God Is

Day 37

God Is Sovereign
In the Good and Bad

Read your Bible: Isaiah 45

Spotlight Verse:

I am the Lord, and there is no other.
I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things.Isaiah 45:6b–7

There’s an old story from India about a king with an advisor who has the annoying habit of responding to any event by saying, “That’s good!”

The king loses his toe in a hunting accident. The advisor says, “That’s good!”

So the king fires him from his job. Keeping it consistent, the advisor says, “That’s good!”

A month later the king is captured by a group of villagers who plan to use him in a sacrificial ceremony. When they find his toe is gone, they declare him unclean and let him go. Back at the palace he reinstates the advisor.

“You were right,” the king says, “It was good that I lost my toe, for it saved my life today. But why did you say it was good when I fired you from your job?”

The advisor answers, “Your Highness, I cannot see the future, but I have learned to trust that some good comes from each event. Today I see what that was for me. Had you not fired me, I would have remained with you when you were captured by the tribesmen. And because I am in possession of all my fingers and toes, I would have been next in line for the sacrifice!”

Sovereignty in the Calamity

It is impossible for me, at the human level, to predict what good God can bring out of any calamity. But contained within the concept of His sovereignty is a promise that He will!

One weekend I left after our final church service to catch a flight to a conference. And the whole freeway to the airport was completely shut down. I had to drive surface streets. A 40-minute trip took me 2 hours. I missed the flight. Then a storm blew in, and other flights were cancelled. The only seat I could find was on another airline to another airport, from which I’d have to rent a car to drive to my destination. It was a mess, or so I thought.

I finally sat down on this late flight, and the young guy sitting next to me was from a town near our church, and we had a long conversation for the entire trip. I always wonder how people will react when I tell them I’m a pastor, but when I told him, he said, “Pastor?! I’ve been trying to find a pastor in town to meet with, but I didn’t know anybody! Can I get your name and number so I can call you?”

And I said, “Forget it.”

No, of course I didn’t! I gave him my contact info. Now—do you think God worked that out? He is sovereign.

In fact, I can look back at every long-ago catastrophe in my life, including the tragic death of my father when I was just 4, and see now how God worked through those tragedies.

Can I see God’s hand in every one of my more recent tough times? Not yet, but I trust that one day I will.

I don’t mean to say here that God does evil things, or that evil is somehow actually good; I mean that God in His sovereignty brings really good things even out of really bad things.

He Is the Potter, We’re the Clay

God can work in the weirdest ways.

That’s the point, really, of today’s Bible reading.

When we pick up the story, the Israelites have been captives in Babylon for decades. Then the Persians invade and conquer Babylon. Now they’re still captives, only under a totally new system of government. All their old connections, their language skills, are all useless. Everything seems to be going from bad to worse.

Then in Isaiah 45, God says He has an announcement to make: He will… judge the Persians? Set the Israelites free? No, God says He will…

…bless the new Persian ruler, King Cyrus, even though Cyrus does not even believe in God, keep the commandments, or know the Jewish law! In fact, God says Cyrus will be His “anointed,” His Chosen One for that generation.

Talk about a potentially confusing message.

Anticipating complaints, God says,

“Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’?”
Isaiah 45:9b (NLT)

From my perch 2,600 years later, I can see how God used Cyrus in the history of Israel in some very profound ways. It was far better for them to be under Persian rule than Babylonian. In fact, Cyrus helped restore Jerusalem to its former glory.

But in the moment, the people of Israel were frustrated that God was taking the confusing step of blessing an enemy.

What tough situations do you look at in your life now — situations where you cannot imagine how anything good could ever emerge?

God essentially says, relax. In the long run this produces benefits you cannot now imagine. Just wait.

God is… working it out.

Questions For Reflection

What tough situations do you look at in your life where you cannot now imagine how anything good could ever emerge?

How have you seen God, in His sovereignty, bring good from bad situations in your past?

Write out at least two verses from Isaiah 45 that are an encouragement to you, and be ready to share them with others: