Sometimes when I’m reading the Bible, a verse I read seems to contradict something I believe. The following verse was one such instance.
They built the high places of Baal that are in the valley of Ben-hinnom to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I had not commanded them nor had it entered My mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.
This passage appears to contradict the sovereignty of God. If God is sovereign over all things, how could something that happens not have come to his mind?
The following passages clearly teach that God is sovereign and controls all things. He has predestined every event and decision throughout all time.
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will
for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.
Many are the plans in the mind of a man,
but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
Both evil and good God spoke into being and set in place.
Who has spoken and it came to pass,
unless the Lord has commanded it?
Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
that good and bad come?
Why should a living man complain,
a man, about the punishment of his sins?
As I pondered this, I realized that these passages and others throughout scripture, when taken in context and conjunction with the whole of scripture, provide Biblical evidence for free will. From Proverbs 16:9, we can see that the intentions of individuals are internally driven.
The heart of man plans his way,
but the Lord establishes his steps.
People make decisions toward desired outcomes and are therefore held accountable. But it is God who makes the final decision about what He instantiates in every situation, seldom deviating from a course dictated by each individual. I won’t say that God never forcibly produces an outcome contrary to a person’s natural tendencies, but I think such instances would be rare. Scripture portrays God as desiring personal interaction with free moral beings. It seems reasonable to assume that He would limit our freedom only in extreme cases where no free choice is possible. God is in control and has ultimate jurisdiction over the affairs of the world. He is not limited in what He does except by His nature and will. His desires selectively restrict His actions, but that does not mean He could not overstep those bounds if He chose.
We can use this understanding to guide our interpretation of the passage in Jeremiah. The Israelites caused their sons and daughters to pass through the fire to Molech. This notion is infinitely contrary to God’s nature. It is not an idea that arose from within His mind. Only after reaching into the depths of the human consciousness and understanding the thoughts emanating from sinful hearts did He choose to manifest what He saw. It would be similar to me intentionally contemplating actions that exceed the boundaries of my morality. I could never, under any circumstances, take another human life. I don’t even like to go hunting. Thus, a declaration such as, “I am going to kill my neighbor!” is contrary to my nature. The only reason it came to my mind was that I thought about what others have said and done. Similarly, God would never independently think to manifest into reality, much less command the Israelites to burn their sons and daughters against their will. Such ideas arise only out of the wickedness and depravity of the human heart.
The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it?
That is why Jesus came to earth. All people are born with an incurable disease called sin that separates us from God. Apart from the miracle of the resurrection, we have no hope. But Jesus came to provide the cure for the sin-stained human heart. He came to die to reconcile the relationship between God and His creation. Because of His sacrifice, we can have new life in Him, and our dead souls resurrected with Him.
To take advantage of God’s gift of salvation, repent and turn from your sin and claim Christ as your Lord and Savior. He alone can save.
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by
permission. All rights reserved.