Man’s free will and God’s ultimate sovereignty. Are there any two topics further discussed within the church and theology? They are two subjects that are seen throughout Scripture, creating a seemingly constant tension within our finite and mortal understanding. Yet, within these latest chapters of 1 Samuel, I believe we see these two topics coincide quiet flawlessly and divinely.
A common theme throughout 1 Samuel 8-14 is the fact that Israel’s demand for a king was a huge mistake.
“But when they said, ‘Give us a king to lead us,’ this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: ‘Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.’” ~ 1 Samuel 8:6-7
“Is it not wheat harvest now? I will call on the Lord to send thunder and rain. And you will realize what an evil thing you did in the eyes of the Lord when you asked for a king.” ~ 1 Samuel 12:17
God, through his prophet Samuel, made extremely clear to the Israelites that asking for a king was a bad call. Yet even still, the Israelites willfully chose to disobey God’s desires and ignore the warnings of Samuel. They used their freedom of choice to disobey God. And as a result, they would come to face dire consequences because of it.
“When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” ~ 1 Samuel 8:18
This is the reality of man’s free will. We have the option to disobey. And through our disobedience, much like the Israelites, we will often experience very real and lasting consequences. However, we must read this reality of 1 Samuel with the overarching lens of God’s plans for his chosen nation.
“For the sake of his great name the Lord will not reject his people, because the Lord was pleased to make you his own.” ~ 1 Samuel 12:22
God promised continually throughout the Old Testament that he would keep his people. He had promised this nation a future and a plan that would certainly come to pass for His name’s sake. Israel’s free will would not and could not deter God’s plans.
“I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’” ~ Isaiah 46:10
This is the reality of God’s sovereignty. Israel’s demands for a king was not a shock. Their disobedience did not lead to a “plan B.” Their choice to rebel fell firmly within the purpose of God and that which he sought to accomplish. He knew the beginning from the end.
This is our hope as well. Our disobedience is a reality that we cannot choose to ignore. We will and do rebel and there are very lasting and painful consequences to that rebellion. Yet, our God is sovereign. There is no act so rebellious, no choice so disobedient, that it falls outside of God’s purpose and plan for our lives. He will accomplish that which He intends. He did for Israel, and will for us as well.