This article is part of the Key Bible Verses series.
All commentary notes adapted from the ESV Study Bible.
1. Isaiah 46:8–10
“Remember this and stand firm,
recall it to mind, you transgressors,
remember the former things of old;
for I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me,
declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose . . . ’” Read More
The only true God will succeed in his glorious purpose for his stubborn people.
stand firm. God calls his people to a bold trust in his sole deity and sovereign ways. recall it to mind. Mental focus on who God is must be renewed, for the idolatrous culture of the world erodes clarity. transgressors. The natural thoughts of the human mind resist the truth about God. the former things of old. The record of God’s faithfulness in the past. declaring. . . saying. . . calling. God calls for a wholehearted trust in his unfailing word. a bird of prey from the east. Cyrus.
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2. Acts 17:26–27
And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us . . . Read More
One man refers to Adam, in whom all people find their ancestral unity, an idea that would appeal to the Stoics’ strong sense of human brotherhood. Paul thus affirms the historicity of Adam and the descent of the entire human race from him. This also rules out any kind of racism, since the various ethnic groups come from one man. Having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place indicates God’s sovereignty over the histories of nations.
Feel their way toward him implies a kind of groping around in darkness, without really knowing how to find God, though they hoped that they would. The verbs translated “feel their way” and “find” are in the optative mood in Greek, suggesting possibilities considered uncertain of realization. Not far from each one of us implies God’s omnipresence and also implies that God hears people’s prayers and knows their hearts (including these philosophers in Athens). God’s providence leads people to seek God, with the goal that they might perhaps. . . find (i.e., worship) him, but all people fall short of seeking God wholeheartedly and successfully, as Rom. 1:18–3:20 teaches. Paul is being inviting here. There is a God to find, and he is not hard to find, having revealed himself to us through the story Paul prepares to tell.
3. Ephesians 1:11–12
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. Read More
Obtained an inheritance seems the best rendering of the Greek verb that normally means “to allot [a portion].” Some believe the meaning is that God has claimed his own portion, the believing Jews (see Eph. 1:14). predestined. Making those who believe in him heirs with Christ was not an ad hoc event; God had planned it from all eternity. By definition God is sovereign, directing all things freely according to his royal counsel. This is in sharp contrast with the pagan gods of the time, who were understood to be often fickle or bound by an inscrutable and arbitrary fate. God’s predestination gives his people tremendous comfort, for they know that all who come to Christ do so through God’s enabling grace and appointment (see Eph. 2:8–10). Who works all things according to the counsel of his will is best understood to mean that every single event that occurs is in some sense predestined by God. At the same time, Paul emphasizes the importance of human responsibility, as is evident in all of the moral commands later in Ephesians (Eph. 4–6) and in all of Paul’s letters. As Paul demonstrated in all of his remarkable efforts in spreading the gospel (Acts 13–28; cf. 2 Cor. 11:23–28), he believed that doing personal evangelism and making conscious choices to obey God are also absolutely essential in fulfilling God’s plan. God uses human means to fulfill what he has ordained. With regard to tragedies and evil, Paul and the other biblical writers never blame God for them (cf. Rom. 5:12; 2 Tim. 4:14; also Job 1:21–22). Rather, they see the doctrine of God’s sovereignty as a means of comfort and assurance (cf. Rom. 8:28–30), confident that evil will not triumph, and that God’s good plans for his people will be fulfilled. How God’s sovereignty and human responsibility work together in the world is a mystery no one can fully understand.
4. Genesis 50:18–20
His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” Read More
Probably encouraged by news of Joseph’s reaction to their message, the brothers also came and fell down before him. Once again, their obeisance and words, Behold, we are your servants, fulfill Joseph’s dreams (Gen. 37:5–10). Echoing what he had said previously (see Gen. 45:5–9), Joseph stresses that God transformed their evil into good and that as a result, many people have been kept alive. This principle that God ultimately overrules human sin for his glory and the ultimate good of mankind is important in Scripture. The crucifixion is the prime example of it (Acts 3:13–26; Rom. 8:28). Joseph’s gracious, forgiving attitude unites the family. Like the lives of Jacob and Esau, Joseph’s life was marred by deadly hatred between brothers. In both cases the story ends with the offended brother’s offering full forgiveness to those who had mistreated him (Gen. 33:4).
5. Psalm 103:19
The LORD has established his throne in the heavens,
and his kingdom rules over all. Read More
His throne. . . his kingdom refers to God’s universal rule over all creation. The marvel of being God’s people is that the one whose kingdom rules over all offers the privilege of gratefully embracing his rule.
6. Matthew 10:29–31
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Read More
Sparrows were customarily thought of as the smallest of creatures, and the penny was one of the least valuable Roman coins (cf. Matt. 5:26). apart from your Father. God is sovereign over even the most insignificant events.
Fear not, therefore. Since the heavenly Father gives constant sovereign supervision even to seemingly insignificant creatures, surely he will also care for his disciples in their mission to proclaim the good news of the kingdom.
7. Romans 8:28
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Read More
God weaves everything together for good for his children. The “good” in this context does not refer to earthly comfort but conformity to Christ (Rom.8:29), closer fellowship with God, bearing good fruit for the kingdom, and final glorification (Rom 8:30).
8. Jeremiah 1:5
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Read More
God is completely sovereign. He knows all things even before they happen, so he knew Jeremiah even before he was formed in his mother’s womb. God’s plan for Jeremiah was that he be consecrated, or “set apart,” for preaching God’s word. Jeremiah’s ministry is to be a prophet to the nations, not just to Israel (Jer. 25:1–14; Jer. 46:1–51:64).
9. Proverbs 16:33
The lot is cast into the lap,
but its every decision is from the LORD. Read More
“Casting lots” involves the random selection or distribution of objects in order to make a choice uncontrolled and unbiased by the participants. In Israel it was typically performed “before the Lord” (see Josh. 18:8) in order to receive his direction. from the LORD. Not only the careful plans of the heart (Prov. 16:1, 9) but also the apparently random practice of casting lots falls under God’s providential governance.
10. Psalm 104:27–30
These all look to you,
to give them their food in due season.
When you give it to them, they gather it up;
when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
when you take away their breath, they die
and return to their dust.
When you send forth your Spirit, they are created,
and you renew the face of the ground. Read More
All creatures everywhere depend on the Lord’s provision. Each living thing on the land and sea (these all) depends on God to supply their food in due season and their very breath, in order to continue their lives; they also depend on God to renew the face of the ground, i.e., to give success to their reproduction. In keeping with this entire psalm, the God on whom all depend is generous (they are filled with good things), someone safe on whom to rely.
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