If everything is truly set in stone and going exactly how God planned it to happen, then every conversation He has with us is somewhat disingenuous, isn’t it? If we believe there’s no free will and God gives us a prophetic word that involves making a choice, then we must also believe that there really is no choice to make in the first place and God’s prophetic word is no more than a set up to make us do whatever it is we ended up doing in response to that word. Under this mindset, there is no point to the illustration God gave Jeremiah in part 3 of this series; for this mindset believes that God has predestined things to go exactly as He wants them to go and His prophetic message only gives the appearance of free will.
Now if the Bible gave us reason to believe that this was the case, that’d be one thing, but unless I force myself to think this way, very few Bible passages lead me to perceive that every last thing is predestined and set in place. In fact, I would say the Bible overwhelmingly communicates that the opposite is true—that humanity has a say in how things go down.
That’s not to say that God can’t predestine things to happen. By all means, the Bible is full of these examples as well. But I think even when God predestines something to happen, He doesn’t do so by removing free will; rather, free will remains at play even within the context of predestination.
Take the story of the prophet Micaiah and King Ahab for example. King Ahab was accustomed to Yahweh’s prophets giving him bad news all the time, so when Micaiah prophesied that Ahab would win a war at Ramoth-gilead, Ahab was skeptical. He was never given good words by Yahweh’s prophets, so he accused Micaiah of lying to him. Surprisingly, Ahab’s guess was correct—Micaiah was lying—and he was doing so because God wanted him to. Micaiah recalls the ethereal moment he had in which God gave him this prophetic word.
And Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left; and the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said one thing, and another said another. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, saying, ‘I will entice him.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘By what means?’ And he said, ‘I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And he said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.’ Now therefore behold, the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the Lord has declared disaster for you.” (1 Ki 22:19-23)
In a weird way, both predestination and free will are at play in this passage. There’s the free will of God’s divine council to advise God in deciding how to get rid of King Ahab. Yes, God has declared—one might even say “predestined”—that it’s time for Ahab to go, but as to how he goes is up for spiritual beings to decide. Free will is further seen in the fact that Ahab finds out what is happening and still has the audacity to go to war—though he disguises himself while doing so. But despite his hidden identity, he is killed when “a certain man drew his bow at random and struck the king of Israel between the scale armor and the breastplate” (1 Ki 22:34)—the irony being that the arrow was not as random as it appeared. The Bible clearly shows us here that both free will and predestination can be at play in the world and even in the same story. The ultimatum was that King Ahab would die—but there was still the flexibility of free will within that declaration.
Don’t hear me wrong—I believe God is completely and entirely omniscient—by all means, it’s one of the qualities that makes God, God, and everyone else, not. Again, just to be clear, it’s not God’s omniscience that I’m challenging, but our understanding of His omniscience; for the Bible does not portray God as omniscient in the sense that He is playing a chess game against Himself, where every exact move of the other player is perfectly known ahead of time from beginning to end. Actually, I think this view is far too basic from a Biblical standpoint and a very weak portrayal of God’s omniscience. I think His omniscience is even greater than this; for I believe He knows all things, even while leaving space for the variable of free will—and that is a much larger view of omniscience than the image of God playing chess against Himself.