Is Our God Not Sovereign?

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A summary of this article has been published on the Prophecy Today website: Pandemics and the Sovereignty of God

This study is one of several written during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic,
the others can be accessed via this section’s home page.

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought to the surface very different reactions amongst evangelical and charismatic Christians. These could be grouped into three broad categories:

It was encountering the latter argument which caused me to ponder what that implies about The LORD’s authority. If that view is true, does that mean our Father is unable to restrain Satan? On further reflection, I realised that the “undecided” group also place themselves in the same position of doubting the sovereignty of God.

The Devil’s having a real go at me!

How many times have you heard a Christian say something like that? How have you reacted? For some time I have pointed out to any such claimant that this is a clarity which the Bible itself seems unable to provide. If they ask what I mean by that comment, I point them to the census taken by David when he was planning the temple.

The four books of Samuel and Kings are considered by the Jews to be part of the prophetical scriptures, their purpose being to warn against continuing the unbelief of previous generations. 2 Samuel 24 opens with this assertion, “Again the anger of The LORD was aroused against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, ‘Go, number Israel and Judah.’”

The two books of Chronicles were written much later, after the fall of Jerusalem in fact. Their purpose was to encourage the people to value their heritage as they were restored to their land. The tone of these priestly writings is therefore more positive than the preceding prophetic warnings, being intended to build up and not to tear down. This same event is therefore reported with a different emphasis, “Now Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel.” (2 Chronicles 21)

To some, these accounts may seem contradictory, but I assure you they are not. They only appear so if one approaches them with a distorted view of the authority of Satan, which is in itself the consequence of a deficient understanding of The LORD’s sovereignty.

What sets God apart?

The difficulty arises most commonly because the world-view held by most people, including many Christians, divides life into the natural and the supernatural. This is easy to do because it seems to parallel the Bible’s earthly and heavenly, material and spiritual. However, if we take this as our approach to the spirit realm, then it is very easy to see the Devil as a near equal to God. Considering them both to be “supernatural,” we easily imagine an ongoing struggle between two well-matched opponents. Those involved in the occult hold such a view, believing that Satan will eventually prove himself the greater.

There is however a very different distinction in the Scriptures, and I am indebted to the late David Pawson for expressing this most clearly. He highlights that the great divide in the Biblical view of the universe is not between natural and supernatural, but between Creator and created. This puts Satan in his proper place as a created being, lesser therefore than his Creator. As with all the angels, he wasn’t even created in the image of God, that privilege being reserved for mankind. Even though Satan was a highly ranked angelic being, and his rebellion the biggest act of self-promotion in history, his power-grab has not undermined the sovereignty of God.

The Scriptures record very little about Satan’s rebellion. A lament over the King of Tyre in Ezekiel 28 provides most of the detail we have. Here the Holy Spirit portrays an earthly prince as a type of Satan, portraying him in terms which are more angelic than human. The song opens by describing a being who was “the seal of perfection” in the garden of God called Eden. This prince is further described as “the anointed cherub who covers” until “iniquity was found in you.” What was the wrong found in this splendid being? The LORD declared “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendour.” Pride brought about his rebellion and resulted in him being cast “out of the mountain of God” and destroyed.

His pride is also highlighted in a similar parallel with another earthly ruler in Isaiah 14. This is the only place where the name ‘Lucifer’ appears in the Bible being, according to Strong’s Concordance, a translation of a Hebrew word based on the root ‘halal’ [ללה]. This, Strong indicates, has the meaning ‘to be clear’ or ‘to shine’ and implies “to make a show, to boast.” It is often translated as “bright morning star.” The charge sheet records Lucifer’s boast:

“I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God;
I will also sit on the mount of the congregation
On the farthest sides of the north;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds,
I will be like the Most High.”

The judgement of The LORD in response to this is, “Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, To the lowest depths of the Pit.”

There is an important emphasis in the closing part of Ezekiel’s mourning song. The Creator said to the created, “I brought fire from your midst; it devoured you, and I turned you to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all who saw you.” It does not sound as though The LORD had a great struggle to overcome this proud angel - no fight of near equals here. Instead, what devoured this rebellious spirit was the fire which was within himself; God simply drew it out of his inner being and let it do its work. That should constitute a sober warning to every person - beware your sins will find you out, as Moses warned the tribes of Ruben and Gad. (Numbers 32)

The problem of evil

We tend to think of the present situation with Covid-19 as being very, very bad. Therefore we do not think it could possibly come from The LORD because, as James wrote, “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.” If this is your thinking, I encourage you to read this verse in context, for that puts a very different emphasis on the problem. James explained that we are tempted when we are carried away and enticed by our own lust which, if unchecked, causes us to sin and ultimately die physically and also spiritually.

