TBU: The Bible Unpacked: In-Depth 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  … yet your father has cheated me and changed my wages ten times. But God did not permit him to harm me. ▤ 

God had kept in check Laban’s ill treatment of Jacob.

Num 24:12-13  And Balaam said to Balak, “Did I not tell your messengers whom you sent to me, 13‘If Balak should give me his house full of silver and gold, I would not be able to go beyond the word of the Lord, to do either good or bad of my own will. What the Lord speaks, that will I speak’? ▤ 

Balaam was a pagan diviner who Balak, the king of Moab, hired to curse the Israelites. But due to God’s intervention Balaam could not, or would dare not. Instead God made him bless the Israelites (cf. Num 23:11-12; and God can use evil for the benefit of people).

1Sam 2:25  [Eli, to his sons:] If someone sins against a man, God will mediate for him, but if someone sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him?” But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for it was the will of the Lord to put them to death. ▤ 

Eli’s wicked sons were unwilling to respond to their father’s rebuke to change their ways. This is attributed in part at least to God’s will – no doubt as a judgment, so that punishment for their past wickedness would not be averted. Thus it illustrates God’s control over such evil people – and over their destiny.

2Sam 7:10-11a  And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, 11from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. ▤ 

God has control over the activities of evil people. At times he allows them to oppress and at other times prevents them from doing so.

Job 12:16  With him are strength and sound wisdom; the deceived and the deceiver are his. ▤ 

Those who deceive – as well as those who are deceived – “are in his power” (GNT, NLT).

Prov 16:4  The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble. ▤ 

God has a purpose for everything – even the wicked fit into his purposes and plans. In fact this verse may imply that God makes the wicked for a time of punishment (cf. NLT).

Ezek 14:9  And if the prophet is deceived and speaks a word, I, the Lord, have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand against him and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel. ▤ 

This is speaking of false prophets, reflecting God’s sovereignty over them and their words – as well as their end. It would appear that God’s deceiving of such a prophet would be part of his judgment of them, culminating in destruction.

1Cor 10:13  No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. ▤ 

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.

2Thes 2:7  For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. ▤ 

The “mystery of lawlessness” refers to that which is expressed through the “man of lawlessness” (v. 3) who is quite likely the final antichrist. There are a number of theories as to whom or what is “he who now restrains it” (vv. 6-7) – ensuring that the man of lawlessness is revealed at the right time and not before (ESVSB). It would appear to be one who will be both given power to do so and “taken out of the way” (NIV®) by God. As such this demonstrates God’s control over this force of “lawlessness”, initially through “he who now restrains it”.

  • God prevented David from doing wrong:

1Sam 25:26, 34, 39a  [Abigail, to David:] Now then, my lord, as the Lord lives, and as your soul lives, because the Lord has restrained you from bloodguilt and from saving with your own hand, now then let your enemies and those who seek to do evil to my lord be as Nabal. ▤  … [David, to Abigail:] 34For as surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, who has restrained me from hurting you, unless you had hurried and come to meet me, truly by morning there had not been left to Nabal so much as one male.” ▤ 39When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, “Blessed be the Lord who has avenged the insult I received at the hand of Nabal, and has kept back his servant from wrongdoing. The Lord has returned the evil of Nabal on his own head.” ▤ 

God can use evil

See also:

1Sam 18:10a  The next day a harmful spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house while David was playing the lyre, as he did day by day. ▤ 

The “harmful spirit” is generally understood to have been an “evil spirit” (AMP, CEV, GNT, NASB, NCV, NIV, NRSV). For further comment, see 16:14-16 in God can use evil and wrongdoing to punish.

2Sam 16:10-11  But the king said, “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the Lord has said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’” 11And David said to Abishai and to all his servants, “Behold, my own son seeks my life; how much more now may this Benjaminite! Leave him alone, and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. ▤ 

David considered that the ill treatment he was receiving may well have been of God.

2Sam 24:1  Again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go, number Israel and Judah.” ▤ 

1 Chronicles 21:1 says that it was Satan who incited David. It seems reasonable then to conclude from these two accounts that God used Satan to do this – illustrating God’s use of evil. Even apart from Satan’s involvement, this incident still illustrates God’s use of evil as the action of taking a census was itself sinful. For taking a census – in particular of the fighting men (cf. v. 2) – displayed a lack of trust in God by David, who by doing this was looking to the strength of his own forces. God used the ramifications of this to bring judgment on Israel (cf. v. 15), apparently as punishment for something Israel had done earlier for which God’s anger “was kindled against Israel”.

Ps 105:24-25  And the Lord made his people very fruitful and made them stronger than their foes. 25He turned their hearts to hate his people, to deal craftily with his servants. ▤ 

The reference is to the Egyptians, in particular Pharaoh, reflecting that God’s sovereignty over his people’s destiny can involve even the malice of their enemies against them.

John 11:49-52  But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” 51He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. ▤ 

Caiaphas wickedly oversaw the trial of Jesus which was engineered to condemn Jesus. But despite this evil context, God used Caiaphas – who “did not say this of his own accord” (v. 51) – to make a profound prophecy of Jesus’ death and what it would accomplish.

Eph 4:6  … one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. ▤ 

The phrase “through all” may well mean “works through all” (GNT, cf. CEV). Note that “all” quite likely means all things or all people – arguably then inclusive of evil – but all Christians may instead be primarily in view.

Matt 2:1-2  Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise menc from the east came to Jerusalem, 2saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rosed and have come to worship him.” ▤ 

c Greek magi; also verses 7, 16

d Or in the east; also verse 9

A number of commentators think it likely that the “wise men” or magi (cf. text note) practiced astrology, a practice spoken of as evil or forbidden elsewhere in the Bible (cf. Isa 47:13-15; Jer 8:2). If this was the case, then it would appear that God used astrology – something understood as evil – to make a revelation to pagan people.

God can use evil to fulfill his purposes

See also:

Note that some of the verses in the previous subsection, to varying degrees, reflect that God can use evil to fulfill his purposes. The ones in this subsection do so more pointedly.

Acts 2:23  … this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. ▤ 

Acts 4:27-28  … for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. ▤ 

Those mentioned were not all necessarily particularly evil in themselves, but their actions against Jesus basically were evil.

Rom 9:17  For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” ▤ 

Rom 11:15, 25, 32  For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? ▤ 25Lest you be wise in your own sight, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers:e a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. ▤ 32For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all. ▤ 

e Or brothers and sisters

The phrase “their rejection” (v. 15) may refer to the Jew’s rejection of God’s way of salvation (cf. CEV). This sinful rejection by the Jews was part of God’s plan to fulfill his purpose of providing salvation to the Gentiles (vv. 25, 32) – hence the inclusion of v. 15 here. However it could instead be speaking of God rejecting the Jews (cf. GNT, NCV, NKJV).

Verse 32 can be interpreted as speaking of God sovereignly binding all people over to disobeying him, which is essentially to do evil, for his purpose of offering his mercy to all. However it is probably more often understood to mean that “God has imprisoned all people in their own disobedience” (NLT, cf. CEV).

Rev 17:17  … for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled. ▤ 

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

Ezek 38:16-18, 21-23  You will come up against my people Israel, like a cloud covering the land. In the latter days I will bring you against my land, that the nations may know me, when through you, O Gog, I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. 17“Thus says the Lord God: Are you he of whom I spoke in former days by my servants the prophets of Israel, who in those days prophesied for years that I would bring you against them? 18But on that day, the day that Gog shall come against the land of Israel, declares the Lord God, my wrath will be roused in my anger. ▤ 21I will summon a sword against Gogf on all my mountains, declares the Lord God. Every man’s sword will be against his brother. 22With pestilence and bloodshed I will enter into judgment with him, and I will rain upon him and his hordes and the many peoples who are with him torrential rains and hailstones, fire and sulfur. 23So I will show my greatness and my holiness and make myself known in the eyes of many nations. Then they will know that I am the Lord. ▤ 

f Hebrew against him

Note v. 17 appears to refer to prophecies in general that speak of future attacks on Israel by sizable enemy forces.

