In my “Through the Bible in a Year” reading this morning, I was again made aware that there is so much about my God that I cannot understand. His ways are so much higher than my own. Because of this and more, I will be in joyful, captive amazement for all eternity and never grow tired or bored of worshipping my God.
Specifically, I was confronted with a biblical truth that is a topic of debate among Christians and has been for centuries. It is the fact that God is free to do as He pleases while at the same time allowing mankind to do as we please. And yet, He is able to work out His perfect will without in any way going to “Plan B.”
How He accomplishes this is something I could only make feeble attempts to explain. I feel like a kindergarten student trying to explain a college calculus equation. I can do my best to understand it but I am left in amazement at the complexity of it and my God. But, my lack of understanding in no way delegitimizes the truth.
For instance, I read this morning that God was the one who hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that he would not let Moses and the Israelites leave Egypt. Yet, I also read that Pharaoh hardened his own heart.
Here are the verses:
– Pharaoh was responsible for hardening his own heart: Exodus 8:15; 8:32; 9:34-35
– God was responsible for hardening Pharaoh’s heart: Exodus 4:21; 7:3; 9:12; 10:1; 10:20; 10:27; 11:10; 14:4, 8
– These verses simply state that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened without letting us know who was responsible: Exodus 7:13-14, 22; 8:19; 9:7
So, who hardened Pharaoh’s heart? Did God? Yes. But, does that mean that Pharaoh was divinely coerced into hardening his heart so that he had no choice in the matter. Absolutely not! Pharaoh hardened his own heart because he was free to do so and it was the option he chose for himself.
In the Old Testament, there is another story that shows the complexity of this same issue: God’s divine control over His creation and mankind’s free will to do as he chooses…
King David numbered the people of Israel and got in trouble for doing so. Apparently, he was relying upon his military might instead of relying upon the Lord.
We may raise the question: “Who was responsible for David’s action of numbering the people?” The Bible states that there were three responsible: David (1 Chronicles 21:17), Satan (1 Chronicles 21:1) and God (2 Samuel 24:1).
Did God determine that David would number the people? Yes. Did David make his decision to number the people of his own free will without any divine coercion? Yes. Did Satan play a major role in getting David to number the people? Yes. All of these are true.
So, does the Bible teach that God exercises divine control over His creation and makes sovereign choices that have eternal ramifications? Are words like “predestination”, “election,” and other such words in Scripture? Absolutely!
Yet, is mankind free to exercise their free will and make choices that have eternal ramifications? Does the Bible really say, “Whosoever will may come.”? Absolutely!
The Bible teaches both. Believe them both.
A church father once said: “Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.” (Saint Augustine).
There may be some great truth in that statement!