In March 1942, Nazi Germany opened the most lethal of their concentration camps—Birkenau. As an expansion of the Auschwitz camp, Birkenau served two purposes. First, it housed prisoners for labor. Second, it facilitated the demonic murder of myriads of Jews through its four gas chambers. After arriving on a train, a Nazi doctor would evaluate each prisoner. He would point them either to the left or to the right. One way led immediately into the gas chamber which was disguised as showers while the other way led to the work camp. The doctor’s determination meant life or death.
Where was God at Birkenau? To protect God from accusations of doing evil, some people conclude that God is not sovereign. He does not have the power to stop evil. He, therefore, must be good, but He cannot act to stop the calamity. Others argue for a God who is in control of everything, but He is not good. What is the answer? Both conclusions present a false dichotomy. God is both sovereign and good. Jerry Bridges defines it as, “His constant care for and His absolute rule over all His creation for His own glory and the good of His people.
In this article, we will examine 5 Biblical reasons that God is in control. Next week, we will look at God’s goodness and wisdom.
First, God sustains the universe. Psalm 147:8-9 says, “He covers the heavens with clouds; he prepares rain for the earth; he makes grass grow on the hills. He gives to the beasts their food, and to the young ravens that cry.” Mother nature did not bring the flooding in the spring or the drought in the summer. It was God. He controls and maintains the weather, crops, animals, plants, and the earth’s orbit.
Second, God is sovereign over man. Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Moreover, Proverbs 19:21 establishes, “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Hence, God rules over man’s heart according to His desires and plans.
Third, God reigns over the nations. Regarding governments, Paul writes in Romans 13:1, “For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” God created specific governments to accomplish His purposes and to restrain evil. In the cases of the Assyrian, Babylon, and Roman Empires, God raised them up and tore them down. Moreover, God controls the king or president’s heart. Proverbs 21:1 teaches, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.”
Fourth, God controls disasters. Isaiah 45:7 reminds us, “I form light and create darkness;
I make well-being and create calamity; I am the Lord, who does all these things.” Natural disasters do not occur outside of God’s control. He governs hurricanes, tornadoes, and cyclones. The Lord controls cancer, car accidents, and death.
Fifth, God is sovereign over salvation. The disciples taught in Acts 4:27-28, “for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” God the Father planned before creation to send Jesus to die on the cross to redeem His people. Simultaneously, Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Gentiles, and the Jews are guilty of murdering the Lord. God did not create evil, but he planned and used the evil of men for the greater good of salvation for all who repent and believe in Jesus.
How does this apply to the Birkenau concentration camp? Was God in control? Yes. Did God plan the number of days each person would live before the foundation of the world? Yes. Is God guilty of murder? No. Are the Nazis guilty of murder? Yes.
Why does this matter? If God is not in control, then we should not pray to Him. He has no power to help. Furthermore, if God is not sovereign over evil, then trials, suffering, and death have no purpose. Joseph, however, from Genesis 50:20, teaches both God’s sovereignty over evil and man’s guilt when addressing his brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.”
Pastor Brandon was born and raised near Springfield, IL. He graduated from Illinois College in 2007 with a B.A. in History, from Moody Theological Seminary in 2010 with a Master of Divinity, and a PhD in Historical Theology in 2021 from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City. He is also an ACBC certified Biblical counselor. He is married to Karise with whom they raise Ian, Elizabeth, and Patrick. He is interested in history, especially Charles Spurgeon, and has a heart for street preaching and evangelism.