Message: Jehovah, the Sovereign King (#3697)
Radio Speaker: Rev. Wilbur Bruinsma, Missionary-pastor in Pittsburgh, PA
Broadcast date: November 10, 2013
Dear Radio Friends,
Our God is in the heavens, He does whatsoever He pleases! Jehovah is His name! The everlasting God, the Creator. He took counsel before time began and set forth the way that now unfolds in time. He needed no guiding in doing so. He did not need anyone to instruct Him. He now has measured the waters of the earth in His hand, He takes up the isles as a very little thing. He weighs the mountains in a balance. This is the God whom we serve! We serve no idol. We serve no image of God. We do not make up a god of our own liking and serve him. We bow before the living God of heaven and earth who has revealed Himself in the Bible. He alone is Creator. All else is but the creature of His hand.
Because this is true, He is ruler—the sovereign King who reigns in heaven and earth. He reigns over the creation and He reigns over the acts of men, so that man cannot so much as move without His will. This is the marvelous truth we learn about our God in today’s broadcast. We are going to study Isaiah 40:22-24. There we read, “It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in: That bringeth the princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity. Yea, they shall not be planted; yea, they shall not be sown: yea, their stock shall not take root in the earth: and he shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither, and the whirlwind shall take them away as stubble.”
I. His Seat
The instruction of these three verses is based upon one fundamental truth. This is given us at the outset at the beginning of verse 22: “God sits upon the circle of the earth.” Now, that phrase may not seem to say anything about the sovereign rule of God over all things, but when properly translated we will understand how it does. Literally we read, “God is seated on the circle of the earth.” The term “is seated” is used. And that does say something about God’s rule. At times in Scripture the word “seat” refers to a throne. We read, for example, of Solomon’s throne in I Kings 10:19 as a seat. As we well know, the royal throne of a king was that on which he sat in his great throne room while making and executing laws and making his judgments in various matters. The throne, then, is the seat where a king rules over his kingdom. Further, the Bible often refers to one who has the power to judge others as sitting on a judgment seat. In fact, several verses of the Bible refer directly to God’s judgment seat. The fact that Jehovah is seated on the circle of the earth, therefore, refers not only to God’s right and authority to rule but also to His right to judge. Further, that these verses of Isaiah refer to God’s power to rule and to judge is implied in that He is the one who brings the rule and the judgments of earthly kings and judges to nothing. So, what we have here, then, in these few verses is the power, the right, and the authority of Jehovah God to rule over all the creatures of His hand, including the lawgivers and law enforcers of this world.
We also learn from this phrase that the place of God’s throne is on the circle of the earth. This expresses for us the extent or scope of God’s reign. We realize, of course, that the extent of God’s reign is more than simply the circle of the earth. We could say that God is seated on the circles of the universe, so that even the sun, moon, and stars obey His will. But the point Isaiah makes here is that God reigns over all the affairs of this earth. His rule extends over all the nations and their rulers. So He draws this picture for us: God’s throne is on the circle, or on the very edge or zenith, of the horizon. It is the place where we will look for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ at the end of time in the clouds of heaven. God sits on the edge of our atmosphere, so to speak, and His rule extends to all creatures under Him on the earth and under the heavens.
Isaiah also explains the scope of God’s rule in the remainder of verse 22. Notice: “and the inhabitants are as grasshoppers; that stretches out the heavens as a curtain, and spreads them out as a tent to dwell in.” Again, an earthy picture. The inhabitants of the earth—all the beasts and birds and fish. The countless throngs of men that are as busy ants hurrying and scurrying about their business are those over whom God is seated. All these are as little bugs, as grasshoppers—a hoard of grasshoppers under the command and rule of God. God’s reign extends to all those over whom He has stretched out the heavens or the skies as a thin veil or as a tent under which they dwell. In other words, people of God, there is not one creature under heaven, there is not one event in the lives of those creatures, that stands outside the rule of Jehovah—the King of all the earth.
Now, all of this definitely teaches us something about the God whom we serve. Yes, He is a King. Yes, He has the right and authority to rule. But these verses teach us more. God is a sovereign King who rules over all things. We must understand all of what this implies. It implies that God’s dominion, that is, His supremacy, His control, is an everlasting one. It is not here today and gone tomorrow. His rule is from everlasting, from eternity, to everlasting, and on into eternity. His is the dominion, the rule, the government. Further, God does according to His will in heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. God reigns over all because He is God over all. This is true by virtue of the fact that God is Creator. He made everything. God alone is Creator and all else is creature. Neither did God create any creature, whether that be angel or man, to be independent of Him. God holds in His hand all creatures great and small, and He does with them according to His will and good pleasure. That is what it means that God is sovereign.
