OBSERVANT READING of Scripture discloses to the mind many illustrations of divine supremacy. Incident upon incident reveals the absolute character of God's will and His power to enforce it. At the commencement of creation it was at His pleasure and by His prompting, that worlds were brought into being. And that, prior to this, His only begotten Son appeared as the glorious Firstborn.
Then, in and through Him, God displays the wonders of His power. To the Son is assigned the marvelous executive ability of carrying out and seeing through, the Father's high purpose. And it is in the details of this purpose that we perceive God's supremacy. It is therefore revealed in the wisdom and grace of His Word, to the intent that we should have excellent ground for confidence in, and reliance upon, the living God.
That God intervenes in human affairs, not only finds confirmation in Scripture, but in everyday life as we all experience it. The related incidents of God's Word, however, should prepare us for what we observe in our daily life. Indeed, it has been so noted, giving rise to the French motto, "Man proposes, God disposes."
In Jacob's life this is remarkably seen. His name means "circumventer," and he gave it much meaning, as we well know. But he had much to learn, and only so learned from his human impotence. His name was changed to "Israel," to which may be given the meaning, "Deity controls." A great lesson, not only for Jacob, but for all mankind.
In the case of Gideon, there is another fine expression. Realizing his weakness he exclaims, "Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? Behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house." But poverty in his case was no bar to the will and purpose of God for him. In the story of Ruth, too, there is a telling illustration of God's directive power. The words of Boaz to Ruth are worth quotation. "The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under Whose wings thou art come to trust" (Ruth 2:12).
Three words are worthy of notice here. Work, reward, trust. The sequence is applicable in our own day. God always recompenses, for He is no one's debtor. And His reward is always sure and satisfying. The lovely figure of speech employed, well denotes His gracious care--under Whose wings thou art come to trust.
It all shows how wisely and how well God looks in upon life down here. He does nothing in vain, though we may, and at times do. And, how true to say, "God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform." Note the utterance through Moses to Pharaoh, "And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to show in thee my power, and that My name may be declared throughout all the earth" (Ex.9:16). And again, God's word to Moses, "Who hath made man's mouth? Who maketh the dumb or deaf, or the seeing or the blind? Have not I, the Lord?" (Ex.4:11).
God is indeed supreme. "None can stay His hand, or say to Him, What doest Thou?" (Dan.4:35-37). However strange and inscrutable, He will do what seemeth Him good. For the last word is with God, the final decree. This is remarkable in the case of Balaam, who was hired by Balak to curse Israel. But we read, "Howbeit our God turned the curse into a blessing" (Neh.13:2). This incident is very striking. As Balak said to Balaam, "I called thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou hast altogether blessed them these three times...I thought to promote thee unto great honor, but lo, the Lord hath kept thee back from honor" (Num.24: 10-13).
The Lord hath kept thee back from honor. Better this, than to be promoted to a greatness by sacrifice of a principle pleasing to God. Are there not times when we can thank God for keeping us back from some worldly prize? And how true the words: "A man's heart deviseth his way, but the Lord directeth his steps" (Prov.16:9).
Man may plan and arrange, even to a nicety, but the last word is with God. And of this great truth there is daily demonstration. Again and again we read of cases, or they may come under our own observation, where the inscrutable will of God cuts right across man's self-determination. Hence the tragedy of humanity's course, in being so slow to learn the great, yet needful lesson.
Jeremiah well voices this truth: "O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself. It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps" (Jer.10:23). Yet, how vast the number who really think that the way of man is in himself, and that he can direct his steps. Why the chaos of "man's day" if his way is so good? Indeed, if he was left utterly and entirely to himself, the world would be infinitely worse. But, thanks be to God, He does look in upon our tragic state, and so orders, adjusts, and circumvents, that we have cause to praise Him for those compassions which fail not.
The more we think of God as supreme in His own creation, and in His will as being paramount, the less shall we think of man's misordered arrangements. God is above all these, and yet in them, for the pursuance of His purpose. In our own lives, too, we see how God is above, yet also in, both circumstance and so-called "chance," which attend upon His will. A certain writer, commenting on this thought, has well said, "To what fortuitous occurrence do we not owe every pleasure and convenience of our lives!"
The patriarchs of old were very conscious of this great truth. Take the story of Joseph. In his life God moves with a momentous end in view. The issues are big, the means drastic. Heartless cruelty goes hand in hand with lying and deceit. The brothers sinned grievously, and Jacob had to confess, "All these things are against me." But note the remarkable outcome. Joseph finely emphasizes it all: "God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So it was not you that sent me hither, but God..."
