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A war with Iraq

Category Articles
Date February 24, 2003

History is not a concatenation of random events. History is the fulfilling of God’s will and purpose.

As I write, it looks as though war with Iraq is inevitable. Whether war will be launched only time will tell and only God knows. It is this latter fact that I would like to reflect upon.

Contrary to what some ‘Open Theists’ (or ‘Free-will Theists’) would have us believe, the God of the Bible is perfectly omniscient. He knows all things, and knows all things because he ordained all things (Eph.1:11). As the Psalmist reminds us, "Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him" (Psalm 115:3). This does not mean that Christians have easy, ready answers to every genuine searching question. God’s absolute sovereignty deeply humbles us and, with Paul, leaves us out of our depth (see Romans 11:33-36). There are, however, at least two truths that are imbedded in God’s sovereignty that bring the deepest comfort and hope to believers: History is under God’s control, and History follows God’s plan.

Contrary to how things may often appear, "our God reigns." History is not a concatenation of random events. History is the fulfilling of God’s will and purpose. We see this quite starkly put in the book of Habakkuk. God’s church, the southern kingdom of Judah, is being threatened by the Chaldeans (Babylonians). But look how the Lord himself impresses on his prophet that what is happening is under the sovereign Lord’s control; "I am raising up the Chaldeans (Babylonians), that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth (Hab. 1:6). This world super-power, was gaining power and hegemony, not essentially because of its own prowess or strategic gifts, but because the sovereign Lord decreed it. This is a theme repeated regularly throughout the Scriptures: "His dominion is an eternal dominion… He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth." (Daniel 4:35). Our God reigns. However tangled and confused history may appear, God is in control. Of course, here we live by faith and not by sight. But such faith in God’s sovereign control is not illusory. In the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, we see apparent unbridled wickedness brutalising the Lord of Glory, but only according to "God’s set purpose and foreknowledge" (Acts 2:23). And out of that apparent unbridled wickedness, God provided for a world of lost sinners a salvation for all who believe. History is never for one moment outside God’s perfect, holy, sovereign and gracious control.

History is under God’s control, but no less does it follow God’s plan. What is happening now in the world with Iraq is no accident. It is all part of God’s eternal plan. History has a purposeful trajectory. Every step fits in to the eternal plan. And what is that plan? Ultimately, it is to establish God’s kingdom and God’s King. Since the fall of Adam in the garden, God has been at work establishing his kingdom in the world. This was the vision given to Daniel: "In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed… It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever" (Daniel 2:44). Every world event, every local happening, every personal circumstance has an eternal purpose to it. It doesn’t matter that we cannot always see the purpose (in fact we rarely do!) It is enough to know that our gracious God has his plan – and by his grace we are at the heart of it, in Christ.

God’s absolute sovereignty in history, cosmic and personal, is the greatest comfort to Christian believers. Not because we have, as it were, the "inside-track" on world events; but rather because it means that our loving Father, gracious Saviour and indwelling Holy Spirit, are in control. One day the purpose and the plan will shine in all its unspotted glory and wisdom. Then we shall know, even as also we are known. Until then, be of good cheer fellow Christian, your God reigns!

Ian Hamilton
Cambridge Evangelical Presbyterian Church, England

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