Bible Readings for October 9th
What the Bible teaches about the relationship between the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of humankind is complicated, to say the least. On the one hand, we know God never tempts anyone to sin, nor is he the author of sin (Jas. 1:13). But on the other hand, we also know he sovereignly and providentially reigns over all things in this world (Rom. 11:36), which includes the sin in this world. Where, then, does the one end and the other begin? The story in 1 Kings 12 helps us nuance our understanding of the relationship between human and divine action in this world.
First, Yahweh reminds us in 1 Kings 12 that he often works through ordinary means. Here, Yahweh had promised Solomon he would punish Solomon’s apostasy by tearing away ten of the tribes from the house of David. The fulfillment of this promise comes, though, not because Yahweh sends some thunderbolt falling from the sky but because of a fairly straightforward (but serious) political mistake on the part of Rehoboam, who refuses to lower the people’s taxes. Still, Yahweh insists that “this thing is from me” (1 Kgs. 12:24). In other words, we cannot always identify acts of God on the basis of whether or not extraordinary signs and wonders are involved. Rather, God often works precisely through everyday, mundane details to fulfill his word.
Second, we see in 1 Kings 12 a vivid illustration of the fact that God sometimes uses wicked people to accomplish his purposes. In the case of Jeroboam, Yahweh had clearly stated that Jeroboam would accomplish his will by judging the house of David for Solomon’s sin. Yet, once Jeroboam becomes king over the ten tribes of Israel, he immediately repeats the sin the Israelites had committed at the foot of Mount Sinai. He carves golden calves for the Israelites to worship at Bethel and at Dan, saying, “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt” (1 Kgs. 12:28). So, we may say truthfully that Jeroboam is Yahweh’s servant on one level, but on another level, Jeroboam is nothing like David, a man after Yahweh’s own heart (1 Sam. 13:14).
To bring these two principles together, consider of the cross of Jesus. There, we see Jesus caught up in typical political power struggles, and, furthermore, we see him crucified at the hands of “lawless men,” but we are told that all of this happened “according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23) and that his death took place for the forgiveness of sins of all who look to him in faith. We get no better picture of the way God works than at the cross, where God worked through great evil to bring about the salvation of the world.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.