IN LIGHT OF our own pride it is well to remember the
account recorded by Daniel concerning King Nebuchadnezzar: In His wisdom, God brought the
great king to utter abasement, and caused him to make his abode with the animals of the
field. He was shoved from among mortals, and ate herbage even as the oxen; his body became
streaked with the night mist of the heavens till his hair increased as vultures
feathers, and his claws became as those of birds. God did this unto the intent that
the living shall know that the Supreme is in authority in the kingdom of mortals
(Dan. 4:17), and to whom He is willing He is giving it (Dan.4:32). This was
needed. For Nebuchadnezzar had said (and no doubt believed for many years), Is not
this Babylon great that I have built to be the house of the kingdom within the might of my
safeguarding walls, for the esteem of my honor! (Dan.4:30). Yet While
the matter is still in the mouth of the king, a voice falls from the heavens, To you
they are saying, King Nebuchadnezzar: The kingdom passes away from you
Yet at the end of the
appointed days, rather than complaining of this tremendous judgment, when his
understanding returned to him, Nebuchadnezzar lifted his eyes to heaven in praise:
Then I blessed the Supreme, and I lauded and honored Him. The king found that
Gods jurisdiction is not an occasional thing but is an eonian jurisdiction,
and His kingdom is with generation after generation (Dan.4:34). Nebuchadnezzar
continued, All abiding on the earth are reckoned as naught: according to His will
is He doing in the army of the heavens and with those abiding on the earth. And no one
will actually clap with his hands and say to Him, What doest Thou?
(Dan.4:35). Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, am lauding and exalting and honoring the King of
the heavens, seeing that all His deeds are verity, and His paths are adjudication; and all
walking in pride He can abase (Dan.4:37).
God is the Maker of
good and the Creator of evil (Isa.45: 7). And, He is just in all His ways, and kindly in all
His doings (Psa.145:17). To the illuminated believer, when he learns of Gods wisdom
and perceives His purpose, this becomes evident even in those things which are so terrible
in themselves. It is not at all sinful for God to create those evils which are mens
sins. Rather than this being wrong, in light of evils necessary yet salutary
ministry for permanent and universal good, it would be wrong were He to fail to do so.
If God is good, able, and
knows what is best, and if it is best that evil should not exist, then it would be
necessary for Him to make its existence impossible. For in order to retain ones
attributes, one must act in accord with them. Since God is good, able, and knows what is
best, and since evil does exist, it must be best that evil should exist.
If it is best that evil
should exist, there can be no doubtinstead of leaving its existence to
chancethat it is also best that God alone should create and superintend it.
Otherwise, if it should even come into being at all, it might well dissipate before
accomplishing its mission or, alternatively, overflow its bounds altogether.
Likewise, if we would
experience good, it follows that God is the One best suited to determine the times in
which we should enjoy it, and all the particulars attending it, lest our enjoyment of it
be less than ideal or even never occur at all.
Would we not far prefer to
have what is best according to the only and wise God, instead of what merely seems best in
the eyes of shortsighted and sinful man?
Yet even these meditations
concerning our own best interests must never be our main concern. The greatest
thingwhat we desire the mostis that all should be for Gods glory and
according to His purpose: Yahweh has made everything for its own pertinent end
(Prov.16:4). Out of Him and through Him and for Him is all: to Him be the glory for
the eons! Amen! (Rom.11:36). Our own unique experience of good and evil is only of
secondary importance. Only in the wisdom and goodness of God, for His own glory, can we
find our own perfect blessing.
FATALISM IS FALSE, EVEN AS FREE WILL
operating all. His operations, however, accord not with fatalism, but with the counsel of
His own will. The divine will includes the human will. Gods will does not
eliminate mans will. To the contrary, it creates it. God imparts to
mens hearts whatever is needed that they might do His opinion, that is,
whatever He has wisely concluded is best and has decided should occur.
This principle is well
illustrated for us by the leading events which will occur in Babylon in the Lords
Day, during the time of the end, the conclusion of the eon. We read that the ten kings
will be led by God Himself in their opposition to His will!
The messenger is saying to
John, These waters which you perceived, where the prostitute is sitting, are
peoples and throngs and nations and languages. And the ten horns which you perceived, and
the wild beast, these will be hating the prostitute, and they will be making
her desolate and naked, and they will be eating her flesh, and they will be
burning her up with fire, for God imparts to their hearts to form His opinion, and
to form one opinion, and to give their kingdom to the wild beast, until the words of God
shall be accomplished (Rev.17:15-17).
The Jews in Babylon
will be supported principally by the toil of the great masses in the Western nations. The
enormous interest on the national debts will make the people comparative slaves of those
to whom the interest is paid. When it becomes known that the greater part of this money is
used by the Jews in Babylon for their luxurious magnificence, it will arouse the hatred of
the peoples and the governments who are under a perpetual tribute, as there is no
possibility of paying off the principal. This hatred will lead to the unanimous opinion
that Babylon must be destroyed. The wild beast upon which Babylon rests, after being
obsessed by the dragon, becomes her implacable enemy. This is Gods means of
destroying the apostates in Israel.
