“He’s got the whole world, in His hands. He’s got the whole wide world, in His hands….” Do you remember singing that song? It’s a simple tune with simple words, but at the end of the day it’s pretty good theology. It’s what we believe to be true about God, right? He’s sovereign. He’s in control. He’s got everything in His hands.
But then we take a peek outside and some doubt comes creeping in (or maybe it busts down the door.) We see wars and strife, natural disasters, government corruption, political division and ineptitude, rampant immorality and moral confusion and we can begin to question whether or not God is there at all. Add to that the personal struggles and trials that come our way and it’s easy for the doubts that plagued John the Baptist to become our own. Like him, we’re tempted to ask, “Jesus, are you the One who is supposed to come or should we be looking for someone else?” (Mt. 11:3, paraphrased) Remember, John was the one who declared Jesus to be, “… the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn. 1:29) He believed and proclaimed confidently that Jesus was the One promised throughout the Old Testament. He pointed to Jesus as the Seed of the Woman, the Seed of Abraham, the Root of Jesse, the Anointed One of Israel and the fulfillment every Old Testament prophecy. He was sure that Jesus had come to establish His sovereign rule over Israel and all nations. But all that trust and confidence went out the window when he was arrested and given a death sentence by Herod. To make matters worse, Jesus was not coming to his rescue.
And that’s the rub when it comes to the sovereignty of God. We’re happy to declare Him to be in control when things are generally suitable to us. He’s our sovereign God when life is in our favor but when life is not measuring up to our expectations we would prefer a god who is a bit less sovereign and a bit more attentive to our desires. Our natural tendency, when life is not going as planned, is to presume that our sovereignty would be better than His, at least for the moment. But “sovereign” is a very exclusive term. Inherent in the word is the reality that you can only have one sovereign. This means that when things aren’t going our way, we have to learn how to lay aside our claim to sovereignty over our lives.
One of the best instructors in this regard is a minor prophet with a major message; Habakkuk. Habakkuk shows us how to talk to God about the issue of sovereignty and then how to choose God’s sovereignty over ours. It’s possible that he wrote toward the end of the reign of king Manasseh, perhaps the most wicked ruler to ever ascend David’s throne. He comes to the Lord with a brutally honest question. A summary of the first four verses might read, “Lord all I see is evil. Why don’t you do something about it?!” To which the Lord responds, “I am. I’m preparing the Babylonians to come and they’re going to blow through this city like a hurricane.” Habakkuk is taken aback. “Lord, you are holy. We deserve your judgment, but the Babylonians are way worse than we are! This doesn’t make sense.” Then the Lord tells His prophet, “The Babylonians are my instrument for judgment, but in the end I will judge them and give them what they deserve.” In verse 2:20 we see Habakkuk submit. “The Lord is in His holy temple; (He is ruler over all) let all the earth be silent before Him.” In chapter three he begins to pray. “Lord, in your wrath remember mercy.” (v.2) “Lord, I will wait and watch as your plan unfolds.” (v.16) “Lord, though everything falls apart and nothing goes the way I would want, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior!”
Things may not go the way we want or think they should in the coming year, but we can be confident that the Lord is seated on His throne and that His plan will ultimately prevail. He is holy and just, merciful and gracious and perfectly capable of keeping them all in balance. His promises will prevail. Let us be joyful in God our Savior.