  • God’s apparent use of insincere preachers to spread the gospel:

Phil 1:15, 17-18a  Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. ▤ 17The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. ▤ 

God can use evil and wrongdoing to punish

Judg 9:23-24  And God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem, and the leaders of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech, 24that the violence done to the seventy sons of Jerubbaal might come, and their blood be laid on Abimelech their brother, who killed them, and on the men of Shechem, who strengthened his hands to kill his brothers. ▤ 

1Sam 16:14-16  Now the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and a harmful spirit from the Lord tormented him. 15And Saul’s servants said to him, “Behold now, a harmful spirit from God is tormenting you. 16Let our lord now command your servants who are before you to seek out a man who is skillful in playing the lyre, and when the harmful spirit from God is upon you, he will play it, and you will be well.” ▤ 

It would appear that the “harmful” spirit was an evil spirit from God sent as a punishment for Saul’s disobedient.

1Ki 22:20-23  … and the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said one thing, and another said another. 21Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, saying, ‘I will entice him.’ 22And the Lord said to him, ‘By what means?’ And he said, ‘I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And he said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.’ 23Now therefore behold, the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the Lord has declared disaster for you. ▤ 

The “lying spirit” is often considered to be an evil spirit or demon, used by God to instigate Ahab’s downfall.

Isa 10:5-7  Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger; the staff in their hands is my fury! 6Against a godless nation I send him, and against the people of my wrath I command him, to take spoil and seize plunder, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. 7But he does not so intend, and his heart does not so think; but it is in his heart to destroy, and to cut off nations not a few; … ▤ 

Verse 7 shows the Assyrians to have been wicked. Despite this God used them to punish other godless people (vv. 5-6).

Isa 54:16  Behold, I have created the smith who blows the fire of coals and produces a weapon for its purpose. I have also created the ravager to destroy; … ▤ 

As shown in 10:5-7 above, God raises up destructive and often wicked nations to execute his judgment. Assyria (cf. Isa 10:5-7 ) and Babylonia (cf. Hab 1:6-13 ), who God had used to punish Israel, are primarily in view – but arguably this can be said of all such destructive nations.

Hab 1:6-13  For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, who march through the breadth of the earth, to seize dwellings not their own. 7They are dreaded and fearsome; their justice and dignity go forth from themselves. 8Their horses are swifter than leopards, more fierce than the evening wolves; their horsemen press proudly on. Their horsemen come from afar; they fly like an eagle swift to devour. 9They all come for violence, all their faces forward. They gather captives like sand. 10At kings they scoff, and at rulers they laugh. They laugh at every fortress, for they pile up earth and take it. 11Then they sweep by like the wind and go on, guilty men, whose own might is their god!” 12Are you not from everlasting, O Lord my God, my Holy One? We shall not die. O Lord, you have ordained them as a judgment, and you, O Rock, have established them for reproof. 13You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he? ▤ 

God’s use of the evil Babylonians “to execute judgment” and so “to punish” (v. 12) led to Habakkuk questioning God about it (v. 13). Note that v. 6b is indicating that the Babylonians acted only as they themselves saw fit.

  • God may use evil people’s wickedness in bringing punishment on them:

Josh 11:20  For it was the Lord’s doing to harden their hearts that they should come against Israel in battle, in order that they should be devoted to destruction and should receive no mercy but be destroyed, just as the Lord commanded Moses. ▤ 

Note that one such occurrence in view here is contained in Deuteronomy 2:30 – “But Sihon the king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him, for the Lord your God hardened his spirit and made his heart obstinate, that he might give him into your hand, as he is this day.”

God can use evil for the benefit of people

Gen 45:4-8  So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. 5And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. 7And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. ▤ 

Gen 50:20  [Joseph:] As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many peopleg should be kept alive, as they are today. ▤ 

g Or a numerous people

Ex 10:1-2  Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them, 2and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the Lord.” ▤ 

God hardened Pharaoh’s heart for the good of the Israelites – i.e. that through God’s miraculous signs they would know that he was the Lord (as well be set free).

Num 23:11-12  And Balak said to Balaam, “What have you done to me? I took you to curse my enemies, and behold, you have done nothing but bless them.” 12And he answered and said, “Must I not take care to speak what the Lord puts in my mouth?” ▤ 

As noted earlier, Balaam was a pagan diviner hired by Balak to curse the Israelites. Instead God used this evil man to bless the Israelites.

2Cor 12:7-9  So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations,h a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. ▤ 

h Or hears from me, even because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations. So to keep me from becoming conceited

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).

Pray for persecuted Christians

God Has Control over Nature

See also:

God directs nature

Note that God Maintains Creation, cross-referenced above, has a number of subsections pertinent to this subsection’s theme. The verses in this subsection are somewhat distinct in that they have a more authoritative tone, emphasizing God’s direction or control over nature. Arguably they should be generally understood as speaking of God as having created nature and set its forces in motion, while maintaining his control over it – rather than meaning that God necessarily needs to direct every occurrence of natural phenomena.

Job 36:32  He covers his hands with the lightning and commands it to strike the mark. ▤ 

Job 37:11-12, 14-15  He loads the thick cloud with moisture; the clouds scatter his lightning. 12They turn around and around by his guidance, to accomplish all that he commands them on the face of the habitable world. ▤ 14“Hear this, O Job; stop and consider the wondrous works of God. 15Do you know how God lays his command upon them and causes the lightning of his cloud to shine? ▤ 

Ps 78:23-24  Yet he commanded the skies above and opened the doors of heaven, 24and he rained down on them manna to eat and gave them the grain of heaven. ▤ 

Ps 89:9  You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them. ▤ 

Ps 147:15-18  He sends out his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly. 16He gives snow like wool; he scatters hoarfrost like ashes. 17He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs; who can stand before his cold? 18He sends out his word, and melts them; he makes his wind blow and the waters flow. ▤ 

Lev 14:34-35  When you come into the land of Canaan, which I give you for a possession, and I put a case of leprous disease in a house in the land of your possession, 35then he who owns the house shall come and tell the priest, ‘There seems to me to be some case of disease in my house.’ ▤ 

The term translated here as “leprous disease” may refer to a “spreading mildew” (GNT). Even such things as the blight of mildew are portrayed as being under God’s control.

Nature serves God

See also:

Ps 104:3-4  He lays the beams of his chambers on the waters; he makes the clouds his chariot; he rides on the wings of the wind; 4he makes his messengers winds, his ministers a flaming fire. ▤ 

Verse 3b appears to be figuratively portraying clouds and winds as God’s servants (cf. NIrV), being subservient to God. Verse 4 may well be similarly speaking of winds and lightning (cf. AMP, CEV, GNT, NASB, NCV, NIV, NKJV, NLT, NRSV) as his “messengers” and “ministers”, i.e. his servants.

Ps 119:91  By your appointment they stand this day, for all things are your servants. ▤ 

All things serve God, including all aspects of “nature”.

Ps 148:7-8  Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all deeps, 8fire and hail, snow and mist, stormy wind fulfilling his word! ▤ 

Isa 48:13  My hand laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens; when I call to them, they stand forth together. ▤ 

When God summons the earth and the heavens, “they come at once and present themselves” (GNT), ready to “obey my every command” (CEV). This portrays all creation as being at God’s “beck and call”.

