TBU: The Bible Unpacked: Comprehensive Edition

II. God’s Control over the World

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Chapter 7  Part II

God’s Control over the World

God has power over everything. This includes control over evil powers, nature, the nations of the world and each person’s life. Comprehending this is vital to having a sound understanding of God and of his relationship to the world – including his relationship with ourselves.

God Has Control over Evil

See also:

God exerts control over evil

Gen 31:7  [Jacob, referring to his greedy uncle Laban:] Yet he has cheated me and changed my wages ten times. But God did not let him harm me.  GNT

1Cor 10:13  [Paul, to believers:] No temptation has overtaken you that is unusual for human beings. But God is faithful, and he will not allow you to be tempted beyond your strength. Instead, along with the temptation he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to endure it.  ISV

God has control over and limits any temptation, whether it originates from Satan or from our own sinful nature. This is indicative of God’s control over evil.

God can even use evil

1Sam 18:10a  The next day an evil spirit from God suddenly took control of Saul, and he raved in his house like a madman.  GNT

It would appear that the evil spirit was sent by God as a punishment for disobedient King Saul.

God can use evil to fulfill his plans and purposes

Acts 2:23  [Peter, to a crowd largely of Jews:] Jesus was given to you, and with the help of those who don’t know the law, you put him to death by nailing him to a cross. But this was God’s plan which he had made long ago; he knew all this would happen.  NCV™

Rev 17:17  For God has put into their minds to carry out his purpose by making a decision to give their royal power to the beast until the words of God are fulfilled.  NET

This speaks of kings or world powers of the end times cooperating with the beast or anti-Christ, to unwittingly accomplish God’s purpose.

God may use evil and wrongdoing to punish

Isa 10:5-7  God says, “How terrible it will be for the king of Assyria. I use him like a rod to show my anger; in anger I use Assyria like a club. 6I send it to fight against a nation that is separated from God. I am angry with those people, so I command Assyria to fight against them, to take their wealth from them, to trample them down like dirt in the streets. 7But Assyria’s king doesn’t understand that I am using him; he doesn’t know he is a tool for me. He only wants to destroy other people and to defeat many nations.  NCV™

Verse 7 shows the Assyrian king to have been wicked. Despite this God used him to punish the godlessness of other nations (vv. 5-6).

God may even use evil for the benefit of people

Gen 50:20  [Joseph, to his brothers:] As for you, you meant to harm me, but God intended it for a good purpose, so he could preserve the lives of many people, as you can see this day.  NET

2Cor 12:7-9  [Paul:] To keep me from becoming conceited because of the exceptional nature of these revelations, a thorn was given to me and placed in my body. It was Satan’s messenger to keep on tormenting me so that I would not become conceited. 8I pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from me, 9but he has told me, “My grace is all you need, for my power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most happily boast about my weaknesses, so that the Messiah’s power may rest on me.  ISV

God – or Christ – used Paul’s affliction, which apparently came from Satan, to both keep him from becoming conceited (v. 7) and make him receptive to Christ’s power working in him (v. 9).

 Questions for Section A

God Has Control over Nature

See also:

God directs nature

Job 37:11-12  He loads the clouds with moisture; he scatters his lightning through the clouds. 12The clouds go round in circles, wheeling about according to his plans, to carry out all that he commands them over the face of the whole inhabited world.  NET

Ps 147:15-18  He sends his command through the earth; swiftly his order reaches its destination. 16He sends the snow that is white like wool; he spreads the frost that is white like ashes. 17He throws his hailstones like crumbs. Who can withstand the cold wind he sends? 18He then orders it all to melt; he breathes on it, and the water flows.  NET

Nature serves God

Ps 104:4  [A psalmist, to God:] The winds are your messengers, and flames of fire are your servants.  CEV

The term “flames of fire” refers to lightning.

Ps 119:91  [A psalmist, to God:] To this day they stand by means of your rulings, for all things serve you.  ISV

God can control the elements of nature to bring plentiful provision . . .

Joel 2:23b-24  Citizens of Zion [Jerusalem], rejoice! Be glad because of what the Lord your God has done! For he has given to you the early rains as vindication. He has sent to you the rains – both the early and the late rains as formerly. 24The threshing floors are full of grain; the vats overflow with fresh wine and olive oil.  NET

. . . and God can control nature so as to bring depravation

Hag 1:10-11  [God, to his self-centered people:] This is why the sky has held back its dew and the earth its produce. 11Moreover, I have called for a drought that will affect the fields, the hill country, the grain, new wine, fresh olive oil, and everything that grows from the ground; it also will harm people, animals, and everything they produce.  NET

God has control over all creatures

Jer 27:6  [God, to various kings:] I have at this time placed all these nations of yours under the power of my servant, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. I have even made all the wild animals subject to him.  NET

Gen 7:15-16a  Pairs of all creatures that have the breath of life came into the ark to Noah. 16Those that entered were male and female, just as God commanded him.  NET

God caused two of every kind of creature to come to Noah, as God had said (cf. 6:19-20).