It also means, in the second place, that no one has the right to question what God does. No creature of God’s hand, whether that be angel or man, has the authority or the right to question God. None can stay God’s hand, we learn in Daniel 4:35, and none can say to Him: what are you doing? No one has the right to presume the rule over God. No one has the right to question His authority or to criticize His justice and judgments in the earth. God is sovereign. He is sovereign. That is what makes God, God.
This sovereign rule of God extends over all men as well. It extends over the princes and judges of this earth. This does not preclude the truth, however, that the princes, the kings, and the judges of this earth do have power and authority. Our magistrates, that is, our lawmakers, our president, the members of congress, the judges of our land, the police officers that enforce the law, all have authority and the right to rule over us. And we are called to submit to their authority as long as what they require of us does not demand us to disobey God. Then we obey God rather than men. Nevertheless, we must realize that God gives to these men the authority and the right to rule. But that is the point: God gives this authority to these princes and judges of the earth. Their power and their authority does not stand outside of God’s power and authority. Their authority is a derived authority. God, who possesses all power and authority, imparts this right on these men. This is why we are to obey the authority of those whom God has placed over us. But, on the other hand, this command goes forth to all rulers in Psalm 2:10, 11, “Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling.”
The sad part in all of this is that rulers do not fear their Ruler! Judges do not fear their Judge! The unbelieving princes and judges of this earth defy God and His commandments! They look at themselves as the ultimate authority and that everyone must bow before them. In their unbelief the rulers of this world think they know what is best for our country apart from the sovereign rule of God. Their judgments and laws at times contradict the law of the sovereign God whom they ought to fear. The horrible act of abortion, legalized murder of unborn infants, and now same-sex marriage reveal that men abhor the commandments of God. “The kings of the earth set themselves, and rulers take counsel together against Jehovah and against His anointed saying: let us break their bands asunder and cast away their cords from us” (Ps. 2:2, 3). But God sits upon the circle of the earth and all the inhabitants of this earth, including the kings and rulers of the earth, are but grasshoppers. Everyone performs the sovereign will of our King.
II. His Rule
In verses 23 and 24 of the passage we consider, Isaiah explains the rule of God over the very princes and judges of the earth. He chooses these men in particular because, let’s face it, it is by their rulings and judgments that the course of nations is set. The word used in the Hebrew translated as princes literally means “weighty one.” It is a person whose decisions carry a lot of weight as far as this world is concerned. When considering the history of this world, it is the history of nations. These nations are ruled over by their princes and judges. These men, so it seems, control the course of the future development of this world. So Isaiah speaks of these men because of their great power and influence over the affairs of this world. Notice what Isaiah writes in verses 23, 24: “That bringeth the princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity. Yea, they shall not be planted; yea, they shall not be sown: yea, their stock shall not take root in the earth: and he shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither, and the whirlwind shall take them away as stubble.” The two words “princes” and “judges” do not refer to two different groups of men. They both refer to the same class of men. They refer to those who are rulers, that is, the magistrates, whatever word we might use to refer to them: kings, emperors, presidents, prime ministers, dictators, what have you—all those men who possess the authority to make laws and to pass judgment on people. They are decision makers—and their decisions affect entire nations and peoples and cultures. They are in a position to reward someone for his deeds and to punish the evil doer.
Concerning these earthly rulers, Isaiah reminds us that each of them is here for only a short time. Even if a ruler reigns for 50 or 60 years, that is but a drop of the bucket in comparison to the centuries that have gone by. God, on the other hand, is from everlasting to everlasting King. His reign over all the affairs of this world does not end. Concerning earthly rulers we learn that they shall not be planted, that is, they scarcely shall be planted. They shall not be sown, that is, they are just put as a seed in the earth, and the sprout just starts shooting from the ground, and God blows on them and they wither. They are as a stump or the stock of a tree, dead and dried. There is no possibility for new life to come from them. Their very root is dead. The whole of verse 24 reveals God’s power over the rulers of this world. He plants them, He sows them, He blows on them and they wither. These men boast in their ability to become powerful rulers. They have led an illustrious political career or take pride in the military might that propelled them to power. The kings of Judah and Israel had boasted in their might. But Sennacherib, mighty emperor of Assyria, had come and utterly destroyed the northern kingdom of the ten tribes. When Sennacherib boasted of his great power to rule all the nations of the earth, his two sons attacked him in his temple and murdered him. Where was his might then? Nebuchadnezzar would come and take Judah away captive and kill many of that nation. He would then boast in his might. At the height of his power God turned the man into a wild beast and he was driven out before men. As great as the rulers of this earth may seem in their own sight and in the sight of many in this world, their power and rule are but for a moment, and they and their kingdoms soon perish.
