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Sovereignty and Grace Working Together?

The Sovereignty of God Is Gracious – Isaiah 45:1-13

Gracious is not a word many would typically associate with sovereignty. When one thinks of sovereignty words such as dominion, power, authority, control, self-determination, supremacy, autonomy, and independence come to mind. When speaking of the sovereignty of God one readily surmises that He possesses an inherent ability to do as He pleases irrespective of what anyone else says or desires. Such thinking often leads to the conclusion that God’s sovereignty is not beneficial to oneself and others.

However, this text from Isaiah reveals that God’s sovereignty and graciousness were working simultaneously for the benefit of His chosen people. This prophecy given by Isaiah prior to his death circa 681 BC identified Cyrus by name, not yet born, as a non-Hebraic king via whom God would authorize the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem and its Temple (Isa 44:28). Cyrus’ declaration for the Hebrews to return to their homeland and commence with the rebuilding projects occurred circa 539 BC, 140-plus years after Isaiah’s death.

The text cited above states that Cyrus, the king of Persia, is called the “Lord’s anointed” and is cited as being directed by His right-hand. In His sovereign actions, it is noted God opened doors for Cyrus, made the rough places smooth for his advancement, and granted him wealth. These actions that benefitted Cyrus were also intentional in that God was using him as an agent to accomplish His divine purposes. In directing the victorious advance of the Persian king God was graciously working in the interest of the Hebrew captives in Babylon. Although it is noted twice that Cyrus did not know the God of Israel, the text specifically cites that God was in effect acting on behalf of His chosen people.

God’s enablement of Cyrus clearly revealed that His sovereignty was also gracious in its effects. Today, God continues to direct non-believers, as wells as believers, in fulfilling His divine will. To view God’s sovereignty simply as autonomous actions beneficial to Himself is a failure to recognize that He is constantly, consistently, and lovingly being gracious to His children. Let us always remember that God’s sovereignty is gracious.

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