God’s Sovereignty and the Psalms (1)

Steven R. Houck, a missionary of the Protestant Reformed Churches, is currently laboring in Ripon, California.

The Proper Emphasis

“Know ye that the Lord he is God . . .” (Ps. 100:3). Are not these words of the psalmist the expression of the faith of every true child of God? The Christian believes that his God is indeed GOD. He is the absolutely sovereign God of heaven and earth. It is He Who has created the world by His sovereign power. It is He Who even now upholds the world and all that is within it. It is He Who sovereignly governs and directs all the affairs of this world by His eternal counsel and almighty power. Even man is absolutely subject to His will. No one can frustrate God’s will, nor may anyone question God’s works and ways. It is He Who is God, also in salvation. He sovereignly saves His people. In eternity He chose those whom He would save. In time He alone applies the work of Christ to His people and leads them to eternal life in glory. Thus the child of God declares, “who is so great a God as our God? Thou art the God that doest wonders. . .” (Ps. 77:13-14). Indeed, “the Lord he is God.”

God’s sovereignty is so clearly taught in Holy Scripture that it is impossible for anyone to deny this doctrine without denying the very Scriptures themselves. There are those however who, while they do not openly deny God’s sovereignty, nevertheless deny that this doctrine ought to be emphasized. It is just one doctrine among many and therefore must be “kept in balance” with the rest. Moreover, they tell us that God’s sovereignty takes us into the area of the “secret things” of God and it is very dangerous for God’s people to concern themselves with these things which belong only to God. Thus they counsel us that while we may believe the doctrine of God’s sovereignty, we dare not make too much of it: If we do, we will become “one-sided.”

The Scriptures, however, teach us that God’s sovereignty is not just another doctrine. It is the very heart of the gospel. If anything ought to be emphasized, it is God’s sovereignty. God is revealed as the Sovereign One on every page of Holy Scripture. While this can be shown from a survey of the whole Bible, we turn our attention to just one book of the Bible—the book of Psalms. If there is any one book of the Bible that ought to demonstrate the proper emphasis of the Christian life, it is the book of Psalms. For in the Psalms we do not have detailed instruction in doctrine, such as in the book of Romans, but the expression of the heart and soul of the believer. The Psalms are expressions of the daily experience of the child of God. In them we find the believer’s sorrows and joys, his fears and com fort, his desires and prayers. In them we find the proper emphasis of the Christian life. The emphasis is very obvious too—GOD IS THE SOVEREIGN GOD. The child of God finds His comfort in that fact. He not only believes it to be true, but it is the heart and soul of his faith.

The Glorious Sovereign King

The Psalms are songs of praise and adoration of God. They are songs that praise God for His greatness and His glory. They acknowledge God to be the sovereign King. The psalmists know of no impotent and helpless god. They know of no god that is dependent upon man and his will. The God of the psalmists is the King. He is the eternal Ruler, Master, and Sovereign. Thus the psalmist exclaims, “The Lord is King for ever and ever . . .” (Ps. 10:16). The Lord is the sovereign King of all the world. He is the King of every creature. All are subject unto Him—both the righteous and the wicked. “For the Lord most high is terrible; he is a great King over all the earth. He shall subdue the people under us, and the nations under our feet” (Ps. 47:2-3). Because God is the King, He is also the Judge. He holds man responsible for all his deeds. Those who refuse to obey His ordinances have reason to fear His terrible anger. He comes as the Sovereign Judge to destroy the wicked. But in His just judgment He also delivers His people. Therefore Israel could sing of the sovereign Judge, “Thou, even thou, art to be feared: and who may stand in thy sight when once thou art angry? Thou didst cause judgment to be heard from heaven; the earth feared, and was still, When God arose to judgment, to save all the meek of the earth” (Ps. 76:7-9).

God is not just another king, however. He is THE KING. He is the great and glorious King Who fills the hearts of men with awe. When we behold Him we must proclaim, “O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens” (Ps. 8:1). When the Lord manifests Himself in His majesty, then “Clouds and darkness are round about him: righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne. A fire goeth before him and burneth up his enemies round about. His lightnings enlightened the world: the earth saw and trembled. The hills melted like wax at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth” (Ps. 97:2-5). The sovereign God is so high that. He must bend Himself down just to behold the things of this earth. He is so great and glorious and man is so little. Even heaven itself is lowly in comparison with the majesty of God. The glory of the angels can not match the glory of the Most High God. “The Lord is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens. Who is like unto the Lord our God, who dwelleth on high, Who humbleth himself to behold the things that are in heaven and in the earth!” (Ps. 113:4-6).

It is not strange then, that God demands that we fear and worship Him. We are nothing in comparison with the Sovereign God. He is the glorious King Whom we are obligated to serve. “For who in the heaven can be compared unto the Lord? who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the Lord? God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him” (Ps. 89:6-7). We owe God reverence. We must honor Him as the glorious God. Man must not boast in himself and his doings, but in the majesty of God. Our duty is to worship the Lord with songs of praise. “Give unto the Lord, O ye mighty, give unto the Lord glory and strength. Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” (Ps. 29:1-2).

God’s Sovereign Power

The psalmists not only praise God as the glorious King, but they praise Him for the manifestation of His great power. God is indeed the Ruler. His wondrous power is displayed everywhere. We see it in the creation of heaven and earth. The psalmist bursts forth in a song of praise of the Creator’s power when he says, “Praise ye the Lord. Praise ye the Lord from the heavens: praise him in the heights. Praise ye him, all his. angels: praise ye him all his hosts. Praise ye him, sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars of light. Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens. Let them praise the name of the Lord: for he commanded, and they were created” (Ps. 148:1-5). Men, angels, sun, moon, stars, and every creature ought to sing praises to God for “he commanded and they were created.”

Moreover, the sovereign God even now governs and directs all of the affairs of this world by His power. The psalmist declares, “Wherefore should the heathen then say, Where is now their God? But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased” (Ps. 115:2-3). God does whatever He pleases. His power is so high, so mighty that whatever He has willed, He brings to pass. His will is never frustrated. Not even by the wicked who think that they can defy God and destroy His people. God so governs, that all things take place according to His good-pleasure. “The Lord reigneth, he is clothed with strength, wherewith he hath girded himself: the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved” (Ps. 93:1). All things are what they are and do what they do because God so establishes them. No one is able to “move” anything from the place God has given it.

In many places the psalmists sing praises to God for the power and control He exerts over the animal world and the “forces of nature.” Creation in general stands in the service of the Sovereign King (Ps. 74:13-17, 104:5-24, 105:16-41, 147:8-18). But what is even more important is the fact-that God’s rule extends over man—both the wicked and the righteous. Even man, who seeks to be so independent, is bound to the will and power of the sovereign God. Man strives for power and authority, but it is God Who gives both to those whom He pleases. “For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another” (Ps. 75:6-7). All that man does is dependent upon the power of God. Man can do nothing without God. “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrow: for so he giveth his beloved sleep. Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward” (Ps. 127:1-3). Man may seek to build a house but if God does not build it, it is impossible for man to do it. The watchman may seek to guard the city, but if God does not guard it, all his watching is vain. If a man sleeps in peace, it is because the Lord has given him sleep. Even our children are given to us by the wondrous working of God’s power. Yea, all the affairs of man’s life are under His control and direction.

No, the God of the Psalms is not a weak, impotent god. He is not a god who must work around man’s will and way. He is the sovereign God Who has all things in His hands. He is the glorious King Who created, upholds, and governs the world. Thus with the psalmist we must praise the Lord by singing, “For I know that the Lord is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the sea, and all deep places” (Ps. 135:5-6).

(to be continued)