How much of what we do everyday is determined by our own actions, and how much is determined by the plan and purposes of God for our life?
Each day, we make a myriad of choices which determine the direction that our life will take on that particular day–and even into the future. If God is sovereign over all the affairs of men, how much influence does our own will play in accomplishing the will of God? The idea behind the Sovereignty of God is that He governs all the events of the earth by His power. Alongside this Sovereignty–God has permitted us the blessing and responsibility we have personally, for our own actions. We see this clearly illustrated in the Life of Jesus, who is described as God–yet allows Himself to be put to death at the hands of evil men.
The Messiah to be “cut off” (killed) at the hands of evil men.
Isaiah 53:8c He was taken from prison and from judgment, And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.
The term cut off is an Old Testament expression used to describe the killing of the Messiah, which is first mentioned in the prophecy of Daniel Chapter 9.
Daniel 9:26 “And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself…”
Isaiah borrows this term and includes it in his prophecy describing the suffering of the Messiah. At the time that Jesus was crucified, the Roman government and the religious leadership of Israel believed that it was they, who were carrying out the sentence of death upon Jesus. In reality, the death of the Messiah was the eternal plan of God, from before the foundation of the world.
Revelation 13:8 … the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
The Sovereignty of God and the Free Will of Men
Acts 2:22-23 speaks of the fact that it was evil men who put Jesus to death by unrighteous actions, while it was also the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God that allowed it to take place.
Acts 2:22-23 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know—Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death…”
This is one place in the Bible where we see both the sovereignty of God and the free will of men working together at the same time.
There are many instances throughout the Bible where seemingly ordinary circumstances occur that are in fact orchestrated and controlled by the Lord. The census that was conducted at the time Mary was about to deliver Jesus was made by men, but ordained by God to bring Joseph back to the place of his ancestors’ birth so that Jesus would fulfill the Old Testament prophecy of the Messiah’s birth in Bethlehem.
Luke 2:1-5 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. 4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child…
We should pay special attention to the certainty that God is always moving people and events where He has determined they should be, in order to fulfill His prophetic word. We see this demonstrated throughout history as we compare the prophecies which Jesus fulfilled in the New Testament, with the words of God—which were recorded hundreds of years in advance, by the Old Testament.
The prophet Micah predicts that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, Prophecy 321.
Micah 5:2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.”
Matthew confirms that Jesus fulfilled Micah’s prophecy as the Messiah.
Matthew 2:5-6 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: 6 ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’ ”
When Joseph was taken as a slave to the house of Pharaoh, God again engineered a great famine over the whole earth so that Joseph’s brothers would have to come to Egypt to find food for the survival of their family (Genesis 41-50). It seems that the only place in the world at that time where there was adequate grain was in Egypt. God ensured that Egypt would be this place of salvation by giving Pharaoh a dream of seven abundant years before seven years of famine would take place. Joseph, who had been placed in prison in Egypt, was given the ability by God to interpret Pharaoh’s dream. As a result of this ability and a satisfactory interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream, Joseph was placed in charge of all the food supplies of Egypt. It was while in Egypt that the prophecy Joseph had made many years before that his brothers would all bow down before him, came true.
Genesis 37:7 There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Then behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf.
As Joseph’s brothers come to Egypt to seek food for their family, Joseph is now second in command over the entire kingdom. Joseph reveals to His brothers that God was working in the background all along in order to make certain that all of these things would happen according to His plans and purposes.
Genesis 45:4-5 And Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come near to me.” So they came near. Then he said: “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. 5 But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.
Men may move to accomplish their own will, but all that any man can do is conform himself to the sovereign will and power of God. Nothing can take place anywhere, at anytime, without the Lord causing and allowing it to happen. God is always supreme over all the affairs of this world.
As Isaiah describes the Messiah as cut off, this event was planned by God before He made the universe or created the first man. Nothing ever catches God unaware or takes Him by surprise. It is a great comfort to know that once we commit ourselves to God through Jesus Christ, every detail of our life is under the power and control of the Great God who stretched out the universe and determined its measurements.
One of the most difficult principles to grasp and accept, once a person begins to follow Jesus, is that our part in the execution of God’s will is to simply submit to the changes and circumstances that God moves us to and through during our life. If we understand that each detail of our existence is planned by God so that He might conform us into the image of Jesus Christ, we can have peace, knowing that even the most difficult of circumstances have a good end intended for our life.