The Sovereignty of God over Life, Death and History
November 26, 2017
In many things in life, it is important to know who is in charge. When a country sees political upheaval from a military coup, there is great uncertainty over who is in charge. Sports teams win and businesses flourish when they have the right people in charge. And in the 2010 Korean drama Pasta, a workplace romantic comedy about the dreams and struggles of a young woman who aspires to become an elite chef, things turn insane when two chefs are in charge of one kitchen.
Being in charge is about authority and power. It is about command and control. It is about supremacy and dominion. And in the Bible, it is one of the most basic themes of all.
The flood showed who is in charge of all things. God is sovereign. God is in charge. Sexual perversion and tyrannical violence does not triumph over his holiness. Wickedness and sin does not defeat his justice. And man in his pride cannot never steal from the glory of God’s name. The flood was an awesome and breathtaking answer to the question of who is in charge. God is sovereign. God is in charge. His waters prevailed. His authority and power prevailed. His supremacy and dominion prevailed. And listen carefully: His promise to provide someone who would crush the head of the serpent prevailed. God is sovereign. God is in charge. And the flood showed this.
God’s sovereignty would continue after the flood as well. He would have sovereignty over life, death and history.
In today’s Scripture text, God gave Noah and the world two fascinating commands. First, man was not to consume blood. Chapter 9:3-4. “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.”
In Israel’s day, the pagan world thought it was special to drink blood. Many thought that the ritualistic drinking of blood gave them power and life. But God prohibited this. Israel was to be different from the world. And the reason why was because blood represented life - and only God is sovereign over life. Israel was not to swish blood in their mouth and think that they were sovereign over life. The Lord said these words to Israel in Leviticus 17:12-14, “No person among you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger who sojourns among you eat blood. Any one also of the people of Israel, or of the strangers who sojourn among them, who takes in hunting any beast or bird that may be eaten shall pour out its blood and cover it with earth. For the life of every creature is its blood: its blood is its life. Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, You shall not eat the blood of any creature, for the life of every creature is its blood. Whoever eats it shall be cut off.”
But there is another deeper reason why God commanded man not to consume blood. Blood was going to be used for something special. It would later be used for doorposts. And then it would later be used on an altar. And then it would eventually be used on a cross. Blood was going to be used for something special. It was going to be the way that sinners would be saved. For it would be the way that the Lord Jesus Christ would redeem his people. Jesus brought life to us through his death and resurrection. And in a most fascinating “twist,” Christ would say these words in John 6: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
The significance and meaning and use of blood was reserved for the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, God commanded man not to consume blood. God is sovereign over blood and life.
God’s second command to Noah and the world was this: there would be justice. Chapter 9:5-6. “And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”
There would be justice. If a person being murdered another human being, then God will require a reckoning for that person. That person would be killed by his fellow man. God made man in his own image, and no one other than God has the authority to destroy the image of God. If you take the life of a human being, then you will be held accountable by God through other human beings. There would be an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, and a life for a life. There would not be a rampant and unlimited veangeance like that of Lamech’s seventy-sevenfold vengaeance. There would be some semblance of justice in the world. It would not be perfect, for it would be administered by human beings. But it would be there.
But there is another deeper reason why God declared that there would be justice. Justice was going to be used for something special. It would later be used to test Abraham. It would later be previewed on sacrificial lambs. And then it would be eventually administered at Calvary. Justice was going to be used for something special. It was going to be the way that sinners would be saved. For it would be the way that the Lord Jesus Christ would redeem his people. Jesus brought life to us through his death and resurrection. And in a most fascinating “twist,” Paul would write in Romans 3 that the Father would provide propitiation by the blood of the Son for the sake of righteousness, “so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
The significance and meaning and use of justice was reserved for the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, God declared that there would be justice. God is sovereign over justice and death.
So God is sovereign over blood and life, over justice and death. Lastly, God is sovereign over history and time. Chapter 9:11. “I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” Chapter 8:21-22. “And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.’”
Many people think that seasons come and go and that the earth goes around the sun... just because. Many people think that there there is no one in charge of history and time. But they are wrong. There is only one reason why history and time march forward. There is only one reason why Sundays are followed by Mondays. It is because God allows it. God allowed the days after Noah to turn into weeks and years and decades and centuries. God allowed seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night to continue. God is sovereign over history and time.
But why all this history and time? What is the meaning and purpose of it? The answer is simple. God delays his ultimate judgment. God unfolded the promise of his salvation in space and time. God in his patience and long-suffering gives sinners the chance to repent of their sins and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s about it.
And that’s why God’s covenant sign to Noah and to the whole world was a rainbow. Many people first learn in Sunday School that the sign was a rainbow. That is kind of true. In reality, the covenant sign was probably a rainbow. It makes sense. It was set in the clouds. And its appearance after rain would connect it to the flood. It was probably a rainbow. A rainbow is what people would have probably seen.
