Before we start this segment, you need to do something. Find yourself a piece of deep red poster board. Cut it into an octagon shape at least 10 inches across and high. Attach a one inch wide stick of some sort (like a Popsicle stick) as a handle. Now write on both sides “STOP.” Yes, you have made yourself a stop sign, and no, I didn’t literally mean for you to do this little exercise. However, as we go through this part of the study you will be tempted to say, “Yes, but…” and a little further on, “But God does (or doesn’t) _______.” Every time we read a passage and you have that feeling, hold up your [imaginary] stop sign and quit trying to 1) explain away a scripture, or 2) make God comprehensible to the human mind. You are only denigrating Him when you do so. He is above us in every way, and that includes our ability to completely understand Him.
Therefore David blessed the LORD in the presence of all the assembly. And David said: “Blessed are you, O LORD, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever. Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name. 1Chr 29:10-13
This is a picture of God drawn by David. It presents God as one who creates and then relates to the creation.
Then we have another couple of passages to try to fit in. See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse, Deut 11:26; choose this day whom you will serve…Josh 24:15.
We, God’s creation, have free will. And we are held accountable for our choices, a proof of that free will. God is sovereign, which means He has the power to impose His will, but how does that affect our free will? The question is not does He have the power, but how He chooses to use it. And that very sovereignty gives Him the freedom in how He uses that power.
Common theology views God as a novelist—He has absolute control over the characters in His novel. Here are some of their pet passages:
I am the LORD. I have spoken; it shall come to pass; I will do it. I will not go back; I will not spare; I will not relent; according to your ways and your deeds you will be judged, declares the Lord GOD.” Ezek 24:14
God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? Num 23:19
And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.” 1Sam 15:29
Almost always those passages are taken completely out of context instead of making them fit with other passages. For example:
I regret that I have made Saul king…1 Sam 15:11, and The Lord regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel, 1 Sam 15:35.
Wait a minute! What happened to the sovereignty of God in this circumstance? Didn’t God know how Saul would act? It seems apparent that God did not anticipate these events. STOP! You are already trying to do it, aren’t you? Why can’t we accept the plain meaning of words? Why can’t we accept God the way HE reveals himself rather than the way we choose to understand Him?
There are dozens of passages along this same line and we will eventually get to more of them, but here is the explanation: God chooses to interact with us, not control us. How does that go with all those “omni” words? It doesn’t really, because we define them according to our minuscule, human understanding.
And how can we ever understand this? God has made a covenant with us. He started from the beginning with Noah, Gen 9:9, moving on to later covenants with Abraham and David. Covenants are two-party agreements. God, who made all the earth obligates Himself to an unworthy people. The covenant with Israel was formalized in Exodus 24, and God keeps His half of the bargain through the ages.
Why? Because God wants something He does not have. Can you imagine that? Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he my darling child? For as often as I speak against him, I do remember him still. Therefore my heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him, declares the LORD. Jer 31:20. “Yearning” implies a lack of something. Does that word fit into your “omni” understanding?
And how about these?
Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk; I took them up by their arms, but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them. Hos 11:3-4
How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender. Hos 11:8
God is willing to experience pain, heartache and intense desire for reconciliation. A pure and holy God actually wants us that badly. And why is that?
When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it… for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Jonah 3:10; 4:2
God wants that interaction with us not because of His sovereignty, but because of His love.
Keep that stop sign handy. We aren't finished yet.