Ephesians: A Short Excursion…

Sorry for not posting for so long, I’ve been having some computer problems that have made the ability to sit down and study impossible until I formatted my computer, which I did this weekend. The text of the next passage in Ephesians takes into some controversial beliefs, and beliefs which go against our human nature in general, and our nature as Americans specifically.

I have been praying and thinking about the best way of explaining what I mean, and I kept coming back to Daniel 4 and Psalm 115. These verses helped me to explain where I believe we have gotten off track from a Biblical standpoint, but I was still struggling with articulating where our cultural environment affected our Christian worldview. Then, last week, Matt Chandler. my pastor at The Village, began a series on the sovereignty and authority of God (it’s about an hour, and you can listen to it here).

In this message, Matt explains that part of the problem with the church today is that we breathe the air of The Enlightenment. I’m not going to repeat everything he said, as he does a much better job of explaining than I could, but I will cover the main point: The Enlightenment has left us with an attitude of entitlement, arrogance, and rebellion to authority. The Enlightenment promoted the ideas of self, rights, and freedoms of the individual to the forefront, neglecting the group as a whole. To be sure, we are all made in the image of God, so as we relate to each other and to governments, we do have rights and freedoms, and to a degree, there should be a sense of self as well. The problem is that we have taken this view of our rights and freedoms in relation to each other and have applied them to God. This is where we get statements like “God wouldn’t do that because it’s not fair or loving”. We have assumed that we are the center of God’s affections and that we have rights that God can’t violate.

The only problem with this is, well, the Bible.

Psalm 115:3 ESV

[3] Our God is in the heavens;
he does all that he pleases.

Here, the psalmist clearly says that God is in the heavens, above all things, and He does ALL that He pleases. God does what He wants to do, period. He doesn’t check with us to see if it’s ok, or if we think it’s right or fair. If He wants to do something, He does it.

But, does that really mean that He controls everything???

Proverbs 21:1 ESV

[1] The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD;
he turns it wherever he will.

Here, Solomon plainly says that the heart of the king is turned in whatever direction the Lord wants it to be turned. God is in control of the hearts of kings, and He moves their hearts in whatever direction He chooses.

About now, most people start cross-referencing with other verses like John 3:16, Psalm 23, and other “coffee cup” verses — verses that make us feel better about God. We do this to try and get past the idea that God would do something that we think isn’t fair. The last example we’ll look at is Daniel 4.

God drives King Nebuchadnezzar into the wilderness, dumbs his mind to where he starts eating grass and behaving like an animal. He loses his kingdom for a time, loses his mind for a while, and then God restores it.

What is Nebuchadnezzar’s response to all of this? Does he gripe about how unfair it was for God to do this to him? Does he say that God was unloving? No, he doesn’t.

Daniel 4:34-37 ESV

[34] At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever,

for his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
[35] all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
or say to him, “What have you done?”

[36] At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me. [37] Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

Nebuchadnezzar doesn’t complain about what’s been done to him. Just the opposite! He erupts in praise to God, declaring His sovereignty over all things. After having his senses taken away and restored, he declares God to be JUST in ALL His works. Then, linking with his previous statement, he says that God is able to humble those who are so proud, so arrogant, to think they can bring a charge against God for being unfair or unjust. God is sovereign and in control of all creation, including people, and no one can stop His will, or ask accuse Him of being unjust.

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