak to Hagar, asking two questions that would frame God’s special message for her: “Where have you come from and where are you going?”

Often the God Who sees will ask questions for which He already knows the answers. The God Who sees recognizes our unique circumstance including how we arrived at this place in our life. Whether by mistreatment or reliance on our own efforts, God is there to redirect our path to His perfect purpose.

Knowing God in His Sovereignty

Hagar would have to stay there unless she “returned and submitted” herself again to Sarai. Hagar was “strongly encouraged” by the Angel of the LORD to “put herself back under the affliction” of Sarai (v. 9).

For her obedience, she was given a promised inheritance for her son, whom the Angel of the LORD named Ishmael, “the LORD has heard your affliction”. Hagar then called the name of the LORD Who saw and spoke to her in the desert: “You-Are-the-God Who-Sees” (v. 13).

Sometimes God puts us back at “square one” in order to bless us in His unique way. It may require that we acknowledge our part or culpability in the unfortunate circumstance we’re in, even asking forgiveness for offenses we may have inflicted. Obedience to His instruction is crucial. We trust that the God Who sees always has our best interest in mind, regardless of our perception of the outcome (Jer. 29:11).

Knowing God in all His glory requires that we also know Him in His sovereignty.  Because God is both good and great, we can trust our future with Him.  We have no need to rely on trends and forecast when we know that God is all powerful, that He knows all things actual and possible, and that He is everywhere present.  Such authority cannot be matched by anything or anyone in heaven or on earth.

The sovereign God who created heaven and earth, covenanted with Abram and Sarai, and contented for our salvation, surely sees us.  God sees us—He saw us in the past (Rom. 5:6), He sees us in the present, and we can trust, He will see us in the future (Ps. 31:15).   Now is the time to get to know the God who sees.

Is God really in control?  Sure facts, overwhelming odds, and God

Is God really in control

Today is the first day of July and I’d like to welcome you to Wisdom Wednesday.  This is not to be confused with Throwback Thursday or Flashback Friday but it’s a new phrase to represent a return to something good from the past.  In this case, it is a previous WordBytes teaching which emphasizes a “faith basic”.

I want to use Wisdom Wednesday to introduce a new series, “Is God Really in Control?—Understanding the Sovereignty of God.”   For the next few weeks we will peel back the onion of God’s nature, how God accomplishes His will on earth, and the believer’s role under God’s sovereign rule.

Why God is in control?

This study is important “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14) as we face challenges that seem impossible.   Our fears can be quickly calmed by embracing the fact that God is the supreme authority over everything in heaven and on earth (Daniel 4:35; Is. 46:10).

In God we can place our confidence and our hope.  In the midst of gloom and crisis, we can trust in the supreme God who rules over everything.  And because God is sovereign, He ultimately controls all that happens in the world and in our lives (providence).   To introduce this series, I’d like to turn our attention to an earlier WordBytes entitled, “Sure Facts, Overwhelming Odds, and God” to open this study.

Sure Facts

What do sure facts, overwhelming odds, and God have in common?  These are factors which often determine a person’s chance of success in the world. While these may be actual considerations, they are not the final word. We must always factor in the sovereignty and providence of God to not only level the playing field, but also to become the obvious advantage.

Sure facts take into consideration those elements we are born with or born into.  They include our “family factors”—our race, our gender, family structure (i.e., parental influence, number of siblings, birth order) and socio-economic position.  We had little control over their selection.

In the case of Joseph, he was born into the family of Jacob as the second youngest of thirteen children.  Jacob had two wives (Leah and Rachel) and two handmaidens (Bilhah and Zilpah) who bore his children (Genesis 30) but Joseph was Jacob’s favorite (Gen. 37:3).  This created an unhealthy and toxic environment for child rearing marked with sibling rivalry and jealousy.

Overwhelming Odds

Overwhelming odds are circumstances that minimize the possibilities of success in life and relationships.  They sometimes affect one’s ability to earn a living, care adequately for one’s family, or to live safely and confidently.   Joseph was sold by his jealous brothers to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver and was brought to Egypt.  Being a Hebrew slave, the odds of Joseph rising above his new found station in life were slim to none.  The odds became even smaller when he was thrown into prison as a result of the lies of Potiphar’s wife.  When it appeared release from prison was near, Joseph became the victim of the baker’s forgetfulness further obstructing any hope of freedom (Gen. 40:23).  But God was about to do exceedingly above all that Joseph could ask or think (Eph. 3:20).

God the Holy Equalizer

God was on the scene for Joseph as the Holy Equalizer and Change Master.  What appeared to be sure facts and overwhelming odds for Joseph soon became “biblical history.”   Genesis 50:19-20 declares the power of God’s sovereignty:  “As for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”  God was the final authority.

God, the Holy Enabler and Way Maker, reversed the circumstances for Joseph whose journey began as a slave from Canaan but ended as a powerful ruler in Egypt.  He went from servant to savior for his people who would have perished from the famine in their land.  Joseph could have used the Psalm 16:5 as his personal testimony:  “O LORD, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You maintain my lot.  The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Yes, I have a good inheritance.”

What do you believe?

Succumbing to what we believe are “sure facts and overwhelming odds” in our life can only result in despair and hopelessness.  Belief and trust in our God becomes the refreshing promise of rescue and provision regardless of the circumstances we face.  God’s plan and purpose for our life supersedes indisputable facts and devastating odds (Habakkuk 3:17-19).

