We pass now to the next matter in the ways of God: His sovereignty and government. That sovereignty and government are unchallengeable and inexorable.
God's sovereignty and government cannot be challenged. It is a way that God is taking and you cannot challenge Him; you dare not question His sovereign right to take that way, it is unchallengeable - in the end perfectly vindicated as being right. Now, there is quite a lot said about it in the Word of God, but it would take a whole conference to deal with it. Something like that comes up in connection with the potter and the clay. The clay must not challenge the potter - "Why didst thou make me thus?" (Rom. 9:20). God is acting sovereignly, and He must not be challenged.
And His government and sovereignty are inexorable. That is, get in the way and see what happens. It is a terrible thing to get in the way of God! Many have found it an awful thing to get in the way of God. He is going; you, nor I, nor any other combination of forces in this universe can frustrate Him. He will work and none shall hinder, and if any get in the way... You remember Stephenson and his railway engine. It was a poor specimen compared with our modern locomotive; you would hardly think it had any power in it at all, but the powerful, scientific critics said to Stephenson, "But supposing a cow got on the line?!" "So much the worse for the cow!" said Stephenson. Yes, to get in God's way is not to gain anything.
It is good to be in the goings of God; they are sovereign, unchallengeable, inexorable. It may seem often that God is being frustrated and held up; it may seem that we are not getting through, but the story is not complete! If we really knew what God is shearing and ploughing through in His sovereignty, we would see a tremendous thing is happening.
The great inclusive example is Christ Himself in His cross. All the evil, inimical forces in this universe have combined and conspired to compass Him about, to overwhelm Him, to press Him down. The prophetic words of the Psalmist are slightly indicative of it: "They compassed me about like bees" (Psa. 118:12). Paul in the letter to the Colossians tells us what that meant spiritually, "Having put off from Himself the principalities and powers" (Col. 2:15). Paul's idea of principalities and powers is very far-reaching.
He goes beyond the heads of the evil hierarchy and finishes with hosts of wicked spirits in the heavenlies (Eph. 6:12). Yes, the heavens are full of these evil forces, and when that One hung upon the tree, they said, "We have got Him now! Let us crush Him out now!" They determined that this was the end of Him. So He knew in His spirit this awful darkness, swamping, overwhelming, "All thy waves and thy billows are gone over Me" (Psa. 42:7). What an experience it must have been in the soul of our Lord, but "I will cut them off" (Psa. 118:12). He stripped off principalities and powers. And Paul says, "He raised Him from the dead, and made Him to sit at His right hand in the heavenlies, far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named" (Eph. 1:20-21). He sheared clean through. God did a tremendous thing in raising Him from the dead. Exercising the exceeding greatness of His power, He cleft open all the hostility in His universe and made a way for His Son right through. The point is, God's goings are like that.
It is a good thing to be with God. We may have our discipline, our painful experiences, we may find awful frustration, but the story is not all told yet, and it is marvellous that we have gone on at all. In view of all that we have had to encounter, and in view of all that has determined to bring us to an end, it is marvellous we have gone on. God is doing something which, in the end, will be seen to be very wonderful, and it will be proved that anything or anyone getting in the way of the goings of God, and therefore in the way of those who are in the train of His goings, will have a poor time. They, indeed, will suffer disaster. It is tremendously important to be with God in what He is doing; not what we think He ought to do or what we would like to do for Him, not in our interpretations of what God would do, but in what God is doing.
Now you see this sovereignty and government is a tremendous thing. We could start from the beginning of the Bible and see it working all through, but the very fact of it is shown in the way in which God so often makes very doubtful instruments serve glorious purposes. Listen to this. "The Most High... Him that liveth for ever... His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom from generation to generation; and all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; and He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest thou?" (Dan. 4:34-35). The channel of that inspiration was a very doubtful one - it was Nebuchadnezzar. Now think about it, think about this man who stood right in the way of God's interests concerning His Son. Nebuchadnezzar was no ally, and yet God forced through the lips of that man perhaps one of the greatest statements about His sovereignty that has ever been expressed in the Bible. There are a lot of things like that. There have been times when I have paused in reading a certain Scripture which was very sublime, very beautiful, and said, "I wonder if that is inspired?" - because of the person who uttered it. But here you are.
Think of Balaam. What is your opinion of Balaam? You have not much respect for Balaam. You know what is said about him: "He loved the hire of wrong-doing" (2 Pet. 2:15) - a contemptible, despicable person, but few more sublime things have ever come to us than those which came through the mouth of Balaam. "He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob" (Num. 23:21), and the rest. A very doubtful messenger of Divine truth, but the truth is there; it is Divine truth all the same. That is the sovereignty of God. He will make His very enemies to tell His praises, His glories, His excellencies, and convey to His people for all time His Divine treasures. When Balaam said, "He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob", he gave expression to the gospel of the grace of God. Sovereign grace preached by Balaam! That is sovereignty. Sovereign grace coming by the sovereignty of God - the sovereignty of God using an unintending instrument, one really set against God's interests. And in Nebuchadnezzar again, here comes out the great declaration and testimony to the sovereign control of God in heaven and on earth.