  • God uses elements of nature as combative forces:

Job 38:22-23  Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, or have you seen the storehouses of the hail, 23which I have reserved for the time of trouble, for the day of battle and war? ▤ 

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

See also:

Lev 25:21  I will command my blessing on you in the sixth year, so that it will produce a crop sufficient for three years. ▤ 

Deut 33:13-16  And of Joseph he said, “Blessed by the Lord be his land, with the choicest gifts of heaven above,i and of the deep that crouches beneath, 14with the choicest fruits of the sun and the rich yield of the months, 15with the finest produce of the ancient mountains and the abundance of the everlasting hills, 16with the best gifts of the earth and its fullness and the favor of him who dwells in the bush. May these rest on the head of Joseph, on the pate of him who is prince among his brothers. ▤ 

i Two Hebrew manuscripts and Targum; Hebrew with the dew

Jacob’s blessing of Joseph implies that God is able to provide such abundant blessings of nature. Note that “him who dwells in the bush” (v. 16) refers to God’s manifestation to Moses in the burning bush.

Ps 78:15-16  He split rocks in the wilderness and gave them drink abundantly as from the deep. 16He made streams come out of the rock and caused waters to flow down like rivers. ▤ 

Ps 107:35-38  He turns a desert into pools of water, a parched land into springs of water. 36And there he lets the hungry dwell, and they establish a city to live in; 37they sow fields and plant vineyards and get a fruitful yield. 38By his blessing they multiply greatly, and he does not let their livestock diminish. ▤ 

Isa 41:18-20  I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys. I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. 19I will put in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive. I will set in the desert the cypress, the plane and the pine together, 20that they may see and know, may consider and understand together, that the hand of the Lord has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it. ▤ 

This is usually understood to refer initially at least to God’s rich provision for the Israelites returning from exile in Babylon. Some commentators think it refers to conditions in the renewed Israel in the Millennium. Note that similar references to God providing “water” in harsh and dry conditions are made in 35:6-7; 43:19-20; 44:3. These and the passage here may well have both literal and figurative (or spiritual) applications.

Joel 2:19, 22-24  The Lord answered and said to his people, “Behold, I am sending to you grain, wine, and oil, and you will be satisfied; and I will no more make you a reproach among the nations. ▤ 22Fear not, you beasts of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness are green; the tree bears its fruit; the fig tree and vine give their full yield. 23“Be glad, O children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given the early rain for your vindication; he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the latter rain, as before. 24“The threshing floors shall be full of grain; the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. ▤ 

Zec 8:12  For there shall be a sowing of peace. The vine shall give its fruit, and the ground shall give its produce, and the heavens shall give their dew. And I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things. ▤ 

James 5:17-18  Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. ▤ 

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

See also:

Lev 26:19-20  … and I will break the pride of your power, and I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze. 20And your strength shall be spent in vain, for your land shall not yield its increase, and the trees of the land shall not yield their fruit. ▤ 

Ps 107:33-34  He turns rivers into a desert, springs of water into thirsty ground, 34a fruitful land into a salty waste, because of the evil of its inhabitants. ▤ 

Jer 51:36  Therefore thus says the Lord: “Behold, I will plead your cause and take vengeance for you. I will dry up her sea and make her fountain dry, … ▤ 

The second half of the verse appears to be speaking of God drying up the Euphrates River and therefore Babylon’s water supply, presumably through lack of rain. Alternatively, the language may be figurative.

Amos 4:7  I also withheld the rain from you when there were yet three months to the harvest; I would send rain on one city, and send no rain on another city; one field would have rain, and the field on which it did not rain would wither; … ▤ 

Hag 1:10-11  Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. 11And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast, and on all their labors. ▤ 

Hag 2:17  I struck you and all the products of your toil with blight and with mildew and with hail, yet you did not turn to me, declares the Lord. ▤ 

Blight is a disease affecting plants and crops.

Job 12:15  If he withholds the waters, they dry up; if he sends them out, they overwhelm the land. ▤ 

Note that second part of the verse speaks of God using rains to devastate the land (cf. Job 37:13 ).

  • God can use nature both to punish and, in contrast, to show his love:

Job 37:11-13  He loads the thick cloud with moisture; the clouds scatter his lightning. 12They turn around and around by his guidance, to accomplish all that he commands them on the face of the habitable world. 13Whether for correction or for his land or for love, he causes it to happen. ▤ 

God has control over all creatures

See also:

Gen 7:15-16  They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life. 16And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him. And the Lord shut him in. ▤ 

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

1Ki 17:4-6  You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” 5So he went and did according to the word of the Lord. He went and lived by the brook Cherith that is east of the Jordan. 6And the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook. ▤ 

Ps 78:27-29  … he rained meat on them like dust, winged birds like the sand of the seas; 28he let them fall in the midst of their camp, all around their dwellings. 29And they ate and were well filled, for he gave them what they craved. ▤ 

Isa 34:15-16  There the owl nests and lays and hatches and gathers her young in her shadow; indeed, there the hawks are gathered, each one with her mate. 16Seek and read from the book of the Lord: Not one of these shall be missing; none shall be without her mate. For the mouth of the Lord has commanded, and his Spirit has gathered them. ▤ 

Note that the reference is to judgment on Edom. Such will be its desolation that the land will only be inhabited by such creatures – gathered there by the command and Spirit of God.

Jer 27:6  Now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, my servant, and I have given him also the beasts of the field to serve him. ▤ 

Dan 6:22  My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm. ▤ 

Hos 2:18  And I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolishj the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety. ▤ 

j Hebrew break

God will cause all creatures to live in peace with the renewed Israel of the future – no longer will they harm the people or their crops.

Jonah 2:10  And the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land. ▤ 

In addition to birds and animals (which are largely in view in the above passages) God also has control over fish – and insects (cf. Joel 2:20, 25 ).

Joel 2:20, 25  I will remove the northerner far from you, and drive him into a parched and desolate land, his vanguardk into the eastern sea, and his rear guardl into the western sea; the stench and foul smell of him will rise, for he has done great things. ▤ 25I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you. ▤ 

k Hebrew face

l Hebrew his end

Verse 20 speaks of God driving away a great locust plague, which he had also sent (v. 25).

God can perform miracles of nature . . .

See also:

Numerous other references used in the above subsections also illustrate that God can perform miracles of nature. The ones in this and the following subsection are generally more miraculous.

Ex 3:2  And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. ▤ 

Num 22:28  Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” ▤ 

Judg 13:3, 24a  And the angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold, you are barren and have not borne children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. ▤ 24And the woman bore a son and called his name Samson. ▤ 

1Ki 17:12-16  And she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.” 13And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son. 14For thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth.’” 15And she went and did as Elijah said. And she and he and her household ate for many days. 16The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah. ▤ 

2Ki 2:19-22  Now the men of the city said to Elisha, “Behold, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord sees, but the water is bad, and the land is unfruitful.” 20He said, “Bring me a new bowl, and put salt in it.” So they brought it to him. 21Then he went to the spring of water and threw salt in it and said, “Thus says the Lord, I have healed this water; from now on neither death nor miscarriage shall come from it.” 22So the water has been healed to this day, according to the word that Elisha spoke. ▤ 

Exodus 15:25a tells of a similar miracle concerning water that was bitter – “And he cried to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.”

