By Vinil and Rachel John
(10 March 2017)
One of the most asked questions is, “Have we chosen Jesus Christ of our own free will or has the unfailing mercy of God led us into the realization of the Truth?”
The question at hand is neither theological nor is it logical to our minds. But the question is whose sovereignty is at play? Was it the sovereignty of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob or the sovereignty of the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Was it predestination that brought us to the knowledge and conviction of the Holy and Beautiful One? Or was it the depth of depravity in man’s heart that longed for the fulfillment of the Perfect?
The intent of this journey of words and thoughts is to offer something to ponder on for those that have firmly rejected an attempt to be unfazed by God’s magnanimous ways, even if this magnanimity is apparent.
To one group of people, Romans 8 is a powerful reminder that it’s God’s foreknowledge of the ones He chose, and then sealed them in the likeness of His son Yeshua through the Holy Spirit. And to the other group, the creation story itself is a reminder that free will is God’s greatest gift to mankind, even to the point of arguing that it was man’s free will to choose to disobey God that began the workings of the end, that which was created perfect and everlasting now has become imperfect and temporary (Romans 8:19[i]).
Most of the questions that we, as believers, raise have more to do with the principles of the Kingship & the Kingdom of heaven, which is Christianese for saying, “You may not get most of the answers while you still remain on earth.” In the book of Matthew (19:14, KJV), Jesus said, “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” We believe it is only when we learn to rationalize as children will we gain a firmer comprehension of the Sovereignty and its Wielder.
So, who is really in-charge: you or the God who created you? We wish to explain ourselves with a similitude.
Consider the example of a parent and a child in a mall or an exhibition center. The child is instructed and then left to wander in the playpen. The playpen, as you know, is not for adults since most of the tunnels, walk ways, slide ropes or ball pits are not designed for adults but only for kids. What a kid does inside the playpen is left up to the kid. Be it, how s/he enjoys certain aspects of the playpen compared to other kids, how s/he interacts with others in the playpen, and, most importantly, how s/he chooses to respond to her/his parent outside the playpen.
So, basically, in the playpen, the kid is King/Queen of all his/her choices, activities and consequences. Can these be influenced by the concerned parent who watches carefully from outside the playpen? Yes. Can the parent guide the kid in the playpen? Yes. After the hours of play, as the sugar rush wears off and as exhaustion creeps in, the kid will have to come out and, most probably, will be carried home by the parent. That is how man’s sovereignty plays right into the hands of God’s sovereignty. With our free will we can only decide what to do within the confines of our time and 3-dimensional space, but once outside this time and space dimension, as within the playpen, we should fall directly on the shoulders of His Sovereignty to carry us Home.
Let that ruminate for a while. In the meantime, let us look at two different protagonists, who lived at different times, and yet whose lives were lived in wondrous amounts not only away from God but also close to Him.
The first protagonist is Judah, son of Jacob the patriarch. Judah was the one who chose to make the eviction of Joseph a more fruitful endeavor by having Joseph sold off as a slave instead of committing a murder (Genesis 37:26-27[ii]); though, in our eyes it was an utterly shameful act of disdain. But it was a wonderful opportunity to begin the story of Israel as a nation cocooning in Egypt. Judah also impregnated his daughter-in-law (Genesis 38); and though a ruse was used, ultimately, Judah was to blame for his lasciviousness.
Nevertheless, through that bloodline was the birth of some of the finest Kings of Israel and the Final King of Israel and the World (Jesus)! All because Judah stood up and was ready to pay for his errors as a brother and a son: by placing Jacob’s well-being and the safety of his youngest sibling Benjamin, and by willingly laying down his life in servitude (Genesis 44:33[iii]). While we may debate the motivation behind his act, his readiness to lose everything he had to save his own very much mirrored what Jesus said “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13, KJV).
Towards the end of Genesis, we see that Jacob confers upon Judah a messianic blessing. We believe that this was the moment God placed Judah into the lineage of Jesus as this would set a beautiful example of how man’s will when judiciously wielded in the Lord, yields a beautiful amalgamation of God’s perfect will joined with man’s free will.
The next protagonist we will consider is David. Despite his many failures he was considered a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22[iv]) because he needed the Heavenly Father, simply to survive. Many of his psalms were written while at different age points of his life, and all with the recurring emphasis on his need of God.
We find the most remarkable feat of his life was after he had just conquered the kingdom of Israel and the LORD gave him rest from all his enemies (2 Samuel 7:1[v]), David queried about the Divine’s resting place – an earthly artifact signaling His dwelling place (2 Samuel 7:2[vi]). Most of us do not think of God while in the green pastures of life, but what David sought has in a wonderful turn of events gifted us the most sacred place of worship for Jews and Christians all over – the Temple built by David’s son Solomon.
On the chalkboard of right and wrong, King David did so much right, and also so many wrongs. Yet we discover an Unfazed God, Sovereign in His ways, Who chose to bless David with an everlasting house, and drew him into the lineage of the Messiah Yeshua as well.
In both these men: Judah and David, their wrongdoings wore them down for sure, but what is uplifting to us is that when their will aligned with God’s heart, they were rewarded even more than they were judged for their misadventures. You and I have a great source of joy knowing that in all our days, we need only worry about how we can merge our ways, thoughts, dreams and desires with the Heart of God.
The sovereignty of man is one side of an elastic string, and the sovereignty of God is the unbreakable elastic string itself. While we can pull on it and allow it to vibrate as we wish, the best results are achieved when the Perfect Will of God manages our free will.
So, who is really in-charge? Only God? Only man? Both? The mystery of this sovereignty paradox and man’s daily journey to Truth is the sweet music we can enjoy as a part of our day-by-day living.
[i] Romans 8:19 – For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. (KJV)
[ii] Genesis 37:26-27 – And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood? Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh. And his brethren were content. (KJV)
[iii] Genesis 44:33 – Now therefore, I pray thee, let thy servant abide instead of the lad a bondman to my lord; and let the lad go up with his brethren. (KJV)
[iv] Acts 13:22 – And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave their testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfill all my will. (KJV)
[v] 2 Samuel 7:1 – And it came to pass, when the king sat in his house, and the Lord had given him rest round about from all his enemies; (KJV)
[vi] 2 Samuel 7:2 – That the king said unto Nathan the prophet, See now, I dwell in an house of cedar, but the ark of God dwelleth within curtains. (KJV)