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Sovereign Over All Domains

Sovereign Over All Domains

Sovereign Over All Domains

By Mateus Trupia

1 Kings 20,23-25 (ESV):

And the servants of the king of Syria said to him, “Their gods are gods of the hills, and so they were stronger than we. But let us fight against them in the plain, and surely we shall be stronger than they. […]” And he listened to their voice and did so.

His servants gave this reason to the king of Syria after their first devastating defeat. Spoiler alert, the Israelites defeated the Syrians in this second battle. God gave the enemies of Israel into their hands here not because of their obedience and faithfulness towards their God, but as a sign and witness to correct the error of the Syrians. This error, even the Israelites at times have fallen into. They thought God ruled only over Israel or some local domain, but neglected that he is Lord of all creation. But scripture says, “The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all” (Ps. 103, 19) and “Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps” (Ps. 135,6).

For some historical and cultural context, the form of paganism in the Ancient Near East was similar to how we understand the better-known pagan religion of the Ancient Greeks. Various gods had domain over their individual thing. Whether it be physical markers of the land (a river, a hill, a mountain range, a city, etc.) or a physical concept like wine and beer; some gods had domains over wider aspects of life (agriculture, fertility, war, life, death, etc.) and other gods ruled over metaphysical concepts like justice, truth, wisdom, balance, and order. Therefore, the error of the Syrians and of the Canaanites that lived around and among the Israelites, an error which the Israelites themselves fell under the influence of, was to believe there were some part, aspect, function, peoples, or area of life that the Lord God was not sovereign over.

I believe this is still happening today. More egregious are those who profess Christ as King but deny him lordship over the plains. A theologian named Abraham Kuyper famously said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” When I think of landscapes in our lives that we are reluctant to commit to God, a specific domain where we have a clear need for sanctification, I think of the web.

We say, God is a God of the heavens and of the earth, resist to submit to his sovereignty in the “virtual world.” In terms of physical space, the virtual is somehow and somewhere in between the heavens and the earth, we call the servers that hold that world “the cloud,” after all. That was some humour, yet the truth remains: God is Lord over the heavens, earth, and everything in between. Our problem is that we often neglect to consider God during our web surfing. We tell ourselves when it comes to the material and tangible world, “I would never go to that bar across the street, or to that person’s house, or do that activity with so-and-so,” but we go to that site, and spend time in that person’s profile or DMs, or do that activity involving this-or-that. If this doesn’t apply to you, glory to God who has kept you from this sin, but many of us struggle to worship God with our phones and screens. It is absolutely heartbreaking how brazen we can be regarding our online presence. Most of us would never dare to do the things we do if a faithful brother or pastor were sitting beside us, yet we do it knowing that God is present everywhere. Or is the God of all creation blind and deaf to what happens on our screens? Perhaps we tell ourselves that God rules over all creation, yet has no authority and rule over what we’ve created. We know that’s wrong. Mankind cannot create, only God can bring something to form from which was not, ex nihilo; man can only shape and construct with what was given him. Like the Psalmist says, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein” (Ps. 24,1). Likewise, we may try to hide behind a thin veil, believing the virtual anonymity offered by a username, an avatar, or VPN and secure browsing mode can hide us from God’s sight. On the contrary, we read, “You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar,” and “no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Ps. 139,2; Heb. 4,13).

A colossal problem revolving around this entire topic is how reluctant we are to address the issue. I know many will admit there is a problem, but the diagnosis does not frequently reach as deeply as the infection or the root cause of the contamination. You will have 10 Christians warning about the dangers of the internet and/or social media but with the wish to protect the hearer from “spending too much time rather than doing more edifying things.” They have a valid argument, but it’s beside the point. If the dangers of the web were only sinful time management, it could be said of any hobby or pastime, even reading the Bible (instead of serving when we are called to). The dangers of the web are more precisely articulated by all the evil things that comes out of the heart of man, evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness (Mark 7, 20-22). Many people would now say or defensively think something like: “come on now, there are worse sins to talk about, you’re splitting hairs, you’re nitpicking, is this really such a big deal?” They might even believe deep down, “it’s all on the internet, it doesn’t really matter.” But this is just the same as believing our Lord does not know or care for some part of creation. These sins we have been accustomed to wink at and whitewash are the very same things Jesus warned would defile a person, whether they were actions, thoughts, desires or dawdling looks. Jesus’ earthly brother James, who became the leader of the early church in Jerusalem also warns, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desires. Then desires when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1,14-15).

Paul warns against using our bodies to profane the righteousness of God, “do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6,19-20). Our Lord Jesus also spoke against our virtual sin which is primarily against the eyes, and these words should bring shame and chagrin to us who know we fall, “the eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness” (Matt. 6, 22-23). Yet in his compassion, Jesus did not leave us to wallow and perish in our sin. After all, he is the great high priest who can sympathize with our weakness, who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4,15), and he tells us that in the midst of our failures and shame, we are welcome in his presence and that he will not despise us for our sin: “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11, 28-30).

Let us then, contrary to the spiritual foes of Israel and against the spiritual tide of our culture, give to God what is rightfully his, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12, 1-2). Needless to be said yet paramount to be understood, God is not simply a God of Sunday, but the Lord of every minute and second, and touch and sight, and taps or clicks or swipes and likes.

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