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Bible verses about God's Maintenance
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 1:4-5

God describes His adjustment of the earth's rotation speed so that the length of the day and night would be correct to permit the sustenance of life. He may have also adjusted the tilt of the earth's axis to cause seasons to occur.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Genesis 1: Fact or Fiction?


 

Exodus 2:23-25

A cursory reading of these verses might give a person the impression that God was just sitting on His throne, twiddling His fingers, and waiting for Israel to do something. But God had already begun to act. He had ensured that Moses would live through the slaughter of the Israelite children. He had directed the little ark into the hands of the Pharaoh's daughter. He had ensured that Moses would receive the benefit of a tremendous education, the best kind of secular education that one could receive at that time. He had put thoughts in Moses' mind that he could be Israel's deliverer. He had spared Moses' life when the Pharaoh tried to take it. He had prompted Moses to flee the land and led him into the wilderness to the family of Jethro. He had given Moses the time and the opportunity to continue his preparation for leading His people out of Egypt.

Who initiated all this? Certainly not the children of Israel! God did! We find all the way back in the book of Genesis that God had already prophesied that in about 400 years, He would move to bring the children of Abraham out of a captivity, which He also arranged.

Could God - who does not change, who sets patterns in His Word so that we will understand - ensure, long before we were born, that there would be a church for His people at the end time and that someone would be prepared by Him to get the doctrines they would need to understand at the end time? We know very well He could - and did.

How did Israel get out of Egypt? Not through any rebellion, revolution, intelligence, or negotiations on their part. They got out because God wanted them out. It was part of His purpose.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unleavened Bread and Pentecost


 

Leviticus 18:24-25

This brings together two factors: Sin and God's sovereignty. Because the earth requires maintenance and therefore dominion, and because God gave dominion to mankind, the rest of creation shares in the way mankind lives. Thus, when mankind sins, nature will be affected and react to some extent. In verse 25, God personifies the land as a living creature that violently rejects what it dislikes.

The context shows the iniquity to be spiritual and that God is personally involved in what happens when mankind sins. This confronts us again with whether God actively governs this world. Has He, as it appears in Leviticus 18, set limits on the evil mankind can do?

Suppose man is totally free to choose as he pleases, and it is impossible to compel or coerce him without destroying this freedom. If so, it follows that man is sovereign, doing as he pleases—the designer and architect of his destiny. Given man's history, we can have no assurance whatsoever that morality will not gradually disappear, and that anarchy, barbarism, and eventual genocide will not arise in its absence. It is absolutely imperative that God be sovereign to govern the antics of the very creatures He created! His reaction in the Flood and at the Tower of Babel is strong evidence of this.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Four


 

2 Chronicles 20:3-6

Is God really actively ruling His creation? His sovereignty over His creation is something we frequently take for granted. This presents a potentially serious problem because it results in our failing to think through His sovereignty's practical aspects to our personal situations. Thus, we greatly discount His involvement in our lives and His willingness to intervene for those who live by faith, indicating we are really living by sight (II Corinthians 5:7).

Far too many of us have unknowingly bought into the thinking of materialistic science and atheistic philosophy, which have ushered God right out of His creation by teaching that impersonal laws regulate everything. Impersonal laws exist, but they do not regulate everything. We can choose between that approach or what Jehoshaphat says in his appeal for direct intervention for Judah's deliverance. If what is now part of Holy Scripture is not true, we may as well throw the Bible away because it cannot be trusted. God rules, not impersonal laws that merely react.

Besides overseeing the affairs of nations, the Creator and Ruler of the universe is directly and personally involved in His people's lives. He does not merely respond to those who trust Him—He creates circumstances and events, and/or He directly intervenes to make things happen. Science and atheistic philosophies have relegated God to nothing more than a distant spectator—a Being who cannot stop men from engaging in dreadful wars even though He longs to do it. Men believe that, since He has endowed humanity with free moral agency, He is obliged to let man make his own choices without interference because interfering would somehow destroy man's moral responsibility. However, this ignores God's own plan and purpose for His creation, so it cannot be a true concept.

If this were true, free moral agency, not God, is supreme. But God is ruling, not man's free moral agency! Notice these verses from just two books of the Bible:

  • I Chronicles 5:22: "Many fell dead, because the war was God's."