James continues by explaining that what the Father supplies to His children has always and only been good gifts. In the words of Jesus, loaves and fishes rather than stones and serpents - strong echoes of that truth in the feeding of five thousand. James is pointing out that the problem is not with what The LORD provides for us, but with the desires of our fallen human nature which grab hold of those gifts and abuse them. Sex is a prime example of this - given by God for our enjoyment and to populate the earth, but history is full of how it has been twisted by our lust, turned into sin and results in death not life.

This was this particular covering cherub’s problem in Eden. What destroyed him came out of his own inner self. It was not his spectacular appearance, but the unrighteousness which was found within him. James’ point is that having followed Satan’s lead, Adam then conferred on all mankind an inheritance of inner corruption.

Consider how Jesus describes this deceiver in John 8. There we read of Him telling the religious leaders that they were behaving like sons of their father, and of them protesting that their only father was God. In a cutting critique which we rarely take to heart as we should, He spelt out what their attitude revealed about their family ties:

You are of your father the Devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me.”

Take note that Jesus clearly stated that Satan’s lies come from within him, from “his own resources,” as the translators explain. Contrast this with how James continued in the passage quoted above:

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first-fruits of His creatures.”

Whilst good things come from our Father in Heaven, bad things all originate with the lies which flow from the inner rebellion of the father of deceit. Whilst this may seem to some to confirm that the Covid-19 virus must be the work of Satan, to draw that conclusion they have to ignore the dichotomy of who inspired David to number Israel. Let’s consider another similar incident in the Old Testament.

Spirits who serve God’s purposes

1 Kings 22 and 2 Chronicles 18 both record an occasion when Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, entered into an alliance with Ahab, King of Israel. Ahab sought to persuade Jehoshaphat to join him in rebelling against the King of Syria. The latter said he needed to hear from The LORD before agreeing, so Ahab gathered one hundred of his favoured prophets, all of whom told Jehoshaphat that God would grant them victory. The King of Judah was far from convinced and requested that they should inquire specifically of “a prophet of The LORD.” This suggests he was sufficiently discerning to suspect that the unity of the gathered assembly did not come from God.

Ahab said there was another prophet, Micaiah the son of Imla, but he hated him “because he never prophesies good concerning me, but always evil.” When Micaiah arrived, he agreed with the other prophets initially, having been warned by the royal messenger on his way not to do otherwise. Sensing Micaiah’s lack of honesty, Ahab told him to speak only the truth. To this the prophet replied, “I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd. And The LORD said, ‘These have no master. Let each return to his house in peace.’” Ahab rejected this word, and in response Micaiah detailed what had already taken place in the court of heaven:

Therefore hear the word of The LORD: I saw The LORD sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by, on His right hand and on His left. And The LORD said, ‘Who will persuade Ahab to go up, that he may fall at Ramoth Gilead?’ so one spoke in this manner, and another spoke in that manner. Then a spirit came forward and stood before The LORD, and said, ‘I will persuade him.’ The LORD said to him, ‘In what way?’ so he said, ‘I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And The LORD said, ‘You shall persuade him, and also prevail. Go out and do so.’ Therefore look! The LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these prophets of yours, and The LORD has declared disaster against you.”

There is no need to recount the outcome here, for the point of turning to this event is to see that it was not The LORD who lied to Ahab, but a spirit who volunteered to do so by promising that the King would be successful in battle.

It is worth noting that by his own testimony, we can understand that Ahab was someone who did not have a love of the truth, only liking the type of prophets who spoke good things about him. In 2014 I wrote about the necessity of receiving a love of the truth if we are not to be deceived. That study is based on 2 Thessalonians 2, where Paul spoke of those who will be deceived by the Antichrist, the man of lawlessness, because they refuse to receive the love of the truth.

