The Sovereignty Contest

Who reigns? Is it the Lord, Creator of the heavens and the earth and giver of life to all? Is it that black shrouded apparition called Death? This is no idle speculation. On the evidences of eyes and mind Death would appear to reign, but from the heart and realm of the spirit the answer arises, "The Lord reigns."

Herein lies the dilemma to the heart. How can the Lord reign when in the experience of men and women for seeming aeons of time Death and the grave have the final word? What case does the Lord present, that in spite of what the eyes and mind behold, He is sovereign?

The mind grapples with the problem of how the Eternal God, giver and sustainer of life, can claim back the usurped sovereignty from Death. God cannot die, for then He could be no longer God. Yet unless He engages Death and wins, He is usurped, and creation is for ever a slave to the whim of Death.

The only feasible answer is for God to become part of His creation. He must actually become Man – not a pretend role or a facade, nor the use of His deity to overrule His humanity. Death must be fought on the same field in which humanity has had to fight. God must confront Death, and its demons, sin, temptation and the grave.

The credentials of God in human form must be impeccable. There can be no cover-up nor sleight-of-hand trickery. Humans must be able to check out His genealogy. The God of truth and righteousness must be in time and space, and His humanity worked out under strict scrutiny, otherwise the eyes and minds of humans will perceive the sham and reject His claim to sovereignty.

Herein lies one of the wonders of the Scriptures – God accepted the usurper's challenge! God and God alone must have the pre-eminence. There can be only one Sovereign, and this is the reality of eternity.

In the Old Testament, the Tenach, there is special emphasis on a family tree. From Adam through to Noah's son Shem a chosen line is highlighted. God is making known to all creation His humanity, His human DNA. The Eternal Lord had allowed time to prepare a case history that can be declared to all generations, and uphold His moral and spiritual integrity.

Isaiah the prophet gives us an insight into a feature of His coming into this world. He says it is by the miracle of a birth wrought in a maiden by the power of the Holy Spirit: "The virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call his name Immanuel (God-with-us) " (7:14).

This could be the only way in which God could be human yet be untouched by the sin of humanity. Death must be confronted by the perfect Man. God must taste death in that perfect Man. The right to sovereignty would be won or lost on how this Immanuel faced the Usurper. The battle must be witnessed, need impartial reporting, and the outcome be a visible testimony that could withstand criticism, lies, and the insinuations of enemies.

Isaiah once again provides information to help us: "And he will destroy on this mountain the surface of the covering cast over all peoples, and the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death for ever, and the LORD God will wipe away tears from all faces; the rebuke of his people he will take away from all the earth; for the LORD has spoken" (25:7,8)

We could not gauge how God would achieve what is humanly impossible, except we had an insight into what would take flesh centuries later: "He poured out his soul unto death, and he was numbered with the transgressors, and he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors" (53:12).

The prophet also makes us aware that the event does not leave the suffering servant entombed in the embrace of Death: "He shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. (53:10,11). "For you will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will you allow your Holy One to see corruption" (Psalm 16:10).

Death and destruction still run riot across the globe, promoting the lie that Death still is sovereign. In its hostility against the eternal Lord, Death wages war on all who dare align themselves with the One who has risen from the dead. But Death has been defeated, and for nearly forty years, until 70AD, an empty grave bore testimony to the fact that Immanuel had risen and Death was dethroned.

With the Jewish records destroyed when Jerusalem and other parts of occupied Judea were assailed by the Romans between 66 and 70 AD, and with the Jewish people scattered as well as many Christians, the tangible testimony of an empty tomb sank almost without trace.

However the power of the message has never ceased, and the triumph of the risen Lord is more fully realized as by faith people respond. Even the impotency of one of Death's cohorts, the grave, is revealed by Hosea: "I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O Death, I will be your plagues! O Grave, I will be your destruction!" (13:14). The Eternal God could not do this without first entering into combat with Death and arising the Victor.

The Scriptures also reveal God's future plans. He is presently offering to men and women the opportunity to place themselves under His sovereignty by an act of faith. The focus of this faith is in Himself as revealed in His humanity and by His triumph over death and the grave. But one day this amnesty will surely end.

The basis for His amnesty is the Messiah, without whom all we can expect is the grave. However when we respond to the message of the sovereignty of the Lord, He becomes the One through whom we have the grace that will take us through every experience, even dying.

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me . . . and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever" (Psalm 23:4,6).

"The LORD reigns, he is clothed with majesty; the LORD is clothed, he has girded himself with strength . . . Your throne is established from of old; you are from everlasting . . . Your testimonies are very sure; holiness adorns your house, O LORD, for ever" (Psalm 93:1,2,5).