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28 November, 2014

Our Attitude Toward God’s Sovereignty – Part3


One if deep thankfulness and joy.

The heart's apprehension of this most blessed truth of the sovereignty of God, produces something far different than a sullen bowing to the inevitable. The philosophy of this perishing world knows nothing better than to "make the best of bad circumstances". But with the Christian it should be far other wise. Not only should the recognition of God's supremacy beget within us godly fear, implicit obedience, and entire resignation—but it should cause us to say with the Psalmist, "Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless His holy name!" Does not the apostle say, "Giving thanks always for all things unto God the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 5:20)? Ah, it is at this point the state of our souls is so often put to the test. Alas, there is so much self-will in each of us. When things go as we wish them, we appear to be very grateful to God; but what of those occasions when things go contrary to our plans and desires?

We take it for granted when the real Christian takes a train-journey that, upon reaching his destination, he devoutly returns thanks unto God—which, of course, argues that God controls everything; otherwise, we ought to thank the engine-driver, the stoker, the signalmen etc. Or, if in business, at the close of a good week, gratitude is expressed unto the Giver of every good (temporal) and of every perfect (spiritual) gift—which again, argues that He directs all customers to your shop. So far, so good. Such examples occasion no difficulty. But imagine the opposites. Suppose my train was delayed for hours—did I fret and fume? Or suppose another train ran into it, and I am injured! Or, suppose I have had a poor week in business, or that lightning struck my shop and set it on fire, or that burglars broke in and rifled it—then what? Do I see the hand of God in these things?

Take the case of Job once more. When loss after loss came his way, what did he do? Bemoan his "bad luck"? Curse the robbers? Murmur against God? No! he bowed before Him in worship. Ah, dear reader, there is no real rest for your poor heart until you learn to see the hand of God in everything. But for that, faith must be in constant exercise. And what is faith? A blind credulity? A fatalistic acquiescence? No, far from it. Faith is a resting on the sure Word of the living God, and therefore says, "We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28). And therefore faith will give thanks "always for all things". Operative faith will "Rejoice in the Lord always" (Phil. 4:4).

We turn now to mark how this recognition of God's sovereignty which is expressed in godly fear, implicit obedience, entire resignation, and deep thankfulness and joy—was supremely and perfectly exemplified by the Lord Jesus Christ.

In all things the Lord Jesus has left us an example that we should follow His steps. But is this true in connection with the first point made above? Are the words "godly fear" ever linked with His peerless name? Remembering that 'godly fear' signifies not a servile terror—but rather a filial subjection and reverence, and remembering too that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom," would it not rather be strange if no mention at all were made of godly fear in connection with the One who was wisdom incarnate! What a wonderful and precious word is that of Hebrews 5:7, "Who in the days of His flesh, having offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and having been heard for His godly fear." What was it but 'godly fear' which caused the Lord Jesus to be "subject" unto Mary and Joseph in the days of His childhood? Was it not 'godly fear'—a filial subjection to and reverence for God—that we see displayed, when we read, "And He came to Nazareth where He had been brought up—and, as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day" (Luke 4:16)? Was it not 'godly fear' which caused the incarnate Son to say, when tempted by Satan to fall down and worship him, "It is written, you shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve"? Was it not 'godly fear' which moved Him to say to the cleansed leper, "Go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded" (Matthew 8:4)? But why multiply illustrations?

How perfect was the obedience that the Lord Jesus offered to God the Father! And in reflecting upon this—let us not lose sight of that wondrous grace which caused Him, who was in the very form of God, to stoop so low as to take upon Him the form of a Servant, and thus be brought into the place where obedience was befitting. As the perfect Servant He yielded complete obedience to His Father. How absolute and entire that obedience was we may learn from the words, He "became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross" (Phil. 2:8). That this was a conscious and intelligent obedience, is clear from His own language, "This is why the Father loves Me, because I am laying down My life so I may take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down on My own. I have the right to lay it down, and I have the right to take it up again. I have received this command from My Father" (John 10:17, 18).

And what shall we say of the absolute resignation of the Son to the Father's will—what, but between them there was entire oneness of accord. Said He, "For I came down from heaven, not to do My own will—but the will of Him who sent Me" (John 6:38). And how fully He substantiated that claim, all know who have attentively followed His path as marked out in the Scriptures. Behold Him in Gethsemane! The bitter 'cup,' held in the Father's hand, is presented to His view. Mark well His attitude. Learn of Him who was meek and lowly in heart. Remember that there in the Garden we see the Word become flesh—a perfect Man. His body is quivering at every nerve, in contemplation of the physical sufferings which await Him; His holy and sensitive nature is shrinking from the horrible indignities which shall be heaped upon Him; His heart is breaking at the awful "reproach" which is before Him; His spirit is greatly troubled as He foresees the terrible conflict with the Power of Darkness; and above all, and supremely, His soul is filled with horror at the thought of being separated from God Himself. There He pours out His soul to the Father, and with strong crying and tears He sheds, as it were, great drops of blood. And now observe and listen. Still the beating of your heart, and hearken to the words which fall from His blessed lips, "Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me. Nevertheless, not My will—but may Your be done" (Luke 22:42). Here is submission personified. Here is resignation to the pleasure of a sovereign God superlatively exemplified. And He has left us an example that we should follow His steps. He who was God became man, and was tempted in all points like as we are—sin apart—to show us how to wear our creature nature!

Above we asked, What shall we say of Christ's absolute resignation to the Father's will? We answer—that here, as everywhere, He was unique and peerless. In all things He has the pre-eminence. In the Lord Jesus there was no rebellious will to be broken. In His heart there was nothing to be subdued. Was not this one reason why, in the language of prophecy, He said, "I am a worm, and no man" (Psalm 22:6). A worm has no power of resistance! It was because in Him there was no resistance that He could say, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me" (John 4:34). Yes, it was because He was in perfect accord with the Father in all things that He said, "I delight to do Your will, O God! Yes, Your law is within My heart" (Psalm 40:8). Note the last clause here and behold His matchless excellency. God has to put His laws into our minds, and write them in our hearts (see Hebrews 8:10)—but His law was already in Christ's heart!

What a beautiful and striking illustration of Christ's thankfulness and joy is found in Matthew 11. There we behold, first, the failure in the faith of His forerunner (vv. 22, 23). Next, we learn of the discontent of the people: satisfied neither with Christ's joyous message, nor with John's solemn one (vv. 16-20). Third, we have the non-repentance of those favored cities in which our Lord's mightiest works were done (vv. 21-24). And then we read, "At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have have hidden these things from the wise and prudent, and have revealed them unto babes" (v. 25)! Note the parallel passage in Luke 10:21 opens by saying, "In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank You" etc. Ah, here was submission in its purest form. Here was One by which the worlds were made—yet, in the days of His humiliation, and in the face of His rejection, thankfully and joyously bowing to the will of the "Lord of heaven and earth".

What ought to be our attitude towards God's sovereignty?
Arthur Pink