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The freest Man ever to walk the earth, bound not by fetters of government, religion, family, illusions, or societal expectations, Who was able to walk on water, turn water into wine, heal the sick, raise the dead, raise His own body from the dead, was bound completely and absolutely to the will of God. He said, “…I do nothing of Myself, but as My Father has taught Me, I speak these things. And He that sent Me is with Me; the Father has not left Me alone; for I always do those things that please Him” (John 8:28-29).
And again: “The Son can do nothing of Himself but what He sees the Father do; for whatsoever things He does, these also does the Son likewise” (John 5:19).
Making choices and having a free will is not the same thing at all.
True freedom, as demonstrated by Jesus Christ, comes by walking in the will of God. Jesus Christ has shown the world what a free man looks like, can do, and will do. He did it for us, that we too might be made free. “If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).
So then, whose will is free? While the answer is already implied, many confuse having and making choices with having a free will. The two are not the same thing at all. This we will show by Scripture and godly reason.
“A man can receive nothing, except it be given to him from heaven” (John 3:27). Every detail of your particular and unique circumstances in life have been beyond your control, such as where you were born, your characteristics and traits, your family members, and all your choices in life. Everything, the Scriptures teach, is determined from above. You determine nothing. Jesus said:
“And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit? If you then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take you thought for the rest?” (Luke 12:25-26)
If you cannot determine the least of these things, then your will is not free. If it were, you could will what you wanted, whenever you wanted to, and you would have what you willed. But you cannot.
God said to the children of Israel: “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life” (Deut. 30:19). God, by His will, chose to reveal these things to whom He chose. He revealed to the children of Israel, by the hand of Moses, the matters of life and death that are ever there, before all. Giving people a choice in the matter is not acknowledging or bestowing “free will.” The outcomes were always there and pre-determined. You do this, and you will die. You do this, and you will live, because you are doing God’s will, which is Life.
Having a choice proved that mankind cannot escape death and corruption.
God chose a people not to reveal their ability or freedom of will, but to demonstrate their lack of it, outside of Him. This was no pleasant journey or experience. Read the Bible and history books! The journey went through slavery, and proceeded to dispersion and ruin. Have you never heard the old Jewish saying, “Let Him choose someone else instead”?
God formed a nation to teach them the right way, but He also foretold them that they would forsake Him (Deu. 31:16). They would prove to be insufficient of themselves, preferring and choosing their “free will” over Him. Giving them a choice only demonstrated how truly “unfree” their wills were, which has been a very necessary revelation not only for the children of Israel, but for us all. Having a choice has proven that mankind, of himself, cannot escape death and corruption. Hence, the revelation of the need for a Savior.
The Law of God is the same for all. If you sin, you will die. If you do not sin, you will live. Because you live, can you do whatever you wish? NEIN! You live because you do the will of God! The way is not broad, friends, but narrow. This, from the mouth of the Son of God, to your ears:
“Labor to enter in through the narrow gate, for I say to you that many will seek to enter in and will not have strength” (Luke 13:24).
If so many fail, as we have seen with the children of Israel, how is it one can enter in through the narrow gate, choosing life, and doing the will of God? Man cannot, of his own power, keep the Law, as demonstrated by Israel. The answer is that one can enter into life only by the grace of God in Jesus Christ. No man has, freely, of his own will, ever chosen God. Not one. “For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God…” (Ephesians 2:8). And: “For the Law came through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).
Adam sinned by exercising his will.
The problem for mankind, as demonstrated by the children of Israel, is that every one of us sins and dies. We are told the choices that lead to life, and we cannot make them. If anyone does make them, it is only because God paved the way and gave the grace (unmerited favor and power) to do so. That is why God came in the Person of Jesus Christ. He came to make that way for us all. Outside of Him, you can do nothing. It is just as He said of Himself as a man: “I am not able of Myself to do anything” (John 5:30). He confessed that His will, as a man, was not free. If the express image of God, Jesus Christ the man, said that, how much more does it apply to us, who are only made in His image?