  • II Chronicles 11:4: "Thus says the LORD: 'You [men of Judah] shall not go up or fight against your brethren! Let every man return to his house, for this thing is from Me.'"

  • II Chronicles 24:24: "For the army of the Syrians came with a small company of men; but the LORD delivered a very great [Israelite] army into their hand, because they had forsaken the LORD God of their fathers."

This is not to say that God has brought about every war or every scattering or directly intervened to stop every threatened war that was averted during man's history. However, the Bible's record is clear: He acts when the occasion fits His will. God's direct activity regarding His purpose and plans must be considered because His Word declares that He is directly involved in the lives of His people. He makes events happen so He can form and shape His people into His image. God is not a mere spectator viewing our lives.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God and Human Responsibility: Part Eleven


 

Ezra 1:1

This says clearly that God was able to stir the spirit of Cyrus. There is no indication that Cyrus was aware that God was stirring him up. He just somehow was motivated to issue this proclamation. He may have thought the idea really came from him or from one of his advisors. But for some reason, all of a sudden, he had an inclination to give the Jews the opportunity to go back to their own homeland.

This verse also suggests that our spirit can be communicated with without our being aware of it happening. Understand, however, that we will not always be blind to this or insensitive to it. It is God's intention that we become very sensitive to the fact that something or someone is trying to communicate with us on a level that is not discernable by the eye or the ear. Nonetheless, our spirit can be stirred to go in a certain direction for good or for bad. We need to begin to realize that we may or may not be aware that our spirit is being communicated with.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 3)


 

Ezra 1:1-4

God is superintending or managing events on this earth. When He wants something done through a man, He interfaces with him. Perhaps without the person even being aware of it, God can insert thoughts into the person's mind to do what He wants him to do.

The event related here is Jeremiah's Seventy Years Prophecy. This verse does not tell us what political, military, social, or economic events God may have manipulated to get Cyrus to consider and finally to choose to issue this edict. It would be beyond belief to think that Cyrus thought of it on his own, out of the blue. Nations act in their national interest. Somehow, Cyrus concluded that it was in the national interest of Medo-Persia to relocate a small portion of the Jews, and he also gave them the opportunity to restore the Temple in Jerusalem. This particular occasion was not unique: Cyrus did this for other peoples that the Medo-Persians had conquered, perhaps to curry the favor of their gods or as a carrot to dissuade them from rebelling.

However it occurred, God inspired it without removing Cyrus' free moral agency. Some modern translations translate the phrase "stirred up the spirit of Cyrus" as "God moved Cyrus' heart."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 3)


 

Psalm 23:1

Because our God is our Shepherd—and He is the most powerful, wise, balanced, loving, and caring Being ever—we are never going to want, that is, lack for proper management. It does not mean that we will never lack things. David himself lacked things. There were times when David did not have a home to hang his hat in, and he had to run from cave to cave to escape Saul. There were times when he was hungry and thirsty and times when he thought his life was hanging in the balance, but he always understood that what was being worked out in his life was part of the will of God.

He knew God's attention was focused on him, and he was receiving the management that he needed in his life at that time. He understood that all the events of his life were pointed toward the goal of his being in the Kingdom of God.

We may lack things, but we will never lack the best in care and management. We will have the very best in guidance and spiritual provision at any given moment. As a result of this, we have to ask ourselves several questions: Do we recognize His right to us? He died for us. He paid for us. We belong to Him. He has every right to manage our lives in the way He sees fit.

This next question is part of the first question: Do we belong to Him? It is pretty hard to belong to Him if we do not recognize His right to us. Our answer to this question will determine how we will react under His management. If we do not react in the proper way, it is probably because we do not see ourselves as really belonging to Him or recognize that He has a right to allow these things to occur in our lives.

Do we respond to His authority? Do we find freedom and fulfillment in this arrangement? Do we have a deep sense of purpose, mission, and direction as a result of the Lord being our Shepherd?

Those are things we can respond to, meditate on, and find application for in our lives. It begins with an acknowledgment that we really do belong to Him and that we really are the recipients of the very best in management and care. We sing that "He's got the whole world in His hands," but then we act as though everybody else has the best care, but not us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Psalm 23 (Part 2)


 

Psalm 23:1-6

Here is a summary of the lessons in this amazing psalm:

Verse 1: Do I really recognize God's right to me? Do I respond to His management?

