Many Christians believe that God knows everything and in particular knows all future events. Some even take that to the next level and claim that God predetermined everything. Is it possible they believe this way out of a mistaken idea about how best to honor God?
I offer the following anecdotal evidence to suggest an alternative, that God is interactively working relationally through us moment by moment to bring about His purposes for the future He intends. With that in mind, I take you to the story of Hezekiah’s illness in 2 Kings 20:1-6:
In those days Hezekiah became mortally ill. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.” Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, saying, “Remember now, O LORD, I beseech You, how I have walked before You in truth and with a whole heart and have done what is good in Your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. Before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “”Return and say to Hezekiah the leader of My people, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of your father David, I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the LORD. I will add fifteen years to your life, and I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for My own sake and for My servant David’s sake.”‘”
Hezekiah’s prayer gives evidence to how our prayers can change God’s mind. God clearly knew the king would die, but decided in response to prayer to change Hezekiah’s future. How do we best reconcile the power of prayer to God’s control over the future? I suggest that God knows what He wants to achieve and is constantly influencing people and events to bring His vision to pass. I would also suggest that we as individuals are not that important, and I cite Esther 4:14 as reference:
“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?”
Mordecai had just asked Esther to help save the Jewish people, and Esther was wavering. Mordecai’s point was that God will achieve His purpose regardless of Esther’s cooperation. He would simply decide to use somebody else if Esther refused.
Stories like these tell me that God’s power is much greater than we tend to think. He didn’t create a world in which the future is laid out toward an unchangeable outcome. Our God has relationship with us and is using us to create the future. If I don’t fulfill His purpose, He will use someone else to achieve it. He probes and tests us to determine if we can serve His purposes. It’s not about me. It’s all about Him, and His will will be done.
What I love about this way of looking at the future (aside from the fact that so many historical incidents in Scripture testify to it) is that it puts the relationship between God and man in its proper order. God can do whatever He wants, and each person either steps up to God’s calling or not. God will simply pivot to achieve His purposes, and the complexity of God’s interaction with humanity is mind boggling. Your life is not on cruise control decided by an impersonal eternal destiny. You are God’s child with the freedom and responsibility to live that way.