The first man made in the image of God, Adam, sinned. He sinned by exercising his will, against the commandment of God given to him. In fact, what people call “free will” is the sin of Adam. Until Adam disobeyed God in the matter of eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, he was in Paradise, which is so-called because of the harmony and peace of the will of God realized on earth. That state of affairs ceased the day Adam ate of that Tree, which opened the door to man living by his own will and knowledge, and closed the door on the Tree of Life. Rather than making man free, this choice has led to death, destruction, and despair. In Adam have all men died. Inheriting the disposition of sin through Adam has made it needful for all men to be “dis-illusioned” of the notion of “free will” through Jesus Christ. Disillusionment starts with repentance and renouncement by faith:
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, in order to prove by you what is that good and pleasing and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2).
The end being: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22).
Jesus Christ accomplishes His salvation contrary to the will of man.
This is how I learned the cost and consequences of doing my own thing. God came to me, spoke to me, and I went forward in the power of my own will, as did Adam, disobeying Him. I did not put my trust in God, but in myself, and did what was right in my own eyes. That is the fruit of eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. I exercised wrong choices, thinking I knew better, and instead of getting those things I had hoped for, or that I had willed, I ended up with quite the contrary. I learned that the wages of sin are death, as God foretold. That was the very purpose intended by Him in what I experienced. It was His will ruling above and beyond my “free will,” leading me to put my trust in Him, and to learn to walk in His ways by eating not from the Tree of Knowledge (my will), but from the Tree of Life (His will). He will have us all learn to know the difference, so that as in Adam we died, so we might also come to live by Him. He made this known to me in Christ Jesus, Who is the Tree of Life.
Because God accomplishes His salvation contrary to our will, it proves that it is not our will, but His will that rules, and is free.
Now, when I speak of Jesus Christ accomplishing these things contrary to the will of man, the religious will come along and call me a liar, claiming that they “accepted Jesus in their hearts,” or some form of the same thing amounting to this: they exercised their free will to choose the right and good thing. However, they have done no such thing. If man chooses something from his own will, it is corrupt, just as his will is. No man chooses God. We are not just speaking semantics here, but the very core of what is the meaning of being a “Christian.” A true Christian is one that God has made. A false Christian is made by the will of man.
“He came to His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, He gave to them authority to become the children of God, to those who believe on His name, who were born, not of bloods, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but were born of God” (John 1:11-13).
This claim of man to “accept” Christ is anti-Christ (“anti” meaning “in place of”). It is anti-Christ because it puts the will of man in the place of God. It does not acknowledge the total inability of man, in his corruption, to choose good. It instead attributes the power to be good, and to choose God, as though man is equal to, or even greater than, the One Whom he chooses. In this scenario, man is the one with a “free will,” and God is made dependant on man to choose to recognize Him. Until then God is stymied, His hands tied. Of course this is a lie of gargantuan proportions, even blasphemy. There can be only one party with free will. And eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, wherein the eyes are opened so “you shall be as God,” naturally makes you think you are the one to have it!
The cross is when we say, “Not my will, but Yours be done.”
The Scriptures teach that no man is good (Romans 3). If no man is good, neither can any choose good, and above all, choose God Himself! To ascribe goodness to man also flies in the face of both the individual and collective histories of mankind, which have proven, if nothing else, that mankind is neither good nor capable of exercising “free will” to produce a desired peace and prosperity. God, Who cannot lie, has promised that will come. He, the Prince of Peace, has come, as promised, not to bring everyone at once, but to bring one person at a time, starting with Him. Jesus Christ was crucified by this wicked world because He lived according to the will of God. That is where our peace begins, at the cross. The way to peace and prosperity is not through exercising our will, but through the cross. The cross is when we say, “Not my will, but Yours be done.” After the cross, in due time, comes the power of His resurrection life, where we live through Jesus Christ, according to the will of God.
The illusion of having a “free will” is the very heart of deception under which man labors, from the time of having his eyes opened to see that he is as God in his ability to determine good and evil. It is this independent spirit that the Bible calls the sin nature. This is the fount from which all evil flows. The real enemy lies nestled in our own bosom, and we call it “free will.” Apart from God, men and women are given over to serving themselves in their own wills, not to laying down their lives for God, and thereby each other, as He did for us. The restrictiveness of the sin nature is not freedom at all, and as God warned, brings disappointment, devastation and destruction. These are all symptoms of death, not life. If you wish to insist you have “free will,” at least call it what it is: death. “In the day you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:17).
