If we believe that we can die prematurely, we will often live in fear. What if we make the wrong choice? Or go to the wrong doctor? Or someone else makes a mistake? Can our lives or the lives of people we love be cut short because of someone else’s random acts?
The spread of COVID-19 has the world panicked, as we have no idea what is going to happen next. The worldwide death toll is mounting and we are all left considering how to protect ourselves and those we love. Earlier this year, as the virus was just being publicized, the country was rocked by the unexpected death of basketball superstar Kobe Bryant at age 41. People were shocked at losing a young vibrant athlete in the prime of life. We know everyone will die one day, but untimely deaths shake us all, especially of the young, whose deaths always seems premature.
But as we look at the fuller counsel of Scripture, we see that no one dies prematurely. Nothing is random. Nothing happens to any of us that hasn’t passed through God’s loving hands first. Which brings me enormous comfort when it feels as if the world is spinning out of control.
The late RC Sproul would agree. Sproul, an American theologian, reportedly told the story of an insurance salesman from the Presbyterian Ministers Fund who came to visit him and persuade him to change his policy. The salesman was busy explaining the benefits his wife would receive in the event of his premature death when Sproul responded, “I didn’t know Presbyterians believed in such a thing as premature death.”
Sproul may have been teasing the salesman, but he was thoroughly convinced that nothing in the world was random. One of his most well-known quotes was: “If there is one maverick molecule in all the universe, then God is not sovereign. And if God is not sovereign, He is not God.”
We see that principle, that God is sovereign over everything, underscored throughout the pages of Scripture. In 1 Kings 22, King Ahab wants to go into battle against the Syrians and his usual prophets tell him that he will succeed. One lone prophet, Micaiah, warns him that the battle will lead to his death. This prophet goes on to say that Ahab’s death was predetermined by God, which is why Ahab was enticed to enter the battle in the first place.
Ahab doesn’t believe the prophet and goes into battle disguised. Ahab believes that he can outsmart God and if people don’t know who he is, he will get away. He knows that the Syrians were commanded to only fight with the king of Israel, so he felt safe being anonymous. And yet Scripture says, “But a certain man drew his bow at random and struck the king of Israel…[and] at evening he died.” (1 Kings 22: 34-35)