2Ki 3:17, 20  For thus says the Lord, ‘You shall not see wind or rain, but that streambed shall be filled with water, so that you shall drink, you, your livestock, and your animals.’ ▤ 20The next morning, about the time of offering the sacrifice, behold, water came from the direction of Edom, till the country was filled with water. ▤ 

2Ki 4:32-35  When Elisha came into the house, he saw the child lying dead on his bed. 33So he went in and shut the door behind the two of them and prayed to the Lord. 34Then he went up and lay on the child, putting his mouth on his mouth, his eyes on his eyes, and his hands on his hands. And as he stretched himself upon him, the flesh of the child became warm. 35Then he got up again and walked once back and forth in the house, and went up and stretched himself upon him. The child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes. ▤ 

Although not always expressly stated, Elisha – God’s prophet – performed such miracles through God’s power (cf. 2Ki 2:19-22 ; 2Ki 3:17, 20 ). Note that the woman was a Shunammite who had shown much hospitality to Elisha (cf. vv. 8-10).

2Ki 4:40-41  And they poured out some for the men to eat. But while they were eating of the stew, they cried out, “O man of God, there is death in the pot!” And they could not eat it. 41He said, “Then bring flour.” And he threw it into the pot and said, “Pour some out for the men, that they may eat.” And there was no harm in the pot. ▤ 

2Ki 5:14  So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. ▤ 

The man, Naaman, had had leprosy.

2Ki 6:4-7  So he went with them. And when they came to the Jordan, they cut down trees. 5But as one was felling a log, his axe head fell into the water, and he cried out, “Alas, my master! It was borrowed.” 6Then the man of God said, “Where did it fall?” When he showed him the place, he [Elisha] cut off a stick and threw it in there and made the iron float. 7And he said, “Take it up.” So he reached out his hand and took it. ▤ 

. . . God can miraculously use nature for his purposes

See also:

  • [Means of God’s judicial retribution:] Nature

Note that God also performed for his purposes the miracles mentioned in the previous subsection, but the extracts in this subsection generally show this more clearly.

Ex 4:2-9  The Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.” 3And he said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it. 4But the Lord said to Moses, “Put out your hand and catch it by the tail”—so he put out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand— 5“that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.” 6Again, the Lord said to him, “Put your hand inside your cloak.”m And he put his hand inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprousn like snow. 7Then God said, “Put your hand back inside your cloak.” So he put his hand back inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, it was restored like the rest of his flesh. 8“If they will not believe you,” God said, “or listen to the first sign, they may believe the latter sign. 9If they will not believe even these two signs or listen to your voice, you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground, and the water that you shall take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.” ▤ 

m Hebrew into your bosom; also verse 7

n Leprosy was a term for several skin diseases; see Leviticus 13

Ex 16:12-15  “I have heard the grumbling of the people of Israel. Say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’” 13In the evening quail came up and covered the camp, and in the morning dew lay around the camp. 14And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground. 15When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?”o For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. ▤ 

o Or “It is manna.” Hebrew man hu

God used the quail and the flakes that formed from the dew to not only satisfy the desires of the people but also to again make known that he was the Lord their God (v. 12b).

Num 17:5, 8  And the staff of the man whom I choose shall sprout. Thus I will make to cease from me the grumblings of the people of Israel, which they grumble against you.” ▤ 8On the next day Moses went into the tent of the testimony, and behold, the staff of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds. ▤ 

Josh 4:23-24  For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, 24so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”p ▤ 

p Or all the days

Josh 10:11-14  And as they fled before Israel, while they were going down the ascent of Beth-horon, the Lord threw down large stones from heaven on them as far as Azekah, and they died. There were more who died because of the hailstones than the sons of Israel killed with the sword. 12At that time Joshua spoke to the Lord in the day when the Lord gave the Amorites over to the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, “Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.” 13And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies. Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in the midst of heaven and did not hurry to set for about a whole day. 14There has been no day like it before or since, when the Lord heeded the voice of a man, for the Lord fought for Israel. ▤ 

2Ki 20:9-11  And Isaiah said, “This shall be the sign to you from the Lord, that the Lord will do the thing that he has promised: shall the shadow go forward ten steps, or go back ten steps?” 10And Hezekiah answered, “It is an easy thing for the shadow to lengthen ten steps. Rather let the shadow go back ten steps.” 11And Isaiah the prophet called to the Lord, and he brought the shadow back ten steps, by which it had gone down on the steps of Ahaz. ▤ 

Ps 78:42-52  They did not remember his powerq or the day when he redeemed them from the foe, 43when he performed his signs in Egypt and his marvels in the fields of Zoan. 44He turned their rivers to blood, so that they could not drink of their streams. 45He sent among them swarms of flies, which devoured them, and frogs, which destroyed them. 46He gave their crops to the destroying locust and the fruit of their labor to the locust. 47He destroyed their vines with hail and their sycamores with frost. 48He gave over their cattle to the hail and their flocks to thunderbolts. 49He let loose on them his burning anger, wrath, indignation, and distress, a company of destroying angels. 50He made a path for his anger; he did not spare them from death, but gave their lives over to the plague. 51He struck down every firstborn in Egypt, the firstfruits of their strength in the tents of Ham. 52Then he led out his people like sheep and guided them in the wilderness like a flock. ▤ 

q Hebrew hand

  • God’s use of multiple elements of nature to teach Jonah a lesson:

Jonah 4:6-11  Now the Lord God appointed a plantr and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort.s So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. 7But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered. 8When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” 9But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” 10And the Lord said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. 11And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?” ▤ 

r Hebrew qiqayon, probably the castor oil plant; also verses 7, 9, 10

s Or his evil

Jonah had been angry that God had spared the people of Nineveh (cf. vv. 1-2). So, in conjunction with the sun, God maneuvered different elements of nature – vegetation, a wind, the sun and a creature (vv. 6-8) – to teach Jonah a lesson (vv. 9-11). Earlier of course God had miraculously employed a great fish – “And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” (1:17)

Pray for persecuted Christians

God Has Control over the Nations

God is in control of the nations

See also:

Ps 67:4  Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Selah ▤ 

Isa 14:26-27  This is the purpose that is purposed concerning the whole earth, and this is the hand that is stretched out over all the nations. 27For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back? ▤ 

What God determines for the whole world does take place, for his power to impose his will overshadows all nations. For God “controls every nation” (CEV) – none can prevent him from implementing his purposes concerning them.

Gen 15:13-16  Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15As for yourself, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. 16And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” ▤ 

This shows God’s sovereignty over not only his people Israel but also Egypt and the Amorites. The latter part of v. 16 refers to God’s plan to destroy the Amorites once their sin had “reached the point” (NIrV®) where God determined that it could no longer go unpunished.

Jer 27:6-7  Now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, my servant, and I have given him also the beasts of the field to serve him. 7All the nations shall serve him and his son and his grandson, until the time of his own land comes. Then many nations and great kings shall make him their slave. ▤ 

Ezek 17:24  And all the trees of the field shall know that I am the Lord; I bring low the high tree, and make high the low tree, dry up the green tree, and make the dry tree flourish. I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it. ▤ 

Here and in Ezekiel 31:14 below the trees symbolize nations.