Paul continued by explaining, “for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” This is exactly what happened to Ahab. He hated the truth and thus made himself vulnerable to a spirit allied to the father of lies. The LORD allows such deception to take place because He sees the underlying unwillingness to receive a love of the truth in individuals’ hearts. He permits deceiving spirits to draw out of them what is already there. Ahab’s self-imposed blindness resulted in his downfall and death.

When people read about angels being “ministering spirits” in Hebrews 1, I suspect the majority of them don’t think of this applying to the third of the angels who joined Satan in his rebellion. Nevertheless, these created but rebellious messengers remain servants of God who, as illustrated by the above account, still require His permission to deceive those who have turned their backs towards Him.

Once we understand this reality, I believe we gain a very different appreciation of the work of the Devil. Yes, his rebellion continues, as he consistently seeks to outsmart his Creator, having deceived himself through the pride within him. Consequently he is all too willing to take any opportunity offered him to come out on top.

When The LORD wanted to discipline David’s heart for wishing to take a census for instance, Satan applied for the assignment. Appreciating this dynamic, the Holy Spirit inspired both the prophetic account to highlight David’s error and the priestly one to expose his vulnerability.

Satan a son and a servant

Readers may need time to meditate on this understanding, but it is important to note that these are not the only incidents where this principle is evident. It is a dynamic which is foundational to the book of Job. First, some explanation about the words ‘Devil’ and ‘Satan.’ Devil is a title derived from the Greek ‘diabolos’ [διάβολος], meaning ‘to throw over’. (The Chinese diabolo is often thrown from one juggler to another). It is therefore only found in the New Testament.

The word ‘Satan’ is a transliteration from the Hebrew [השטן] for ‘opponent’ or ‘adversary’ into both Greek and English. In the Old Testament this title occurs fourteen times, with all but three occurrences being in the first two chapters of Job. It is in this book that we find the most detailed insight into the dynamics of the relationship between the Creator and his adversary, and a clear explanation of how Satan continues to serve the purposes of God.

The book opens with a brief description of the central character’s family, wealth and status. It quickly moves on to record Job’s concerns over the behaviour of his children, something we rarely think about. As I will explain however, this is key to what The LORD sought to do within Job’s heart.

In 1:6-12 we have a glimpse into the court of Heaven where, perhaps to our surprise, Satan is included amongst the sons of God. Our Father draws him into a conversation about Job, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” The Adversary lives up to his name and accuses The LORD of securing Job’s loyalty by giving him safety and wealth. He then taunts God, “Stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” The LORD shows a large amount of confidence in Job by giving Satan permission to do this, “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.”

The rest of the chapter recounts a series of four tragedies which one by one remove all of Job’s wealth before finally robbing him of his children. When he heard of his children’s deaths, Job tore his clothes, shaved his head and worshipped God with the famous words:

Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked shall I return there.
The LORD gave, and The LORD has taken away;
Blessed be the name of The LORD.”

The testimony of Scripture to this statement of faith is, “In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.”

The next chapter records another similar scene in heaven, and again The LORD draws Satan’s attention to Job. We are not told how soon after the previous events this took place, but we do know that Satan was rebuked with the words, “and still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause.”

We should not be distracted by thinking of God’s assertion that Satan ‘pricked’ Him to act against this man as a sign of divine weakness. Satan was certainly not deflected by it, for he pressed for permission to act even more harshly towards this righteous man, “Stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” We could think, mistakenly, that The LORD lacked any compassion when He responded with, “Behold, he is in your hand, but spare his life.”

In both instances Satan had to seek The LORD’s authorisation to bring pain and suffering upon this righteous man. He did not have the authority to do whatever he wanted to Job. Each step had to be approved by a higher power. We could think that giving in to this rebellious angel indicates a flaw in the character of God. Job, we read, was of a different opinion. When his wife unwittingly sided with Satan by advising him to curse God, Job’s response was a further confession of faith, “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” We are therefore assured that despite his tribulations, “Job did not sin with his lips.”

Redemptive judgement

Job’s question is a good one for us to consider in the face of a worldwide pandemic. Should those who believe in The LORD say that only good comes from His hands, and when we face adversity, blame it totally on Satan? Of all men Job would have been justified in so doing, but faith kept his mouth from sinning.

