GOD’S SOVEREIGN CONTROL OVER A HEATHEN WORLD
The text I want to consider is Psalm 47:8: “God reigneth over the heathen: God sitteth upon the throne of his holiness.”
This Psalm inspired great hope for the nation of Israel as they used it in their worship. God had made many promises to Israel and one of the most important was that Israel would enjoy at an undetermined time in the future, a time of great blessing under the reign of their promised Messiah. It would be a time when Israel would be exalted over all the nations of the earth. This is brought out in verse 3: “He shall subdue the people under us, and the nations under our feet.” They sung this psalm regularly as a reminder of this promise. The only way that this would be an encouragement to them would be if they believed that God was powerful enough and faithful enough to bring it to pass.
How was their faith on this subject? This is how the psalm starts in verses 1 and 2: “O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph. For the LORD most high is terrible; he is a great King over all the earth.” This is hand clapping in the psalms. I have had people tell me, “Preacher, there is a modern innovation in the church that I do not like. It is the hand clapping in the church. I don’t mind the amen’s but this hand clapping stuff is just too much.” You know, I used to be like that myself. Then I realized how much our opinions influence us. And I must say, that these opinions are taken by us to be the very truth of the Bible. I realize I am treading on dangerous ground. Because when you mess with some persons beliefs that can’t be proven by the Bible, you are subjecting yourself to personal attack. If we can’t discredit the teaching by meeting a person’s argument with Scripture, the next frontal attack is on his person. In other words discredit the person and then no one will listen to what he says. Since I’m such a nice guy I know no one will do that to me!!! Ha. Now to return to the verse. The Psalmist said, “O CLAP your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph.” The Psalmist is actually instructing the Jews in the audience to express their joy at the truth of God’s sovereign control by clapping their hands. This is an expression of the emotion of joy when they think of what will happen to them in the future because of their faith in God’s promise. They believed what God promised was going to happen would happen and rejoiced in it before it happened. That is faith!
Verse 8 says “God reigneth.” It is a perfect tense in the Hebrew which means in this case that he has always been King. Where did God become king? From the time that he established a kingdom and that includes the angelic kingdom. When Adam sinned, it did not unseat God. He did not cease to be King at that time. In fact, it did not affect his reign at all. It did affect Adam and all his descendants (all of us) but it did not lessen his authority, remove him from his throne or alter his ultimate purpose.
The words “over the heathen” set for a truth that some would try to debate. But it is not up for debate. Paul said in Romans 3:3-4: “For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.” Our text is the inspired Word of God. It says, “God reigneth over the heathen...” and he does. You say, “If this is true how do you account for the wickedness that is in the world?” I didn’t say I understood all the problems that the truth of the Bible creates. But my confusion doesn’t alter my believe in the declared Word of God. And my confusion is in my limited understanding, it is not on God’s side. God is an all wise all merciful God who cannot do wrong and stands apart from time and is protected by his holiness from the contaminating influences of sin. God reigns over the heathen.
The word “heathen” simply means nations. God is not just the God of Israel. He is doing a special work with that nation. He has identified with the nation of Israel. But he has ever been in control over the nations. They are accountable to him. Roman’s chapter 1 describes the degree of their departure from God and what happens when one rejects God. Romans 1:21-22: “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,” You need to read this whole chapter to see the depth to which the world stooped when it rejected God. God didn’t reject these people because they did the things described in this chapter, they did these things because they rejected God. You cannot reject God without penalty. You see, “God reigneth over the heathen...” The things practiced in Romans 1 is an indication of God’s wrath already at work in the heathen world (see 1:18).
Lets look at the words “God sitteth upon the throne of his holiness.” First, “God sitteth.” He is sitting because he is not worried about the world being out of control. It is out of man’s control but not God’s. God knows the end from the beginning. Isaiah 46:10 says, “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:”
There is a verse in Ecclesiastes 11:6 which will help illustrate a truth: “Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.” God simply says go ahead and do what you want to. But just remember this, you are not getting away with it. I will bring you into judgment. Eccl. 8:11 says, “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” And here is where the world makes a mistake. They think because God does not rush in and slap them around when they do wrong, that they have gotten away with it. This verse corrects this idea for those of us who believe the Bible.
It is encouraging for Bible believers to know that God does know what he is doing, that he has not lost control, and that he is working out a plan, and it will come to pass in his time exactly as he describes it in the prophecies of the Bible. Don’t be disheartened my brethren. God is sitting on the throne of his holiness. We have already won, if we have our faith in Christ. It is a matter of waiting for him to work out his perfect will.
May God bless each of you.