Category Archives: Sovereignty of God
From Augustine’s letter to Jerome (AD 415), as translated and quoted in The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 1:527–528:
Not in vain has the prophet, taught by divine inspiration, declared concerning God, “He bringeth forth in measured harmonies the course of time” [Isa. 40:26]. For which reason music, the science or capacity of correct harmony, has been given also by the kindness of God to mortals having reasonable souls, with a view to keep them in mind of this great truth. For if a man, when composing a song which is to suit a particular melody, knows how to distribute the length of time allowed to each word so as to make the song flow and pass on in most beautiful adaptation to the ever changing notes of the melody, how much more shall God, whose wisdom is to be esteemed as infinitely transcending human arts, make infallible provision that not one of the spaces of time alloted to natures that are born and die — spaces which are like the words and syllables of the successive epochs of the course of time — shall have, in what we may call the sublime psalm of the vicissitudes of this world, a duration either more brief or more protracted than the foreknown and predetermined harmony requires! For when I may speak thus with reference even to the leaves of every tree, and the number of the hairs upon our heads, how much more may I say it regarding the birth and death of men, seeing that every man’s life on earth continues for a time, which is neither longer nor shorter than God knows to be in harmony with the plan according to which He rules the universe.
A man may love another as his own soul, yet perhaps that love of his cannot help him. He may thereby pity him in prison, but not relieve him; bemoan him in misery, but not help him; suffer with him in trouble, but not ease him. We cannot love grace into a child, nor mercy into a friend; we cannot love them into heaven, though it may be the greatest desire of our soul. … But now the love of Christ, being the love of God, is effectual and fruitful in producing all the good things which he wills unto his beloved. He loves life, grace, and holiness into us; he loves us also into covenant, loves us into heaven.
Peppered throughout the Old Testament we read of God’s plan to redeem sinners from every nation. Every knee shall bow and all the nations shall stream to the mountain of the Lord’s house (Isa. 2:2–3, 45:23). Yet in light of these promises, Israel was not commissioned to fulfill a missionary program or given an OT version of the great commission. Instead, Charles H. H. Scobie writes, the ingathering of the nations was defined by these three distinctives (Scobie 2003: 519–520):
(1) The ingathering fulfillment promises are eschatological, that is, forward looking [see Isa. 2:2; Jer. 3:17; Mic. 4:1, 7:12; Zech. 2:11, 3:9].
(2) The promised ingathering will be the work of God, not the work of Israel [see Isa. 56:7, 66:18, 25:6; Zeph. 3:9].
(3) The ingathering will happen as the nations pursue Israel, not the other way around [see Isa. 45:14, 60:3, 5, 14, 66:23; Mic. 7:12].
In light of God’s ingathering promises, the book of Jonah is quite startling. This book features a “pouting prophet” called to carry the news of the Living God to a corrupt pagan people. To say that Jonah marks a new missionary program for Israel would be unfair and overstated. However, Jonah’s commission—especially in light of the ingathering promises of God—stands in contrast to the alert OT reader, and in at least one important way. Jonah reveals that God’s sovereign sway over the nations and his eschatological promise to gather a people from every tribe and nation does not impinge upon the mission of God’s people. God’s sovereignty and the call to evangelism coexist within the structure of the OT.