This week's article is similar to last's week's. I am sending a copy of one of my responses concerning God's foreordination of events to a man who subscribes to the concept of "syncretism" between God and man. Hopefully, this will prove helpful to you. It is especially relevant to the topic we have been recently discussing among the group concerning the will of man and the sovereignty of God.
While some might think these issues are too complex and to "academic", I can assure you that the issues being raised here go right to the heart of the concept of Divine grace. One's views of these issues reflects directly upon one's views of God and His nature and character and attributes. Is God fully in control of the events of this universe or is He dependent to some extent upon the will of His creatures? This is the issue at stake.
An Ongoing Debate with a Proponent of "Process Theology"
There are times when God has been turned by the creature through repentance or intercession. (Jonah 3:4-10, Exodus 32:9-14, Numbers 14:11-20,
II Kings 20:1-6, I Kings 21:17-29)
In this way God is interactive.
What was the future of Nineveh absent their repentance? (Jonah 3:4)
John, The future of Nineveh absent their repentance would be the future of all those who refuse to repent. The nation would be destroyed and the individuals would perish beneath the justice of God. If you stretch your analogy a bit further what you are going to end up with is Arminianism. By that I mean the following -
"God commands all men everywhere to repent because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to al men by raising Him from the dead". (Acts 17: 30-31).
So we can then ask the same question - What is the future of all men absent their repentance?
The answer is obvious - They will suffer the penalty of eternal damnation.
Yet are we now to say that the decree of God is dependent on whether or not these men will decide to repent? John, that is Arminianism, not Calvinism brother! This is making God dependent on the will of the creature to formulate His decrees. The truth is that left to himself man will never repent John nor would Nineveh have either. Can not God turn the heart of any man or group of men as He pleases? Do His creatures rule Him or does He rule them?
Observe the first book of Kings, chapter 12 where the son of Solomon takes power upon the death of his father. The elders counsel him to go easy on the people and rule judiciously with tolerance - the younger men counsel him to rule with a harsh hand. He has two options to choose from. Which one will he follow?
"And the king answered the people harshly, for he forsook the advice of the elders which they had given him, and he spoke to them according to the advice of the young men...So the king did not listen to the people, for it was a turn of events from the Lord, that He might establish His word, which the Lord spoke through Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat" (1Kings 12: 13-15).
Notice, it was not God foreseeing which "possible future" might come about and then acting accordingly. He was not "interacting" with these people. He was positively determining! It was God who determined the actual outcome! He turned the heart of the king to reject the elders' council. This is a perfect example of the Scripture verse I cited in Proverbs:
"The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes" (Prov 21: 1).
Another instance is the example of David when he is fleeing from Absalom his son. Absalom possesses the wise counselor Ahithophel and David has the services of Hushai, another counselor. David is greatly concerned because Ahithophel is extremely wise and no doubt will properly counsel Absalom and hence David is fearful of his life and that of his followers. He sends his own counselor Hushai back instructing him to feign loyalty to Absalom so that he might be in a position to influence the actions of the same. Then he takes himself to prayer:
"O Lord, I pray, make the counsel of Ahithophel foolishness" (2 Sam 15: 31)
In the 17th chapter of that same book we then see the results of his prayer. Both Ahithophel and Hushai are called upon by Absalom to give their advice on how best to deal with David and defeat him. Both men speak; both give their counsel. Absalom and his advisors listen to both sets of advice. Then comes the statement:
"Then Absalom and all the men of Israel said, 'The counsel of Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel of Ahithophel.' For the Lord had ordained to thwart the good counsel of Ahithophel, in order that the Lord might bring calamity on Absalom". (2 Sam 17: 14).
Once again, God did not wait for a "possible future" by leaving it up to Absalom and his men to make their decision. Quite the contrary, He determined the future by inclining the heart of Absalom and his men to accept the counsel of Hushai and reject that of Ahithophel. From the human perspective, they could have rejected Hushai's counsel and have chosen Ahithophel's. From the Divine perspective, they had no such option as it was God who turned them the direction He chose in order to bring about Absalom's ruin. This can be summed up as follows -
God had determined that He would bring Absalom to ruin. That was the end God had determined for Absalom. The means He chose to do so was to have him listen to counsel that would give David time to regroup and rally his men and thus be able to meet Absalom in battle and defeat him. What seemed like a contingency to us as we observe Absalom and the men involved in this rebellion choosing the counsel of one man over another's, was no contingency at all but was rather the predetermined plan and purpose of God. Nothing was left for the creature to decide. The Most High had seen that the
"Lot is cast into the lap, but it's every decision is of the Lord" (Prov 16:33)
There was no other possible outcome.
As far as your references to the passages of Scripture that you cited above - in each case the outcome is exactly that which God decreed it would be. The case of Moses praying in Exodus 32 and in Numbers 14 is identical. He made intercession for the people for God to spare them. This does not prove that God changes His plans based on something the creature does and then reacts accordingly. On the contrary -God stirs up the heart of His people to pray for the very thing that He intends to do! Witness the case in point in Ezekiel 36 where God promises to restore Israel to the land from captivity in Babylon. Verse 33 - 36 of that same chapter denote specifically what He intends to do.