We must now therefore consider the purpose of this terrible season in Job’s life. I cannot discuss here how his friends added to his trials by speaking from their own wisdom. Nor is there time to comment on perhaps the most significant reference to the resurrection in the Old Testament, found in chapter 19:

For I know that my Redeemer lives,
And He shall stand at last on the earth;
And after my skin is destroyed, this I know,
That in my flesh I shall see God,
Whom I shall see for myself,
And my eyes shall behold, and not another.”

Instead we need to look at Job’s own confession, made before his friends spoke. In chapter 3 he breaks the silence with a heartfelt lament for the fact that he was ever born. It is towards the end of this dirge that we find his notable admission, “For the thing I greatly feared has come upon me, and what I dreaded has happened to me.” Have you ever stopped to consider what it was that Job specifically feared? What event did he dread so much?

The Bible is its own best commentary and rather than speculating, we should review what this account of Job’s suffering has already told us about his heart and mind. Do you remember that we noted his fear that his children might offend The LORD during their feasts? He feared this so much that even though they were adults, he would regularly offer sacrifices on their behalf to sanctify them. The Holy Spirit even recorded his own words in this regard, “It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.”

The thing Job feared was that due to the indiscipline of their celebrations, his children might curse God. He knew that doing this would lead to death. His wife spelt this out when she told him, “curse God and die.” Now his children were dead, and whilst we can only speculate whether or not he blamed himself, his own life felt as if it was hanging by a very thin thread. It is against this background, amplified by the hollow words of his friends, that Job was able to hang on to his one remaining hope, that his Redeemer lived and one day he would be raised to stand before Him.

Job’s confidence in his Redeemer did not silence either his three friends or Elihu, who took on Job one to one after holding his peace for some time. But Elihu too was unwilling to listen, and it was only when The LORD Himself intervened into the conversation that he went quiet. This occurs in chapter 38. The LORD begins by questioning Job, asking him a series of questions about things he had no knowledge of. (Do read these if you are not familiar with them.) Gently but firmly, The LORD reminded Job that he was but a man, whilst He was the Creator and Sustainer of all things.

Job had to remain silent until The LORD invited his response at the start of chapter 40 by asking, “Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? He who rebukes God, let him answer it.” Undoubtedly feeling utterly chastened, Job acknowledged the folly of his heart in the words, “Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer You? I lay my hand over my mouth. Once I have spoken, but I will not answer; yes, twice, but I will proceed no further.” God was not finished with him though, and tells him to prepare himself “like a man” for a second round of questioning.

It is only in the last chapter of the book that Job finally recognises his real weakness. What he lacked was not knowledge about God, but an encounter with His Creator-Redeemer:

“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear,
But now my eye sees You.
Therefore I abhor myself,
And repent in dust and ashes.”

Rather than driving a wedge between him and The LORD, Job’s trials served to bring them closer. This had always been God’s intention and Satan had played his part, whilst totally failing in his own objective. Rather than the Devil’s will prevailing, the God he is so jealous of had allowed his pride to bring about good. Yes, Satan had a very real go at Job, but God’s good purpose in allowing him to do this had succeeded. Job had passed through his adversary’s fire and came out refined by it!

The redemptive purpose of God was to replace the fear in Job’s heart with faith. That could not be done by divine magic, but required Job to reach out to his Creator. Faith, Paul wrote, comes from hearing The LORD speak to us. (Rom 10) Whenever He permits plagues, pestilence and other forms of suffering on the earth, it is always His intention to draw people closer to Him through such trials. That remains true today in nations like China, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Nigeria, India and anywhere else our brothers and sisters in Christ are dying for their confidence in Him. It is also true in Western nations, where the patterns of life have been completely disrupted by our responses to a humble virus.

God permits evil for our good

In difficult circumstances many Christians find solace in a phrase from Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles in Babylon, but I wonder how much they take its context to heart. God promised the deportees “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says The LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

These exiles were not in that particular predicament because they were so good that Satan was trying to pull them down. They were in Babylon because they had been unbelieving of The LORD’s words to them, to the point that they had left him with no alternative but to expel them from the land. They had failed to heed the warnings of their great prophet Moses, and all of those who had followed him. (Lev 26 & 2 Chron 36) Exile in a foreign land was His refining fire in their lives.

