Several years ago (about ten to be exact) I wrote a post on God’s pleasure and man’s free will. The primary take-away for readers seemed to be about limited atonement and unconditional election – even though I actually wrote about God operating sovereignly in his universe and his prerogative – even when it bumps up against man’s “free will.” Perhaps there is a fear that admitting this fact will break down one’s argument against limited atonement and unconditional election. I do not know. Though initially the incredulity of “who doesn’t believe God is sovereign” was cited, things quickly proved, in my opinion, that many people believe God cannot and does not operate sovereignly in his universe – if that operation violates their philosophical train of thought. The evidence for God moving, turning and/or changing the will of man was dismissed as using “a few select verses,” “a few verses here and there,” even though about three dozen scriptures were referenced. Even if a “few” those verses are, nevertheless, inspired historical accounts of God dealing with people. They reveal something about the character and work of God. If these verses do not truly record his dealings, we are adrift on a sea near treacherous rock and shoal. Scripture itself should transcend the grid we place over scripture to interpret it.
The inspired grammar of the Bible plainly shows that God did actively, not passively, change and/or control men’s thoughts and actions – deliberately, not accidentally. In revisiting the subject, I present the following texts for your consideration.
God stopped Abimelech from sinning.
Genesis 20:6 And God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her.
In connection with the common way pregnancies occur, God still controls the outcome.
Genesis 29:31 When the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.
He also controls the outcome when “with men it is impossible.”
Luke 1:34-35 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
God meant (chashab, planned, ordained) the evil committed against Joseph by his brothers to bring about good.
Genesis 50:20 But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.
God hardened Pharaoh’s heart against the Jews, that He might deliver Israel and destroy the Egyptians.
Exodus 4:21 And the LORD said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.
It is a popular reply that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart after Pharaoh hardened his own heart. However, God said (several times) he would and did harden Pharaoh’s heart long before any mentions of Pharaoh hardening his own heart.
God turned the heart of the Egyptians against Israel, before and after Moses came.
Psalm 105:25 He turned their heart to hate his people, to deal subtilly with his servants.
Exodus 14:17 And I, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them: and I will get me honour upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen.
The Egyptians did not make a free will decision to drown in the Red Sea. God hardened their hearts to follow Israel to die in the sea.
God hardened Sihon’s heart and made him obstinate, and then judged him.
Deuteronomy 2:30 But Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him: for the LORD thy God hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate, that he might deliver him into thy hand, as appeareth this day.
The Lord delights in destroying/judging when it is needful.
Deuteronomy 28:63 And it shall come to pass, that as the LORD rejoiced over you to do you good, and to multiply you; so the LORD will rejoice over you to destroy you, and to bring you to nought; and ye shall be plucked from off the land whither thou goest to possess it.
The Lord hardened hearts of the Canaanites.
Joshua 11:19-20 There was not a city that made peace with the children of Israel, save the Hivites the inhabitants of Gibeon: all other they took in battle. For it was of the LORD to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that he might destroy them utterly, and that they might have no favour, but that he might destroy them, as the LORD commanded Moses.
God sent an evil spirit between the men of Shechem and Abimelech, ending in the punishment of both for the murder of 70 people.
Judges 9:23-24 then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech: that the cruelty done to the threescore and ten sons of Jerubbaal might come, and their blood be laid upon Abimelech their brother, which slew them; and upon the men of Shechem, which aided him in the killing of his brethren.
The Lord blinded Hophni and Phinehas in conjunction with bringing judgement upon them.
I Samuel 2:25 If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him: but if a man sin against the Lord, who shall intreat for him? Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the Lord would slay them.
God, using Satan, provoked David to number Israel.
II Samuel 24:1 And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.
I Chronicles 21:1 And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.
The Lord intervened in the counsel of Hushai and Ahithophel, resulting in the judgement/death of Absalom (and ultimately the suicide of Ahithopel).
2 Samuel 17:14 And 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 appointed to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, to the intent that the Lord might bring evil upon Absalom.
God was in control of Ahab’s death – He determined the cause, the events, and the instrument.
