Speaking of storms, picking up from last time, in the fall of 2012 Hurricane Sandy churned in the Atlantic Ocean and rolled over Jamaica, eastern Cuba, and the Bahamas before turning northeast, out into the ocean, and then curving west for a direct hit of New Jersey. The storm surge and high tide occurred at the same time, leading to massive flooding. Before it was over, 233 lives would be lost, with damages tallying nearly $70 billion, and $32.8 billion of damages in New York state alone. Just a few days later, on November 3, 2012, John Piper took to the pulpit to talk about God’s sovereignty over the natural world — over hurricanes, tornadoes, even over “murderous viruses.” After a spring like the one we’ve experienced, it’s a good time to rehearse the sovereignty of God over the natural world. For this reminder, here’s Pastor John from November of 2012.
Sovereignty over nature: God is sovereign over the most random things you can imagine. Proverbs 16:33: “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” Now, well, how would we say that today? We would say, “The dice is rolled in Vegas, and every stopping of the dice with those numbers up is from God — all of them.” Or if you’re playing Scrabble at home and stick your hand into the bag and pull out your letters, God decides what letters you get. If you play UNO, God decides.
Master of Every Molecule
And lest you think that’s trifling, try this. This is Jesus talking. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?” In other words, they are utterly insignificant. “And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matthew 10:29–30). The role of the dice in Vegas — every one of them — or in your board game at home, and the tiny birds dying in a thousand forests, are governed by God. That’s Jesus’s way and Proverbs’s way of saying there aren’t any details too small for his control. That’s his way of saying it. If he were here today, he’d talk in terms of molecules. He’d say with R.C. Sproul, “There’s not one maverick molecule in the universe.” From worms in the ground to stars in the galaxy, God governs.
“Anytime, anywhere on the planet, any wind can be stopped with two words from heaven.”
Take the book of Jonah. You’ve got a very big fish, and the Bible says that he commanded this fish to swallow Jonah, and the fish obeyed (Jonah 1:17). So, fish do God’s bidding. If he tells them to do this, they do it. And he commanded a plant to grow up to give Jonah some shade (Jonah 4:6). “Plant, grow up.” It obeyed. Plants do the bidding of God. Then he commanded a worm to kill the plant, to make Jonah hot, and to scold him for his bad attitude about Nineveh (Jonah 4:7). So, the worm obeyed.
I take this totally seriously. Bacteria, tsetse flies, murderous viruses do God’s bidding. They’re not free, any more than the worm or the whale or the plant just happened to grow up. God sees everything, and if anything is about to happen that he doesn’t want to happen, he just says, “Stop,” and it obeys. And if it didn’t stop, he didn’t tell it to stop, which means he’s got a plan for it. Or the stars:
Lift up your eyes on high and see:
who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
calling them all by name;
by the greatness of his might,
and because he is strong in power,
not one is missing. (Isaiah 40:26)
Why are stars where they are, doing what they do? He is mighty in power. That’s why. I’m totally not a naturalist. I see fingers of God in the atom and in the galaxies, all the time, every millisecond of history — controlling everything.
Behold Your God
I don’t know what kind of God that you have, who may be folding his arms, sitting back, doing nothing, letting the world run rampant. That’s just not the biblical God, and therefore not our God. If the stars, how much more the weather, disasters, disease, disability, death? Psalm 147:15–18: “He sends out his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly. He gives snow like wool.” That forty inches last week in the Smoky Mountains? God did that. “He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs; who can stand before his cold?” I love living in Minnesota. That cold? That’s God. You haven’t felt cold yet, all you Californians. “He sends out his word, and melts them; he makes his wind blow and the waters flow.” Here’s Job 37:11–13:
He loads the thick cloud with moisture;
the clouds scatter his lightning.
They turn around and around by his guidance,
to accomplish all that he commands them
on the face of the habitable world.
Whether for correction or for his land
or for love, he causes it to happen.
I love how clear the Bible is about the sovereignty of God over the natural world. Snow, rain, cold, heat, wind are the work of God, and when Jesus finds himself in the middle of a life-threatening, raging storm, he stands up and speaks two words: “Be still.” And the wind stops, and the waves go flat (Mark 4:39). And he could have done it last Monday in New York. And if you say he couldn’t have, I don’t know what kind of Jesus you have. Is he alive? Is he reigning? Is he the same Jesus today? Of course he is, which means anytime, anywhere on the planet, any wind can be stopped with two words from heaven. God could say, “Stop,” and it would obey. And if he doesn’t say it, he has purposes.
Hope in an All-Powerful God
There is no wind, there is no storm, there is no hurricane, there is no cyclone, there is no typhoon, there is no monsoon, there is no tornado over which Jesus cannot say, “Be still,” without getting off his throne, and it will obey him. And if it blows, he intends it to blow, and he has purposes for it that are better than avoiding it.
“There is no typhoon, there is no monsoon, there is no tornado over which Jesus cannot say, ‘Be still.’”
That’s what I’d preach if I were in the middle of New York right now, with the long, six-hour lines at the gas stations and 98-plus people dead and new bodies being found everywhere. I wouldn’t preach, “My God is helpless.” I would not. I would not take away the hope of these people by saying, “You don’t have a God who can help you, because he’s just too weak to stop a storm.” How could he control the storms of your life? How could he help you at all if he can’t speak what Jesus spoke? I wouldn’t preach that way. I don’t preach that way.
Amen. That was taken from John Piper’s sermon “The Sovereignty of God,” preached on November 3, 2012. You can find the entire thing online at desiringGod.org.