Ezek 31:14  All this is in order that no trees by the waters may grow to towering height or set their tops among the clouds, and that no trees that drink water may reach up to them in height. For they are all given over to death, to the world below, among the children of man,t with those who go down to the pit. ▤ 

t Or of Adam

Proud Assyria (cf. v. 3) and its downfall are primarily in view. The verse speaks of God curtailing the power of nations, in particular those in the region of “the waters”, probably the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

Dan 2:37-40, 44  You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, 38and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all—you are the head of gold. 39Another kingdom inferior to you shall arise after you, and yet a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. 40And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, because iron breaks to pieces and shatters all things. And like iron that crushes, it shall break and crush all these. ▤ 44And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, … ▤ 

Here Daniel explains to Nebuchadnezzar – the king of Babylon – what God has revealed in the king’s dream of future empires. The empires spoken of as following the Neo-Babylonian Empire are: the Medo-Persian Empire; the Grecian Empire, established by Alexander the Great; and the Roman Empire. The dream implies that the rise and fall of such empires is according to what God has determined. Commentators generally understand the eternal, all-conquering kingdom of v. 44 to be the kingdom of God.

Dan 4:25b  You shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and you shall be wet with the dew of heaven, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will. ▤ 

Amos 3:6  Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it? ▤ 

What is said here in regard to cities is readily applicable to nations. When disaster strikes a city or nation, God is ultimately behind it.

God has been in control of the nations throughout history

See also:

Acts 17:26  And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, … ▤ 

Deut 32:8  When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the bordersu of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God.v ▤ 

u Or territories

v Compare Dead Sea Scroll, Septuagint; Masoretic Text Israel

This speaks of God determining where nations would live. Note that the second part of the verse may mean that in determining the boundaries for the nations, God ensured that the land he would give to Israel would be of sufficient size (cf. text note).

Isa 41:4  Who has performed and done this, calling the generations from the beginning? I, the Lord, the first, and with the last; I am he. ▤ 

God “has controlled history” (NCV™, cf. GNT, NLT) since the first generation; and he will continue to do so through to the last.

Amos 9:7  “Are you not like the Cushites to me, O people of Israel?” declares the Lord. “Did I not bring up Israel from the land of Egypt, and the Philistines from Caphtor and the Syrians from Kir? ▤ 

Acts 14:16  In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. ▤ 

The implication is that the nations had this liberty only because God allowed it. This points to God being in control of the nations in the past.

God appoints times for events affecting the nations

See also:

In the following verses, references to appointed times all refer to times appointed by God.

Ps 75:2  At the set time that I appoint I will judge with equity. ▤ 

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.

Ps 102:13  You will arise and have pity on Zion; it is the time to favor her; the appointed time has come. ▤ 

Dan 8:19  He said, “Behold, I will make known to you what shall be at the latter end of the indignation, for it refers to the appointed time of the end. ▤ 

The “appointed time of the end” (v. 19) appears to refer to the end of the period of history in view, with “the indignation” referring to manifestation/s of God’s wrath (cf. AMP, CEV, GNT, NCV) amongst nations.

Dan 11:27-29  And as for the two kings, their hearts shall be bent on doing evil. They shall speak lies at the same table, but to no avail, for the end is yet to be at the time appointed. 28And he shall return to his land with great wealth, but his heart shall be set against the holy covenant. And he shall work his will and return to his own land. 29“At the time appointed he shall return and come into the south, but it shall not be this time as it was before. ▤ 

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” may be speaking of the end of Antiochus’ plans to expand his dominion into Egypt.

Hab 2:3  For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. ▤ 

This verse referred to and was initially fulfilled in “the end” of Babylon in 539 B.C. The writer to the Hebrews applies it to Jesus Christ’s return (cf. Heb 10:37). The clause “it hastens to the end” may speak of the time fast approaching (cf. GNT) or be alluding to the certainty of its coming (cf. NLT).

Luke 21:24  They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. ▤ 

The “times of the Gentiles” appears to most likely refer to the period of the Gentiles’ domination over Jerusalem, a period designated by God.

Acts 7:17  But as the time of the promise drew near, which God had granted to Abraham, the people increased and multiplied in Egypt … ▤ 

This is referring to God’s promise to Abraham that his descendants would possess the promised land (cf. v. 5). The time designated by God not only involved events affecting the nation of Israel, but also Egypt and the nations of Canaan – the latter whom would be crushed and dispossessed by Israel.

  • God controls the course of world events:

Dan 2:21  He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; … ▤ 

“He changes times and seasons” likely means that God controls and “determines the course of world events” (NLT; cf. CEV), with the various eras or “epochs” (NASB).

God has control over the outcome of conflicts between nations

2Chr 25:8  But go, act, be strong for the battle. Why should you suppose that God will cast you down before the enemy? For God has power to help or to cast down. ▤ 

1Sam 17:47  … and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand. ▤ 

The battle – including its outcome – belonged to God.

1Chr 5:21-22  They carried off their livestock: 50,000 of their camels, 250,000 sheep, 2,000 donkeys, and 100,000 men alive. 22For many fell, because the war was of God. And they lived in their place until the exile. ▤ 

The expression “the war was of God” appears to mean that “the war was God’s” (NKJV; cf. AMP, NIV), in that he provided Israel’s victory (cf. CEV, NCV, NLT). Alternatively, or in addition, it may be meaning that “the war was God’s will” (GNT).

Prov 21:31  The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord. ▤ 

Judg 11:27, 32  I therefore have not sinned against you, and you do me wrong by making war on me. The Lord, the Judge, decide this day between the people of Israel and the people of Ammon.” ▤ 32So Jephthah crossed over to the Ammonites to fight against them, and the Lord gave them into his hand. ▤ 

In v. 27 Jephthah acknowledges that the outcome of any battle between the Israelites and the Ammonites would be in God’s hands – which indeed it was (v. 32).

2Sam 5:19-20  And David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will you give them into my hand?” And the Lord said to David, “Go up, for I will certainly give the Philistines into your hand.” 20And David came to Baal-perazim, and David defeated them there. And he said, “The Lord has burst through my enemies before me like a bursting flood.” Therefore the name of that place is called Baal-perazim.w ▤ 

w Baal-perazim means lord of bursting through

2Sam 10:12-13  Be of good courage, and let us be courageous for our people, and for the cities of our God, and may the Lord do what seems good to him.” 13So Joab and the people who were with him drew near to battle against the Syrians, and they fled before him. ▤ 

After encouraging his men (v. 12a), Joab then acknowledges God’s sovereignty over the outcome of the battle (v. 12b). In conjunction with Joab’s statement, God’s sovereignty over the battle is also suggested by the outcome (v. 13).

Dan 1:1-2  In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god. ▤ 

  • No matter what events beset the nations, God is in control:

Ps 75:3  When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants, it is I who keep steady its pillars. Selah ▤ 

God can thwart the plans of the nations

See also:

Ps 33:10  The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. ▤ 

Neh 4:15  When our enemies heard that it was known to us and that God had frustrated their plan, we all returned to the wall, each to his work. ▤ 

The peoples surrounding the Jews on their return from exile are in view here (cf. v. 7), with their antagonistic schemes.

Ps 2:1-6  Why do the nations ragex and the peoples plot in vain? 2The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, 3“Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” 4He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. 5Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, 6“As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” ▤ 

x Or nations noisily assemble

Isa 8:9-10  Be broken,y you peoples, and be shattered;z give ear, all you far countries; strap on your armor and be shattered; strap on your armor and be shattered. 10Take counsel together, but it will come to nothing; speak a word, but it will not stand, for God is with us.a ▤ 

y Or Be evil

z Or dismayed

a The Hebrew for God is with us is Immanuel

Isa 19:3  … and the spirit of the Egyptians within them will be emptied out, and I will confoundb their counsel; and they will inquire of the idols and the sorcerers, and the mediums and the necromancers; … ▤ 

b Or I will swallow up

The clause in question indicates that God would ruin the plans of the Egyptians.

