“The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will” (Prov. 21:1).
Many times, we feel helpless in life. We find that many things in life are beyond our control. Whether we get a good grade in school or a poor one, whether we are promoted or fired, or whether our business blooms or folds – we often find the results at the mercy of others. How should we respond to such situations? When we desperately need a favourable decision from another person, can we trust God that He will work in the heart of that individual to bring about His plan for us? Or consider the instance when someone is out to harm us, or to ruin our reputation, or to jeopardize our career – can we trust God to intervene in the heart of that person so that he does not carry out his evil intent? According to the Bible, the answer in both instances is an emphatic “YES!” We can trust God. God is sovereign and He does intervene in the hearts of people so that they their decisions and actions will accomplish His purpose for our lives.
The Bible says, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will” (Prov. 21:1). God does act in the heart of the people. We cannot appreciate the full force of this verse today as we live in a world of limited monarchies, where kings are largely confined to role of figureheads of the state. But during the time of Solomon, the king was an absolute monarch. The king did that which was right in his own eyes. There was no Supreme Court or Constitution to restrain him. The king’s word was law itself. His authority over his dominion was absolute. He alone will decide the destiny of his subjects. He would be the most powerful person in his kingdom. Yet, the Bible says that God controls the king’s heart. The absolute will of the most powerful person in the kingdom is under the control of God, as much as a powerful river is directed from its cause by the power of God.
God is sovereign and He has the power to direct the course of action in the affairs of this world. Imagine the following – you’ve been working for a cruel boss all your life. You are always overworked and underpaid. You have always wanted to get out of this but are unable to because your boss is a powerful person in the country. One day, you receive a call to serve under a new organization in a foreign land. You are overjoyed. However, you do not know you can break out of your contract. Moreover, you do not have the money to make the trip. You decide to go to your boss to ask him to release you and to give you money for the trip. What do you think the consequence will be?
As farfetched as this hypothetical situation may sound, what happened is that your boss gives you not only a little money but basically part of his fortune for you to go and serve someone else, though he opposes violently to this at the beginning. Sounds incredible, doesn’t it?
Well, this was precisely what happened to the Israelites when they were under bondage to their Egyptian taskmasters. You know the story – the Israelites were slaves and were oppressed under their Egyptian masters, but God intervened in the heart of Pharaoh, such that when the Israelites sought permission to leave and to worship the Lord, Pharaoh sent them out with the riches of Egypt. This was in accordance to the promise of God that the Israelites would not leave empty-handed but would “spoil the Egyptians” (Exod. 3:21-22). It was God working in the heart of Pharaoh to let the Israelites depart – something which was beyond the Israelites’ wildest imagination!
Now, if God controls the king’s heart, surely He controls the hearts of everyone else’s too – this is a logical argument from the greater to the lesser. Whether they are Christians or non-Christians, whether willing or non-willing, we can be assured that God is able to move the hearts of the people to carry out His plans. God is able to move the hearts of the people such that you may secure a job or be promoted at your workplace: “6For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. 7But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another” (Ps. 75:6-7). The people who seem to dictate your career are merely agents used by God to carry out His will and plan for your life.
How does this understanding help shape your response to the many uncertainties in life? First, we must learn to trust God. Our careers and destinies are in His hands; and not in the hands of others. No one can harm or jeopardize your future apart from the sovereign will of God. God has a plan for us even in our secular job and we are to walk in it. When we do that which is pleasing unto God, God is able to and will grant you favour in the eyes of people who are in a position to do you good.
Second, we should then look to God in prayer in all those situations where some aspects of our future seem to lie in the hands of another individual. We may not know God’s will on what He is going to do, but we know for certain that it is His will for us to seek Him in prayer. It is by prayer that the will of God is revealed unto us.
Third, a confidence in God’s sovereignty in the lives of people should also keep us from becoming resentful and bitter when we are treated unjustly by others. When we realize that the evil actions of others on us will never happen except that they are permitted by God, then we ought to think twice before becoming resentful or being bitter in our spirit. If God so allows it to happen for a purpose, should we not be happy too, to receive it from the Lord and trust in His wisdom? A spirit of resentment and bitterness is a result of our rejection of the Lord’s will for our lives.
At this juncture, however, it is important to leave you a word of caution in this deep understanding of God’s will for us. First, we should never blame our own shortcomings to the sovereign will of God. If you are lazy and get fired or fail your exams, do merely say that it is God’s will and you are unable to do anything about it. Yea, you may be under the chastisement of God’s sovereign will rather than receiving the blessings of God in such a situation. Second, we should not be purely passive just because everything is under the Lord’s control. God’s sovereign control does not negate the need of diligence to work out God’s will for us. We are called to “… work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12-13). This aspect of working out diligently God’s will in our lives is a proof that God is indeed working in the hearts of the people – yours in particular. Have you yielded your heart to the hand of God?