Steven R. Houck, a missionary of the Protestant Reformed Churches, is currently laboring in Ripon, California.
The Comfort of God’s Sovereignty
From all that we have shown in our previous articles, it ought to be clear that the various themes of the sovereignty of God run throughout the Psalms like golden threads. They are everywhere. If you were to pull out these threads by cutting out the doctrine of God’s sovereignty, you would unravel the entirePsalter. For there is not one Psalm that does not refer to the sovereignty of God in one way or another. It is impossible to find a single Psalm which ignores this doctrine. The wonder of the book of Psalms, however, is that the great majority of the Psalms do not simply mention the sovereignty of God; they emphasize it! A careful study of the Psalms indicates that ninety percent of them devote at least fifty percent of their content to this doctrine. Think of that! One half of the content of one hundred and thirty-six (136) Psalms deals with the themes of God’s sovereignty. Moreover, one third of the Psalms are entirely devoted to these themes. This is amazing! It demonstrates conclusively that the sovereignty of God is the central theme of the book of Psalms. This book EMPHATICALLY exalts God as the sovereign God. Therefore, if the Christian is to be faithful to the Lord Who inspired these Psalms, he must not only believe, but he must also emphasize God’s sovereignty.
This fact can be further demonstrated by the manner in which the psalmists deal with this doctrine. They do not treat the doctrine of Gods sovereignty in a cold, abstract manner. The beauty of this book of praise is that God’s sovereignty is in- deed the HEART and SOUL of the Psalms. The psalmists love this doctrine. It is precious to them. They find great comfort in the fact that their God controls and works all things for their salvation. They have nothing to fear. Even in the midst of tribulation, the psalmists have peace and contentment. This is the experience of all those who trust the sovereign God. They can say, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Ps. 27:1). God’s people have nothing to fear because the sovereign God is their Savior. He holds the very life of His people in His hands, and no one can touch that life apart from His appointment. For God’s sovereign control extends to all of creation. There are no creatures which can take God’s people away from their God. Thus Christians sing together, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof” (Ps. 46:1-3).
The doctrine of God’s sovereignty, therefore, gives to the believer a wonderful joy. He is happy because he knows that he is safe in the everlasting arms of God. King David spoke of that joy when he exclaimed, “The King shall joy in thy strength, O Lord, and in thy salvation how greatly shall he rejoice” (Ps. 21:1). The great strength of the Lord is the very basis of the Christian’s joy. What joy could the children of God have if God was some impotent, weak god who had no sovereign power to save them? None whatsoever! The Christian rejoices because God is not only willing, but also able to save them. Thus the psalmist prays, “But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee” (Ps. 5:11).
The Praise of God’s Sovereignty
This joy which the believer experiences naturally produces a gratitude that praises God for His greatness. Thus we find praise throughout the Psalms. In fact, the book of Psalms is a book of praise precisely because its theme is that of God’s sovereignty. It is the sovereignty of God that is praised. Because God saves His people and delivers them from their enemies by His sovereign power, believers sing of His greatness. The sovereignty of God and praise are inseparable. The psalmist says, “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable” (Ps. 145:3). Because the Lord is great, He is greatly to be praised. God’s people are exhorted, “O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph” (Ps. 47:1). What could be the reason for such shouts of praise? The answer—”For the Lord most high is terrible; he is a great King over all the earth . . . . God reigneth over the heathen: God sitteth upon the throne of his holiness” (Ps. 47:2, 7). Someone who does not believe in the sovereignty of God has no basis whatsoever for praising God.
God reveals Himself and His greatness to His people by means of His works. Throughout the Psalms, therefore, the psalmists praise God for these wondrous works. Because God’s sovereignty is exhibited in His works, the psalmist says, “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well” (Ps. 139:14). Here the sovereign act of creation is praised. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. The psalmists, however, praise God for all of His mighty acts. In fact, believers from one generation to another are to praise God continually for His sovereign works. “One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts. I will speak of the glorious honour of thy majesty, and of thy wondrous works. And men shall speak of the might of thy terrible acts: and I will declare thy greatness” (Ps. 145:4-6).