Verse 2: Sheep must be free from tension within the flock, fear from the outside (e.g., pests, predators), and not hungry.

Verse 3: Though we may become cast down, our Shepherd will seek us out to save us from ourselves.

Verse 4:

  1. Instead of loving myself most, I am willing to love Christ best and others at least as much as myself.
  2. Instead of being one of the crowd, I am willing to be singled out and set apart from it.
  3. Instead of insisting on my own rights, I am willing to forgo them in favor of others.
  4. Instead of being boss, I am willing to be at the bottom of the heap and to eliminate the drive for self-assertion, self-determination, and self-pleasing.
  5. Instead of finding fault with life and always asking why, I am willing to accept every circumstance in life in an attitude of gratitude.
  6. Instead of asserting my will, I am willing to learn to cooperate with God's wishes.

Verse 5: The only way to the tablelands (our goal) is through testing and trial, but we learn through these that He is with us. His rod denotes correction and His staff denotes guidance.

Verse 6: He has gone on before us to prepare the tableland. He thoroughly identifies with us and ensures that we can make it. He anoints us, cares for us continually, and promises that we will be in His flock.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Psalm 23 (Part 3)


 

Psalm 62:1-12

When a person is in ordinary trouble and needs help, does he not seek out someone who has more of whatever it takes to help him overcome his situation? The need may be as simple as an additional hand or a bit more physical strength, or it could be something more complex like wisdom, a specialized skill, practical expertise, or community influence. The helper's power may simply be that he or she has more experience in the area of need. The need may be legal, so contacting a lawyer is a wise move. If the need is medical, seeing a doctor makes sense. One would consult an auto mechanic if the car needs to be repaired, etc. We frequently seek the powers of others.

Psalm 62 instructs us that the supreme power in all creation is God. In verse 1, David begins to express this fact by saying that from God comes salvation, that He is our Deliverer from trouble, implying that it should be to Him that we run. In verse 2, God is our rock, meaning our foundation and source of stability, who keeps us grounded and free from unreasonable anxieties. He is also our defense; He can deflect attacks in ways humans cannot provide.

Verses 3-4 are said to David's attackers, who were attempting to undermine his reputation before the public while also seeking a way to assassinate him. He warns them that their lies will prove to be their undoing.

In verses 5-7, David turns his attention back to himself, trying to encourage himself by resolving to wait patiently upon God as his only trustworthy hope. In verse 7, he reminds us that God is our glory: We take pride in Him for all that He is. He can give us favor even before those who may be against us. He is our refuge, an unqualified place of safety in any circumstance. In verse 8, he exhorts others - friends, companions, and supporters - urging them to pray because God is a solid place of refuge in our times of trouble.

Five times in this brief, twelve-verse psalm, he exhorts himself or instructs us that God is the only sure place of refuge and of help in times of need. How can God be and do all these things? David names Him as our Rock, Salvation, Defender, Refuge, and Glory. He can hold all these titles because, as David says simply in verse 11, "Power [or strength] belongs to God."

This confronts us with a major reason why God is the only One we can rely on fully in our time of need. Power is not only something God possesses, but when we come to understand it, all power belongs to Him. All power flows from Him, and He gives it to whomever He will. God not only has power as a possession, but He can use it in any situation or distribute it as He sees fit! Who can fight God or gainsay His choice of whom He chooses to give it to? Who has sufficient power to nullify God's doing of anything He desires to accomplish?

Notice that in Psalm 62:11 the word "belongs" is in italics, meaning it was added by the translator. It is not a wrong addition but appropriate. It is as though He owns it; it is His to use and/or distribute as He alone sees fit. It begins to open an awesome thought to consideration: Nobody has power unless God provides it for his use.

Understanding this truth makes David's exhortation in verses 9 and 10 more understandable. Compared to God, men are so puny as to be nothing. They may appear strong on the surface, but with our powerful, trustworthy Resource, we do not have to retaliate stupidly or be overwrought by anxiety.