The God who directs the affairs of these rulers of our world simply uses these men to fulfill His good pleasure. All the events taking place in the nations are not arbitrary or happening willy-nilly. All of them take place according to God’s sovereign will and good pleasure. And all of them will indeed fulfill the ultimate establishment of His kingdom in heaven. All the affairs of this present world are working toward that end. Add all the short reigns of the kings together, add the temporary reigns of all the rulers of this world together, and a pattern emerges. All of them work toward the establishment of the eternal kingdom of our God.
All of this implies, of course, that God will bring to nothing all the decisions and judgments of the rulers of this world. God brings the princes, that is, the mighty rulers of this earth—those who are also judges who make laws and enforce those laws—God brings them to nothing. He makes them as vanity or emptiness. Their names are forgotten. The laws they enacted are here today and gone tomorrow. The nations they rule rise and fall. History has shown us that all of this is true. Will it be different in our own land or in our present day world? The rulers of the present day nations cannot conceive that their nations will indeed fall. But that they will is a surety. Our own lawmakers and our president keep talking about our great nation. They think we are so powerful we will never fall. They do not think that God holds them accountable for their sins and that God destroys nations because of their sins. Does any nation honestly believe that it is above the judgment of God upon it? God brings the rulers of this earth to nothing and deprives them and their nations of their place in the earth. What became of Babel?? What became of Egypt, of Assyria, of Babylon, of Persia, of Greece, of the Roman Empire? They all fell—utterly fell. They were destroyed by other nations. God brought them and their rulers to nothing. Their place in the earth became as if they were never there—they were void and empty. This is how God has always dealt with the rulers of this earth.
And what of their judgments? What of the laws they passed and enforced? They are here today and gone tomorrow. What one administration does, the next administration of government changes. All the decisions, all the rulings of rulers, are emptiness. God brings the power of one man to nothing, only to raise up another man who is scarcely planted and his power is taken away too. God alone is in the heavens. He does what pleases Him among the inhabitants of the earth, who are but grasshoppers under His rule. But again, we ought not to forget the reason Isaiah brings all of this to the attention of these faithful people in Judah.
III. His Care
None of the events surrounding God’s people in Israel were taking place by chance. The horrifically sinful kings of Israel did not usurp their authority and power from God. He put them in their place at this particular time. These evil rulers were leading this nation of Judah into the way of sin. And for that reason God would destroy even this nation and its rulers. But there was a divine reason behind what was happening. There was a reason Nebuchadnezzar would lead God’s people away captive into Babylon. There was a divine reason God’s faithful would return again under Cyprus some seventy years later. And that divine reason was Christ. Christ had to come and Christ had to die. All the events that were taking place in the nation of Judah were being led by God to fulfill His will as regards our salvation. And all those events are still directed by God in this way. Christ will come again at the end of time. All the rulers and judges of this world are being used by God to bring about the coming of Christ. Our God reigns!
And that means we are in His constant care. He loves us and will always protect and care for His people. He will lead us through the floods and the fire. He will guide us even in persecution. But He will always care for us. Surely He will. Verse 24—there are three “yea’s” used in the first few phrases. Notice: “Yea, they shall not be planted; yea, they shall not be sown: yea, their stock shall not take root in the earth.” Those yeas are better translated “surely.” Surely all these things come to pass. There is no doubt. And of a surety they come to pass for our sakes. Surely our God is faithful!
Rev. Wilbur G. Bruinsma (Wife: Mary)
Ordained: October 1978
Pastorates: Faith, Jenison, MI - 1978; Missionary to Jamaica - 1984; First, Holland, MI - 1989; Kalamazoo, MI - 1996; Eastern Home Missionary - 2006; Pittsburgh PRC - 2016.Website: www.prcpittsburgh.org/
Address216 Thornberry Dr.
State or ProvincePennsylvania