What lessons Israel had to learn! But did they learn, and do they now? Only but few, and is it not so even with ourselves, of the nations? May we realize more and more how much we are flung upon God, upon His wisdom, His power, and perfect understanding. In God's wonderful words to Israel through the prophet Isaiah, there is an arrestive statement of divine supremacy. "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall My word be that goeth forth out of My mouth. It shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper whereto I sent it."
How finely contrastive are these sentences! Note the introversion of the pronouns, My and your. The loveliness of the figures, too. The contrast suggests, does it not, the greatness and vastness of God's thoughts and ways. And as the rain and snow come down from heaven, returning not, except they water the earth with resultant fertility, "so shall My word be that goeth forth out of My mouth." Observe the positive character of its result. "It shall not return unto Me void. It shall accomplish that which I please. It shall prosper whereto I sent it."
Now, as an instance of Israel's thoughts being far from God's thoughts, and their ways also, it is instructive to note Moses' words relative to their entry into the promised land. "Understand therefore, that the Lord thy God giveth thee not this good land to possess it for thy righteousness. For thou art a stiff-necked people" (Deut.9:4-6).
And yet, in spite of their continued disobedience and departure from God's expressed commands, a great destiny is still theirs in the counsel and intention of God. They were "to be a special people unto Himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth" (Deut.7:6).
To give but one more quotation concerning Israel's high destiny, which reveals the mighty directive power of God. "I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will redeem you with a stretched-out arm. I will take you to Me for a people. I will be to you a God. I will bring you in unto the Lord. I will give it to you for an heritage." And the statement commences and closes with the words: "I am the Lord" (Ex.6:6-8). But their destiny still awaits them, and it will then be seen that God's choice of such a people was a wise and beneficent one.
In the course of time, and in true fulfillment of prophecy and promise, the joyous advent of Messiah took place, even He Who should be called "the Son of God." Now, God's supremacy is seen here in a marked way, and it is instructive to read Luke's opening chapter in confirmation of so great a truth. To quote but a few words, will, I think, give us a key to the whole chapter, and indeed, to the record of Christ's wondrous life and death and resurrection. The words are those of the messenger to Miriam regarding the birth of John, the forerunner of Christ. "Seeing that it will not be impossible with God to fulfill His every declaration" (Luke 1:37).
Of course not. And the life of our Lord is the loftiest expression of such an utterance. What shall we say, too, of Paul, whose eventful life and career was so embedded in the fore-purpose of God? Did not his arrest by the Lord Christ, and subsequent mission to the nations, complete the divine ordering in the wisdom of God's two-fold purpose?
Think of the proud, religious Pharisee being led by the hand into Damascus. There he meets Ananias who said to him, "The God of our fathers fixes upon you beforehand to know His will, and to be acquainted with the Just One, and to hear the voice of His mouth, that you shall be His witness to all men of what you have seen and hear" (Acts 22:14,15).
Do we not perceive in these impressive words the foreknowledge of God, so in keeping with His great design for all mankind? And, notwithstanding his guilt, Christ further said to Paul, "Go! For I shall be delegating you afar to the nations" (Acts 22:21). Thus, in a very marked way, we see the apostle as one extricated from the people and from the nations, to be God's herald and a teacher of the nations in knowledge and truth.
In the guidance of God, what lessons must he have learned in Arabia, in desert quietude! And, maybe, the revelation awaiting him there very largely constituted him the lonely figure in his spiritual career. In how great a way Paul was used, his various letters well show. And that God was with him in wonderful guidance, his journeys confirm. In God we owe so much to the noble Paul, do we not? And how impressively, at Ephesus, he alludes to his unique commission as an apostle of the risen Christ!
"Lo! I, bound in spirit, am going to Jerusalem, not being aware what I will meet with in it, more than that the holy spirit, city by city, certifies to me, saying that bonds and afflictions are remaining for me. But of nothing have I a word, nor yet am I making my soul precious to myself, till I should be perfecting my career and the dispensation which I got from the Lord Jesus, to certify the evangel of the grace of God"
Truly, "all is of God." Hence, those citations of Scripture as to His wondrous foreknowledge, inscrutable judgments, and untraceable ways. Who is there of thoughtful mind and long experience as a believer of God's Word, who has not again and again perceived evidence of God's directive power? As Cowper writes in his poem, The Task:
"Happy the man who sees a God employed
In all the good and ill that chequer life!
Resolving all events with their effects
And manifold results, into the will
And arbitration wise of the Supreme."
Nor does the acceptance of such a thought make for fatalism. Rather does it deepen reliance upon God, in desire and request for wisdom and understanding, that we may the more closely live as unto Him. God is indeed supreme, and moves to His great ends unthwarted by the ill. There is mystery, it is true, but what a marvelous and sustaining hope!