This powerful Being is on our side by His choice! We have not earned it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Power Belongs to God (Part One)


 

Psalm 77:10-15

In this passage, we see that the “right hand of the Most High” involves all of His works, all of His wonders, all of His doings. Remember, this is the “Possessor of heaven and earth” (see Genesis 14:18-23), and His right hand is continually involved in the work of “possessing.” It means more than just “owning”; it implies “keeping” in the sense of “tending” or “managing.”

Specifically, verse 15 shows that the right hand of the Most High is used for redemption—such as securing the freedom of Lot when he was foolishly living in a sinful place. We see redemption in the protection of Abram when he attacked what was most likely a superior force. Redemption appears again when God slew the firstborn of Egypt and protected His people from the death angel.

We clearly experienced redemption when God blessed us with the forgiveness of our sins through the substitution of the sinless life of the Son of the Most High. We commemorate this redemption each year with gravity because of the tremendous meaning, but also with joy and thankfulness because God is governing in the affairs of men, and especially in the affairs of His people. He blesses us with everything necessary for us to take on His image, and the Passover represents the beginning step of that blessing.

David C. Grabbe
Passover of the Most High God


 

Psalm 103:1-22

This psalm praises God's sovereignty over all His creation, yet it also shows His awareness and care of us as individuals. To Him, we are not nameless, faceless blobs in an endless ocean of people. The world likes to claim the incredible promise of Romans 8:28 for itself, but it really applies only to us, "those who love God . . . those who are the called." This is something to be thankful for! Each one of us is in His capable hands! God requires us to give thanks because it is good for us. Those convinced that God rules have a distinct advantage over those who believe things happen randomly.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sovereignty and Its Fruit: Part Ten


 

Psalm 135:3-6

Since God is God, who can dare challenge His prerogative? Who can dare call Him into account for the way in which He deals with us or those we feel close to? Do we, in our limited perception, frequently become critical or frustrated with the way God is handling affairs? When this happens, we are in reality leaving God out of the picture. Where is our faith in His character or His lovingkindness? To murmur against Him is rank rebellion. To question His ways in the wrong attitude is to impugn His power, wisdom, and rights. We should never forget what Isaiah 40:17-18 says of Him whom we serve: "All nations before Him are as nothing, and they are counted by Him less than nothing and worthless. To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare to Him?"

We can see that God has created all of nature with great diversity. The laws of nature, also set in motion by God, operate and keep everything under control. Is it really necessary for Him to manage or govern His creation actively? Psalm 22:28 reminds us, "For the kingdom is the LORD'S, and He rules over the nations." The King James version reads, "He is the governor over the nations," but rule is what a governor does. He rules, manages, keeps under control, or directs according to His own purpose.

Did God create all things and then step away from what He had made, allowing it to operate on its own? Are we now subject to uniform, impersonal law rather than a sovereign God actively controlling the operations of His creation? Everywhere the Bible confirms that God is actively involved in managing His creation—and no part of His creation receives more attention than the supreme, ongoing creation He is working in our lives, the creation of His image in us. This almighty, sovereign God has His attention focused on His church, and we can have faith in that. There is nothing in its existence of which He is not aware and that is not subject to His sovereign dictates.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Three


 

Psalm 139:7-10

The Holy Spirit is the power of God. It is the means through which He accomplishes His will. Verse 7 teaches us a great deal about this. God the Father is a Personality. He is located in one place at one time, just as we are. But His ability to insert Himself into and affect events anywhere in His creation is contained within the power that emanates from His mind.

It is His Spirit—which emanates from His mind—that enables Him to be everywhere all at once, if He so desires. It gives Him the ability to keep track of all of us. It gives Him the ability to be with a person in Charlotte or someone in Los Angeles or another in Chicago. Wherever we are, He can be there because by His mind He is able to concentrate His attention in those areas.

We lack power like that. We have limited imitations of it. We can concentrate our attention in a very limited way on certain things, events, or places. But He can concentrate His attention in many areas at the same time by the spiritual power that emanates from His awesome mind.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit


 

Ecclesiastes 3:12-13

God keeps the "natural" cycles recurring (in the weather, for instance, as well as other cyclical events mentioned in chapter 1). There is security in knowing that a steady Hand rests on the helm—one that can be absolutely relied upon. It is likely that Paul derived the major part of the principle in Romans 8:28—that all things work together for good—in the book of Ecclesiastes.

