I don't know what you think about when you hear the word ‘sovereign'. My immediate reaction takes me back to a large, obtrusive and ugly building on an unimpressive roundabout with slightly faded writing on the outside of it, which told encircling motorists that the building they were orbiting was in fact called the "Sovereign Shopping Centre".
It sticks so clearly in my mind because it was such a complicated junction. On any circuit of the Sovereign Shopping Centre you'd have to do your best to avoid pedestrians who had either left cars (which had run out of petrol) such was the number of laps they had completed or were making a hasty escape from the mall, clutching a wardrobe shoe rack, a jar of hot dogs, yesterday's newspaper or whatever it was that the Sovereign sold. (I never found out because I never went in. I never even found the entrance).
So why do I start this entry with such a bizarre introduction? Because, as I hope the above suggests, my previous exposure to the topic of ‘sovereignty' was not widely extensive. It was something that I had taken on board in the past. But it was not something with which I had truly wrestled. Sure, I had questions and my knowledge of what ‘sovereign' meant did go a little further than an unsightly retail outlet in Dorset but it was something I had just assumed rather than really - if I am totally honest - looked into heavily.
Who's in charge?
Over the course of a recent RML Romans weekend away, I was challenged and encouraged with regards to two things in particular. The first was that of the question of "Who is in charge?" Matthew 10 reminds us of the extent to which God is actually in charge of the world. Not one sparrow dies without God knowing or allowing it. The implications of that are mind-boggling. The sparrow is one of the most common birds and - were you to want to purchase one - they are very inexpensive. When it comes down to it, the population at large would regard them as totally unimportant and without consequence. Yet here we are told that even the lives of the least important of God's creatures is of consequence to God and he plans even for each of them.
With this in mind we can know that if God is concerned with and in charge of something as minor as this then he must be sovereign over the whole world. He would need to be sovereign over the cats that kill sparrows; over the gardeners who put up netting across vegetable gardens which is known to ensnare birds and he must rule over the flight path of aircraft which are also responsible for bird deaths. The implications are universal and infiltrate every food chain, human logistical plan, bird's nest, etc in the world.
What does this mean for us?
So that is nature, but Matthew also reminds us that he knows the very number of hairs on our head. I remember an assembly at school where someone tried to count someone else's hair but even after 5 minutes they had had to restart countless times and the task was deemed impossible. Yet our God and creator just...knows it. Like it is no big deal. That is the level of care and love he has for us. He knows us fully and intimately. Psalm 139 tells us that he knows us even before we were knitted together in our mother's womb.
So what does his sovereignty mean? It means, as Isaiah writes, that the future is firm and secure. He has a plan for each of us.