“Hear, O my people, and I will speak, . . . For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the mountains, and the wild beasts of the field are mine. . . . For the world is mine, and all its fullness” (Psalm 50:7, 10-12, NJKV).
To those who learned “religion” from the Bible, whether directly or second-hand from parents or culture, the idea that God is the ruler of the whole world is neither unusual nor difficult to understand. That was probably one of the first spiritual concepts to which we were introduced – “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).
This Biblical doctrine has been reinforced within the church-going community through songs and stories from early childhood. One favorite such song has been, “He’s got the whole world in his hands,” which enumerates in detail those under his control and protection (such as “the wind and the rain,” the tiny little baby,” “you and me brother,” and “everybody here”).
I have known and believed the doctrine of the universal sovereignty of God virtually all of my life. But it was not until I began traveling to distant parts of this world that I truly began to appreciate and depend upon it. When I first began to visualize what it would mean to get off of a plane somewhere that U.S. law is not the law of the land, where I might not speak the language or know the customs, and where I would have little recourse to help if trouble arose, it did not take long to realize the importance of faith in the all-powerful and all-knowing God.
That faith makes a big difference in one’s willingness and ability to go into the unknown (which is most of the world). I don’t have unlimited confidence in the U.S. State Department’s willingness and ability to get me out of danger. I do share with the apostle Paul the certainty that nothing in creation can separate me from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-39).
That the world is in God’s hands is to say that he owns it, has control over it, and is actively involved with it. And that is not just as a totality, but with regard to each individual component and every human in particular. Psalm 50 claims God’s ownership of the world as a whole (verse 12a), but also of all wild animals (verse 10a), domestic animals (verse 10b), birds (11a), and all that fills the world (12b). In the language of the old game show “Twenty Questions” (is anyone else old enough to remember that one?), whether it is “animal, vegetable, or mineral,” God owns it, knows it, and cares for it.
Believing that God is the supreme universal authority does not mean however that all in the world subjects itself to his power. False religions, secular philosophies, and autocratic governments stand in rebellion and denial of him. Many selfish and materialistic individuals give lip service to faith, but ignore God’s will and his gospel. To those the message of the Bible is simple and severe:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my father in heaven.’ . . . And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21, 23)
. . . it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:6-8)