(Part 2) March 15, 2020 Sunday Sermon: Submit in Trust to the Sovereignty of God
By Pastor Robbie Casas
II. WHEN GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY ORDAINS AFFLICTION
So what do we do with God’s sovereignty, especially when He ordains things that afflict His people?
First of all, I wish to make clear that God in His sovereignty not just allows things to happen but actually ordains them to happen. If He just allowed things to happen, then His godhood would be a passive godhood. But to be truly sovereign, His godhood must be an active godhood – He must be ultimately behind every detail of everything.
Having said this, I counsel three ways to handle God’s sovereignty in ordaining affliction:
1) Accept that God may ordain affliction.
Read Isa 45:5-7: “5 I am the Lord, and there is no other; besides Me there is no God…; 6 that men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun that there is no one besides Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other, 7 the One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these.”
Looking at v. 7, notice there is nothing passive about God in those words. Observe too God’s repetitive assertion of who He is in all three verses, emphasizing through this His absolute sovereignty because He alone is the Lord.
The Hebrew word rah, translated “calamity” in v. 7 in the NASB, NKJV and ESV (“disaster”, NIV), literally means “evil” (as in the KJV). So how does this verse agree with the view that God did not create evil? According to one scholar, the Hebrew word can refer to moral evil, and often does have this meaning in the Hebrew Scriptures. However, due to the diversity of possible definitions, we cannot simply assume that “I create evil” (KJV) in Isa 45:7 refers to God bringing moral evil into existence. The Hebrew word can also mean “adversity, affliction, calamity, disaster, distress, misery” depending on the context in which it appears.
The context of Isa 45:7 – God rewarding Israel for obedience and punishing Israel for disobedience – makes it clear that something other than “bringing moral evil into existence” is in mind. When we examine the larger passage context of Isa 45:1-19, we notice that the passage speaks about the appointment of Cyrus as part of God’s plan for dealing with Israel’s disobedience and eventual restoration. Besides issuing a decree permitting the captives to return home, Cyrus also avenged God’s wrath on the nations. With God’s help (v. 2), Cyrus would easily conquer other nations. Through Babylon, God “creat[ed] calamity”; through Cyrus He “caus[ed] well-being”. This is why all the other versions I mentioned earlier do not translate rah as “evil”.
We can therefore presume that God permits disaster, calamity or unpleasant circumstances according to His divine and holy purposes. Isa 45:7 actually presents a common theme of Scripture: that God brings disaster on those who continue in hard-hearted rebellion against Him.
Having said this, however, we need to make one thing clear: God is certainly not the author of (moral) evil (1Jn 1:5: “… God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.”; Jas 1:13: “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.”), even though He allows it in creation.
It is beyond the scope of this writing to discuss the complex doctrine behind this assertion. But suffice it to say that because God may indeed ordain affliction and calamity, it is best to trust His holy and wise character when we don’t understand why He does so in specific situations. GOD WILL ALWAYS BE WORTHY OF ALL OUR TRUST!