The, actions of a king, of one who seems to be mighty and sovereign in his domain, who may be an absolute ruler, who may reign in iron-fisted and entirely arbitrary and altogether unjust tyranny,—the actions of such a king are altogether in the Lord’s hand. His very heart, the ethical center of his whole being, from which are the issues of his life, is in God’s sovereign control: “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.”Proverbs 21:1. Think on this for a moment: not one of us would think of denying that the rivers of water are in the Lord’s hand; but the king’s heart is no less in His hand! Whether a river turns this way or that, whether it flows swiftly nor is almost stagnant, whether it overflows in a mighty flood or dwindles to a mere trickle,—this is all in the hand of the Lord. He turns the water-courses whithersoever He will. But the king’s heart, the very fountain and source of all his actions from an ethical point of view, is every whit as much in the Lord’s hand. Not one turn does it make, but the Lord has turned it! Not one beat for good or for evil does it make, but the Lord controls it! Sinful man may object that the king is not responsible then, or that God is made the author of sin in such a case. You may not be able to fathom the possibility of this or to explain the relation between the responsibility of that king and God’s government. That makes absolutely; no difference: the fact remains that this is the language of Scripture. We must and we do content ourselves to; be disciples of, Christ, to learn only those things which he has revealed to us in his Word, without transgressing these limits. And to say that this belongs to the hidden things is obviously not true: for it stands plainly revealed in Scripture.
There are many other passages of Scripture which either directly teach, or else imply, not only that God controls and governs the actions of men, but also specifically the evil actions. In fact, this truth intrinsically belongs to the doctrine of God’s sovereignty, so that you cannot conceive of a sovereign God, of God Who is really GOD, and at the same time maintain that there are certain actions of men and certain events in history which stand outside God’s sovereign government. And thus, very often in Scripture, this truth of God’s sovereign government and control of even the sinful deeds of wicked creatures is presupposed, is “the truth behind the truth” of what the Bible says. This is the case, for example, with a passage like Psalm 33:10: “The Lord bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought: he maketh the devices of the people of none effect.” Let it be noted that this could never be the case unless the “counsel of the heathen” and the “devices of the people” were absolutely under God’s providential government. Not only so, but it is very evident in the context that this action of God with respect to the “counsel of the heathen” and the “devices of the people” stands related to His own eternal counsel. For in verse 11 we read: “The counsel of the Lord standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations.” Thus, in the same psalm, we are taught that the question in the salvation of a king is not the multitude of an host; nor in the deliverance of a mighty man is it a question of his much strength. “There is no king saved by the multitude of an host: a mighty man is not delivered by much strength. An horse is a vain thing for safety: neither shall he deliver any by his great strength.” Why are these things true? Only because the Lord Himself controls the victory or defeat of a king and the deliverance of a mighty man,—controls them so absolutely and sovereignly that the size of the army and the strength of the mighty man actually have nothing to do with the outcome of the battle and the deliverance of the mighty man. Hence, those who fear the Lord and who hope in his mercy may be far outnumbered, and they may be of little strength in themselves, and they may be lacking in horses and chariots. These are not the controlling factors. The Lord is the controlling factor: “Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy; To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine.” To mention but one more passage, take note of the confession in Jeremiah 10:23: “O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.” To be sure, this passage is negative. But the plain implication of this negative confession is that the “way of man,” that is, all the activities of his life from the point of view of their direction, their moral, spiritual direction,—that “way” is of the Lord. Moreover, man walks in that way step by step; but the direction of those steps is not sovereignly of the man who walks, but of the Lord. Whether that way, therefore, is a good way or an evil way, whether the direction of a man’s steps is the right direction or the wrong direction,—this is not ultimately of the man, even though he acts as a moral, rational creature, but of the Lord’s disposing.
But we need not limit our proof to general statements of Scripture and to implied proof.
The Bible speaks very directly and specifically about sinful actions and the deeds of evil men and of devils, connecting these with the sovereign government and control of the Lord.
Let me call your attention to a few such specific instances.
Take the history of Joseph and his brethren, first of all.
When you consult the history as recorded in Genesis 37, you discover that the Lord God seems to recede entirely into the background in the entire narrative. Nowhere in the whole chapter are we told what God thinks of the plot that is enacted. We are not informed what His purpose with the diabolical plot of the brothers of Joseph is. In fact,—just as in the entire book of Esther,—God’s name is not so much as mentioned in the entire chapter that records this bit of history. Apparently what is narrated is all of man—man’s purpose, man’s hatred and envy, man’s folly and imprudence, man’s wicked schemes and their execution. Meanwhile, the righteous suffer, and God does not even seem to care.
Hence, from a mere historical point of view, you have a set of circumstances and a combination of human being sold as a slave into Egypt. And there is no question this was essentially an act of murder. They hated their righteous brother Joseph. They plotted to get rid of him. It makes no fundamental difference that they did not actually slay him. They had murder in their hearts, and to all practical intents and purposes they actually murdered Joseph when they got rid of him by selling him into Egypt.