Is God really in control?
by Richlon Merrill
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In almost the exact center of the Bible a passage is found which clearly portrays the omniscience of God. “Oh Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise, you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out, and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord. You hem me in – behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.” Psalm 139:1-6. From the first words of Genesis to the last words of Revelation, God’s omniscience is clearly seen. The characters revealed, the events which transpired, the prophecies foretold and fulfilled, and the messianic ribbon woven throughout the pages of scripture; all impart an epic as if written by the pen of one great Novelist. Our all knowing God is that Author, and yet it was mankind’s individual choices seemingly made apart from God’s direct influence which lays out the story of God’s plan for redeeming us from our oppressive captivity.
We tend to think of eternity as a “very long time.” Our minds think in terms of sequential events. That happened back then. This is happening now. Then something else will happen in the future. The Bible, however, presents eternity as the always present NOW. Prophetic accounts in Scripture are often quoted as if they have already happened. Isaiah wrote 740 years (approx) before Christ was born into this world, “He was pierced for our transgressions…” Isaiah 53:5. In Revelation 13:8 John refers to Christ as “the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.” All of this is to say that God knows our future just as certainly as our past. He not only perceives all things, He is the great Conductor orchestrating all events; past, present, and future, together in the eternal NOW.
God’s omniscience is challenged by the concept of “open theism”. Open theism is a term which has a broad range of definitions, depending upon whose definition one cares to consider. It is a doctrine which states that God,s knowledge of future events is limited. He adjusts his decisions and actions in accordance with human choices, actions, prayers, and circumstances of the present. Several verses can certainly be sited to support this premise. For instance, we read in Exodus the account where the Israelites rebelled at the foot of Mount Sinai. We pick up at Exodus 32:9 where God is speaking, “I have seen these people,’ the Lord said to Moses, ‘and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.’ But Moses sought the favor of the Lord his God. ‘O Lord,’ he said, ‘why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was the evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth?’ Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’” Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.” Exodus 32:9-14. Did the Lord really forget his promise to Abraham? Would He have reneged on that original promise and plan? Did God actually need to be reminded of his promise or need to repent? I would strongly suggest that these verses do little to support the ideas of open theism, and do more to support the notion of God’s faithfulness, mercy, and sovereignty while also providing for us a portrait of our responsibility and privileges as God’s chosen people. This passage was presented in such a way that we are able glean the very message God intends for us to grasp. The very words spoken by Moses and then conveyed to us were under the sovereign hand of God. As we consider this episode in Biblical history and examine it along with every other historical event in scripture, we begin to see that God was working out his plan all along, even taking into account the many choices Biblical characters were making. Without events taking place exactly as the Bible imparts them to us, the very heart and soul of his plan would not have been accomplished. I would even suggest that Adam and Eve’s fall in Eden is precisely what needed to take place for God’s intended plan to be realized. Names given to children by their parents, names of cities and nations, Rulers throned and dethroned, choices made by Godless men, prayers lifted up to God, reckless acts by Israel’s righteous and unrighteous rulers alike; all were under the sovereign hand of a God who is all knowing and all powerful. Did these people make individual choices? Yes. Were they orchestrated by God? Yes. While human understanding and reason want to deny the compatibility of these two truths, the scriptures will not allow us to do so. Both are true.
Our brains, as wondrous as they might be, have limitations put upon them by our Creator. The ways of God cannot always be grasped. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.” Isaiah 55:8
We, like the innocent children running to the arms of Jesus, need to know that our heavenly Father is in control of life’s destiny. God will see us through our struggles. He gives his Holy Spirit as the means to overcome. Do we have individual choices to make? Absolutely. We read in Scripture those whose choices produced tragedy. We also read where those who chose obedience were able to overcome. This world is passing away and only offers temporal pleasures compared to the eternal joy provided by God. Herein lies our hope. We lean on this assurance because we believe that our heavenly Father is an all knowing, all powerful, and ever-present God. Denying God’s sovereign rule is to deny the inspiration of Scripture. God’s sovereign rule is the heart and soul of our faith.
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