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Bible verses about God's Manipulation of Events
(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


 

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 23:1-6

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 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 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


 

Isaiah 45:3-7

God raised Cyrus up to do His bidding to prove to him and all the world who is the true God! God went before Cyrus (verse 2), paving the way for his victories and policies so that His will and His plan would move forward. We should be able to look back at history and see how God worked to bring all the necessary elements into place for His purpose to be fulfilled.

After God used Nebuchadnezzar to punish His people, He raised Cyrus to deliver them from their captivity in Babylon and return them to their land. For the real Christ to be born in Bethlehem as the prophecy states, Jews had to be living in Judea. He also inspired Cyrus to institute his conciliatory policy toward foreign religions so that a Temple could be built to which His Son could come. And among other points, Jerusalem had to be rebuilt so Jesus could die outside the city for our sins.

No other "god" can do these things! Only the Most High God, the Almighty Sovereign of the universe can work out events over such long periods of time. He can take sinful men who have never even desired a relationship with Him and cause them to do His will and bring about His purpose.

God is in control. Light, darkness, peace, or calamity—none of these things happen without His permission. "I, the LORD, do all these things," He says.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Cyrus: God's Anointed


 

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)


 

Jeremiah 14:22

This is an example of the connection between idolatry and rain, saying that idols are powerless to control the heavens, yet it is an easy thing for God (see I Kings 18:20-46). The signs that we see (rain being given in due season or no rain being sent when it is necessary) can indeed be blessings or warnings from God. Only God is able to manipulate these things to these ends. We should not take these things lightly. Jeremiah's words here are very pointed.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 6)


 

Lamentations 2:1-9

Jeremiah is the likely author of Lamentations, writing after reflecting on the devastation of Jerusalem following the invasion of Nebuchadnezzar's Babylonian army. A number of prophets, Jeremiah being the most obvious, had thoroughly warned the Jews for many years. God even raised up a righteous king, Josiah, to provide godly governmental and religious leadership, but it was to no avail because the people were not truly repentant and sincere in any changes they made. The changes were only on the surface, not reaching their hearts, so idolatry—especially—continued to rage unabated.

The chapter continues with more of the same, leaving no doubt at all that God was directly responsible for His reaction to their sins. Jerusalem's devastation did not merely happen randomly in the course of history. God was directly involved. He brought on the horrific fear and pain. It was His warnings through the prophets that were ignored because they did not fear the Lord and did not truly believe that they were answerable to Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Fully Accepting God's Sovereignty (Part One)


 

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)


 

1 Corinthians 10:11

Understanding I Corinthians 10:11 helps us realize the significant position we maintain because of God's calling. "All these things" refers to God's experiences with Old Testament Israel. These events took place over a span of more than a thousand years and involved millions of people being moved about as God worked out His purpose. As the context shows, His purpose included recording these things for our spiritual benefit. God made massive preparations far in advance of our arrival to provide us witnesses of how to do or not to do things to please Him and prepare us for His Kingdom. Paul's powerful admonition tells us how important we are and why we must flee idolatry (verse 14)!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Five): Who We Are


 

2 Thessalonians 2:1-9

Though Paul wrote these words nearly two thousand years ago, we should do not let anybody deceive us. Prophecy can be fulfilled very quickly, and God is busy laying the groundwork for the fulfillment of these end-time prophecies. When everything is in place, it will happen swiftly. As Sovereign over all, God has to maneuver events and people into place before they come to pass. If we are not watching carefully, the events that form the groundwork can slip right by us, and Christ will return as a thief in the night (as this same apostle says in I Thessalonians 5:2-8).

John W. Ritenbaugh
A Place of Safety? (Part 3)


 

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 verse is poorly translated in many versions of the Bible. "Worlds" (KJV, NKJV) or "universe" (NIV) is from the Greek word aion, which means "ages." We are living at the end of an age. The Bible speaks of an age that runs from the creation of Adam to the Flood. This present evil world is another age, and the world to come is another age. Other periods of time can be divided into periods of time in which God is shepherding events in a certain direction.

What the author means is, "By faith we understand that the ages were framed, or prepared, by the Word of God." God is guiding and directing affairs on earth. An invisible hand is manipulating events so that the person of faith can understand that history is not an endless cycle of repetition, even though the history of men is full of humanity's repeated mistakes. History is not circular but linear; it is headed somewhere. God is drawing matters to a conclusion; His purpose is building to a climax, though not the ultimate climax yet. That ultimate climax will not come until New Jerusalem is on earth and we are in that Last Great Day, as that is as far as the Bible takes the age of mankind.

Nevertheless, we are coming to the end of an age, and God is framing things. Time and history are moving linearly to the goal that God is bringing about. He is manipulating the course of events, preparing for its consummation. When that conclusion is reached, if by faith we are yielding to God, we will be prepared as He wants us to be because Hebrews 11:3 is part of our operating agenda. We see the hand of God working, not only in the big events of this world, but also in our lives.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 2)


 

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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