I Kings 22:23 Now therefore, behold, the LORD hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the LORD hath spoken evil concerning thee.
I Kings 22:34 And a certain man drew a bow at a venture, and smote the king of Israel between the joints of the harness: wherefore he said unto the driver of his chariot, Turn thine hand, and carry me out of the host; for I am wounded.
God also kept Jehoshaphat from being killed. II Chronicles 18:31 - And it came to pass, when the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, that they said, It is the king of Israel. Therefore they compassed about him to fight: but Jehoshaphat cried out, and the LORD helped him; and God moved them to depart from him.
God turned the heart of the Assyrian king to favor the people of Israel.
Ezra 6:22 And kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with joy: for the LORD had made them joyful, and turned the heart of the king of Assyria unto them, to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.
The Lord by His counsel stops, changes, brings to nothing the counsel of man.
Psalm 33:10-11 The LORD bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought: he maketh the devices of the people of none effect. The counsel of the LORD standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations.
Kings – not just Abimelech, Pharaoh, Sihon, and Darius – are in the Lord’s hands.
Proverbs 21:1 The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.
Romans 9:18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.
Romans 13:1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
The Assyrian king was a mere rod in the hand of God.
Isaiah 10:5 O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation.
The Lord makes “evil” (calamity, war, suffering).
Isaiah 45:7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.
God will keep from departing.
Jeremiah 32:40 And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.
The coming to pass of both the bad and the good depend on God and not man.
Lamentations 3:37-38 Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not? Out of the mouth of the most High proceedeth not evil and good?
God will cause them to walk in His statutes.
Ezekiel 36:27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. (Cf. Phil. 2:12-13)
God blinded the eyes and hardened the hearts of some of those to whom Isaiah preached, as well as some to whom Jesus preached and preformed miracles.
Isaiah 6:9-10 And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.
John 12:40 He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.
God intends that some hear, not understand, neither be converted nor forgiven.
Mark 4:11-12 And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.
Pilate’s governmental authority was both given and restrained by the power of God above.
John 19:10-11 Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above…
The counsel and foreknowledge of God determined the act of crucifixion, even though the doers of the act were wicked.
Acts 2:23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:
Acts 4:27-28 For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.
God gave some up to uncleanness and over to a reprobate mind.
Romans 1:24-28 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient
Some did not obtain what they sought because because God gave them not the abilitiy to see or hear, but rather a spiritual slumber.
Romans 11:7-9 What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day. And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them:
God blinded Israel (at least temporarily) to bring in the Gentiles.
Romans 11:25-26 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob
The suffering of Christians at the hand of evildoers (who are sinning) is according to God’s will.
1 Peter 4:19 Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator. (Cf. 3:17)
God puts in the heart of ten kings to give their kingdoms to the beast, to hate the whore, to make war on the Lamb.
Revelation 17:16-17 And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire. For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled.
We live, go here and there, do this or that, as the Lord wills.
James 4:15 For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. (Cf. Acts 18:21; 21:14; I Corinthians 4:19; 16:7; Hebrews 6:3; Proverbs 16:1, 9, 33; 19:21; Jeremiah 10:23, et al.)
Nothing takes place outside of God’s purpose and governance.
Amos 3:6 Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it? (Cf. Matthew 10:29)
All things that exist do so at the pleasure of God.
Revelation 4:11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
God does not take pleasure in evil in a positive sense, but it exists for a purpose. However wielded for his purposes, it without questions results in his own glory and the ultimate good of his people.
In addition, these verses lay down the principle of God’s absolute sovereignty.
Psalm 76:10 Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain.
Psalm 103:19 The Lord hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all.
Psalms 115:3 But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.
Psalms 135:6 Whatsoever the LORD pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places.
Proverbs 16:4 The Lord hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.
Proverbs 19:21 There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.
Isaiah 43:13 Yea, before the day was I am he; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work, and who shall let it?
Isaiah 46:10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:
Isaiah 64:8 But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.
Jeremiah 18:6 O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.
Daniel 4:35 And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?
Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
Romans 9:21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?
Ephesians 1:5 having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
Ephesians 1:11 in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:
Philippians 2:13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.