Life, then, is not out of control. Do we believe this? We have a desire to know the future but cannot know it—not completely. God has not given anyone that much insight into what is happening. Thus, Solomon's conclusion is that we should make the most we can of our life right now. (He is not talking about being imbalanced or hedonistic. He means doing things properly, successfully, with dedication.) We can give it our all knowing that there is a steady Hand at the helm and things are not out of control. Our part in this is to trust God. Are we willing to do that?

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and the Feast of Tabernacles (Part 2)


 

Isaiah 45:4-6

Notice that God gives examples of things He does from behind the scenes that people are unaware He is doing. By this, He is revealing a principle. He is doing similar things all the time, and people are just as unaware today as the ancients. He is manipulating events to cause people to react. In these verses, God is speaking to Cyrus, who is totally unaware that God has made it possible for him to be in the position to carry out what God wants him to do. He also informs Cyrus that he will do this job for Jacob's benefit, in this case for the Jews living under the Persian Empire.

In addition, we discover in verse 6 that the Jews do not know this either. The time will come, however, when they will know that God worked these things for their benefit and His purpose, and they will give God glory as the one and only Almighty God. A small-scale fulfillment of this occurred under Ezra and Nehemiah, but the greater fulfillment will not take place until the Great White Throne Judgment. Isaiah 45 gives the impression He is actively working, but that we are aware of only a tiny portion of His activity even in our own lives. Yet, as His children, we should be intently looking for His hand in our affairs.

John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Sovereignty and the Church's Condition (Part One)


 

Daniel 4:17

God will give the Kingdom to the lowest of men and women. Similarly, Paul writes in I Corinthians 1:26, "For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called." The lesson is to know that God rules, which has been the issue from the very beginning.

Adam and Eve did not act as though they knew that God rules; they acted as though Satan or they ruled. They rejected the rule of God, and from that time on, God has concentrated on this very fact. Mankind will learn that God rules, and in order to do that, God is going to have to judge, to issue decrees, and to hand down sentences.

His sentences are going to be very stiff indeed, because Scripture shows that the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord will reduce the population of the earth to about 10% of all of mankind. The carnage that will result from God's judgments being handed out, so that mankind will know that God rules, will be bloody to an extreme. An awful lot of pain will result from the execution of this sentence. God judges, and it will begin at the fulfillment of the Feast of Trumpets.

To most people on earth—if God even exists in their thoughts—He is, at best, a rather remote personality who acted a long time ago but seems to have grown disinterested, as nothing has happened for quite a long time. However, the Bible shows Him to be a hands-on ruler. He is overseeing planet earth, and He is doing it for the purpose of fulfilling His purpose of establishing His Kingdom.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Fall Feast Lessons


 

Matthew 10:29

This is an astounding statement, considering the size of the earth and the number and relative insignificance of birds! But God's exercising of His will in working out His magnificent purpose is far greater because in this He is not dealing with irrational creatures but rational men in His image. Unlike birds, men have free moral agency and sufficient powers to form conclusions and set their wills to go their own way.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Five


 

Matthew 10:29-30

God does everything perfectly and with wisdom and love. He did not carelessly call us. We are not nonentities swallowed up in the vastness of humanity. Matthew 10:29-30 assures us that God's sovereignty is not limited to just big issues; He superintends even the tiniest details. Each of us is so valuable He gave His Son for us. Thus, we need not fear that He will overlook us as we struggle with life. However, we do need to consider much more deeply how valuable our conduct and attitude are to the entirety of the church.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Little Things Count!


 

Matthew 10:29-30

God deemed this promise important enough to repeat in Luke 21:18, where the only difference is the context in which Jesus uses the illustration. There He promises that God will closely watch over us during periods of persecution. The scope of God's attentive care of His creation is so great that even an insignificant sparrow cannot die without Him being aware and approving that such a thing should happen. How awesome!