Jer 19:7  And in this place I will make void the plans of Judah and Jerusalem, and will cause their people to fall by the sword before their enemies, and by the hand of those who seek their life. I will give their dead bodies for food to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the earth. ▤ 

Hab 2:13  Behold, is it not from the Lord of hosts that peoples labor merely for fire, and nations weary themselves for nothing? ▤ 

God determined that the wicked nations’ endeavors – their attempts to implement their plans – would come to nothing.

  • God frustrates the methods (and plans) of the crafty:

Job 5:12  He frustrates the devices of the crafty, so that their hands achieve no success. ▤ 

God establishes all ruling authorities

Rom 13:1-2  Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. ▤ 

Dan 4:17  The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men. ▤ 

1Sam 16:1  The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go. I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” ▤ 

This is referring to God’s choice of David as king of Israel, which David would recognize as shown in 2 Samuel 5:12 – “And David knew that the Lord had established him king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel.” (See also Psalms 18:43 below.)

1Ki 11:11-13  Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, “Since this has been your practice and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant. 12Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. 13However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem that I have chosen.” ▤ 

1Ki 19:15  And the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. ▤ 

2Chr 36:23a  “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth … ▤ 

Ps 18:43  [David:] You delivered me from strife with the people; you made me the head of the nations; people whom I had not known served me. ▤ 

Dan 2:21  He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; … ▤ 

Dan 2:37-38  You [Nebuchadnezzar], O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, 38and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all—you are the head of gold. ▤ 

John 19:10-11a  So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” 11Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. ▤ 

Jesus asserts that Pilate’s power – like that of all governing authorities – ultimately came from God.

  • Condemnation of Israel for setting up rulers without God’s consent:

Hos 8:4  They made kings, but not through me. They set up princes, but I knew it not. With their silver and gold they made idols for their own destruction. ▤ 

God has control over rulers . . .

See also:

Prov 21:1  The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will. ▤ 

Ex 7:3-4, 13  But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, 4Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. ▤ 13Still Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said. ▤ 

Note that nine times in Exodus chapters 7-14 God is spoken of as hardening Pharaoh’s heart (cf. Ex 10:1-2 ).

Deut 2:30  But Sihon the king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him, for the Lord your God hardened his spirit and made his heart obstinate, that he might give him into your hand, as he is this day. ▤ 

2Ki 19:7  Behold, I will put a spirit in him, so that he shall hear a rumor and return to his own land, and I will make him fall by the sword in his own land. ▤ 

The reference is to Sennacherib, the king of Assyria.

2Chr 25:20-22  But Amaziah would not listen, for it was of God, in order that he [God] might give them into the hand of their enemies, because they had sought the gods of Edom. 21So Joash king of Israel went up, and he and Amaziah king of Judah faced one another in battle at Beth-shemesh, which belongs to Judah. 22And Judah was defeated by Israel, and every man fled to his home. ▤ 

God caused Amaziah not to listen to the sound warning of Jehoash, king of Israel, to avoid war between their countries (cf. vv. 18-20), for God had determined to use Jehoash to punish Amaziah for his idolatry.

2Chr 35:21-22  [Neco, king of Egypt:] But he sent envoys to him, saying, “What have we to do with each other, king of Judah? I am not coming against you this day, but against the house with which I am at war. And God has commanded me to hurry. Cease opposing God, who is with me, lest he destroy you.” 22Nevertheless, Josiah did not turn away from him, but disguised himself in order to fight with him. He did not listen to the words of Neco from the mouth of God, but came to fight in the plain of Megiddo. ▤ 

Freely or otherwise, Neco had responded to God’s command (v. 21). Knowingly or otherwise, Neco was used by God to speak his words (v. 22). As such, these verses appear to reflect even illustrate God’s control over rulers.

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

See also:

Ex 9:16  But for this purpose I have raised you [Pharaoh] up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth. ▤ 

Ex 10:1-2  Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them, 2and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the Lord.” ▤ 

Similarly in 14:4 God says of his purpose in likewise hardening Pharaoh’s heart to pursue the Israelites after they had left Egypt was so that: “I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.”

1Ki 12:15  So the king did not listen to the people, for it was a turn of affairs brought about by the Lord that he might fulfill his word, which the Lord spoke by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat. ▤ 

Here God uses King Rehoboam – with Rehoboam’s contrariness and the repercussions – for the purpose of fulfilling his word (cf. 2Chr 36:22-23 ).

2Chr 36:22-23  Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing: 23“Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the Lord his God be with him. Let him go up.’” ▤ 

This and the following three references all refer to the rebuilding of the temple after the Babylonian exile, but speak of three different kings that God used to accomplish the rebuilding – Cyrus (here and in Isaiah 44:28), Darius (Ezra 6:22) and Artaxerxes (Ezra 7:27).

Ezra 6:22  And they kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with joy, for the Lord had made them joyful and had turned the heart of the king of Assyria to them, so that he aided them in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel. ▤ 

Note that “the king of Assyria” is actually a reference to the Persian king, with its territory now including that of the earlier Assyrian Empire.

Ezra 7:27  Blessed be the Lord, the God of our fathers, who put such a thing as this into the heart of the king, to beautify the house of the Lord that is in Jerusalem, … ▤ 

Isa 44:28  … [God] who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd, and he shall fulfill all my purpose’; saying of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be built,’ and of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.’ ▤ 

This and the following two passages (46:11; 48:14-15) speak of the Persian king, Cyrus the Great. The purposes of God referred to in these passages involved the defeat of Babylon, the ensuing return from exile of God’s people and the rebuilding of Jerusalem, notably the temple.

Isa 46:10b-11  ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ 11calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it. ▤ 

Isa 48:14-15  Assemble, all of you, and listen! Who among them has declared these things? The Lord loves him; he shall perform his purpose on Babylon, and his arm shall be against the Chaldeans. 15I, even I, have spoken and called him; I have brought him, and he will prosper in his way. ▤ 

Acts 4:27-28  … for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. ▤ 

Rev 17:17  … for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled. ▤ 

As noted earlier in this chapter, this speaks of kings or world powers of the end times working with the beast or anti-Christ, to unwittingly accomplish God’s purpose. No matter how evil rulers might be, God can still use them to accomplish his purposes.

  • Rulers are in effect God’s servants:

Rom 13:4a  … for he is God’s servant for your good. ▤ 

The reference is to “governing authorities” (v. 1) or “rulers” (v. 3) in general. Note that Isaiah 41:2 speaks of God calling Cyrus “to his service”.

Pray for persecuted Christians

God Has Control over Each Person

See also:

God has control over people’s hearts and minds

See also:

Ex 10:1  Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them, … ▤ 

Ex 12:36  And the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. Thus they plundered the Egyptians. ▤ 

Josh 11:20  For it was the Lord’s doing to harden their hearts that they should come against Israel in battle, in order that they should be devoted to destruction and should receive no mercy but be destroyed, just as the Lord commanded Moses. ▤ 

As noted earlier in the chapter, it was because of the Canaanite people’s prolonged depravity that God caused them to oppose Israel and suffer his judgment at their hands.

1Sam 2:25  If someone sins against a man, God will mediate for him, but if someone sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him?” But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for it was the will of the Lord to put them to death. ▤ 

For comment, see the comment on 1Sam 2:25 – under God exerts control over evil.

1Sam 10:9  When he turned his back to leave Samuel, God gave him another heart. And all these signs came to pass that day. ▤ 

2Sam 17:14  And Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “The counsel of Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel of Ahithophel.” For the Lord had ordainedc to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, so that the Lord might bring harm upon Absalom. ▤ 

c Hebrew commanded

God caused Absalom and all the men of Israel to follow Hushai’s advice, designed to fool them, rather than the sound advice of Ahithophel.

