Divine Sovereignty and Man’s Freedom
Although God sets up rulers, He is not responsible for their actions because they do exercise their freedom of choice to do as they please. Nevertheless, He directs all their actions to fulfill His good will. God rules over everything and everyone. This is true of individuals and of nations (1 Samuel 2:7, 8; Psalms 147:6). For He made the earth “and have given it unto whom it seemed meet unto” Him (Jeremiah 27:5). He is sovereign over all rulers. “He puts down one, and exalts another” (Psalms 75:5-7). He “removes kings and raises up kings” (Daniel 2:20-21). Thus, everyone is ultimately under the direction and control of the Almighty.
God created humans with the freedom of choice. Adam and Eve exercised their freedom to distrust God and our world today is the natural result of that decision. Some wonder does God orchestrate events to bring about certain outcomes and, in the process, overrules man’s freedom of choice?
The scriptures clearly show that God does not intervene to change what humans choose. Hitler chose to do evil and the Lord allowed him to carry out his evil plans. Thus, although the Creator is in control and directs nations, He does not interfere with the freedom of a person to choose whether or not he will follow the path of salvation.
Obey the Rulers
Because of God’s control over all political rulers, Paul taught, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God” (Romans 13:1-5).
But the apostle does not mean that God always approves the actions of civil governments. Nor does he imply that it is the believer’s duty always to yield to them. The commandments of government may sometimes oppose the law of God, and under such times the believer is “to obey God rather than men” (Acts 4:19; 5:29).
The apostle Paul simply teaches that the ruling power of human governments is entrusted to men by God, according to His own purposes for man’s well-being. Their continuance in power, or their fall from authority, is in His hands.
God Overrules Nations
In the affairs of nations, God is ever silently working out His own plans. Daniel wrote, “’This decision is by the decree of the watchers, and the sentence by the word of the holy ones, in order that the living may know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, gives it to whomever He will, and sets over it the lowest of men’” (Daniel 4:17).
At times, as with the call of Abraham, God orchestrates a series of events to reveal the wisdom of His ways. Again, as in the antediluvian world, He allows evil to run its course and provide an example of the foolishness of rejecting righteousness. But eventually, as in the liberation of the Hebrews from Egypt, He interferes lest the powers of evil triumph over His work for the salvation of the world. Therefore, whether God orchestrates, allows, or interferes, the intricate play of human circumstances is under His control and a superseding plan has clearly been at work throughout the ages (Romans 13:1).
The same God who created the earth (Amos 4:13; 9:6) is the One who controls its destiny. Because rulers have great influence, they can affect large numbers of people. To cause all things to work together for good (Romans 8:28), it is often necessary for God to turn the hearts of kings toward paths they would not otherwise have followed, that is if they are willing.
Solomon wrote, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes” (Proverbs 21:1). One example to that is when the Lord moved Cyrus heart to give the decree to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 36:22, 23; Isaiah 44:28; Daniel 10:13).
People often get very discouraged because of the injustices that are done by many world rulers. But the Bible is clear that these evil rulers will be punished eventually and will suffer for all the wickedness they have caused. The Lord will destroy them “as the vessels of the potter are broken to pieces” (Revelation 2:27). Some rulers will also be punished in this life as well. For “He shall execute the heads of many countries” (Psalm 110:6). Of Such rulers were: Herod (Acts 12:21-23), Saul (1 Samuel 31), Pharaoh (Exodus 12:30), and Belshazzar (Daniel 5:30).
In His service,