John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Sovereignty and the Church's Condition (Part One)


 

Matthew 24:7

Verse 7 presents a challenging proposition regarding prophecy and God's active involvement in the governance of His creation. Jesus can say this only if God will use His powers purposely to increase the number and intensity of these plagues in a variety of places, even where they are not normally experienced. No study has ever shown that these things increase or decrease according to uniform law, especially in widely divergent places. Jesus intimates that they will increase unusually and rather suddenly.

Psalm 147:15-20 shows God actively exercises His sovereignty daily in good times and bad. His involvement is not limited to the big disasters we call "acts of God," though they are certainly included:

He sends out His command to the earth; His word runs very swiftly. He gives snow like wool; He scatters the frost like ashes; He casts out His hail like morsels; who can stand before His cold? He sends out His word and melts them; He causes His wind to blow, and the waters flow. He declares His word to Jacob, His statutes and His judgments to Israel. He has not dealt thus with any nation; and as for His judgments, they have not known them. Praise the LORD.

Regarding "acts of God," Amos 4:6-9, 13 provides arresting insight into why God uses them to intervene in the affairs of men:

"Also I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities. And lack of bread in all your places; 'Yet you have not returned to Me,'" says the LORD. "I also withheld rain from you, when there were still three months to the harvest. I made it rain on one city, I withheld rain from another city. One part was rained upon, and where it did not rain the part withered. So two or three cities wandered to another city to drink water, but they were not satisfied; yet you have not returned to Me," says the LORD. "I blasted you with blight and mildew. When your gardens increased, your vineyards, your fig trees, and your olive trees, the locust devoured them; yet you have not returned to Me," says the LORD . . . . For behold, He who forms mountains, and creates the wind, who declares to man what his thought is, and makes the morning darkness, who treads the high places of the earth—the LORD God of hosts is His name.

Is God involved? Certainly! He does these things to grab people's attention and turn them back to Him!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Four


 

John 19:10-11

History shows that the primary enemies of the church arise from humans influenced by Satan and his demons - and history continually repeats itself. The clearest examples of where these enemies lie are shown in the lives and ministries of Jesus Christ and the apostles. Did not the established religious and governmental leaders of their day, such as Caiaphas, the Pharisees and Sadducees, Pilate, the Herods, etc., willingly cooperate in persecuting them?

Searching into God's authority over these enemies will help us to see how complete and all-encompassing is His power over everything. Past events show that civil governments and false churches are always the true church's most dangerous adversaries.

Here, "power" refers to civil authority, and Jesus informs us that Pilate, a powerful Roman governor of Judea, who had authority over life and death, derived his authority from God. The authority would not be his if God had not given it to him directly. We can infer that Pilate was specifically given his particular civil authority. Why is this important for us to know and believe?

Proverbs 21:1 adds an important truth: "The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes." The Living Bible paraphrases this as, "Just as water is turned into irrigation ditches, so the Lord directs the king's thoughts, He turns them wherever He wants to."

This fact helps us understand God's sovereignty and much of history too. If the thoughts of a king - representing the highest, most influential, and most powerful person in the nation - are in God's hand, and He has the power to influence his decisions toward the outcome that pleases Him, are not all human governors completely under the Almighty's sovereign control? Clearly, God has the power to move all history in the direction He wishes it to go. His desire will always be done. Romans 13:1-2 makes this deduction certain:

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.

Not only does God have the power to move those already in office, but He appointed them in the first place! Since Paul writes this directly to Christians, and Christians have lived throughout history and in virtually every place on earth, the wording suggests that this command has timeless, universal application. Thus, God reveals that, in the final analysis, all civil magistrates, from the emperor on down to the lower authorities - and religious authorities as well - owe to God their appointments and rights to govern.

In John 5:17, Jesus provides insight into God's activity throughout the millennia of this creation: "Jesus answered them, 'My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.'" God's labors are the continuous managing and ruling over the affairs of men. He has not gone "way off somewhere," but is actively involved in bringing His purpose to pass at all times. By His will and in His providence, authorities are appointed to maintain order, to encourage good conduct, and to punish wrongdoing.

Thus, anyone who believes God is confronted by a matter of biblical truth and clear logic. How will any of our enemies "get around," deflect, or nullify the real unseen Power who stands behind and above the visible powers that be? His will will stand. So, to whom do we turn in time of need?

