Wednesday, 6 June 2012

The presence of the Sovereign

We value democracy in the UK. We appreciate it, we defend it, but we're hardly enthusiastic about it. Many don't vote, and those who do tend to be driven by duty rather than delight. I struggle to remember the last time I heard any member of the public say anything positive about any member of parliament. All the more striking then were the scenes from London over the past three days as the Queen celebrated her Diamond Jubilee. The streets were lined with tens of thousands people who gladly travelled for miles and waited for hours for just a passing glimpse of the Queen.

In a country which usually revels in the vilification of the powerful and the privileged, and one which is uneasy with overt displays of patriotism, it was quite a sight.

A few were fortunate enough to enjoy a brief gentle handshake, a fleeting moment of eye contact as the queen was ushered on. Fewer still were permitted to dine at the Queen's table.

The Queen has reigned for 60 years, and has offered a remarkable example of consistent loyalty, commitment and devotion throughout that time. I don’t grudge her the acclimation and recognition.

But as I sit typing in my study, my mind is drifting to some of her subjects. She’ll probably never meet them, never be aware of their needs and concerns, and were they to be made known to her, she’d be largely unable to make a lasting difference anyway.

I’m about to head out to my first church prayer meeting in a long time. I’m thinking about some of the people who will probably be there, some of the families and workplaces and neighbourhoods and needs they represent.

I’m thankful that we will meet in the presence of One who knows them, loves them, and is able to affect real, lasting change in their lives. Sometimes you need a sovereign who is really… sovereign.

Prep for tonight has consisted of some reading and reflection on the sovereign rule of God, here are some thoughts:

He has all knowledge

“To be sovereign God must be all-knowing… were there even one datum of knowledge, however small, unknown to God, His rule would break down at that point. To be Lord over all creation, He must possess all knowledge. And were God lacking one infinitesimal modicum of power, that lack would lack would end His reign… that one stray atom of power would belong to someone else and God would be a limited ruler and hence not sovereign.” 
A.W. Tozer (Knowledge of the Holy, 108)

You can’t really rule that which you don’t truly know. He knows our yesterday, our today and our tomorrow. Before a word is on your tongue he knows it. (Psalm 139:4) Nothing is hidden before Him.

He has all authority

“He is not constrained by anything external to himself… There is no person or force that can ever dictate to God what he should do.” 
W. Grudem (Systematic Theology, 216)

You can’t really rule in a domain where you are not the highest authority. If someone can say no, if your decrees can be vetoed, then you’re not sovereign. He is the Highest Authority. He cannot contradict his own nature, he hears our prayers and fulfils his promises, but still we can say triumphantly “Our God is in the heavens, he does whatever he pleases” (Psalm 115:3) The powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth are under his authority. (Daniel 4:35)

He is all powerful

“This is the crux of the matter: God is able to do what He says He will do. He has the power to raise our bodies from the dust. He has the power to wipe away our tears forever. He has the power to cleanse us from all sin. His promises are not idle wishes. They are commitments.” 
R.C. Sproul (Discovering the God who is, 171)

You can’t really reign if you have the authority to make something happen, but lack the power to implement it. It’s not enough to say God can’t be overruled, we must go on to say that he can’t be overpowered.

A policeman may have the authority to arrest, but if he’s overpowered by a fleeing criminal, what does it matter?

The Bible assures us repeatedly (we need to hear it often) that the Lord is mighty (Psalm 93:4) that nothing is impossible for him (Matthew 19:26) and that he is able to do immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine. (Ephesians 3:20)

He rules and He reigns, and in Christ he offers us so much more than a fleeting glimpse of his majesty, a moment, a meal, a word or a wave in passing. We can rest, and live, in the presence of our Sovereign.

And now I’m off to the prayer meeting.

    Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Ephesians 3:20

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