Is God bound by history, or is history bound by God? The answer to this question is vital, not only in terms of getting it right from what the Bible teaches, but even more because it impacts how we can go on living in a world that seems so difficult.
It doesn’t take but a few seconds to think of various events and circumstances going on in our personal lives, in our country, or around our world to begin to practically suffocate us with the fear-inducing reality of how crazy things are. So when yet another friend or loved one dies of cancer, when state after state legalizes same-sex marriage, when terrorists continue to kidnap or kill Christians in Nigeria, it’s hard not to wonder how history isn’t just motoring along like an uninhibited military tank crushing anything in its path without any seeming hope of being stopped.
But are we to let the difficulties of this world come at us in a vacuum, totally isolated from faith in a holy, good, wise, and sovereign God? Are we to consider them apart from a bigger picture of what God is doing across the sweep of history? Are we to resign ourselves to an existence on this earth where evil ‘wins the day’ and we are consigned to a miserable short life?
Not if we take the Bible seriously. Over and over again, Scripture presents God in charge of history, taking it exactly where He wills. So Job, after going through so much, finally comes to the place where he says, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). The apostle Paul, says in Ephesians 1:11 that God is the one who, “works all things according to the counsel of his will.”
This shows up even with rulers, kings, and nations. Proverbs 21:1 teaches that, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.” Psalm 2:1 reminds us that “…the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain.” Kings and rulers may “take counsel together” (2:2), but “He who sits in the heavens laughs: the Lord holds them in derision” (2:4).
In Daniel 4:34-35, there is another powerful testimony to this very thing uttered by a very unlikely and ungodly king. After being humbled by God, the once-arrogant King Nebuchadnezzar changed his tune, acknowledging that God’s “…dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done” (italics mine).
Beloved, this is but a short rendering of how the Bible speaks when it comes to God’s control over history and its important people and events. The verses I have listed—and the others that I could have—all come together to say: “God is not bound by history, history is bound by God.”