John W. Ritenbaugh
Power Belongs to God (Part Two)


 

Romans 5:1-2

One can justifiably say that this expression of God's faithfulness is the pivot upon which turns His whole purpose for humanity. God calls and then through His goodness leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). I John 1:9 then adds, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Since Christ has come and died that we might be pardoned and cleansed, God's faithfulness is part of His grace. He would not be faithful to His promises, His past acts in Christ's works, or His calling that has sounded in our ears unless, when we obeyed the call and confessed, He allowed us to enter into the full possession of His pardoning grace. In other words, our forgiveness and cleansing, the receiving of favor from Him, is a product of His faithfulness.

God's faithfulness in these areas has far-reaching, practical ramifications for us. That God is faithful means that His character is unchangingly consistent. The unalterable structure of the universe consists of both justice and forgiveness. God never acts in contradiction of Himself, and in all experiences we may depend on Him to be unalterably just and forgiving toward us. Because He is faithful, He can be the central and most important object of our faith. Could we trust a god if we were never sure what he would do?

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness


 

Romans 9:18

Can we take what he says here by faith? We had better! We have no other choice. We must accept the fact that God is running His Creation, that He is holy, and that everything He does is in love, wisdom, and for the benefit of His purpose. He does everything so that the most will be produced in every person and His Kingdom will be the most greatly expanded.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 11)


 

Hebrews 1:3

Sometimes we might be misled not to give God His due by failing to comprehend what this verse is saying. "Upholding" just does not give the impact of the Greek, giving us the impression of God as a sort of Atlas figure or as a watchmaker who wound His creation up and then walked away. Wuest's Amplified New Testament translates this word as "sustaining," indicating an ongoing operation. Sustaining not only gives the impression of support but also of continuous maintenance and providence. The Amplified Bible also catches the essence by adding "maintaining, guiding and propelling."

What this statement illustrates is the continuous, minute-by-minute, year-by-year, century-by-century, eon-upon-eon generation of the enormous, awesome, prodigious amounts of power necessary to keep His creation operating. The very stability of the creation speaks of His continuing involvement. He did not just create and walk away with everything operating according to impersonal law.

Genesis 1:3 sets the pattern for the revelation of His governance: "Then God said, 'Let there be light;' and there was light.'" His sovereignty over the inanimate creation is stated very simply: He speaks and light appears. In verse 9, He speaks, and the waters are gathered into one place, revealing dry land. Since water seeks its own level, this passage indicates that God determined where He wanted the water to go, thus it shows Him shaping and managing His creation.

God says in Genesis 6:17, "And behold, I Myself am bringing the flood waters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; and everything that is on the earth shall die." The Flood was not a natural occurrence. In Genesis 11:5-8, it was God who confused the languages and scattered the families of men over all the earth, and the early chapters of Exodus clearly reveal God's involvement in the plagues on Egypt. In the latter example, God even actively supervises who receives the plague and how they are affected (Exodus 9:22-26).

Exodus 10:21-23 confirms God's active involvement in the affairs of men and His use of the inanimate aspects of His creation to bring about His will:

Then the LORD said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, darkness which may even be felt." So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. They did not see one another; nor did anyone rise from his place for three days. But all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.

Thus the Bible clearly shows that God is now exercising His sovereignty over His creation and will continue to do so beyond the return of Jesus Christ, even in the area of inanimate things like the weather and ground. Blessing or cursing is an act of His sovereignty conditioned to our response to Him. He is not merely passively paying attention and responding as He sees fit, but even more so initiating actions to bring His people to His desired end.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Four


 

Hebrews 11:3

We have generally understood this verse to mean that the material creation, which we can clearly see, was produced from invisible spirit. It is certainly a possible meaning, but it is probably not its primary one. In his book, Great Cloud of Witnesses (pp. 12-14), E. W. Bullinger provides an alternative that appears more accurate and fitting within the context of Hebrews 11.

The word "worlds" is translated from the Greek aion, meaning "age," in the sense of a period of time or a dispensation. It derives from a root that means "continued," and it is used as "world" only when "world" gives a better sense of a period of time, not the physical creation. It could be used if one said "the world that then was" or "the world to come."