Our future is not dependent on our family history or our personal past, but on Who we serve.  So the next time you’re weighing your options based on “facts and odds”, remember to factor in God.  God always has the final word.   “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the LORD our God.” Ps. 20:7

God Speaks Through Circumstances

“We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” Romans 8:28-29 (NRS)

 

In our culture, it is not unusual for people to greet one another with the inquiry, “How are you?”  In response, a multitude of replies are available but my favorite is, “I doing fairly well under the circumstances.”  This is my opportunity to respond, “Why are you under your circumstances and what are you doing to get back on top?”  Circumstances are conditions or facts that affect a situation.  These can be either positive or negative.  They define a state in which an individual, group, or even a nation may find itself.  This week we will explore how God speaks to us through circumstances.

There are many biblical examples that illustrate how God used circumstances to speak to His people.  Circumstances dictated that Moses would be set adrift in the Nile.  It was there that he would be found by the king’s daughter and adopted into the royal household by the ruling Pharaoh (Ex. 2:1-10). God later spoke to Moses after his 40-year circumstance and re-directed him to deliver Israel from bondage.   In the book of Acts, we find God speaking to the early church by using the political and social circumstances around them.  Jesus had clearly articulated the scope of the church’s ministry:  “and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).  While it was within their “comfort zone” to stay in Jerusalem, God spoke through the circumstance of persecution to move the gospel to a larger audience.   Throughout the Bible we find God speaking to people through special favor, through personal loss, or through miraculous deliverance.  God spoke to them through their circumstances.

God still speaks today through circumstances.  He will use conditions and situations from our everyday life to place us in a position to hear His voice.  Does God create circumstances to make us do His will?  No, God has created us as freewill agents and desires that we choose to live within His divine plan. But God will allow circumstances to flow into our life to accomplish His glory and our good (Rom. 8:24).  In addition, to conform us to the image of Christ, God will permit circumstances in our lives that will mature us and grow our faith (1 Pet. 1:5-7).  What may appear at first to be a “stumbling block” may, in actuality, turn out to be a “stepping stone”.  God speaks through closed doors as well as opened doors; through delayed prayers as well as answered ones.

As believers proceed in this Christian walk, we must remember that the intent of our life is to glorify God and to accomplish His purpose on earth (2 Cor. 5:15). That’s why it is important to be intentional in prayer and reading God’s Word especially during difficult and challenging times, regardless of the circumstance (Phil. 4:6-13).

Also read:  Divine Inquiry

As we develop our personal relationship with God, we will understand that He loves us and can be trusted with every aspect of our life. Then circumstances will not overcome us nor will we live “under them” (1 John 4:4).

SELAH:  Think about a time when you were “under your circumstances”.  What was God saying to you?

The Word of the Lord Came

“In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways.” Heb. 1:1 (NIV)

It’s not unusual for companies to employ individuals to interface with the public to share information about their company and its activities.  Countries appoint ambassadors to communicate their foreign policies and opinions with regard to world events.  In this nation, it is the presidential press secretary who frequently convenes press conferences with the media to communicate key messages from the White House.  Such positions, though not unusual, pale in comparison with a special groups of individuals called by God to speak His Word.  As we continue our teaching series, “When God Speaks”, we focus that unique group, the Old Testament prophets.

The Nation.  The people of Israel had become a nation.  They had been redeemed from slavery in Egypt and given the Law to guide their activities as God’s chosen people (Deut. 7:7-9).  God fully expected them to be committed to a life of obedience to those laws and to honor the “call” He had made on their life.  Unfortunately Israel constantly fell down in their calling.  God’s Law no longer proved effective in shaping Israel and the society in which they lived.

Also Read:  “Why Did God Choose Israel as His Chosen People?”

The Need.    The people’s slackness had grown into forgetfulness (Deut. 8:11-14).  Sometimes the fault was a result of the wrong priorities.  Other times, the people had allowed themselves to be pulled into the culture and worldview of their times, resulting in idolatry and sinful practices.  Even the nation’s religion was corrupted into “non-moral ritualism”—“having a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Tim. 3:5).

The Notice.  The prophets were men raised up by God to put Israel on notice—they were to return to God or suffer the consequences.  In examination of both the Major and Minor Prophets, God’s message remained consistent and sure:  The Lord is Ruler of all history and He calls all to repentance. The prophets’ pronouncements always included a blend of judgement and hope, reflecting God’s heart and His desire that all would come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9).  If Israel repented and returned, God would extend mercy and receive them to Himself once again.

The prophets did not share in their writings much about how they received their instructions from God.  We simply read:  “Thus says the Lord” or “the Word of the Lord came” (Jer.47:1; Ezek. 17:1; Zech. 8:1).  Came translates the Hebrew verb “to be” meaning “the word of the Lord became a living, present reality.”    In examining the historical books of the Old Testament and other writings from ancient historians, i.e., Josephus, Philo, it is clear that, when God spoke, things happened.

So how does God speaking through the Old Testament prophets relate to us living in the 21st century? My first observation is that for both believers and unbelievers, the view of our current world strongly resembles that expressed in “The Need.”   For believers, God still expects those He has chosen (Ep. 1:4-5) to follow His Word.  It is God’s moral instruction for living; for by it we are both warned and blessed (Ps. 19:11).  Old Testament prophecy provides for believer’s “blessed assurance” that God is still sovereign ruler of all history, including the 21st century.   For the unbeliever, the words of the prophets offer an opportunity for restoration with the God who sees and knows all—in time and in eternity.  For the unbeliever, it’s time to “come and see” Jesus (John 4:29) and accept His offer of salvation.  When God spoke through the prophets, His Word did not return “void” but accomplished all that it was sent to do (Is. 55:11). Even today it is still critical to listen as God speaks through His prophets.

SELAH:  The Old Testament prophets spoke of the salvation we have received.  Read 1 Peter 1:10-12.