For those so given, the gift of grace to receive life comes at the time and place of God’s choosing. Many think they have been given this choice but have not. They have decided out of their own corrupt knowledge of good and evil to “accept” God. However, as Jesus said, “No man can come to Me, except the Father which has sent Me draw him, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44). This gift of faith comes by “Him Who causes us to will and to do of His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13).”
By Christ’s faith we are brought under the yoke and discipline of God, doing what is good and right in His sight, and for the first time, reaping life. This is the Word of God becoming flesh (in you) and dwelling with humanity. This is how Jesus Christ is multiplied on earth until all are in harmony with the One will that rules from above, as Jesus expressed that He was, in the days of His flesh. Then is the prayer answered, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
“For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself” (Phil.3:20-21).
God works all things after the counsel of His own will.
At this point you might object, concluding that if only God’s will prevails, “why does He yet find fault? For who has resisted His will?” (Romans 9:19). The apostle Paul answered this question: “No but, o man, who are you that replies against God? Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, why have you made me thus? Has not the potter power over the clay…?” (Romans 9:20-21).
How much will does the clay have to determine its destiny? It is the same with man and God. God said to mighty Pharaoh, “Even for this same purpose have I raised you up, that I might show My power in you, and that My Name might be declared throughout all the earth” (Romans 9:17). How much “free will” did Pharaoh have? God told Moses that He would harden Pharaoh’s heart. Pharoah was raised up by God to withstand Him, and to demonstrate Who is in charge, or in other words, Whose will is free. The Scriptures say this:
“The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water; He turns it whithersoever He will” (Proverbs 21:1).
And: “A man’s heart devises his way: but the LORD directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).
God works all things after the counsel of His own will.
“…in Whom also we have been chosen to an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him Who works all things according to the counsel of His own will…” (Ephesians 1:11).
So where does this leave us?
Jesus, also referred to as Emmauel, or “God with us”, told those who believed in Him, “If you continue in My word, then are you My disciples indeed, and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Those to whom He spoke answered, “We…were never in bondage to any man, how can you say, ‘you shall be made free’?”
We don’t see ourselves as in bondage until God reveals to us our utter inability to be right, to do right, and to attain to life. That revelation cannot happen until we meet the living and resurrected Lord Jesus Christ, the Standard of God, to Whom we must turn (repentance) and in Whose light we will eventually see the disparity between God ruling in Christ Jesus, and man ruling himself in “free will.” Then we will learn what Jesus meant when He said, “Whosoever commits sin is the servant of sin” (John 8:34). And what is sin? It is independence from God, doing our own thing, serving the lusts of the flesh and the mind.
Our “free will” has been a fraud, and His will reigns alone.
The Pharisees were given as examples of religious man (and all have been religious), who serves himself in the lusts of the flesh and mind by the exercise of self-righteousness. “I accept God on my terms… I do this… I do that… I am therefore justified and who are you to tell me otherwise…?” Just who does man think he is? Can you not see the man of sin here? You will. On the other hand, here is the man, which, according to God, is justified before Him:
“Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a tax-collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed within himself in this way: God, I thank You that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax-collector. I fast twice on the Sabbath, I give tithes of all that I possess. And standing afar off, the tax-collector would not even lift up his eyes to Heaven, but struck on his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner! I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself shall be abased, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted” (Luke 18:10-14).
The man confessing “free will” is not justified. It is the man confessing his unrighteousness, his “un-freedom” that is!
We have all built altars to our idols, serving ourselves instead of God. We have all eaten freely from the Tree of Knowledge, and have maintained our rights to ourselves through exercising the knowledge gained thereby. We all must be exposed as that man of sin who sits on the throne of God, showing himself that he is God. We will then find out that our “free will” has been a fraud, and His will reigns alone. In that day we will no longer exercise our declaration of independence from God. We will recognize that we are the culprits, “who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, Who is blessed forever. Amen” (Romans 1:25).
The essence of the argument for “free will,” which is most strenuously advocated for by the religious self-righteous, is an effort to maintain independence from God and His requirements, while often deceitfully using His Name for justification. The intent is to avoid the cross, death to self, which Jesus spoke of as essential. Paul also taught that without such identification with Him in the denial of our lives and our “free will”, there could be no partaking in His life. We come into His life and will by identification with Him through the death of the cross (our personal cross, that He applies individually to us), which is followed by the same resurrection power by which He overcame death, raising us to life in Him, here and now. This is salvation and that perfect will of God. This is Jesus Christ come in the flesh, the Garden of Eden restored from within.