And what about Job's friends? There are some sublime things in the book of Job; they are grand, but dare I take them as from God? But I see that it is all of a piece with this sovereignty. It was one of Job's friends, one of his critics, who said, "Lay thou thy treasure in the dust, and the gold of Ophir among the stones of the brooks; and the Almighty will be thy treasure and precious silver unto thee" (Job 22:24-25). God uses such a preacher to preach sovereign compensation. It is a great truth. "Every one that hath left houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or children, or lands, for My name's sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall inherit eternal life" (Matt. 19:29). God will see to it and will keep the balances even. His sovereignty holds those balances, and He will be debtor to no man. Sovereign compensation is preached by a friend of Job.
And what shall we say of Caiaphas? Well, the least said about him the better, excepting this, that he, being High Priest that year, prophesied that one should die for the people (John 11:51). He did not mean to; he was forced to. Sovereignty was at work to secure atonement for all by One, and Caiaphas was the preacher of it, a doubtful preacher, seeing he is the first preacher of the atonement in the New Testament. But all these are examples of how God is going on His way sovereignly governing, and He is doing it not only in spite of opposition, but by means of it.
We come back to Psalm 68 from which our title - "The Goings of God" - is taken. There is a little fragment in that Psalm which is taken by Paul and quoted in Eph. 4:8: "When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men"; and in the Psalm - "among the rebellious also". Paul takes hold of that, and he transfers it and brings it into its right place in the goings of God, the goings of God in the ascension of the Lord Jesus, the raising of Him to His own right hand and he sees a mental picture of a thing familiar in campaigns in his time. A victorious general has overwhelmed his enemies, has made them bow, and then his enemies hand over to him a present of men who were leaders of the rebellion; they make him a present of men, "the rebellious also". And Paul says (and you know that this is not an isolated instance of Paul's thought about this matter) when He ascended up on high He gave a present of men and the rebellious - and I was also one of those rebellious ones. Saul of Tarsus is among "the rebellious also", but he is in the captivity which is led captive, and firstly given to the victorious Lord and then given by the victorious Lord to the church. "And He gave some apostles..." - a glorious picture. But see the sovereignty of God. Here is Saul of Tarsus very much among the rebellious, no one more so than he, and then that sovereignty stoops down from the heavens and catches him on the Damascus road and lays a hand on him and arrests him. He leads him captive, and then He gives him to the church as one of the apostles. Marvellous sovereignty, not only in the act of apprehending, but the sovereignty which turns a once fierce enemy to serve the very ends which he at one time sought to frustrate. No one has served more fully ends which once were the object of his destructive hatred than the apostle Paul. But that is sovereignty.
In smaller, lesser ways, that is true of us. We could go on like that through the Bible. It is very wonderful. We can see it on the other side. Herod gets in God's way and we know what happens to him. The sovereignty is going on, is unchallengeable, inexorable.
I think I must finish there for the moment. We go back to remind ourselves. God has fixed a goal; He fixed it before times eternal. That goal is that all things shall be summed up in Christ and that He shall fill all things; that God is going sovereignly, inexorably, towards that end. Is that goal the dearest thing to our hearts? Is Christ as all and in all really in practical everyday matters, not as a beautiful Christian ideal, but in practical matters of everyday life? If you want the sovereignty of God on your side, that is the way to have it. If we really do want God as our ally (that is the wrong way to put it) but if we do want to have God committing Himself to us, the way for that is to have no other object, thought, or care but that in all things He, God's Son, shall have the pre-eminence. God can do wonderful things when He gets us there. We have our little controversies with the Lord. We sometimes get held up because this thing is making too deep an inroad into this life here. It is not always easy to hand over to the Lord and say, "Have Thine own way, Lord". We do come up against the cost, then our battle takes place, and we win through, and then we find God floods in in a new way and on we go and we find that God is with us. Well, it comes down to very practical, simple details of life.
The whole which applies to the vast circle of the universe touches you and me in this issue and that issue as to whether the Lord Jesus is going to be all, dividing nothing, all and in all. That is the way to find the power of God at work; it is the life which is utter for Christ that finds God utter for it. In the long run it will have proved to have been so, although, as we may see before we have finished, there are often mysteries and hiddennesses in God's ways, but the end is sure. We shall find that although it did seem sometimes that we were getting through with difficulty, God was doing something tremendous, far bigger than we ever knew. God was overcoming a lot; God was gaining much ground and deep ground; God was consolidating; He was going on. May He find us all one with Himself in His goings.