God can even perform miracles of nature

Judg 13:3, 24a  The Lord’s angelic messenger appeared to the woman and said to her, “You are infertile and childless, but you will conceive and have a son.24Manoah’s wife gave birth to a son and named him Samson.  NET

1Ki 17:12-16  She [a widow] said, “As certainly as the Lord your God lives, I have no food, except for a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. Right now I am gathering a couple of sticks for a fire. Then I’m going home to make one final meal for my son and myself. After we have eaten that, we will die of starvation.” 13Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go and do as you planned. But first make a small cake for me and bring it to me; then make something for yourself and your son. 14For this is what the Lord God of Israel says, ‘The jar of flour will not be empty and the jug of oil will not run out until the day the Lord makes it rain on the surface of the ground.’” 15She went and did as Elijah told her; there was always enough food for Elijah and for her and her family. 16The jar of flour was never empty and the jug of oil never ran out, just as the Lord had promised through Elijah.  NET

 Questions for Section B

God Has Control over the Nations

God is in control of the nations

Ps 67:4  [A psalmist, to God:] Let foreigners rejoice and celebrate! For you execute justice among the nations, and govern the people living on earth. (Selah)  NET

Isa 14:26-27  [God:] This is the plan I have devised for the whole earth; my hand is ready to strike all the nations.” [Isaiah:]  27 Indeed, the Lord who commands armies has a plan, and who can possibly frustrate it? His hand is ready to strike, and who can possibly stop it?  NET

What God determines for the whole world does take place, for God “controls every nation” (CEV) – none can prevent him from implementing his purposes concerning them.

God has been in control of the nations throughout history

Acts 17:26  From one human being he created all races on earth and made them live throughout the whole earth. He himself fixed beforehand the exact times and the limits of the places where they would live.  GNT

God appoints times for events affecting the nations

Ps 75:2  God says, “At the appointed times, I judge fairly.  NET

God’s judgment spoken of here may well primarily be judgment on the nations (cf. v. 3); it is at least inclusive of this. As such the verse speaks of God choosing the times for his judgments of nations – presumably primarily the times of their downfall.

Dan 11:27-29  The two kings will both plan to do evil. They will sit at the same table and tell lies. But they will not succeed, because the end must wait until the appointed time. 28The northern king will return to his country with a lot of wealth. He will be determined to fight against the holy promise. He will take action and return to his own country. 29“At the appointed time he will again invade the south, but this time will be different from the first.  GW

The kings referred to here are Ptolemy Philometor of Egypt and Antiochus IV Epiphanes, with the events concerned eventuating around 170-168 B.C. In v. 27, “the end” seems to be speaking of the end of Antiochus’ plans to expand his dominion into Egypt.

God has control over the outcome of conflicts between nations

Prov 21:31  You can get the horses ready for battle, but it is the Lord who gives the victory.  NCV™

God can thwart the plans of the nations

Ps 33:10  The Lord frustrates the decisions of the nations; he nullifies the plans of the peoples.  NET

God establishes all ruling authorities

Rom 13:1  Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except by God’s appointment, and the authorities that exist have been instituted by God.  NET

God has control over rulers . . .

Prov 21:1  The Lord can control a king’s mind as he controls a river; he can direct it as he pleases.  NCV™

. . . God can use rulers in order to accomplish his purposes

2Chr 36:22-23  In the first year that Cyrus of Persia was emperor, the Lord made what he had said through the prophet Jeremiah come true. He prompted Cyrus to issue the following command and send it out in writing to be read aloud everywhere in his empire: 23“This is the command of Cyrus, Emperor of Persia. The Lord, the God of Heaven, has made me ruler over the whole world and has given me the responsibility of building a temple for him in Jerusalem in Judah. Now, all of you who are God’s people, go there, and may the Lord your God be with you.”  GNT

 Questions for Section C

God Has Control over Each Person

God has control over people’s hearts and minds

1Sam 10:9a  When Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul’s heart.  NCV™

Ex 12:36  The Lord caused the Egyptians to think well of them, and the Egyptians gave the people everything they asked for. So the Israelites took rich gifts from them.  NCV™

God has control over people’s actions . . .

Dan 5:23b  [Daniel, to King Belshazzar:] But you have not glorified the God who has in his control your very breath and all your ways!  NET

Eccl 9:1a  [A wise teacher:] In light of all of this, I committed myself to explain it this way: the righteous and the wise, along with everything they do, are in the hands of God.  ISV

God has control over (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV) that which is said to be in his “hands”. Here this would encompass what the righteous actually do, along with the success and effect of these deeds.

