God Restrains People
God Restrains People
One of the most important dimensions of God’s sovereignty is in the hearts of the people. Each of us makes a decision to be inclined towards God or to be in rebellion against God. Each of us will be somewhere along the line either in total rebellion (at one end of the line) or will be in total submission (at the other end of the line) to God.
God restrains people from decisions or actions that would harm us. In Genesis 20 we see an incident in the life of Abraham. In fear of his life Abraham lied about his wife Sarah saying that she was his sister. Abraham justifies this because Sarah was Abraham’s half-sister – Genesis 20:12. We read all throughout Scripture that Abraham was a man of faith. Yet because of this incident we get a demonstration of Abraham’s lack of trust in God. The trust that we have for God is based upon our faith. Yet in this incident we see Abraham’s faith wavering. At various points in each of our lives we will see our faith waiver to some extent.
As a result of Abraham’s lie Abimelech moved to take Sarah as his wife. God kept Abimelech from completing his plan. Genesis 20:6 Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her.
God restrained Abimelech from consummating a physical relationship with Sarah. God intervened and protected Sarah and Abraham’s relationship. God restrained Abimelech by moving upon his will. He chose of his own free will not to be with Sarah. This decision was under the sovereign control of God. Consider that Abraham put Sarah in this difficult position through his unbelief and sin. God did not excuse Abraham’s sin. He did not let that stop Him from intervening in Abimelech’s mind to prevent the serious consequences of the sin. Again we do not understand how God preforms this but we can see examples of His restraining people’s actions.
We see another example of God restraining people’s actions in Genesis 34 and 35. This is an incident in the life of Jacob. Jacob’s sons had committed heinous acts against the Canaanites. They did this in order to get revenge for Dinah their sister who had been raped. After this incident Jacob set out to move from Shechem to Bethel. Genesis 35:5 And as they journeyed, a terror from God fell upon the cities that were around them, so that they did not pursue the sons of Jacob. Terror or fear is a state of the mind usually induced by some external circumstances. There were not any external circumstances to cause the terror that they felt. Genesis 34:30 Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought trouble on me by making me stink to the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites and the Perizzites. My numbers are few, and if they gather themselves against me and attack me, I shall be destroyed, both I and my household.” The group of people that Jacob was with was few in number. There was no physical reason that the Canaanites could not have overpowered Jacob and his company, if they wanted to take revenge on Jacob because of what his sons had done.
We see another incident of this in Ezra 5:5.
The strongest illustration of God’s restraining a people is given to us in: Exodus 34:23–24 Three times in the year shall all your males appear before the LORD God, the God of Israel. 24 For I will cast out nations before you and enlarge your borders; no one shall covet your land, when you go up to appear before the LORD your God three times in the year.
This was a command from God that three times a year they were to journey to Jerusalem. For the three major feasts of the Jews: the Feast of Passover, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Tabernacles. God required all the males of Israel to journey to Jerusalem. This journey would require them to be gone for at least two weeks and for some three weeks. This would be equivalent today in our nation: shutting down all its commerce, shutting down all of its educational activities, and furloughing all its military personnel simultaneously. The nation of Israel would be totally defenseless to hostile powers three times a year or almost 3 months of that year. God promised them that no one would covet their land during those times when they were utterly defenseless. Not only would no other nations attack them they would not even desire to do so. Covetousness is the evil desire of something belonging to another. And is one of the most deeply rooted emotions in the human heart.
God said that no other nation would covet the land of the Israelites during their vulnerable and defenseless times. God can restrain not only people’s actions, even their most deeply rooted desires. No part of the human heart is impervious to God’s sovereign mysterious control. Many times we read these accounts merely as biblical history without relating them to our lives and our situations.
Paul reminds us in Romans 15:4 that the purpose of the Scriptures is to teach us, to encourage us, that we might have hope. To teach us that God is sovereign over people, to encourage us by that knowledge that God exercises His sovereignty for our good.
Where on the line between total rebellion of God and total submission of God do you see yourself?