Have you ever heard someone say “God is sovereign?” If you have heard it, have you stopped to truly think about what that means and allowed it to change your life?
When we understand the sovereignty of God, we are able to fully rest in Him. But first I think we have to understand what the word “sovereign” truly means. Let’s study together today.
God’s Sovereignty in the Book of Daniel
Webster’s Dictionary defines the word sovereign as “a characteristic of a supreme ruler. Possessing supreme or ultimate power. Supreme authority.”
The Lord has supreme power and authority. Nothing happens without His knowledge or control. All things are either caused by Him or allowed by Him for His own purposes and through His perfect will and timing.
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” Romans 11:36
The book of Daniel is a great place to begin studying and understanding the sovereignty of God. I’ve studied the whole book two different times and can honestly say I’ve seen and heard different things on each occasion. Both times allowed me to see God as completely sovereign, which helps me to rest in Him and His plan for my life.
In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god.” Daniel 1:1-2
I have “God is Sovereign” written next to verse two in my Bible. When I began studying this book – looking at it verse by verse, I noticed something BIG in verse two. Do you see it? It doesn’t say God allowed Nebuchadnezzar to capture Jerusalem. It doesn’t say God wasn’t there when Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem. It says, “The Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand.” He GAVE them! God delivered His chosen people right into the hands of king Nebuchadnezzar.
What Does the Word Say?
When I study the Bible, I like to ask a few questions of the text and see how many answers I can find. The questions I ask are simple: Who? What? When? Where? Why? Let’s look at Daniel 1:1-2 in light of these questions, and see what answers we can find.
Who? God. What did He do? He gave Jehoiakim King of Judah into Nebuchadnezzar’s hand. Where? The kingdom and people of Judah into the hands of Babylon. Why? While we can’t find this in this particular scripture, we do have documentation of the prophets warning Israel that this would happen if they did not obey in 2 Chronicles 7:19. When? It doesn’t say it in these verses, but Biblical timelines tell us this happened in 605 BC.
The fact that God delivered Israel into the hands of their enemy may not make sense to you and me. But it doesn’t have to. Because our God is sovereign. He’s going to do what He says He will do for His glory. These are His people. He loves them. He warned them and now He’s following through. Much like a parent who loves their child warns them to not do something that might cause harm, then follows through with the discipline.
Daniel is a servant of God and yet he is still captured along with his people. While in captivity, we see him continue to stand firm in his convictions and love for the Lord.
Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah.” Daniel 1:6
Here we find out there were three other men standing strong in captivity with Daniel. The commanders in Babylon changed their names to Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego.
As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.” Daniel 1:17
God gave them knowledge and wisdom. God loved these young men. Could God have rescued them directly from King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians? Yes. I believe He could have. But He didn’t. Why? Because God is sovereign. His ways are not always our ways. He does not always rescue.
God had a plan for Daniel’s life. It wasn’t an easy one. He had to leave his home and live as a captive in a foreign land. God’s plan doesn’t look like our plan, yet He is still sovereign today and working towards a predestined end and return of our Savior.
Trial By Fire
In the third chapter of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar builds a statue of gold. If you read more of the scripture, you’ll see that the king is a really arrogant man. He’s very full of himself and now he’s built this great idol in his own image. Naturally, he calls everyone to come for the dedication of this idol.
And the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.” Daniel 3:4-6
Let’s ask the WHAT question again as it refers to this scripture. What was required of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah? Whenever they heard the sound of the instruments they were to bow down and WHAT does it say? Worship the golden image. And if they didn’t? Be thrown into the fire.
Not only were these men of God taken into captivity by Babylon, but they were asked to defy their own beliefs and worship another god!
Well, these three men stood firm. They did not bow. And Nebuchadnezzar gives them a second chance. He says “I’ll blow the horns again and if you don’t bow, you’ll be thrown into the furnace,” then challenges them further by asking, “What god can deliver you out of my hands?”
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.’” Daniel 3:16-18
Our God is able and He will deliver us. They fully believe God can and will deliver them from the fire.
Oh, how I love verse 18. “But even if He does not” ……Oh friends. This right here is the root of so much of our life. What are you asking the Lord for right now? What trial do you see coming that you’re asking Him to deliver you from? What is it in your life that you fully believe the Lord is capable to remove from you? There are times that He does. But He is sovereign and does not see things the way we do. And so sometimes we have to say “But even if He does not,” I will still stand firm. I will rest in His sovereignty. I will still be faithful.
Well, this angers Nebuchadnezzar and he demands the punishing fire be seven times hotter than normal – So hot that it kills the guards who even come close to it. And what do verses 25 -26 tell us happened next?
He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.” Daniel 3:25-26
Only three men were thrown into the fire but they see four. Who was the fourth? It was the very God who delivered them through the fire!
These next words are not my own but I want to quote Beth Moore and then I’ll explain. She says, “The Lord can deliver us FROM the fire. He can deliver us THROUGH the fire. And He can deliver us BY the fire.”
The “fire” here is any trial you might be facing. Have you had times in your life when you’re so worried and praying about something that you think is going to happen and then it doesn’t end up happening at all? That is the Lord delivering you FROM the fire. You didn’t even have to experience that fiery trial.
And sometimes we have to walk all the way THROUGH that fire or trial. Sometimes it’s hard and messy and there are tears and heartache but the Lord is with us through the whole thing and He delivers us to the other side.
And sometimes He delivers us BY the fire straight into the arms of Jesus. Sometimes He doesn’t save us here from that illness or tragedy and He takes us home, but we are still delivered from the fire.
How I pray each of us would be able to stand as strong in whatever trials or fires come our way. When we’re in the midst of them, can we cling to the Lord’s sovereignty and not our own plans?
Perseverance, Encouragement, Hope
As I wrap this up, I want to look at one more verse with you. In Romans 15:4, Paul tells us that “Whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.” I pray that when you study the life of Daniel, you will find hope in the Sovereignty of our Lord.
I don’t know if the Lord is leading you into trials, delivering you right into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, or if He’s allowing things to happen. But what I do know is we can rest in His sovereignty. Rest in the fact that He has supreme authority. Like Daniel and his fellow captives, we can stand firm in our convictions. We know, ultimately, that He will rescue us safely to His kingdom. To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.