"Framed" also appears in Hebrews 10:5, where it is more clearly and accurately translated "prepared." It means "to complete thoroughly," "to rule" (even "overrule"), or "to order" (by God in this case). "Word" is not logos but rhema, meaning "revealed words." Finally, "made" is ginomai, which means "to generate," "to cause to be," "to happen," or "to come to pass." It is not the word normally used to indicate God is creating.

Using these definitions, we could translate the verse as, "By faith we perceive by the revealed words of God that the ages were prepared, so that the things we see come to pass not from things that appear." Those of us who walk by faith know that a great Unseen Hand guides, indeed overrules, events on this earth. This verse means that the historical events we read of in God's Word were not chance occurrences, but God was working behind the scenes to bring His purpose to the conclusion He has foreordained. In short, it says, "God controls the march of history." The great men and women listed in Hebrews 11 lived their lives firmly knowing this truth. That is why they could live in faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Promises Are Sure!


 

Hebrews 11:3

This verse is rather difficult in most of our modern English translations. It literally says, "By faith we understand the ages to have been prepared by a saying of God, in regard to the things seen not having come out of things appearing" (Young's Literal Translation).

The key to understanding this verse is the word translated "worlds" in modern Bibles. In the Greek, it is aioonas, which primarily means "ages" or long periods of time whose sum is eternity. For modern translations to understand this to be "worlds" distorts what the author was trying to explain. He is not talking about physical creation of the earth or matter, which "worlds" implies, but about God's sovereignty over the ages of mankind's civilizations. "Framed" is the Greek kateertisthai, meaning prepared, arranged, constituted, set in order—generally, to put a thing in its proper condition.

The Bible speaks of three distinct ages: the time before the Flood, the present, and the age to come (see II Peter 3:6; Galatians 1:4; Matthew 12:32; Luke 18:30; etc.). Other periods of time can be divided into distinct ages: The Babylonian, the Persian, the Greek, the Roman, the Medieval, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Modern, the Postmodern, etc. The author is telling us that the word of God "prepares," "orders," or "arranges" the ages of mankind—in other words, God is sovereignly guiding the affairs of men to bring about His ultimate purpose. As is said to Daniel, "The Most High rules in the kingdom of men, gives it to whoever He will, and sets over it the lowest of men" (Daniel 4:17).

We know this by faith—that is, if we truly believe and trust God, that He is almighty, that He is bringing us to perfection, and that He has a purpose He is working out, we know that He is in control. We understand by what we read in His Word that He is working toward His ends, and what goes from His mouth (in terms of law, direction, and prophecy) will come to pass (Isaiah 55:10-11). When God speaks, things happen: It was by God speaking that the earth and everything in it was created (Genesis 1). The same is true of the migrations of nations, their rise and fall, the installation and removal of leaders, as well as the circumstances of His people in the church. God is on His throne, and He is governing His creation.

The last half of Hebrews 11:3 is our "proof": What we see going on in the world (during our age) has not been brought to pass by men but by the invisible God. Men think they are movers and shakers; they think they are in control. But God says here that events on this earth have their ultimate design in the invisible God; He rules over the kingdom of men.

There is an unseen hand manipulating events so that the person of faith can understand that history is not an endless cycle of repetition; it is going somewhere. God is drawing things to a conclusion. We are coming to the end of an age, and God is framing and manipulating events in preparation for this age to climax and end so a new and better age can begin. This verse tells us that we can see the hand of God working, not only in the big events of this world, but also in our lives if we are living by faith (II Corinthians 5:7).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh


 

Hebrews 11:3

This concept reveals the solid base of faith toward God: that He is Creator and Ruler. "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?" God Himself demanded of Job. The answer to this question is why we can understand the existence of things by faith.

E.W. Bullinger has an additional thought on this verse that is worth considering. He takes this beyond creation, as the word translated "worlds" is literally aiones or "ages." Thus, the verse is literally stating that God framed or put into order the ages. Zodhiates agrees that aiones indicates ages or times, in contrast with kosmos, often translated as "world," which indicates people as a society. Bullinger shows that God, unseen and sovereign, is not only Creator, but also actively shapes events within the expanses of time. As Jesus says in John 5:17, God is always working, directing the movement of history to bring about His desired ends. Bullinger's approach is to be preferred as more appropriate to the entire epistle.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Three)


 

 




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