Many Christians find it difficult to accept that life’s troubles are in some way a blessing from our Saviour, preferring to see them as nothing more than attacks from an adversary. They favour the latter explanation for it paints them in a much better light than the glow from the refiner’s furnace. This preference suggests that such people are content with how they are, rather than seeking to be progressively changed into the likeness of Jesus Christ.

If that has been your view until now, please consider the pit into which the first man Adam jumped, and why The LORD permitted Satan to put it so close to his path.

We have already considered the description of Satan found in Ezekiel. He was in Eden from the outset, but have you ever wondered why God did not throw him out the instant he swelled up with pride? Did He not know what had happened? Was The LORD not strong enough to eject him? Was our Creator taken by surprise when Adam chose to eat the forbidden fruit? Or was He simply saddened when this son of God turned a deaf ear to His Father?

I realise that it is contentious amongst some Evangelicals to say that men and women have been created with a limited amount of free will. Here I will simply state my conviction that throughout the Scriptures we are repeatedly told to choose life over death. (e.g. Deut 30 & 1 John 2) The LORD gave Adam a choice to obey His word, which was limited to one simple command - not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Gen 2) Why should Adam make a choice to disobey God unless there was reason for him to do so?

When each one of us chooses to do the wrong thing, it is because within us we believe that doing so will work out to our advantage. We may not reason it out in our minds, but our hearts convince us that this is so. Why then did Adam think it would be better for Him to eat from the tree than not to eat?

In considering this, we need to think first about Eve, who was formed out of Adam’s body after The LORD had commanded him not to eat of that particular fruit. Adam had obviously told her about it, because she repeated the command to the serpent which spoke Satan’s thoughts to her. (Gen 3) In the New Testament however we are told that Eve transgressed having been deceived, whilst the entry of sin into creation is accredited entirely to Adam. (2 Cor 11, 1 Tim 2, Rom 5 & 1 Cor 15) When questioned by The LORD, Eve’s own testimony was that she ate because she was deceived. Like it or not, the Bible is clear that it was not Eve’s transgression which brought death into creation, but Adam’s sin!

I did it my way!

Whilst this couple’s actions were apparently the same, the choices of their hearts were very different. Adam was not deceived like his wife. He made a fully conscious, free will choice to disobey. She believed a plausible lie, and was deceived into thinking she could eat and live. Adam chose to die, but why did he do this?

Being fully aware that His Creator meant what He had said, he knew that Eve’s folly meant she would now die. Like many husbands since then, he foresaw the prospect of having to live without his wife, and it seems he could not face doing this. Of course, as a sinless son of God, Adam could have called out to His Father and pleaded for Him to find a way to redeem his bride. Instead Adam chose to walk the same path as she had taken, a path which would see them united in death.

The above understanding is not explicitly detailed in the Scriptures, but I ask you to consider whether it was simply the appetising appearance of the fruit which motivated Adam to disobey his Creator, or the fear of being separated from the soulmate that God had given him. The tragedy is that in choosing to die alongside her, he also chose to be cut off from His Creator.

By approaching Eve first, it seems that Satan was permitted to put before Adam a most significant test of his faith in God. About two thousand years later, Abraham faced a very similar choice when The LORD commanded him to offer Isaac as a sacrifice on Mount Moriah. (Gen 22) Abraham was prepared to obey because he believed that, having promised that a nation would come from this son, God would raise him from death. (Heb 11)

The LORD, it seems, allowed Satan to test Adam’s love for Him, or Adam would not have been able to demonstrate his willingness to obey his Father no matter what it cost him. He is not alone in being offered such a choice. Abraham and Job refused to “curse God and die,” choosing instead to obey Him and live.

We all face similar choices throughout life. The work of Satan can be discerned behind them all, but without them we would not have the opportunity to choose to love The LORD our God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our strength. (Deut 6 & Mark 12) This fundamental reality is witnessed to in Jesus’ warning “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me, and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” (Matt 10)

A sovereign redeemer

We will never know what The LORD would have done had Adam appealed to Him to redeem Eve. However, we do know what He did when both of them needed redemption. First, He pronounced a death sentence on Satan, saying that whilst he would bruise the heel of the woman’s seed, that same seed would ultimately bruise his head. This is the first Biblical prophecy concerning the Redeemer whom Job knew he would see when he was resurrected. As well as speaking about this Saviour, The LORD then demonstrated how He would provide atonement for the sins of those who would call on Him for redemption.