1Ki 18:37  Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back. ▤ 

Dan 1:9  And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs, … ▤ 

Luke 9:43b-45  Jesusd said to his disciples, 44“Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.” 45But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, so that they might not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying. ▤ 

d Greek he

It is implicit in this and the following passages from Luke that the lack of perception is caused by God.

Luke 18:31-34  And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. 33And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” 34But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said. ▤ 

Luke 24:15-16, 30-31  While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. ▤ 30When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. ▤ 

John 12:40  “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” ▤ 

This is interpreted by many commentators to mean not that God prevented them from believing, but rather because the people had purposely and repeatedly rejected God’s message (cf. vv. 37-38), God bestowed on them a judicial blindness and hardening of heart. This mirrors the fact that the consequence of rejecting God’s message time after time is that one’s capacity to believe is greatly curtailed. A similar point can be made regarding Romans 11:7-8 below; see also 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 and comment below.

Rom 11:7-8  What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, 8as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.” ▤ 

2Thes 2:11-12  Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. ▤ 

Note that those here that are so deluded by God (v. 11) are ones who themselves “did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (v. 12b).

God has control over people’s actions . . .

See also:

Dan 5:23b  God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored. ▤ 

God “has power over your life and everything you do” (NCV™; cf. CEV, GNT).

Eccl 9:1a  But all this I laid to heart, examining it all, how the righteous and the wise and their deeds are in the hand of God. ▤ 

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.

Eccl 3:1-8, 11a  For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 2a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; 3a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 5a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 6a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; 7a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 8a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace. ▤ 11He has made everything beautiful in its time. ▤ 

This suggests that God determines a point in time for all the activities people have to do, times in which the activities are appropriate (v. 11). Often it is understood to mean that people will do these things “at the time God chooses” (GNT, v. 1) – making it applicable to this subsection. However, some take the view that it is meaning that God has chosen a fitting time for such things, with the implication that people should try to carry them out when appropriate, at God’s chosen time.

1Sam 25:32  And David said to Abigail, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me! ▤ 

There is no indication that God overtly directed Abigail to go to meet David; Abigail had acted apparently on her own initiative (cf. vv. 18-20). As such it can be inferred from this verse that Abigail’s actions were unconsciously directed by God.

1Sam 26:12  So David took the spear and the jar of water from Saul’s head, and they went away. No man saw it or knew it, nor did any awake, for they were all asleep, because a deep sleep from the Lord had fallen upon them. ▤ 

Ps 105:25  He turned their hearts to hate his people, to deal craftily with his servants. ▤ 

The reference is to the Egyptians, in particular Pharaoh, who God used so as to allow him to provide a miraculous deliverance for his people.

Isa 63:17  O Lord, why do you make us wander from your ways and harden our heart, so that we fear you not? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your heritage. ▤ 

Some commentators understand this to be speaking of God confirming the people in their rebellion and sin; certainly he does not initiate it. Alternatively the prophet may be asking why God lets them wander from his ways (cf. GNT, NIrV, NLT).

Zec 8:10  For before those days there was no wage for man or any wage for beast, neither was there any safety from the foe for him who went out or came in, for I set every man against his neighbor. ▤ 

The people had previously ignored the need to start building the temple. This led to God’s punishment in the form of division and hostility against each other.

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

See also:

Prov 16:1, 9  The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. ▤ 9The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. ▤ 

The clause “the answer of the tongue is from the Lord” (v. 1) quite possibly means that God has “the last word” (GNT, cf. CEV). As such v. 1 is saying that a person may make plans, but God has the say on whether or not they come to fruition. This interpretation is reflected in v. 9 – “the Lord directs his steps” (NASB, NKJV; cf. AMP, NRSV).

Prov 19:21  Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. ▤ 

Prov 20:24  A man’s steps are from the Lord; how then can man understand his way? ▤ 

Jer 10:23  I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps. ▤ 

The implication is that God directs people’s steps or ways.

Lam 3:37  Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? ▤ 

People’s plans for their own activities may well be primarily in view (cf. CEV).

James 4:13-15  Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”14yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” ▤ 

This is not necessarily meaning that God directs people’s steps or ways, but it certainly at least shows that people’s steps or plans are subject to God’s will.

  • People die and then their plans come to nothing:

Ps 146:4  When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish. ▤ 

God controls the good and bad things that happen to people

See also:

Lam 3:38  Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come? ▤ 

Eccl 7:14  In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him. ▤ 

Isa 45:7  I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things. ▤ 

God “sends good times and bad times” (NLT).

Ex 4:11  Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? ▤ 

Job 2:4-7, 10  Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. 5But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” 6And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.” 7So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. ▤ 10But he [Job] said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?”e In all this Job did not sin with his lips. ▤ 

e Or disaster; also verse 11

Although it was Satan who actually afflicted Job (v. 7), in v. 10 Job acknowledges that God was the ultimate source or regulator of the good and bad things that happened to him – as indicated by v. 6 (cf. Job 42:11b-12 ). In regard to the use of “evil” (v. 10; Job 42:11b ), as the text note suggests, adversity is in view (cf. AMP, CEV, GNT, NASB, NCV, NIV, NKJV, NLT, NRSV).

Job 5:18  For he wounds, but he binds up; he shatters, but his hands heal. ▤ 

Eliphaz may be indicating that he sees God as the ultimate source of all injury and healing.

Job 12:6-9  The tents of robbers are at peace, and those who provoke God are secure, who bring their god in their hand.f 7“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; 8or the bushes of the earth,g and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. 9Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? ▤ 

f The meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain

g Or speak to the earth

Verses 7-9 appear to be referring to people’s circumstances being given them by God’s “hand” (v. 9) – including that of the wicked who often prosper, and righteous Job’s miserable lot. Note that the meaning of the Hebrew of “who bring their god in their hand” is uncertain (cf. text note). It may actually be referring to what such people have as being provided by God’s hand (cf. NASB, NKJV).

Job 42:11b-13, 16-17  And they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evilh that the Lord had brought upon him. And each of them gave him a piece of moneyi and a ring of gold. 12And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning. And he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys. 13He had also seven sons and three daughters. ▤ 16And after this Job lived 140 years, and saw his sons, and his sons’ sons, four generations. 17And Job died, an old man, and full of days. ▤ 

h Or disaster

i Hebrew a qesitah; a unit of money of unknown value

Eccl 2:24-25  There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoymentj in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, 25for apart from himk who can eat or who can have enjoyment? ▤ 

j Or and make his soul see good

k Some Hebrew manuscripts, Septuagint, Syriac; most Hebrew manuscripts apart from me

Eccl 5:19  Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God. ▤ 

Just as this verse shows that there are instances when God gives a man wealth and the “power to enjoy them” (cf. Eccl 2:24-25 ), note that later the writer indicates that there are also instances of: “a man to whom God gives wealth, possessions, and honor, so that he lacks nothing of all that he desires, yet God does not give him power to enjoy them, but a stranger enjoys them” (6:2).

1Pet 4:19  Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. ▤ 

Although this is not saying that suffering in general is according to God’s will, this does illustrate that some suffering at least is. As such, arguably it is reflective of God being in control of what happens to people.

  • An example of God appointing a time for an event in an individual’s life:

Rom 9:9  For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” ▤ 

Note that one cannot necessarily conclude from this one instance that God appoints a time for every single event or even every key event in each person’s life – although there may be further verses supporting such an assertion.

