Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”
King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”
“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote:
‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah,
are not least among the ruling cities of Judah,
for a ruler will come from you
who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’ (Matthew 2:1–6 NLT)
God’s sovereignty means a couple of different things.
It can refer to his ultimate authority over all creation, including the kingdoms of this world. This is why John in Revelation 1:5 refers to Jesus as “the ruler of all the kings of the world.” Another way of saying this, found throughout Scriptures, is to refer to God as the King of kings and Lord of lords. If a king is the uncontested ruler of his people and the land they occupy, then God is sovereign over all earthly kingdoms. He is the one in charge over everyone and everything. This aspect of God’s sovereignty is relatively easy to understand; after all, our world and its systems are built around the idea that someone must be in control, whether that be a babysitter monitoring her young charge, a manager overseeing her subordinates, the man behind the curtain pulling the strings of Dorothy and her compatriots, or the millions of other examples all around us
However, it can be difficult to grasp the second meaning of God’s sovereignty – his ultimate control over all existence. As Colossians 1:15–18 tells us, Christ “is supreme over all creation” and “he holds all creation together,” including “the things we can see and the things we can’t see.” The complete immensity of this truth is impossible to fully imagine, even using human analogues as comparison.
Stop-motion animation, the type of film exemplified in the Christmas classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, uses still photographs played back in rapid succession to create a sense of movement, similar to how a child’s flipbook works. The animators of these films sculpt every character out of clay and wire framing and craft every set piece, effectively building a world wherein they can manipulate every single nuance. Yet, this careful crafting requires a great deal of effort and time. It typical takes twenty-five separate frames to create a single second of animation. This means a good day of shooting can result in only five to ten seconds of footage. In very stark contrast, God is in control of everything in real time; without him at the center, everything would fall apart, yet it never has and it never will.
The stumbling block of God’s sovereignty for many is our own free will. Christian philosophers have wrestled for millennia with how to balance mankind’s freedom to make our own decisions and God’s sovereignty over our lives. Regardless of how each of us personally comes to understand this balance, we can trust that God, in his sovereignty, chooses to invite us to take part in the inbreaking of his Kingdom in our world. Rather than simply make it be, God chooses to use us, imperfect as we may be.
Is there an area of your life where you are holding too much onto your own will and not allowing God’s sovereignty to reign?