. . . Despite people’s plans, their steps are directed by God

Prov 16:9  A person plans his course, but the Lord directs his steps.  NET

God controls the good and bad things that happen to people

Lam 3:38  Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that everything comes – both calamity and blessing?  NET

Eccl 7:14  In times of prosperity be joyful, but in times of adversity consider this: God has made one as well as the other, so that no one can discover what the future holds.  NET

God determines the length of people’s lives . . .

Job 14:5  [Job, to God:] Since man’s days are determined, the number of his months is under your control; you have set his limit and he cannot pass it.  NET

Ps 139:16b  [David, to God:] All the days ordained for me were recorded in your scroll before one of them came into existence.  NET

. . . and God finishes people’s lives

Ps 90:3, 5a  [A psalmist, to God:] At your command we die and turn back to dust,5You bring our lives to an end just like a dream.  CEV

Note: The life of every person is in God’s hands

Job 12:10  The life of every living creature and the spirit in every human body are in his hands.  GW

 Questions for Section D

Addendum: God’s Early Dealings with Humankind

From the time he created the first people, God has ruled over them, exerting his authority and control when necessary – as evidenced throughout this section.

God’s creation of the first people, in an ideal environment

Gen 2:7-10a  Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the earth and blew the breath of life into his nostrils. The man became a living being. 8The Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east. That’s where he put the man whom he had formed. 9The Lord God made all the trees grow out of the ground. These trees were nice to look at, and their fruit was good to eat. The tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil grew in the middle of the garden. 10A river flowed from Eden to water the garden.  GW

Gen 2:22-23  Then the Lord God formed a woman from the rib that he had taken from the man. He brought her to the man. 23The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. She will be named woman because she was taken from man.”  GW

The man and the woman are of course Adam and Eve, who also are in view in the following subsection.

Humankind’s original sin . . .

Gen 3:2-6  And the woman [Eve] said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.  ESV

Note that generally Satan is understood to be behind the serpent’s action, speaking through the serpent.

. . . The judgment for sin – including death and expulsion from the Garden of Eden

Gen 3:22-23  Then the Lord God said, “The man has become like one of us, since he knows good and evil. He must not reach out and take the fruit from the tree of life and eat. Then he would live forever.” 23So the Lord God sent the man out of the Garden of Eden to farm the ground from which the man had been formed.  GW

Verse 22 effectively speaks of the punishment of death (cf. v. 3 ), with people no longer able to eat from the tree of life and live forever.

The flood and Noah: Escalated sin and judgment; righteousness and salvation

Gen 6:12-14, 17-19  God saw the earth, and indeed it was ruined, for all living creatures on the earth were sinful. 13So God said to Noah, “I have decided that all living creatures must die, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. Now I am about to destroy them and the earth. 14Make for yourself an ark of cypress wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it with pitch inside and out.17I am about to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy from under the sky all the living creatures that have the breath of life in them. Everything that is on the earth will die, 18but I will confirm my covenant with you. You will enter the ark – you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. 19You must bring into the ark two of every kind of living creature from all flesh, male and female, to keep them alive with you.  NET

Gen 7:1, 23  The Lord said to Noah, “Go into the ship with your whole family because I have seen that you alone are righteous among the people of today.23Every living creature on the face of the earth was wiped out. Humans, domestic animals, crawling creatures, and birds were wiped off the earth. Only Noah and those with him in the ship were left.  GW

The Tower of Babel: Sinful pride and the dispersion of humankind

Gen 11:1-9  The whole earth had a common language and a common vocabulary. 2When the people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. 3Then they said to one another, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” (They had brick instead of stone and tar instead of mortar.) 4Then they said, “Come, let’s build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens so that we may make a name for ourselves. Otherwise we will be scattered across the face of the entire earth.” 5But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower that the people had started building. 6And the Lord said, “If as one people all sharing a common language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be beyond them. 7Come, let’s go down and confuse their language so they won’t be able to understand each other.” 8So the Lord scattered them from there across the face of the entire earth, and they stopped building the city. 9That is why its name was called Babel – because there the Lord confused the language of the entire world, and from there the Lord scattered them across the face of the entire earth.  NET

Verse 4 suggests that human pride was behind the building of this tower, known as the Tower of Babel. With the people’s pride fuelling their aspirations and accomplishments, God would have foreseen the potential for self-reliance and rebellion against him. As such God confused their language (v. 7), so that they did not speak the same language (v. 6). Moreover – in direct contrast to the people’s second objective for the tower (v. 4b) – God scattered them throughout the earth (v. 9b).

 Questions for Section E

Pray for persecuted Christians