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What the Bible says about God's Control of History
(From Forerunner Commentary)

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

Deuteronomy 7:7-8

Consider Israel's roots from its geographic location and history. The Israelites were a slave people living in a land that was not theirs, yet God freed them from that slavery without a revolution. God led them on a journey that took forty years to complete, through an area in which, from all the records, they did not grow a crop or tend huge flocks of animals, yet all their needs were supplied, at least all the basic needs—food and water.

Whenever they were attacked, God defended them. When that forty years was over, they were then led into another land that was not theirs—one already occupied by seven nations greater, mightier, and stronger than they, so much so that even the Israelites said, "We were as grasshoppers in their eyes." They were afraid to enter it. But they did, and they occupied the land relatively easily.

They should have been easily defeated by the people whose land they took over. Consider the geography of that land. The land was situated among stronger and larger nations, namely: Egypt, Edom, Moab, Ammon, Phoenicia, and Syria. They were surrounded on all sides, and all of those nations coveted the land because of its strategic position. It was situated where its possessor could become fabulously wealthy as a trading bridge between these other nations. Thus, these nations constantly fought over this land. But somehow, the Israelites survived. Even today, thousands of years later, they continue to exist, even though the world thinks they have virtually disappeared.

Consider these things in light of what Paul writes in Ephesians 1:11, that the history of Israel is no accident. We need to make this personal, as he is using the Israelite example to show that it is no accident that the church has succeeded Israel as God's inheritance. He implies in the context that it is no accident that you, personally and individually, are in the church, because God has been working toward these events from the beginning. What God wills is done. So, without saying it directly, what Paul is stressing that God is sovereign over His creation.

We can stretch "all things" in Ephesians 1:11 into other areas of life. Recall that Jesus said that a sparrow cannot fall without God taking notice (Matthew 10:29). That indicates close attention. Is God scrutinizing what is happening? Jesus concluded His saying with, "You are of more value than many sparrows" (verse 31), which is encouraging. It helps us to understand that if God pays attention to a sparrow, He will surely pay attention to us! He has not gone far off somewhere!

Perhaps one could make a case that some things occur out in the world that are of no importance to God's purpose. But could we say that about things that happen in His church, the "apple of His eye," the focus of His attention? This question fits the context of what Paul writes in Ephesians 1. Is God unaware? Is He unconcerned about His children so that things happen without His notice, without His scrutiny, without His judgment as to what He should do?

Is God really the Almighty? Either God rules, or He is ruled over by Satan. Either His will must be done or be thwarted by what He has created. Either He is the only King of kings who has perfect vision, limitless power, and unassailable wisdom, or He is God in name only.

It cannot be any other way; there is no middle ground in this issue. Perhaps we take this subject for granted because we say that we have no arguments that God rules His creation. Faith undergirds our reasons for following Christ, but living faith is itself undergirded—supported, strengthened—by an essential factor that enables us to produce good works: our knowledge of the true God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God (Part One)

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

We need to understand three words here. The first is "worlds," which is the Greek aion meaning "ages," "periods of time," or "dispensations." The author is not referring at all to the created world—the earth. He means periods of time.

The second word is "framed," which gives the impression of a person building something, but that is not the author's intent. The same word appears in Hebrews 10:5, "Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared." This translation points to a different connotation.

The third word is "word." Normally, a Bible student would probably immediately think of logos as being the Greek for "word," but such is not the case here. It is instead the Greek word rhema, which means "the revealed word."

A good paraphrase of verse 3, then, would be: "By faith we understand that the ages were prepared by the revealed word of God." This verse is telling us that there is an unseen hand somewhere that is guiding the course of the periods through which mankind has lived! In other words, God is working out a purpose! People with faith look to the purpose He is working out and what He has revealed, and they see His hand guiding the destiny of nations as well as individuals.

This is an interesting, encouraging, faith-building concept because God is never far from the thoughts of a faithful person. Such a person, because he has had the mystery of God revealed to him—the purpose He is working out—begins to see God in everything that is happening because God is his companion. He has a relationship with Him. Because of his fellowship with God, he tries to see everything through God's eyes, as it were.

When God calls, one of the miracles He works in us by His Spirit gives us insight into His movements in the history of man. The Christian begins to see God in his environment, the earth—and discovers that it is all under God's control.

We can see where God says, "I raise up kings. I put down kings." Sometimes these are "the basest of men," but because we are beginning to think like God, we understand why He does such things. In Romans 13:1-2, we find out that all governments are ordained of God. He at least permits them to govern, and sometimes He directly installs them.

God is guiding and controlling events. Men think they are in control of what is happening, and some even think Satan is in control. No, God is in control. He is working out a purpose, and Satan is subject to Him and can only do what He allows him to do.

The psalmist says that God is not in all of the ungodly man's thoughts (Psalm 10:4). Andre Maurois, a French philosopher and writer, once said, "The universe is indifferent. Who created it? Why are we here on this puny mud heap, spinning in an infinite space? I have not the slightest idea, and I am quite convinced that no one has the least idea." This is the way man looks at things, but Christians had better not look at them like this because they will not operate by faith. If we are operating by faith, we can begin to see events and circumstances in their fuller scope, as well as how they fit and how important they are to the purpose God is working out.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Awesome Cost of Salvation

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)

2 Peter 3:1-6

II Peter 3:1-6 contains vivid illustrations of God ruling and overruling to bring His purpose to a successful conclusion in spite of men. Because the Creator God truly is sovereign, He is constantly moving His creation, including us, toward the conclusion of the purpose He determined from the beginning. All things do not continue as they were. God is working and intervening, making adjustments in the course of international, national, and personal events, as the incidents of the Flood and the Tower of Babel vividly illustrate. Peter could have added many more examples, such as freeing Israel from Egypt, guiding Israel to power and destroying it, and scattering the Israelites over the face of the earth. God has done this so completely that most have no idea where Israel is or that they themselves might be Israelites.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Six


 




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