The exercise of “free will” is proven vain by the evil fruits it produces.
Peter also wrote of this, “…for he that has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin: that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God” (I Peter 4:1-2). You are either living in the lusts of the flesh or to the will of God. One is bondage; the other is freedom. To men, the bondage appears as freedom, and the freedom appears as bondage. That, too, is due to the corruption of sin. The freedom that comes by being God’s bondservant is something the carnal man knows nothing about.
“But as it is written, ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,’ nor has it entered into the heart of man, ‘the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’ But God has revealed them to us [those born by Him] by His Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, yea, the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10).
Those who say and think they chose Christ by their “free will” are in effect saying, “I am righteous.” Whether proclaiming themselves to be religious or not, all men (unredeemed by Christ) behave as though they are masters of their own destinies and can choose good. “Every way of a man is right in his own sight.” God says otherwise. That is also why the Scriptures say, “Let God be true and every man a liar….” He is justified in His judgments on our ways, and He judges us to correct us; He punishes to teach, for good and not for evil.
The exercise of “free will” by the self-appointed, self-made “Christian” is proven vain by the evil fruits it produces. False religion (which includes all men’s religious works and not only those presuming to be “Christian”) is responsible, according to God, for all the bloodshed that has ever happened. Of this entity, Mystery, Babylon the Great, God says:
“And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all those who were slain on the earth” (Revelation 18:24).
Christ says of His own, “you have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you….” The self-appointed “Christians,” the tares, the seed of the enemy, say that they have chosen Him. They are, albeit unwittingly, calling Him a liar. They are the embodiment of self-righteous man who considers the throne of God his rightful place, that he is accepted because he accepted. This man of sin, who vaunts himself above God, resides in each and every person except and until Christ delivers him by identification with Himself, through the gift of faith and obedience to the death of the cross. Until then, the Scriptures declare that all are subject to the devil (adversary), and are taken captive by him at his will (II Tim. 2:26). The devil performs the will of God for evil, evil being a tool to teach man regarding the consequences of his “freedom.”
Again, in case you might think that God’s will would certainly not allow for this disobedience, the Scriptures teach that the deceiver and the deceived are His (Job 12:16). God, it is said, is the One Who sends “strong delusion that men might believe a lie” (II Thessalonians 2:11). What is a lie if not that you have “free will” and can thereby choose God, gaining the favor of Heaven by so doing? And why does God send this delusion? The Scripture goes on: “That they all might be damned [judged, corrected] who believed not the truth [God is sovereign over all and does all things according to His will], but had pleasure in unrighteousness [attributing to man the worthiness and right to exercise ‘free will’ to do as he pleases].”
There can only be the knowledge of good, if there is evil. There can only be light, if there is darkness. There can only be hope, if things appear otherwise. God has purposed all these things, and does them all. Lest any who believe think too highly of themselves, know that those opposing God have been APPOINTED their portions.
“Therefore to you who believe is the honor. But to those who are disobedient, He is the Stone which the builders rejected; this One came to be the Head of the corner, and a Stone-of-stumbling and a Rock-of-offense to those disobeying, who stumble at the Word, to which they also were appointed” (1 Peter 2:7-8).
Jesus Christ’s coming dispels the lies men have acted upon in darkness.
There is no other power than God ruling over heaven and earth, though He has made things to appear otherwise: “Truly You are a God Who hides Yourself, O God of Israel, the Savior” (Isaiah 45:15). His purpose has been to bring a people out of the world and its religious ways, that they may know Him by faith, the evidence of things not seen, and overcome as He did in His flesh. There must be adversity and disparities for the truth and goodness of God to be made manifest.
Jesus Christ is the Light of all men. His coming dispels the lies and falsehoods men have believed and acted upon in darkness, particularly that they are able to do as they please in their “free will.” Even this state, as we have already noted, has been ordained by God with good purpose. “For the earnest expectation of the creature waits for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of Him Who has subjected the same in hope. Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Romans 8:19-21).