By a bold figure of
speech God is said to have an opinion. The ten horns pride themselves in
forming their own opinion and in carrying it out, when, as a matter of fact, they are
obliged by the purpose of God to think and act as they do. Man is moved by ulterior
motives. God provides these, and men, conscious only of their own selfish aims, accomplish
His end. God wants Babylon destroyed: They gladly do it for their own sakes, not for
It is important to
recognize that the truth on this theme repudiates fatalism as much as free will. The idea
that Gods will shall prevail and the things He intends occur without or regardless
of our own wills is fatalism. This is not the scriptural position. According to Gods
operation of all, however, events do come to pass just as inevitably as they do according
to fatalism. (After all, at least fatalism is not so foolish as to deny causality.)
Let us consider an
example: A man is extremely ill with a terrible disease; apart from the power in his
medicine (an excellent one), he will surely die. Yet, if he takes it, he will recover.
And, God knows he will take it, and has even designed that he should do so, and then
recover. The man is free to do whatever he wants. All these things are true. Thus
it becomes obvious that apart from and except for mans essential choices and actions
a given state of things cannot and will not be achieved.
operations, what we choose and what we do are no less essential and vital than
under the mistaken concept called free will. Avoiding laziness and being
industrious are just as important as we always thought they were. In the example, though
the man will surely take his medicine, and cannot fail to do this, he is still free to do
as he pleases. And, due to all the causal factors with which this is connected,
whether heredity or early childhood training, internal or external considerations,
inclinations or disinclinations toward certain things, or special immediate circumstances,
the man will do this very thing, and not something else.
That which he does will be
that which he wants to do, at least at that moment. Or at least it will be something
connected with his wants, of which his actions are a consequence. it will be the product
of all the factors, from within or without, distant or immediate, which cause him to act
essential. Indeed, God will provide it whenever this is so. For many things are only
given to us in response to our requests in prayer. It certainly is true that in many
cases, not having been given to ask, we have not because we ask not. God graciously
sustains us in any case, but for believers much of His provision is directly related to
Let us consider a further
example: My child becomes injured in some type of accident. We are miles away from all
help, and I do not know what to do to save his life, though one who was well trained to
care for such injuries would know just what to do to take care of this matter ideally. Now
I believe that since this has happened, ultimately speaking this is only because God has
given us this experience. And I also know that in themselves all men are useless and
incompetent, including myself. Yet if the proper emergency care is not given, my child
will soon die. It should be added that I also believe God has already decided what is
best. Whether my child should recover or not, God will bring to pass His own will in this
In ourselves, my child and
I are absolutely helpless. Actually our case is always this very way continually, apart
from Gods saving hand. We are always in need of salvation, whether for preservation
or deliverance. Not at any time, nor in any situation, can we say, I have no need of
Thee. But we are often simply too unenlightened to realize this.
However, because God has
given me at least some uprightness of mind, I do not want my child to die. indeed, I
cannot even bear the thought. Yet he will die if I do not do something about the matter
immediately. It is not at all that he will either recover or die whether I do anything or
not, or whether I do the right thing or the wrong thing. No, I must choose to do and then
actually act to carry out the proper choice. Yet I do not even know what that may be! But
God knows, and He is able. So being the person I am, as God has shaped me, I make my
requestmy urgent pleaknown to Him. With much heartfelt concern and anguish, I
ask Him, if it be His will (cf Matt.26:39), to cause me to do whatever is necessary
to save my child, or that He otherwise provide for his deliverance.
Since I am aware that
prayer is essential, I have not a thought toward the neglect of prayer. Besides, I love
God and am glad to pray to Him. In fact, I instinctively cry out to my God, Who alone is
able to save. Nor do I pause to entertain any fancies concerning the glories of free will,
craftily asking the Deity to help me only in part, so that I might still remain the key to
it all, and have a glory of my own, and a tremendous one at that! I am not interested in
either fatalistic or freewill foolishnessI want my child to live!
Let us be no more
fatalistic than autocratic. Let us make our plans and have our goals. And when we have
made and even accomplished some of them, let us account for this as due to the providence
of our God. For He is doing all things well. Gods operations are concerned with all,
all that exists and all that occurs. There are no exceptions to what is out of, through
and for God, and to His glory. Indeed, the passages that declare this can have little
practical value to us apart from this realization.
Though to the calumniator
and to the immature our teachings may somehow appear to promote laziness and apathy in
particular, and sinfulness in general, they actually do no such thing. Whatever weaknesses
we have had along these lines may still remain in us, but they are certainly not made the
worse by our faith. To the contrary, many have been given special strength through their
reliance upon God alone, while recognizing that any good they may achieve is due entirely
to His gracious work in them: For our boasting is this, the testimony of our
conscience, that in holiness and sincerity of God, not in fleshly wisdom, but in
the grace of God, we behaved ourselves in the world, yet more superabundantly toward
you (2 Cor.1:12).
It is not that we
are competent of ourselves, . . . but our competency is of God (2 Cor.3:5). To those
who are puffed up, one over the one, against the other, Paul says, For
what is making you to discriminate [differ]? Now what have you which you did not obtain?
Now if you obtained it also, why are you boasting as though not obtaining? (1
Cor.4:7). In this way the apostle guides us to boast, like Nebuchadnezzar after his
experience of humiliation, to boast in Gods will and the glory of His ways. Only
such convictions as these can deal effectively with our pride and reliance upon the flesh.
They afford us a special happiness which we can otherwise never know.
* CONCORDANT COMMENTARY, p.400; A. E. Knoch