HONORING THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD
(by Johannes Facius)
From my time in the leadership of IFI (International Fellowship of Intercessors) I get quite a lot of e-mails from prayer groups and prayer movements around the world. Recently I received one from a prayer network, with this remarkable headline:
"THE FUTURE OF HISTORY IS ENTIRELY IN OUR HANDS"!
It came from a network that used to do a lot of prayer for Israel. My first response was: May God help us if world history and even the future of Israel is wholly depending upon us. It is such kind of extremes that show me the presumption of people who believe so much in themselves and have no respect for the sovereignty of God. It is like with the Pharisees and Sadducees who claimed they were Abraham's descendants and had it all. This was how Jesus responded to this proud company:
"Do not think to say to yourselves: 'We have Abraham as our father'. For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones." (Matt.3:9)
This over estimation of our own selves is dishonoring to the sovereignty of the Almighty God. Derek Prince repeatedly referred to what he called "the sin of presumption". This is mentioned in the word in Psalm 19:13:
"Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be innocent of great transgression".
No, the future history of this planet does not rest upon our shoulders, but on His of whom it was declared:
"For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom." (Is. 9:6-7)
It is time to declare and sing that eternal truth: "He’s got the whole world in His hands!"
The sovereignty of God is particularly important to our understand regarding Israel. One is at this time being bombarded with endless e-mails from pro-Israel networks trumpeting the urgent danger of a nuclear attack on Israel by Iran. Not diminishing the challenge this represents to an unsaved people and an unsaved government, I question the reaction some believers have to this. Do we really believer that the God of Israel would ever allow this to happen? Not if we believe and trust in His promises to His chosen people:
Psalm 121:4-5, 7-8
"Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is you shade at your right hand… The Lord shall preserve you from all evil… The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth and even forevermore."
Is this word valid for Israel as a nation, or is it only valid for the saved ones? If we believe it is for the nation, we should trust in the word of the Lord and stop stirring up anxiety. If we don't believe it is for unsaved Israel we should stop proclaiming it as such.
"Therefore say to the house of Israel. Thus says the Lord God: 'I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name's sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went. And I will sanctify My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the Lord,' says the Lord God, 'when I am hallowed in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land.'".
Notice that God states that He is doing this on His own in spite of His rebellious people. He is not leaving this in the hands of a bunch of presumptuous people. It includes the Aliya and the Promised Land and the final salvation of the remnant of Israel. Considering these promises of the Lord, I find it impossible to believe that this sovereign God would allow anybody to dump a midsize nuclear bomb on Israel that would erase that small nation.
"For I am the Lord, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob. Yet from the days of your fathers you have gone away from My ordinances, and have not kept them."
It is a historical miracle that the Jewish people through many centuries have survived countless pogroms and even a major holocaust, and they are still around and even now back in the promised land of their fathers. This, not because of them, but because of a sovereign God who never changes and never breaks the covenant He made with Abraham and his descendants. This ridiculous little antichrist type called Ahmadinejad is certainly no match for the mighty God of Israel. God has the ability to blow him out of history, or even if He so wishes, to make use of him to prosper His eternal purposes. Just as it was with another historical figure who set out to exterminate God's chosen people, namely Pharaoh:
"For He says to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion'. So then it is not of him, who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, 'For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.'" (Rom. 9:15-17).
"I will bring back the captives of My people Israel; they shall build the waste cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them; they shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them. I will plant them in their land, and no longer shall they be pulled up from the land I have given them", says the Lord your God.
Has God fulfilled His promise? Yes He has although not yet in it's full extent. Unless we believe there could be a 3rd Exodus we must recognize and trust the Lord when He says, that they will no longer be pulled up from the land, not even by a nuclear blast. In addition to this, we need to remember that the land of Israel actually belongs to the Lord in the first place, just as He declares it as "My land" in the book of Joel:3:1-2. I doubt that any believer who has spiritual understanding could even imagine that a puffed up little Iranian president could take anything out of the hand of the Almighty God.
As children of Abraham, the father of our faith, we need to take hold of his faith. When God tested him by requiring of him to bring his only son as a burnt offering, Abraham, knowing the sovereignty of God, walked in the assurance that if he were to kill Isaac, God would have to raise Isaac from the dead:
"By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, 'in Isaac your seed shall be called', concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense." (Heb.11:17-19)
That is the faith needed today, a faith resting on the sovereignty of God to fulfill all his promises in the face of extreme counter active circumstances. Without honoring the supreme and sovereign God as we pray we may easily sink down into our own opinions and soulish emotions.
