Over the last couple of months or so, I’ve been reading through the books of the prophets (Isaiah through Malachi) in my Bible. Although I’ve read select prophetic books multiple times such as Isaiah or Jeremiah, it’s been nearly five years since I’ve read completely through the prophetic books from start to finish.
As I was finishing up Micah this morning I was taken back to an incident, though seemingly minor at the time, that occurred in a prayer/Bible study group I was part of several years ago. This group was led by an older retired woman who spent most of her time involved in ministries such as these prayer/Bible study groups. At the time I thought her to be a very wise woman and a gifted student of the Bible.
During the bi-weekly meetings we would have, we would go over different passages of scripture, often from the Old Testament, and spend time praying. Like most good charismatics, we spent an inordinate amount of time in the book of Nehemiah because it has all those “broken down walls being rebuilt” scriptures that charismatics love to apply to ourselves.
Nevertheless, as I was finishing up the book of Micah I was taken back to this bible study group and something the leader had said once. She had commented that she just couldn’t read through the prophetic books of the Bible because they were just too depressing with all of the judgement and killing that went on. She said she would start in Isaiah (the first of the prophetic books) and could only get about half way through before it would make her a nervous wreck. Looking back, I find this strange as much of the verses we focused on in the Bible study came from the Old Testament prophetic books.
Over the last year or so I’ve slowly began to learn the Doctrines of Grace, that is, the sovereignty of God in everything including our salvation. During this time one thing I’ve discovered is the danger of picking Old Testament scriptures that were promises from God made to the nation Israel and making entire doctrines out of them. The entire face of Christianity today has done just that. If it weren’t for cherry-picked scriptures taken out of context there wouldn’t be any of the sort “televangelism” we see infecting “christian” television the world over.
Coming to slowly understand the sovereignty of God has made me look at not only God in a way I’ve never seen him, but approach the Bible in a whole new way. Before, where I might have had the same perspective as the lady leading this Bible study/prayer group I now see God’s grace throughout history.
In spite of Israel’s extreme idolatry and faithlessness toward God, they were always in His grip. He punished Israel for their idolatry and sin, but He saved a remnant, just as He promised. No matter how ugly Israel’s sin became they were always in His sovereign, gracious grasp. In fact, no matter how ugly their sin became they couldn’t run from Him. They were under His sovereign grace…..always pursuing, always disciplining, always faithful.
Now as I read through the prophetic books of the bible I have a whole new (and somewhat shocking) perspective on the God I so often fail to serve. He’s the God who, for whatever reason, has pursued me with His everlasting love, His never-ending grace, and His loving discipline. In spite of my idolatry, my sin, and my faithlessness He never leaves me nor forsakes me.
And no matter how many Old Testament verses we take out of context in order to say “I’m gonna smash through this wall, I’m gonna tear down this stronghold, I’m gonna command that to happen”, we can rest knowing that we can trust that God has us right where we need to be……and sometimes it’s being disciplined.
Yes, God is sovereign. Even over my salvation.
And whethere you know it or not……..you can’t command anything.