But the really interesting thing is that the literal word “rainbow” is actually not used for the covenant sign to Noah and to the whole world. The literal word that God used was “bow.” Like a bow that goes with an arrow. Like the bow of a divine warrior king. This is an amazing covenant sign for us. For when we see the rainbow after a storm, we are seeing the hanging of the bow of God’s ultimate judgment.
Scripture often talks about God’s judgment in terms of bows and arrows. For example, in Deuteronomy 32:42, Moses recited these words of the Lord to Israel: “I will make my arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh - with the blood of the slain and the captives, from the long-haired heads of the enemy.” In Job 6:4, Job said these words as he suffered: “For the arrows of the Almighty are in me; my spirit drinks their poison; the terrors of God are arrayed against me.” In Lamentations 3:12-13, it is written these words about God’s judgment on Jerusalem: “…he bent his bow and set me as a target for his arrow. He drove into my kidneys the arrows of his quiver….” And in Psalm 7:12, King David declares these words: “If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and readied his bow; he has prepared for him his deadly weapons, making his arrows fiery shafts.”
So God’s covenant sign for Noah and and world - the sign that promises that there would never again be a flood - is a bow. And in case you have never seen a rainbow or forgotten the shape of a rainbow, let me remind you of something simple but profound: the bow does not point toward the earth. It is not bent. It hangs. God has put aside his judgment - for now.
Brothers and sisters, this is the big picture. This is the meaning of the tail end of 2017. And this is the meaning of 2018, if it is the Lord’s will. The time that we live in is the time of God’s delay of judgment. And history continues simply because God is allowing it.
Brothers and sisters, this is the context of your life. You may have plans. You make be trying to write your own story. But your story does not override God’s story. The universe does not revolve around you. Do not go the way of foolishness. Do not abuse the delay of God’s judgment so that you can do your own thing and be your own king. God is sovereign. This time is not your time. This time is God’s time, and he is using it to delay his ultimate and final judgment, bring people to repentance and faith, and prepare the church for the new heavens and new earth. This is the big picture. Do not forget who is sovereign over the time that we live in. Do not forget who is in charge of this moment in history.
And do not forget that one day the bow will bend. One day the delay of judgment will be over. And when that day comes, the rainbow will have served its purpose and the sign will yield to the sign maker. God will take up his bow. The bow will bend. And the whole earth will finally realize that there is not a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but rather an arrow. The arrow will be unlike anything that the world has ever seen. I am talking about the return of Christ and the Day of the Lord.
The prophets Zechariah and Isaiah describe the victory of Christ most fittingly. After famously prophesizing that the promised king would arrive humble and mounted on a donkey, Zechariah less famously declared these words of the Lord: “For I have bent Judah as my bow; I have made Ephraim its arrow…. Then the Lord will appear over them, and his arrow will go forth like lightning…” (Zechariah 9:13-14). And Isaiah declared these words of the Lord: “He made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow; in his quiver he hid me away” (Isaiah 49:2).
To those who repent and believe in him, Jesus brings sovereign grace and life. But to those who do not repent and believe in him, Jesus brings sovereign judgment and death. God never removed the judgment for sin. He only removed the possibility of another flood. Seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease. But they shall not cease only as the earth remains. Christ will return. And one more time, one last time, the bow will bend. God will bring forth a new heavens and a new earth. And when that happens, history and time will have served its purpose for the glory of the sovereign God who is in charge and who answers to no one.
Praise the Lord! No matter what you do in life, whether you’re into politics or sports, business or becoming a master chef, may you remember this simple truth: Our God is sovereign over life, death and history.
Summary of Sermon
A basic but important theme in the Bible is the sovereignty of God.
God showed his awesome sovereignty in the story of Noah and the flood. He was sovereign over sin and all human beings. And he was sovereign over life, death and history. We see this through God’s two commands to Noah and God’s covenant sign to the whole world.
God’s command concerning blood shows that God is sovereign over life and points forward to the precious blood of Jesus Christ.
God’s command concerning justice shows that God is sovereign over death and points forward to the satisfactory death of Jesus Christ.
God’s covenant sign of the bow shows that God is sovereign over history and points forward to the final return and Judgment Day of Jesus Christ.
Let us thank God for his salvation in Christ Jesus. And let us keep the big picture in mind. The time that we live in right now is a time of delayed judgment. And soon the Lord will return in power and glory.
Let us praise the Lord!
Questions for Discussion & Sharing
What difference does it make in our lives when we know and believe in the sovereignty of God? What comfort and joy can it bring to us?
What are some ways in which we can sadly forget or even go against the sovereignty of God?
What are some ways in which we can maturely acknowledge and even love the sovereignty of God?