God brings people down and exalts others

See also:

1Sam 2:4-8  The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble bind on strength. 5Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger. The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn. 6The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. 7The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts. 8He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and on them he has set the world. ▤ 

Note that vv. 4-5, 8 in particular, illustrate God’s capacity and inclination to reverse the roles of the privileged (who are often proud, cf. v. 3) and the disadvantaged. Luke 1:52-53 below has a similar theme. The phrase “the feeble bind on strength” (v. 4) speaks of weak people being strengthened.

Luke 1:52-53  … he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; 53he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. ▤ 

Ps 75:6-7  For not from the east or from the west and not from the wilderness comes lifting up, 7but it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another. ▤ 

2Sam 22:28  You save a humble people, but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them down. ▤ 

Matt 23:12  Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. ▤ 

These outcomes can be seen as inherent consequences of such actions. But Jesus may well be speaking primarily of God bringing them about.

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

Job 14:5  Since his [man’s] days are determined, and the number of his months is with you, and you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass, … ▤ 

Ps 139:16  Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. ▤ 

Ps 37:18  The Lord knows the days of the blameless, and their heritage will remain forever; … ▤ 

This may be implying that God controls both the content and number of the days of the blameless. A similar comment could be made regarding Psalms 139:16 above.

Eccl 3:1-2a  For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 2a time to be born, and a time to die … ▤ 

Some commentators interpret this to mean that God has appointed a time for each person to be born and to die.

Isa 38:5  Go and say to Hezekiah, Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will add fifteen years to your life.l ▤ 

l Hebrew to your days

. . . and God finishes people’s lives

See also:

Note that not all of the following verses are necessarily meaning or implying that God finishes every person’s life, but arguably they at least suggest that this is the case.

Ps 90:3, 5-6  You return man to dust and say, “Return, O children of man!” ▤ 5You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning: 6in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers. ▤ 

m Or of Adam

Isa 40:6-7, 24  A voice says, “Cry!” And I said,n “What shall I cry?” All flesh is grass, and all its beautyo is like the flower of the field. 7The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass. ▤ 24Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows on them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble. ▤ 

n Revocalization based on Dead Sea Scroll, Septuagint, Vulgate; Masoretic Text And someone says

o Or all its constancy

Deut 32:39  See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand. ▤ 

Note that this and the following reference also speak of the converse of God bringing death – which is that he brings to life. God gives life in the first place and is even able to raise people from the dead.

1Sam 2:6  The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. ▤ 

Job 14:20  You prevail forever against him [man], and he passes; you change his countenance, and send him away. ▤ 

Job 27:8  For what is the hope of the godless when God cuts him off, when God takes away his life? ▤ 

Job 30:23  For I know that you will bring me to death and to the house appointed for all living. ▤ 

Job 34:20  In a moment they die; at midnight the people are shaken and pass away, and the mighty are taken away by no human hand. ▤ 

The last clause may be implying that the lives of the mighty are taken away by God.

Luke 12:20  But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ ▤ 

  • No one can prevent or postpone their day of death:

Eccl 8:8a  No man has power to retain the spirit, or power over the day of death. ▤ 

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

See also:

Job 12:10  In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind. ▤ 

Ps 31:15  My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors! ▤ 

Eccl 9:1  But all this I laid to heart, examining it all, how the righteous and the wise and their deeds are in the hand of God. Whether it is love or hate, man does not know; both are before him. ▤ 

Dan 5:23b  God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored. ▤ 

Ex 21:12-13  Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death. 13But if he did not lie in wait for him, but God let him fall into his hand, then I will appoint for you a place to which he may flee. ▤ 

The reference in v. 13 is to killing a person unintentionally. The verse offers clear support for God’s sovereignty over human life and death.

Matt 10:29-31  Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?p And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. ▤ 

p Greek assarion, Roman copper coin (Latin quadrans) worth about 1/16 of a denarius (which was a day’s wage for a laborer)

Even the life of a sparrow is in God’s hands; how much more then are the lives of Jesus’ disciples. The fact that even the hairs of their head are all numbered implies that God is sovereign over and cares for even the minutest details of their lives. This teaching appears to be applicable to all people.

  • Time and chance undermine a person’s control over their own life:

Eccl 9:11  Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all. ▤ 

Note that some commentators understand “time and chance” to allude to God’s control over people’s lives including the apparently indiscriminate events that often occur in them.

Pray for persecuted Christians

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 2:7-10, 15  … then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. 8And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. 10A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. ▤ 15The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. ▤ 

Gen 2:18, 21-25  Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit forq him.” ▤ 21So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he mader into a woman and brought her to the man. 23Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”s 24Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. ▤ 

q Or corresponding to; also verse 20

r Hebrew built

s The Hebrew words for woman (ishshah) and man (ish) sound alike

  • God’s command to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil:

Gen 2:16-17  And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eatt of it you shall surely die.” ▤ 

t Or when you eat

A number of commentators understand the reason for God prohibiting eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was that the acquisition of such knowledge would lead to independence from God, with people trusting in their own limited knowledge and perception of what is and is not good. As such God would not allow people to live forever (cf. Gen 3:22 ).

Humankind’s original sin and the judgment – including death and expulsion from the Garden of Eden

See also:

Gen 3:1-7, 11-13  Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘Youu shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2And the woman 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,v she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. ▤ 11He [God] said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” ▤ 

u In Hebrew you is plural in verses 1-5

v Or to give insight

Generally Satan is understood to be behind the serpent’s action, speaking through the serpent.

Gen 3:16-19, 22-24  To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be forw your husband, and he shall rule over you.” 17And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” ▤ 22Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. ▤ 

w Or against

“Your desire shall be for your husband,” (v. 16) probably refers to the woman’s attraction and/or devotion to the man, but some interpret it to mean a desire to usurp or breakout of the husband’s leadership. The following clause, “he shall rule over you,” possibly alludes to a degree of anguish under his rule. Verse 2 effectively speaks of the punishment of death (v. 19; cf. v. 3 ), with people no longer able to eat from the tree of life and live forever.

  • Cain’s murder of Abel and the judgment:

Gen 4:8-12  Cain spoke to Abel his brother.x And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. 9Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” 10And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. 11And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” ▤ 

x Hebrew; Samaritan, Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate add Let us go out to the field

Cain and Abel were sons of Adam and Eve. Cain’s motive arose from his anger over God’s acceptance of Abel’s offering and rejection of his less than wholehearted offering (cf. vv. 3-5).

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

Gen 6:5-14, 17-19  The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. 9These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God. 10And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. 11Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. 12And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. 13And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh,y for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. 14Make yourself an ark of gopher wood.z Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. ▤ 17For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die. 18But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. 19And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female. ▤ 

y Hebrew The end of all flesh has come before me

z An unknown kind of tree; transliterated from Hebrew

Gen 7:1, 4-7  Then the Lord said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation. ▤ 4For in seven days I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and every living thinga that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.” 5And Noah did all that the Lord had commanded him. 6Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters came upon the earth. 7And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him went into the ark to escape the waters of the flood. ▤ 

a Hebrew all existence; also verse 23

Gen 7:20-24  The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubitsb deep. 21And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind. 22Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. 23He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark. 24And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days. ▤ 

b A cubit was about 18 inches or 45 centimeters

Gen 8:1, 14-19  But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided. ▤ 14In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth had dried out. 15Then God said to Noah, 16“Go out from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. 17Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh—birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth—that they may swarm on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.” 18So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him. 19Every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out by families from the ark. ▤ 

  • God’s covenant with Noah and the earth:

Gen 9:8-17  Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9“Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, 10and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. 11I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.” ▤ 

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

Gen 11:1-9  Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” 5And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confusedc the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth. ▤ 

c Babel sounds like the Hebrew for confused

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).

Pray for persecuted Christians