Sunday, February 7, 2016

Sovereignty and Free-Will Working Together

            There is a fascinating story in the Bible which I think helps shed light on how God works out His Will in conjunction with mankind’s free-will, not overriding it (like would be the case with predestination).  I guess you could say that it’s a story of predestination (not in the eternal “heaven and hell” sense) working with free-will.  Read 1 Kings 22, and then we’ll talk about it.  Go ahead and do it now . . .  I’ll wait.

 
            Interesting, right?  When I first read this, it really sounded like a story of God forcing what He wants to have happen, as though He overrides mankind’s free-will in order to accomplish what He wants.  He wanted Ahab dead, and so He forced Ahab to go into battle where he would die.  Could this then also mean that He does indeed “force” heaven or hell on people, giving them no choice? 

            Yet the more I read it, the more I see how God gets His Will done by working with free-will (maybe even by playing to our free-will), not against it. 

            In 1 Kings 22:20, we see that God wanted Ahab to be killed in battle.  And so He asks the angels and demons, “Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?”

            After tossing around a few ideas, a demon steps forward and says that he will be lying spirit in the mouths of the false prophets to convince Ahab to go into battle.  And the Lord says that the demon will be successful and that he should go do it.  And it does work.  Ahab dies in battle.

            Initially, this disturbed and confused me.  God wanted Ahab to die in battle.  God used a demon and lies to do it.  God set Ahab up so that he had no choice but to be lured to his death.  Ahab had no choice but to believe the lying spirits.  

            Or did he?

            At first glance, it seems as though God fore-ordained Ahab’s death and that Ahab had no choice but to believe the lies which would lead him to his death.

            But the more I read the Bible and the more I see how God works, the more I can see that God didn’t “force” Ahab to believe in lies.  He didn’t force Ahab to seek advice from false prophets.  He didn’t force Ahab to believe in the false prophets who prophesied success.  He didn’t even hide the truth from him that he would die if he went into battle, as the one godly prophet warned him. 

            The thing is, Ahab wanted to go into battle.  He wanted to believe that it would be a success.  He wanted to get the answer he wanted from the prophets.  He didn’t really want to hear the godly prophecy.  Ahab wanted to believe in the lies of the false prophets so that he could go into battle. 

            And God gave him what he wanted. 

            Notice that Ahab sought the false prophets to get an answer.  He surrounded himself with those who told him what he wanted to hear.  But he didn’t choose to seek an answer from the only godly prophet there was.  Ahab knew about this godly prophet.  He knew that he was a man of God.  But Ahab didn’t like the things this prophet said because it was often the opposite of what he wanted to hear.  So he deliberately did not call this prophet when he was looking for advice.

            Not until Jehoshaphat asked if there were any prophets of the Lord.  Only then, did Ahab reluctantly seek this prophet, Micaiah.

            And then notice what happened.  When Ahab asks Micaiah for advice, Micaiah tells him to go into battle because he’ll be victorious.  But Ahab knew that Micaiah was lying, that he was mocking the advice of the lying prophets who were just telling Ahab what he wanted to hear. 

            And so Ahab pressures him a little, calling him out for not telling the truth.  And then Micaiah basically tells him that if he goes into battle, he’ll be killed. 

            And what happens?

            Ahab still decides to go into battle - wearing a disguise, thinking he can thwart the prophecy.  And he is killed in battle by an arrow that someone shoots randomly.

            I find it fascinating that Ahab knew that Micaiah was a godly prophet.  He knew that “you will be victorious” was a lie and that “you will be killed” was God’s truth.  Yet he was still so determined to go into battle that he didn’t listen to the very clear prophesies.  And then he thought that maybe he could trick God by wearing a disguise.  Yet he was struck by a random arrow and died. 

            Ahab had already made up his mind about what he was going to do before getting Micaiah’s counsel.  He wasn’t going to listen to the word of the Lord, no matter what it was.  God didn’t make Ahab believe the lies or go into battle.  He just gave Ahab the lies (through the use of a demon) and the truth (through the godly prophet), and then He gave Ahab the opportunity to make a choice.  But He knew that Ahab had already decided what he was going to do, which is why the lying spirit would be successful.

            God didn’t make Ahab believe lies, but He gave him the opportunity to do it because it’s what Ahab wanted to do.

            The way I see it, God doesn’t make us sin or make us choose one path or another.  But He does give us opportunities to sin, to make a decision, to be the kind of person that we decide to be.  He will put a decision before us that forces us to make a choice to obey God or disobey Him.  But if we disobey Him, it’s because we wanted to disobey.  NOT because He made us disobey.  (I am convinced that if Ahab had set his heart on doing the right thing and on really considering the prophecy of the Lord, things would have turned out differently.  It was his self-chosen character and the condition of his heart that led to his demise.) 

            And God uses whatever He needs to use to get us to make our decision, to force us to decide if we will listen to God or listen to the lying spirits, to cause us to act out the things that are already in our hearts.  He can even use demons and lies to do this.

            But notice that it isn’t God who is lying to Ahab.  He Himself didn’t tempt Ahab to do wrong.  But He did allow demons to lie to him and to tempt him. 

            God wasn’t even the one who came up with the idea of lying to Ahab.  It was the demon.  God just basically asked “Who will lure Ahab to his death and how will you do it?”

            God didn’t tell the demon what to do or which lies to tell Ahab.  But He let the demon do what the demon was going to do.  Nor did He force the demon to be a lying spirit, but He allowed the demon to be what the demon was - a liar.  And God used this demon and his character for His plans.  And He knew that it would work because of who Ahab was and what Ahab wanted to do. 

            Once again, God didn’t tell Ahab lies.  He didn’t force Ahab to listen to lies and to reject the truth.  He just allowed the demon and Ahab to be what they were – one was a lying spirit and the other was a person who wanted to believe the lies.  And He worked it into His plans. 

            [Keep in mind that God didn’t need Ahab to go into battle in order to kill him.  God could have struck Ahab dead in a heartbeat.  But He allowed Ahab to go to his own death instead, showing us how easy it is to ignore God’s truth, how much our human nature and self-will can get us into trouble, and how God can use our free-will to work out His sovereign Will, instead of just forcing which decision we make.] 

            God can use circumstances, demons, angels, lies, our own character, our own hardness of heart, and whatever else to push us to make decisions and to work out His Will.  But He doesn’t force which decision we make.  He lets us be the people that we want to be.  He lets us choose obedience or disobedience.  But He does present us with the opportunities to make the decision to obey or disobey.  And He can and will use our obedience or disobedience (and any other choice we will make) to accomplish whatever He wants to accomplish.


            From the other side, Ahab might be crying out “God made me do it” or “The devil made me do it.” 

            But that’s not true. 

            What he should be saying is “God made me make a decision between believing Him or believing lies.  He put both choices before me, and He made me choose.  And I chose to do what I wanted to do.”

 
            It’s a sobering story!       

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