His Achievement Are We
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’” (Dan.4:31).
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 God’s 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 God’s 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 men’s sins. Rather than this being wrong, in light of evil’s 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 one’s 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 doubt—instead of leaving its existence to chance—that 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 thing—what we desire the most—is that all should be for God’s 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
God is operating all. His operations, however, accord not with fatalism, but with the counsel of His own will. The divine will includes the human will. God’s will does not eliminate man’s will. To the contrary, it creates it. God imparts to men’s 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 Lord’s 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 God’s 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 Him.”*
It is important to recognize that the truth on this theme repudiates fatalism as much as free will. The idea that God’s 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 God’s 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 man’s essential choices and actions a given state of things cannot and will not be achieved.
Under God’s 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 accordingly.
Prayer remains 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 prayer.
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 matter.
In ourselves, my child and I are absolutely helpless. Actually our case is always this very way continually, apart from God’s 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 request—my urgent plea—known 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 foolishness—I 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. God’s 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 God’s 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
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