What is true of God’s works in general is especially true of His work of salvation. The believer praises God for all of His works as they relate to his own salvation. He praises Him because He sovereignly works all things for his salvation. Thus the church sings, “0 sing unto the Lord a new song; for he hath done marvelous things: his right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory. The Lord hath made known his salvation . . . . He hath remembered his mercy and his truth toward the house of Israel: all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God” (Ps. 98:1-3). God’s people praise Him because they recognize that their salvation is the result of the mighty right hand and holy arm of the Lord. Salvation is the result of the marvelous things God has done. Moreover, the believer knows that His salvation goes back to the eternal election of God. Therefore he praises God for His sovereign will which has chosen him to salvation. “Praise the Lord; for the Lord is good: sing praises unto his name: for it is pleasant. For the Lord hath chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure (Ps. 135:3-4).
The Proclamation of God’s Sovereignty
The doctrine of God’s sovereignty is such a wonderful Truth that the saint can not keep it to himself. He bursts forth in praise to God, but he also speaks of God’s sovereignty to others. He proclaims the sovereignty of God. The psalmist declares, “O give thanks unto the Lord; call upon his name: make known his deeds among the people. Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him: talk ye of all his wondrous works” (Ps. 105:1-2). God’s people make known God’s great deeds and His wondrous works. They talk of them one to another. In fact, Christian parents must take care that they tell their children of the sovereign works of God. They must be very faithful in that so that their children can say, “We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what work thou didst in their days, in the time of old. How thou didst drive out the heathen with thy hand, and plantedst them; how thou didst afflict the people, and cast them out. For they got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them: but thy right hand, and thine arm, and the light of thy countenance, because thou hast a favor unto them. Thou art my King, O God: command deliverances for Jacob” (Ps. 44:1-4).
This Truth is not something that the church “believes” but does not promote and proclaim. True Christians do not hide it. They are not afraid of the doctrine of God’s sovereignty. Thus God’s people are to declare God’s sovereignty even to the heathen. The people of God are admonished, “Declare his glory among the heathen, his wonders among all people. For the Lord is great, and greatly to be praised: he is to be feared above all gods . . . . Say among the heathen that the Lord reigneth: the world also shall be established that it shall not be moved . . .” (Ps. 96:3, 4, 10). The Christian is to declare God’s glorious wonders even to the unbeliever. The message that is proclaimed to the unconverted is the message of God’s sovereignty. The unbeliever must not think that salvation is dependent upon his will. He must be told that “the Lord reigneth” in all the world and especially in salvation. In fact, God’s people must make this proclamation a part of their daily life. They must continually show forth God’s wonders. For the psalmist says, “Sing unto the Lord, bless his name; shew forth his salvation from day to day” (Ps. 96:2). God’s sovereignty is such a central part of the Christian’s experience that it must be remembered and talked about on a regular basis.
Surely anyone who bows before the authority of God’s Word will recognize that the Christian must not only believe the doctrine of God’s sovereignty, but he must also emphasize it. It is the heart and soul of the Psalms and, therefore, must be the heart and soul of the believer’s faith. The person who emphasizes this glorious Truth is not one-sided. Rather those who do not emphasize this doctrine are guilty of distorting the Truth of the gospel. The doctrine of God’s sovereignty can be found on every page of the Psalms. Yea, on every page of Holy Scripture. It is the believer’s comfort and joy, the basis for his thanksgiving and praise of God, and it is the Truth that must be proclaimed in the church and in the world. Indeed, “THE LORD HE IS GOD . . . ” (Ps. 100:3). Let that be the heart of your faith so that you can say with the psalmist who closes the entire book of Psalms with the words, “Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of HIS POWER. Praise him for HIS MIGHTY ACTS: praise him according to HIS EXCELLENT GREATNESS . . . . Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. PRAISE YE THE LORD” (Ps. 150:1, 2, 6).