Near the end of Genesis 3 we read, “also for Adam and his wife The LORD God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.” I have written previously about this important statement, explaining why Adam did not die on the same day that he turned away from his Father. The LORD already had a plan, which would be unfolded in two stages. The first involved the blood of an innocent animal being shed to provide covering for a sinner. We are not told what type of animal died to provide them with suitable clothing, but it was taken from the Owner’s own stock. Because sin had only just entered into creation, it would have been without spot or blemish.

For the next four thousand years men and women made repeated sacrifices, shedding the blood of millions of animals. From first to last they all pointed to our Father’s greater plan. That plan was the death, burial and resurrection of His anointed Redeemer.

Thinking of the execution of Jesus brings me to one final question - whose idea was this?

The Jewish religious leaders no doubt thought it was theirs, but did the Father really allow His Son to die simply because men willed it? I very much doubt it. Therefore can we suggest that Satan finally out-manoeuvred his Creator? The evidence that he may have done so at first seems very strong.

In John 13 we read that prior to the Passover meal, the Devil had “already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot,” to betray Jesus. Soon afterwards, stating that the piece of bread dipped in the sauce was for the one who would betray Him, Jesus offered it to Judas. Judas accepted that token. The moment he did so it is recorded that Satan entered him, and he immediately left the room. So the Devil’s fingerprints are all over Jesus’ betrayal and therefore his death. We can only assume that Satan thought he had thwarted that first prophecy.

One day this adversary will recognise that his own pride has deceived him yet again, but for now it appears he has yet to realise his foolishness. In 1 Corinthians 2 Paul expresses full confidence that if “the rulers of this age” had understood the wisdom of God, “they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” It appears that those heavenly principalities, powers, and “rulers of the darkness of this age” against which we fight (Eph 6) did not understand that they were bringing about God’s purposes by killing His Son.

This leaves only one candidate for purposing the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus - His Father. Jesus recognised this when He submitted Himself to the will of His Father, having poured out his heart in seeking to avoid Calvary. This is probably the most important prayer ever uttered; it is certainly what should be known as The Lord’s prayer - “Nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” (Luke 22)

Scripture testifies elsewhere that the death of Jesus Christ was the plan of His Father. In Revelation 13 there is a description of a character called “The Beast”, a servant of the Devil, who is there portrayed as a dragon. This Beast blasphemes God and makes war on the saints, attempting to overcome them. Much has been written about these verses. It is important to note that the ones who are deceived by the Beast’s authority are those “whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (N.B. This passage is translated in various ways, but this emphasis seems the most reliable.)

When The LORD God began the work of creation, He and His Son had already committed themselves to Jesus being “the Lamb which would take away the sin of the world.” The Holy Spirit also witnesses to this truth in 1 Peter 1, where we read that believers are redeemed, “with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world.”

Calvary was always The LORD’s intention. It was not an emergency plan put into operation because Satan outwitted Him.

Our God reigns!

I hope that through this study I have helped to you to appreciate that whilst our proud, rebellious adversary is beyond our comprehension in many ways, there is one thing we can be sure about. He can do nothing at all except by permission of our Father in Heaven. The LORD allows Satan to test us only in order to accomplish His own purposes in each one of us. These are twofold.

Firstly, and most importantly, He wants those who truly believe in His Son to become like Him in their characters. This is why He allows His children to pass through many trials, that we might be glorified with our eldest brother. (Romans 8)

Secondly, and as previously explained, Satan’s deception is effective only in the lives of those who have refused to receive from God a love of the truth. Like their father the Devil, their destruction comes from within themselves, not from The LORD. It is not the power of this fallen spirit which enables him to be the Pied Piper on the broad way leading to death; it is the refusal of those who follow him to believe the truth which the God and Father of Jesus Christ has made known to them.

If men and women did not reap what they sow, then our God would not be righteous. If He denied us the freedom to rebel against Him, then we would simply be pre-programmed robots, unable to love Him or anyone else.

Allowing a roaring lion to be on the loose seeking to devour the unbelieving is not a sign that He is a weak Creator. In fact the very opposite is true - as one writer has observed, The LORD keeps Satan on a leash - I simply add that it is a very short one indeed!

The next time someone claims that Satan is having a go at them, please remind them that The LORD God reigns supreme over all!

© Randall Hardy
May 2020

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