STUDY 6: GOD – SOVEREIGN IN CREATION, PROVIDENCE AND ELECTION

© Rosemary Bardsley 2017

All of the attributes of God, all of the aspects of his being, are complementary and synergistic. Because God is the holy God [the only God], because he is the LORD Almighty, he is of necessity also sovereign in creation, providence and election. The physical universe, and everything and everyone on it and in it, is not independent. It was created by God. Nor is it self-sustaining: it is sustained by God. If he removed his creative, sustaining power, the whole universe would dissolve into nothing.

The creation of the universe and all that it contains, and the on-going providence of God by which he sustains the universe and all that it contains, is the result of a divine decision, a divine choice, a divine will and purpose. God chose to create. God continues to choose to sustain.

Similarly, God deliberately chose a people, a nation, through which to reveal himself. By God’s choice, by God’s election; that people, that nation was Israel. He created Israel. He provided for Israel. Through all the years of rebellion and rejection, God, because of his sovereign election, continued to reveal himself to and through Israel, and, when the fullness of time had come, the one descendant of Abraham [Genesis 22:18], through whom God planned to bless all the nations, was born in and of Israel.

Some books of the Bible simply assume the truth that God is sovereign in creation, providence and election. But for Isaiah this truth is a significant aspect of his message. By this three-pronged truth he exposes the sheer inappropriateness of Israel’s rejection of God and allegiance to idols.

A. CONTEMPORARY PERSPECTIVES

Before we look at what Isaiah says about the sovereignty of God in creation, providence and election, consider/discuss the following questions:

[1] How is the truth of God’s sovereignty in creation denied or diminished by the theory of evolution?

 

[2] To what extent is the theory of evolution incompatible with the truth that God continues to sustain and provide for his creation?

 

[3] If God is not sovereign in creation and providence, how does this compromise the biblical teaching of election?

 

[4] When these three truths are denied, diminished or compromised, how does this impact human confidence/trust in God?

 

 

B. GOD – THE SOVEREIGN CREATOR

For Isaiah, the truth that God is the Creator of all that exists is extremely relevant. Because God is the Creator he has both power and authority over humans and over the physical environment in which humans live. This truth is the foundation of human responsibility, and an essential component of human trust in God. It is also the foundation of God’s use of the heavens and the earth as instruments of his temporal judgements, or as instruments of his temporal blessing.

Study these texts from Isaiah. Answer these questions:
What do you learn from them about God as Creator?
How does Isaiah apply this truth to his hearers? [You may have to read extra verses around the text.]
What relevance does this truth have today?

40:12

 

40:21,22

 

40:26

 

40:28

 

42:5a

 

45:7

 

45:12

 

45:18

 

48:13

 

51:13,16

 

 

C. GOD – SOVEREIGN IN PROVIDENCE

God did not create the world, set it in motion, then leave it to run ‘on auto’. [That belief is called ‘deism’.] Yes. He did put ‘natural laws’ in place by which the whole universe operates in a mechanistic way, but he is still constantly involved in holding those laws in place, in sustaining the universe in existence. His continued involvement in sustaining the earth is commonly referred to as God’s ‘providence’. Jesus referred to this truth when he said that God ‘sends his rain on the righteous and the unrighteous’ [Matthew 5:45]. Paul referred to it when he described Jesus Christ as the one in whom ‘all things hold together’ [Colossians 1:17]. In Hebrews, similarly, we read that Jesus Christ is ‘sustaining all things by his powerful word’ [Hebrews 1:3].

Study these texts from Isaiah. What reference do they make to God’s continuing involvement in and authority over the physical elements of the universe? How do they reveal God as a ‘hands on’ God?

40:29

 

41:18

 

42:5b

 

50:3

 

 

D. GOD – SOVEREIGN IN ELECTION

Isaiah makes repeated reference to God’s election/choice of Israel. This divine decision was purpose-driven. The eternal divine purpose behind this sovereign election cannot be over-ridden or aborted by any temporal human failure. Yes. Human failure, including national human failure, does incur God’s judgement, but it does not and cannot annul God’s sovereign purpose in his choice of Israel.

Study these texts from Isaiah. What significance do they give to God’s sovereign election of Israel?
1:2-3

 

5:1-7

 

41:8-16

 

 

43:1-7,10,15,21

 

 

44:1-5

 

44:21-23

 

 

E. GOD – SOVEREIGN OVER THE NATIONS

God’s sovereignty is such that he engages and uses nations and individuals who do not believe in him to bring about his purpose, whether that purpose is blessing or judgment. In addition, God’s interest is not just Israel, but the nations. (With the exception of a just few verses, Isaiah chapters 13 to 23 are focused on God’s judgment on the nations.)

Study these texts from Isaiah. How do they speak of this trans-national sovereign power and authority of God?

2:2-4

 

5:26-30

 

10:5-11

 

13:1-6

 

14:5,6

 

30:27,28

 

33:2-4

 

34:1,2

 

36:18-20; 37:9-13, 15-20, 21-38

 

37:16

 

40:15-17

 

41:1-4

 

44:28-45:6

 

Note: there are texts in Isaiah in which mention God’s concern for the salvation of people from the nations. We will look at these in a later study.

F. HOW IS ALL OF THIS RELEVANT FOR US TODAY?

These three truths about God were extremely relevant for Israel at a time when that nation had rejected God.

They had forsaken the sovereign God who both created and sustained them and the entire universe, and embraced the ‘gods’ of the surrounding nations ... non-existent ‘gods’ whom the nations trusted to ensure the productivity of the land – fertility, harvest, and so on.

They had forsaken the God who with sovereign power and grace had made them his special people, his holy nation, and sought to establish their own identity and significance apart from him.

They had forsaken the God who has sovereign power and authority over all the earth – all people, all nations – and in doing sought to ensure their national security by making alliances with various nations.

But these truths are also relevant for us today.

Discuss these questions:

[1] To what extent has your nation/culture rejected trust in God as the sovereign creator and sovereign sustainer of all that exists? Discussion points: To what extent is the future of planet earth in our hands and to what extent is it in God’s hands? Will human mistreatment of the environment cause the end of the earth? Or is the end of the earth something God will bring about at the time of his choosing?

 

 

 

[2] To what extent are you, and your nation/culture, striving to make a name for yourself apart from God? [Are you depending on God, or on yourself, or something or someone else, for your identity and significance?]

 

 

 

[3] When world events seem threatening and overwhelming, in what do you, and your nation/culture, place your confidence? In your nation’s diplomacy or military force? In the United Nations or any other alliance of nations? Or in the sovereign power and authority of God over the nations and their leaders?