Sovereignty and Traffic Lights

Meet Robert Smith, civil engineer for the Department of Transportation. He designs Traffic Control Lighting (that’s “stop lights” to you and me) for the city.

When the City needs to put in a new stop light, they send him engineering diagrams of the intersection in question. He designs the stop lights that will be installed and ships the plans to the foreman on site. Once the equipment is installed, Bob will go out to the site and do a physical inspection of the installed equipment.  After he confirms that the hardware has been installed according to his specs, he does the final calibration on the electronics, programs the timers and starts the lights. He signs off on the paperwork, hands it back to the foreman, gets back in his pick-up, and pulls up to the brand new stoplights he just installed.

If the lights are green, he continues on back to the office. If the lights are red, he stops, waits till they’re green, and then continues back to the office.


If a pedestrian didn’t know that Bob had just programmed the lights, would it ever dawn on him that what’s really going on is that the lights are obeying the driver, even though the driver is sitting at the red light?

Is it accurate to say that Bob is obeying the lights, or that the lights obeying Bob’s programming? Or both?

Is this a chicken and egg situation or is there really a legitimate “bigger picture”?

Is there a similar “bigger picture” to God’s actions, and if so, how do we tell what is “small picture” and what is “big picture”?

If God says that He will, for example, destroy Pharaoh because he was cruel to God’s people, is Pharaoh the primary cause that God is reacting to, or did God “program” Pharaoh do these things so that He could accomplish what He wanted to do? (Consider in light of this question)

If Joseph’s brothers enslave Joseph and sell him off to Egypt, did they act alone, or did God maneuver/manipulate their actions so that He could get Joseph to Egypt? (Consider the parallel offered in , and consider why David phrased the way he did)

Believe it or not, the Bible actually answers these questions.

10:1 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the Lord.” (ESV)

20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (ESV)

17 he had sent a man ahead of them,
Joseph, who was sold as a slave. (ESV)

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