"Blessed Be Your Name."
Many of us who attend evangelical churches sing a song titled, "Blessed Be Your Name." Many of the songs we hear on Christian radio and many "modern" worship songs deserve the criticism they receive because they are theologically off-base, but I would argue that "Blessed Be Your Name" is one of the most theologically powerful and accurate songs ever penned. I believe, however, that many sing this song without really meditating deeply on the implications of the lyrics.
Three things have caused me to ponder these lyrics even more recently
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1. A US Senate candidate took a lot of flack from liberals when he said, regarding his position on abortion:
This is that issue that every candidate for federal, or even state, office faces, and I too stand for life. I know there are some who disagree and I respect their point of view and I believe that life begins at conception. The only exception I have [for abortion] is in that case [where] the life of the mother [is threatened]. I struggled with it for a long time, but I came to realize that life is a gift from God. And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape that it is something that God intended to happen.
2. This week we have seen tragedy hit the east coast in the form of Hurricane Sandy. The result of Sandy was loss of lives and probably billions of dollars in lost and damaged property.
3. All week, I have been in Ethiopia, and while we have celebrated the addition of our son Shanbu to our family, Marina and I can't help but grieve for the 5,000,000 other orphans in this nation and the abject poverty we see every day traveling the streets of Addis Ababa.
Recently, I sparred with a college friend on Facebook over the quote. As a liberal (both politically and theologically), she pounced all over him and posted on Facebook that he should "STFU." I didn't know what that meant as I am not really hip to the texting language, so I googled it to only realize that my friend was definitely not letting her words be seasoned with salt. In all fairness, some of my responses to her we're far from being seasoned with salt tooso I hope with this blog post I can more articulately talk about God's sovereignty and why it is important.
All people do need to ask and answer the following questions:
Where is God when a woman is raped?
Where is God when a hurricane hits?
Where is God when children are left to be orphans?
Where is God when people live in abject poverty without access to clean water, food, shoes, clothing, etc.?
After reading and believing what the Bible has to say, here is my answer to all four questions
GOD IS ON HIS THRONE!
Tragedies are both signs of God's wrath and of God's love and mercy. One thing I know for sureGod is not sitting in heaven wringing his hands when tragedy strikes.
The Book of Job is so important to understanding the sovereignty of God. Job is not just an allegory. Job was a real historical man who went through real sufferingsuffering that we cannot imagine. Job was the most righteous man in all the earth, and despite his righteousness, Job lost his children, his property, and his health. What was his reaction?
"The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. (Job 1:21b)
Job didn't blame Satan. Job knew that God took away his children, his possessions, and his health. Job knew that God was sovereign over EVERYTHING and that Satan has no power unless God grants it. This is a fact that most people HATE to reckon with. Instead of believing that God could cause tragedies to happen, we create a god in our own image and put him everywhere but on his throne.
Side note: Job is not the only example of God's sovereignty in Scripture. The metanarrative of all Scripture is of a sovereign God who redeems his people according to his perfect plan that he predestined before the foundation of the world.
I think the main reason we don't like God's sovereignty is because we have a flawed view of humanity. We believe that man is inherently good, and a few people just "go bad." This notion is not found in Scripture. The Apostle Paul said, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth." (Romans 1:18) You see, we live in a fallen world filled with sinners who suppress the truth about God. Mankind is totally depraved and our punishment from God is rape, hurricanes, orphans, widows, war, abject poverty, pollution, abortion, sexual perversion, etc. Natural disasters and our own sinful acts are proof of God's wrath against mankind.
For example, the fact that there are so many orphans in the world is testament to our depravity, not to God's lack of goodness. If man was inherently good, there is no way we would just sit on the sidelines and not care for more orphans. The fact that we have people who live in abject poverty is another testament to our depravity. No matter what we try, no matter what kind of government program we implement, we still have massive social justice problems. Man has been trying to subdue the earth ever since Adam's fall, and we continue to make bigger and bigger messes. This is God's wrath on us.
Fortunately, this is not the end of the story! God is a just and wrathful God, but he is also merciful and mighty to save!
When Shanbu's mother died and Shanbu was left abandoned by an extended family who didn't want him, this was not an accident. God wasn't in heaven's conference room with some advisors trying to figure out what to do in this crisis situation. Instead, before the foundation of the world, God predestined Shanbu to be our son. He was not surprised that Shanbu's mother died because God "intended" for Shanbu to be our son. This is a sign of God's mercy and love. When rescue workers risk their lives to help people in the midst of a tragedy like Hurricane Sandy, this is a sign of God's mercy and love. When a woman is raped, and she ends up becoming an advocate for the sexually abused or she carries a child full term and brings a beautiful baby into the world, this is most definitely a sign of God's infinite mercy and love.
So, according to the Bible, the senate candidate was right. According to the Bible, GOD IS ABSOLUTELY SOVEREIGN. As the song rightly proclaims about God, "You give and take away, You give and take away, my heart will choose to say, Lord, blessed be your name."
As I thought about this subject over the past few days, I contemplated the massive amounts of written material on this subject that already exists and how little my blog contributes to unpacking this gigantic truth. For example, in seminary, I wrote extensive research papers on the doctrine of election, and many other topics surroounding the sovereignty of God. There have been books written on this subject by world-renown theologians that I respect and admire. While I am thankful for the experience of researching and writing papers, and I am forever grateful to giants of the faith who have written great books, sometimes I think the simple song we sing in church is more powerful. God is sovereign, and regardless of what He does, my heart will choose to say, "Lord, blessed be your name!"
P.S. After finishing my first draft of my blog, Marina and I did our nightly worship time with Shanbu and I again realized the power of simplicity. We are reading from the "Jesus Storybook Bible" and after the story of Noah's Ark, here is what she wrote:
"It wasn't long before everything went wrong again, but God wasn't surprised, he knew this would happen. That's why, before the beginning of time, he had another plan-a better plana plan to one day send his own Son, the Rescuer.
If you are a Christian, rest in the sovereignty of God and the work of sovereign grace by which you have faith in The Rescuer. If you are not a Christian, please stop rebelling against Godyour efforts are futile. I plead with you to put your faith, hope and trust in the Rescuer and learn to say in every trial, "Lord, blessed be your name!"
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Posted in Churches/Faith/Religion Post Date 03/30/2017