"Thus says the Lord God, 'On the day that I cleanse you from al your iniquities, I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the waste places will be rebuilt..." (Ezek 36: 33)
Then comes a remarkable word in the 37th verse:
"Thus says the Lord God, 'This also I will let the house of Israel ask Me to do for them: I will increase their men like a flock. Like the flock for sacrifices, like the flock at Jerusalem during her appointed feasts, so will the waste cities be filled with flocks of men. Then they will know that I am the Lord." (Ezek 36: 37-38).
God would stir up the heart of His people to pray specifically for the accomplishment of that which He intended to do. He intended to restore the city and fill it with men; He stirs up His people and tells them to pray for this very same thing. It is not God being moved to change His original plan on account of their prayers- rather it is God moving upon His people to implant into their hearts the selfsame desire that He intended to effect!
The same holds true for His restoration of Israel out of Babylon seventy years after they went into captivity. God had already declared His purpose to restore them at the end of that period as was clearly recorded by the prophet Jeremiah (Jer 29: 10). We then see the prophet Daniel in the ninth chapter of the book which bears his name praying for the very same thing that God has already declared He intended to accomplish. Nothing was left to contingency or human will. God stirred up the heart of this faithful servant to pray and then answered those prayers. He was not moved by Daniel to do something that He had no intention of initially doing.
This is what is involved with Moses' intercession. God's purpose was to pardon the people. Thus, the Spirit of supplication stirs up Moses' heart and works upon him to bring forth the beautiful example of true intercessory prayer. Had God not intended to pardon the people He would not have stirred up Moses' heart to utter such a prayer. Proof of this is contained in the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel where God specifically instructs his prophets to no longer make intercession for the people of Israel as He will not hear either of them.
(Jer 7:16, Jer 14:11; Jer 15: 1; Ezek 14: 14, 20)
Why? Because God's purpose is to destroy these people and send the remainder down into captivity. Therefore, He will withhold the spirit of supplication and neither Jeremiah nor Ezekiel will be moved upon to plead for the people.
The reference in 2 Kings 20 is easily explainable. God had promised to David that he would not lack a man to sit on the throne of David. Hezekiah, who is the king of Judah at the time as of yet has no son. If he dies, God's purpose fails which is not possible. Thus Hezekiah cannot die until he has produced a son who will sit on the throne of Judah. This son is Manasseh who is 12 years old when he assumes the throne (2 Kings 21: 1). Seeing that God granted Hezekiah an additional 15 years of life a simple mathematical calculation tells us that Manasseh was born three years after Isaiah went back to inform Hezekiah that an additional 15 years would be granted to him. If Hezekiah had died when first informed of his seemingly terminal illness by Isaiah, Manasseh would not have been born and the line of kings from David would have ceased. This could not happen or God's word would have failed. Thus Hezekiah is granted his extension of life. By the way, Manasseh becomes the son of godly king Josiah. Had not God granted Hezekiah those additional 15 years, Josiah would not have been born. It was not possible for him to not be born, since a prophecy had already been made concerning him by name many, many years before.
"Now behold, there came a man of God from Judah to Bethel by the word of the Lord, while Jeroboam was standing by the altar to burn incense. And he cried against the altar by the word of the Lord and said, 'O altar, altar, thus says the Lord, 'Behold, a son shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name; and on you he shall sacrifice the priests of the high places who burn incense on you, and human bones shall be burned on you." (1 Kings 13: 1-2)
"Furthermore, the altar that was at Bethel and the high places which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel sin, made made, even that altar and the high place he broke down. Then he demolished its stones, ground them to dust, and burned the Asherah. Now when Josiah turned he saw the graves that were there on the mountain, and he sent and took the bones from the graves and burned them on the altar and defiled it according to the word of the Lord which the man of God proclaimed, who proclaimed these things." (2 Kings 23: 15-16).
Josiah did exactly as the word of God had predicted he would do 400 + years earlier. It was not possible that Josiah could not be born. God had already declared that He would be and that he would be the destroyer of the idolatrous altar at Bethel. If Josiah was to be born, his grandfather Hezekiah must have a son, namely Manasseh, who will be the father of Josiah. Hence, Hezekiah cannot die childless, but must live long enough to father a son. God's purpose never intended that Hezekiah would die.
This is a prime example where the "secret will" of God as Luther called it, or more properly, "the will of His purpose" was one thing and the "revealed will" of God was something different. God's revealed will to all men is that they repent. His secret will or the will of His purpose is that they all will not. Only His elect will.
The last Scripture in 1Kings 21 concerning Ahab simply proves that God is gracious and long suffering with the wicked. He punishes them because of their stubborn and unrepentant heart. Had Ahab indeed truly repented there is no doubt that he would have been spared. As it was, his "repentance" was proved to be worldly sorrow and not godly sorrow and proved to be only temporary. The sentence was carried out as Ahab did die a violent death on the battlefield and his sons were certainly cut off exactly as Elijah had prophesied. Thus this is no different than the situation previously discussed concerning Nineveh. Could not God have granted Ahab repentance had He seen fit to do so? The fact that He did not only proves that Ahab was indeed a reprobate.
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