Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Decrees of God and the Will of His Creatures

In II Chronicles 18 we get a rare insight into God working to accomplish His purpose through the will of his creatures. In this account, the creatures are a good but stupid king, Jehoshaphat; and evil, pompous king, Ahab; the apostate clergy of the day, the four-hundred false prophets from the state-accredited seminary; some demons looking for something to do; a righteous prophet, a horse, and a bored, tired soldier with an extra arrow to get rid of.

The Westminster Confession compresses the Bible's teaching about how God accomplishes His purpose in the world:

Article III: God's Purpose -- "The eternal purpose of God includes all events; it is holy and wise and does not deprive man of freedom nor make God the author of sin. God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin, no is violence offered to the will of the creatures nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established."

However, how God does this is never really explained in the Scriptures. We have the facts without most of the means given in the Bible. But in this passage, we get a little window into God's working.

Jehoshaphat, the good but not-so-bright king of Judah (the southern kingdom), decides to join forces with Ahab, the evil king of Israel (the northern kingdom). It is God's stated purpose to destroy Ahab, whom he hates. Jehoshaphat foolishly joins forces with him. God uses his foolishness, drawn on by his success as king.

As the two kings are meeting in war council, the evil king, being a pseudo-religious man, wants to hear from the preachers as to what he should do. He has four-hundred on staff, all state-approved apostate reverends, including the Most Holy Right Reverend Sounding-brass, and Bishop Tinkling-cymbal. They come before the kings and put on a show, telling king Ahab to go to this battle and that he will win and prosper. But while this is going on here on earth, there is a council in heaven. The Lord calls an assembly of spirits, evil spirits, and asks for a volunteer to go deceive Ahab. One says he will go be a lying spirit in the mouth of the false prophets, and he is sent to accomplish this mission. The false reverends, possibly unbeknownst to them, become the mouthpiece of a lying spirit, commissioned by the Lord to deceive Ahab to go to the battle. Ahab takes the bait.

An aside, this makes me wonder how often the false pastors of our day, whether Liberals or Word of Faith teachers, or the Robert Schuller types, or the Oral Roberts types, or the Prosperity teachers, how often are they just speaking out of their own ignorance and desire for success and money, and how often are they agents of demonic deception to mislead people who have rejected the truth of the gospel and are now subject to God causing them to believe a lie, that they might be damned? (II Thessalonians 2: 10-12)

Jehoshaphat has sense enough to request a true prophet of the Lord. Micaiah is brought in, whom Ahab hates "because he never says anything good about me," and tells Ahab he will be killed in the battle. He condemns the state-approved prophets for being false, and is sent to prison for being a faithful preacher.

The kings prepare to go into battle.

Ahab talks Jehoshaphat into putting on Ahab's uniform. The enemy general gives orders to an assassination squad to go after Ahab and kill him. The assassination squad goes after Jehoshaphat, thinking he is Ahab because of the clothes. Ahab, though he disregarded Micaiah, has disguised himself as a regular soldier in regulation armour.

The battle rages, the assassination squad goes after Jehoshaphat and almost kills him. But they realize they have the wrong man. They cannot pick Ahab out of the soldiers, and so fail in their mission to find and kill him. But toward the end of the day, when the battle was finishing (armies did not fight at night or in bad weather back then), when Ahab thought he had beat Micaiah's prediction, God moved something or someone in such a way that the horse pulling Ahab's chariot, or the driver of the chariot, attracted by something, moved the chariot into exact position so that --- and while that happened, an archer, who had one arrow left, for no reason that he knew, put the arrow in the bow and shot it at nothing in particular --- so that the arrow met Ahab exactly as the horse had moved him, where two pieces of his armor joined. And the arrow went through the little opening in the armor, killing him.

Now, Jehoshaphat acted freely in his foolishness; Ahab acted freely in his wickedness and arrogance. The demons who were summoned by the Lord in the heavenly council acted in accord with their nature, freely; the false prophets acted freely in seeking to please the king for their own advantage; the lying spirit acted on them with their consent, because they were practitioners of religious deception for gain; the horse pulling the chariot moved into position because he was drawn by something that interested him; the chariot driver let the horse do it because the battle was over and he was tired; the soldier with one more arrow shot it just to get rid of it so he could go home and have a beer; and the arrow found it's mark, and God killed his man.

Jehoshaphat was later chastened in chapter 19, "Shouldest thou help the ungodly and love them that hate the Lord? Therefore wrath is upon thee."

What are some lessons here?
1. God always gets his man.
2. He uses His control of nature to induce His creatures to act, according to their own desires and inclinations, to freely choose what He has eternally ordained to come to pass.
3. His purpose cannot be thwarted.
4. He acts in ways and by means that are not normally observable to us.
5. He uses evil people, people who are His enemies, to accomplish His purposes. See Psalm 17: 13-14 "Wicked men who are thy sword, men who are thy hand."
6. Most important, that we should discount our own understanding and put our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, obey Him, and keep His commandments, and not cast in our lot with His enemies.
"Trust in the Lord and do good. So shalt thou dwell in the land."
"Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life."

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