How free are men to do what they want? “Now we know that whatsoever things the law says, it says to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (Romans 3:19). “Under the law”? It does not sound like there is much “free will” in that. Our mouths stopped, and made guilty? How glorious is our “free will” with closed mouths and stricken consciences?
The Scriptures teach against the notion of man having a “free will.”
Jesus Christ said this to all those burdened by their “free will” and the terrible cost and consequences of pursuing the illusion of being in control:
“Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke on you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest to your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Here are some other Scriptures that teach against the notion of man having a “free will.”
God calls, elects, and purposes:
“And not only this, but when Rebekah also had conceived by one, by our father Isaac (for the children had not yet been born, neither had done any good or evil; but that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him Who called), it was said to her, ‘The elder shall serve the younger'” (Romans 9:10-12).
He does everything; the buck starts and stops with Him:
“I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside Me; I girded you, though you have not known Me: That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside Me. I am the LORD, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things” (Isaiah 45:5-7).
Man, asserting his will, reaps the wind and learns he is powerless:
“How you are fallen from the heavens, O shining star, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart, I will go up to the heavens, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north. I will go up above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High. Yet you shall be brought down to hell, to the sides of the Pit. Those who see you shall stare and closely watch you, saying, Is this the man who made the earth to tremble; who shook kingdoms; who made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed its cities; who did not open the house for his prisoners? All the kings of the nations, even all of them, lie in glory, every one in his own house. But you are cast out of your grave like a hateful branch, and like the clothing of those who are slain, thrust through with a sword, that go down to the stones of the pit; like a dead body trampled under foot. You shall not be joined with them in burial, because you ruined your land and killed your people; the seed of evildoers shall never be famous” (Isaiah 14:12-20 MKJV).
God foretells all, and does it:
“And Samuel took a vial of oil and poured on his head, and kissed him, and said, Is it not because Jehovah has anointed you for a leader over His inheritance? When you have departed from me today, then you shall find two men by Rachel’s tomb in the border of Benjamin at Zelzah. And they will say to you, The asses which you went to seek are found. And, lo, your father has quit caring for the asses and sorrows for you, saying, What shall I do for my son? And you shall go forward from there, and you shall come to the great tree of Tabor. And there you shall meet three men going up to God to Bethel, one carrying three kids, and another carrying three loaves of bread, and another carrying a skin of wine. And they will greet you and give you two loaves of bread, which you shall take from their hand. After that you shall come to the hill of God, where the garrison of the Philistines is. And it will happen to you when you come there to the city, even you shall meet a company of prophets coming down from the high place with a harp and a tambourine and a flute and a lyre before them. And they shall prophesy. And the spirit of Jehovah will come powerfully on you, and you shall prophesy with them, and shall be turned into another man. And it will be when these signs have come to you, you will do for yourself what your hand finds; for God is with you. And you shall go down before me to Gilgal. And, behold, I will come down to you to offer burnt offerings and to sacrifice peace offerings. You shall stay seven days until I come to you and make known to you what you shall do. And it happened when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, God changed him with another heart. And all those signs came on that day. And they came there to the hill, behold, a company of prophets met him. And the Spirit of God came on him, and he prophesied among them. And it happened when all who knew him before saw him, behold, he prophesied among the prophets. And the people said to one another, What is this that has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?” (1 Samuel 10:1-11)
Saul failed to wait for Samuel as directed, even after all those fulfillments that demonstrated the sovereignty of God. He thereby lost his kingdom to David. I should say, God told him that he lost his kingdom, for it was settled in Heaven. (Herein is a lesson about will: That which is settled in Heaven must be worked out on earth. As Shakespeare so aptly put it, “All the earth is a stage, and all the men and women merely players….”) Saul remained king on earth for a time, and sought to kill his loyal servant, David, because God had anointed David in his stead. David, in the following quote, speaks while being pursued by the king’s army, calling on God to judge between him and Saul. Saul was soon slain in battle by the heathen enemies of Israel.
The wicked serve as God’s instruments of judgment:
“The LORD judge between me and you, and the LORD avenge me of you, but my hand shall not be upon you. As says the proverb of the ancients, Wickedness proceeds from the wicked. But my hand shall not be upon you” (1 Samuel 24:12-13).
