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God in the Shadows | Theology Matters

  • February 2020 Issue
Theology Matters

"Sovereignty is the power and authority by which God bends all things toward His good purpose."

One of the unique characteristics of the book of Esther is the absence of any mention of God. In Esther’s story, God’s involvement is implicit rather than explicit. For example, when Esther asks the Jews to fast, we can assume this included prayer (Est. 4:16). The fate of God’s chosen people is at the very center of the story, but God seems to remain in the shadows. Even so, Esther teaches about God’s sovereignty.

The sovereignty of God involves many of His divine attributes, including His omniscience and omnipotence. In Psalm 139:16, David expresses wonder at the thought that “all the days ordained for me were written in your book.” Sovereignty is the power and authority by which God bends all things toward His good purpose. This does not mean that every event in our lives is itself good. Nor does it mean that we have no individual will or moral accountability. Sovereignty does mean that God orchestrates our circumstances and works through our actions in order to propel His own redemptive purposes.

One of the clearest proofs of this is the death of Christ. Peter said the events leading to the crucifixion were an example of God’s control. “This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge,” Peter observed, “and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross” (Acts 2:23). Jesus was not a victim. Jesus assured His disciples: “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father” (John 10:18).

We can be assured that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). We do not need to comprehend how God’s sovereignty and our human responsibility work together in order to accept that they do. Theologian J. I. Packer says it well: “The Creator has told us that He is both a sovereign Lord and a righteous Judge, and that should be enough for us.”

For Further Study

To learn more, read Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God by J. I. Packer (InterVarsity).

BY Dr. John Koessler, Chair and Professor of Pastoral Studies

Dr. John Koessler serves as chair and professor in the division of applied theology and church ministry at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. He is married to Jane and has two sons, Drew and Jarred. John is the author of The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody), and True Discipleship (Moody). John has written several other books and articles and serves as a contributing editor for Today in the Word.

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