I promise that this will be the last entry on the issue of sovereignty for a while. I hope I haven't A) bored you, or B) Initiated an unhealthy appetite for chasing theological “rabbit trails” or debates which don’t have a practical purpose.
Why should you care about this subject? Well, first and foremost because the Bible talks about it so often. If the Holy Spirit thinks it’s worthy of our attention, then that should be enough for us. Second, we should care because a proper understanding of this topic should produce some good effects in our personal walk with Christ, namely praise and comfort.
But we really need to have some clear thinking about this. It’s easy to get bogged down in misunderstandings about what Scripture really teaches.
Now let’s get to what we can learn from today’s passage.
Isaiah, speaking on God’s behalf, tells us that the Lord will raise up a ruler named Cyrus who will become the new 900-lb gorilla in the Middle East. No one will be able to stop him, and he will take everything within his sight. From the “behind-the-curtain” viewpoint here we can see that it’s the Lord who’s enabling him to do all these things. The Psalmist tells us that it’s the Almighty who raises up one man over another and puts him in authority over others. Then when the Lord is done with him, that man gets removed and replaced.
But why? Why does he do this? Is he just a disinterested “Prime Mover” who manipulates people and nations like chess pieces? NO!!! He has two main reasons for this:
A) For the sake of his people. He says so explicitly in vs 4: “For the sake of Jacob my servant, of Israel my chosen” he’s doing all these things.
B) More importantly, he's doing this for the glory of his Name. He's doing this so that Cyrus might eventually “know that [he is] the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons [him] by name,” so that “from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting people may know there is none besides me. I am the Lord, and there is no other.
But here’s where it gets tricky. Understanding that God is in charge doesn’t mean that we understand what he’s doing or why he’s doing it. In fact, quite the opposite: What he’s doing might make absolutely no sense to us. Bad things happen to God’s people, and innocent people suffer. But he's in charge of the bad things as well as in charge of the good things—He creates light and darkness, prosperity and disaster.
Now, let's focus on 9-12. It sounds like he’s some tyrannical ruler or dictator up on a throne, and if you dare to ask him about what’s going on, then he thunders “HOW DARE YOU QUESTION ME!!!!” and sends a lightning bolt to turn you into a smoldering heap of ashes. That’s not the point here at all.
Is it wrong to question God? Well, if so, then a lot of our Scripture needs to be excised. The Psalms are filled with passages which angrily question or even accuse God. But they end up with declarations of trust that God is good and in charge, and eventually he'll vindicate those who trust him. But vss. 9-12 are directed towards who pridefully and arrogantly accuse God, who think they know better than he does. Um, no, you don’t. As Lewis pointed out, you get your intellect and reasoning power from him to begin with, so you can’t be right and he wrong any more than water can flow uphill.
If today’s passage was the only thing we had from the Bible, then the Tyrannical stereotype might have a point. But this is our Father we’re talking about. The One who sent his only Son to die in our place, who's loved us with an everlasting love, who's redeemed us and adopted us into his family, and who's made us co-heirs with Christ.
So what’s the point of all this? Once again, let’s make the main thing the main thing: Trust in him, no matter how the circumstances look. Praise him because he really does know what he’s doing, and he really is in charge. And eventually you’ll see it.
Father God, I trust you, I really do. Please help me to trust you more.