As a wealthy man once said: “There is your plan, and God’s plan, and your plan does not matter”:
“Before I formed you in the belly I knew you; and before you came forth out of the womb I consecrated you, and I ordained you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5).
The one to whom God says, “I am with you to deliver you.” And He did:
“From on high He has sent fire into my bones and subdued them. He spread a net for my feet; He has turned me back; He gave me desolation. All the days I faint. The yoke of my transgressions is bound by His hand, they intertwine, they rise on my neck. He caused my strength to falter. The Lord gave me into their hands. I am not able to rise up” (Lamentations 1:13-14).
All matters are determined by God:
“But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, Behold, you are about to die, for the woman whom you have taken; for she is a man’s wife. But Abimelech had not come near her. And he said, Lord, will You also kill a righteous nation? Did he not say to me, She is my sister? And she, even she herself said, He is my brother. In the sincerity of my heart and innocency of my hands I have done this. And God said to him in a dream, Yes, I know that you did this in the sincerity of your heart. For I also withheld you from sinning against Me. Therefore I did not allow you to touch her” (Genesis 20:3-6).
How free was Jonah to have his way?
Finally, there is one book that Jesus Himself referred to as the one sign given to men of Him, which indeed speaks of the absolute sovereignty of God and His work of salvation with man. “Absolute” means there is only One Who is free to do His will. While all Scripture shows forth His Nature, His glory, and His sovereignty, this one short book in particular sums up our subject wonderfully and succinctly. Listen:
“Now the Word of the Lord came unto Jonah…”
We begin with God, Who is the initiator of all things. He told Jonah, His prophet, what was happening in Nineveh (evil), and what Jonah was required to do (cry against it). Jonah declined, to put it mildly. He fled. Was this an exercise of free will? One might think so. But how free was Jonah to have his way? God sent a great wind to disturb the sea on which his ship was traveling, making it impossible to go any further.
This forced Jonah to face his abrogation of responsibility. He chose to be cast into the sea for the sake of his shipmates, to what appeared to be a certain death. But he did it by faith. Faith is the will of God acted upon by men. God did not end Jonah’s misery and let him drown because He willed it otherwise. He quieted the sea and sent a whale to swallow Jonah. By reason of being so afflicted, Jonah cried to God from the whale’s belly, repenting and giving thanks. Then the Lord spoke to the whale and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
“And then the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time…” Was it the will of man to preach God’s judgment? No, it was the will of God. It is not man who wants to serve God, but God Who not only wants to, but does, serve man. “Oh that men would praise the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!” (Psalm 107).
This time Jonah went and preached to Nineveh. At his word of impending destruction, the people, every last one of them, believed God and repented. In turn, God repented also. “And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that He had said that He would do unto them, and He did it not.”
How good it is for us that God’s will, and not man’s, prevails!
Was Jonah happy with the results? Not at all; he wished himself dead. Why? Because he wanted to see Nineveh destroyed. He complained to God about being sent on a mission that he knew would end up differently from what he willed. He said, “…I knew that You are a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, One Who relents from doing harm.” Here we have the penultimate example of the grace and mercy of God to grant an entire city repentance. Yet Jonah was not pleased; his heart was set on destruction. We are no different, my friends. We are all of us unrighteous and incapable of godly love that lays down the life for the stranger and enemy. It is not our righteousness or “free will” that saves the day; never was; never will be. It is Jesus Christ’s righteousness, and only His that does.
God raised a plant to give Jonah shade in his grief, yet withered the plant the next day to teach him this lesson. God said to Jonah, “you have had pity on the gourd, for the which you have not labored, neither made it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night; And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?” How good it is for us that God’s will, and not man’s, prevails!
God gave commandment to Jonah, God sent the wind, God quieted the wind, God sent the whale, God commanded the whale to release Jonah, God gave Jonah words to say, God granted the people to believe, God repented of the evil He would do, God made a gourd spring up overnight, God withered the gourd the next day. God works all things according to His will. None can compete with Him or deny Him, and none will ever want to do so, when, being submitted to doing His will in all things, we know the good He is doing. Jonah learned that, and so will we, each in his or her own time, and it will be very good indeed. Then will we freely worship God the Father in spirit and in truth.
Amen, and glory to God in the highest! He rules over all. That is why we can truly say He is God, for “who has resisted His will?”