Honoring the sovereignty of God is a key to powerful prayer. We can learn that from the prayer ministry of the early church as recorded in Acts 4:
"So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: "Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, who by the mouth of Your servant David have said:
"Why did the nations rage and the people plot vain things? The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against His Christ."
"For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done." (v.24-28).
The first thing we need to learn from this is that it is the church praying in unity who has been given the power to deal with the forces of evil. Not any individual or group of people who are unrelated to the body of Christ and acting independently of it. Did not Jesus, the head of the church, proclaim: "I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it."? (Matt.16:18) And did not Paul, the apostle, whom God gave revelation of the mystery of the church, teach us that it is by the church the manifold wisdom of God will be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places?" (Eph. 3:10) Both the Lord Jesus and His servant Paul made the unity of the body of Christ, the church, their major prayer burden. Jesus prayed this way: "I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those You have given Me, for they are Yours." (John 17:9) And further: " that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me". (John 17:21) And Paul having received the revelation of the church responded this way: "For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ". (Eph. 3:14)
For our Lord Jesus and His Holy Spirit this prayer burden has been going on ever since:
"Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God". (Rom. 8:26-27)
About our blessed Lord Jesus;
"Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us". (Rom.8:34)
Then there is the understanding of the nature of the prayer battle as seen in Acts 4. Was it a battle between the Sanhedrin and the leaders of the church in Jerusalem? Not at all. Here we should remember Paul's words: "We do not wrestle against flesh or blood!" (Eph 6:12) And yet intercessors can so easily engage themselves in the conflicts of men and waste a lot of time and energy to no avail. The leaders of the early church had spiritual revelation and immediately discerned that it was a battle between the spirit of anti-Christian forces challenging the Lord and His Messiah. Notice that the praying church in Jerusalem did not issue any rebuke or attack on the people involved in this rebellion against the Lord, but simply handed it over to the Lord to deal with the threats. He knows better how to handle them. We are also warned about ridiculing and bringing reviling accusations against principalities. (Jude 8-9).
Moreover it should not be our priority to pray that we be protected against any trouble. You do not find any of that in the prayer by the church in Jerusalem. Their aim was the promotion of God's divine purposes. They asked the Lord to make use of this conflict to prosper His prophetic agenda, and not only the conflict but the whole company of enemies: Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Gentiles and even the people of Israel: "to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done" (Acts 4:28). The American Standard Version puts it this way: " to do whatsoever Your hand and Your council have foreordained to do". Also they did not present to God their own ideas as to how He should deal with this whole situation, like some intercessors of today are prone to do. It is not our job to tell God what He should do in a particular situation. Remember His ways and His thoughts are as high above ours as heaven is above the earth. Of course if we would practice prayer and fasting like the early church and its leaders frequently did, the Lord might reveal what He is planning to do. There is unfortunately too little of that today, and too often people are presenting their own wisdom and opinions to God. We get nowhere in doing so. True and effective prayer is honoring the sovereignty of God and trusting Him to do what He has determined to do. The praying church in the early days in Jerusalem glorified and honored God as the sovereign Creator and Lord of all and had revelation through the word of God in Psalm 2 about what the conflict was all about. Some may think that their prayers were weak and not specific enough. Well, the only way to assess that is to investigate whether or not their prayers were answered.
The power of prayer is ultimately proven by its answer. Did God respond to the prayers of the early church in Jerusalem? Yes, in an overwhelming way:
"And when they had prayed, the place were they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness." (Acts 4:31)
As we read on in Acts 4 and into chapter 5 and 6 we find that there was a tremendous break through for the gospel and that the church was growing rapidly in both numbers and maturity. Was this not God's purpose, and is it not His eternal purpose to establish His kingdom today?
It is. It is also the ultimate purpose of the prayer ministry of the church for secular society as stated in 1.Tim.2:3-6:
"For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom in due time."
If we should want to know if we have got power in our prayers we only have to ask this question: did they result in a powerful response from the Holy Spirit or not?
May we learn to honor the sovereignty of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!