We have wanted to carefully confirm in our hearts the greatness of God in His creation, the preservation of that creation, the creation of time, and then the unfolding of that time. The unfolding of time will thus be called history; but the Bible is clear that God Himself has appointed history and the ages to unfold in history. As He carefully appoints time and the ages, He also is in the great care of what unfolds in those time periods, including men, nations, events, epochs, the turning points in the history, and the transitions of history.
God’s Will in His History
We must see that the Bible reveals two concepts of God’s will. His will includes a boule will, which is His will of sovereignty, that declares absoluteness of what will happen. Then there is the theileime, His “wish-will,” that man will either respond to or denounce. But if rejected, how will this theileime wish-will affect God’s involvement in history? We alluded in a previous article that we see both Greek terms in reference to the history of David. Acts 13:36 reveals the boule will of God: “For David, after he had served his own generation by the will [boule] of God, fell on sleep.” David’s life and the appointed generation of his living were affirmed by sovereignty, the unalterable will of God. But Acts 13:22 contrastingly declares, “I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfill all my will [theileime].” David could have rejected this will of God, but he did not! He fulfilled God’s desires for him. God must take into consideration the individual lives lived, either their fulfilling of His theileime will for their lives or their rejection of that will.
This plan of God for history takes into account the fall of the Devil and his desire to destroy God’s workings, dealings, and the outcome of His plan. The Devil has his own plan for history, for this planet, and for the people born on this planet, but he cannot do anything apart from God’s permission. Many times, God permits what some may conclude is the Devil having his own way and will; but all his evil actions are tied up in God’s plan. And then, there is man, who fell from a perfect creation and estate; his offspring, conceived in sin and “shapen in iniquity,” came into the world to do their own will and way. God’s universal plan of history must include all these complexities.
My Life in God’s Will
Though we have observed that God’s history includes the totality of history, within that history there are many, many subservient histories, millions upon millions, that are carefully woven into play with that universal history. Some things of our personal life come into existence from God’s boule will. These are unalterable, and God alone chooses and makes them so. This sovereign will includes the moment in history when we come into existence (the moment of our conception), our parents, our ethnicity, our country, our body created for the self, and our disposition of that self. These all were a part of the boule will of God.
There is also the theileime wish-will of God. With this aspect, an individual could do God’s desired will or reject willfully that desire. God will not force His theileime will on anyone. And all the rejections of this will must mysteriously be tied up in God’s universal plan. Many things of our life fall into this category. This is where our personal history is to be seen. Compared to the whole of history, we may be a grain of sand in the entire scheme of history, but it is through history that God will bring “many sons unto glory” (Heb. 2:10)!
Behind every child conceived is the boule will of God, the sovereign plan of God. Conceptions were intended to be in marriage, but many, many children are conceived outside of marriage, permitted in God’s providence. There are always two workings of God found even in the worst of circumstances. One is the prevenient grace of God, and the other is the providence of God. No matter how bad the past or beginning of a person’s life may be, God can make a situation turn out to His glory! Out of over two million seed potentials that are passed by the man in the act of union, God sovereignly selects one to unite with the egg of the woman. It is estimated that there are 385,000 children born every day in the world. Surprisingly, for every 105 boys birthed in the world daily, there are 100 girls born. But because of war and tendencies of boys and men to die earlier than girls, it comes out to about the same ratio. This is the hand of a sovereign God in the history of all conceptions.
Dear reader, God was in your conception and in your birth. There are many sovereign appointments in your life and many wishes of God for your life. Any child’s life will be tied in with other histories within a family. And then, one day the child’s life will break away from the family in which he was born, and his own family will be commenced in God’s timing.
As the child grows, those appointed years of transition will take the child into puberty; then the child will begin the teenage years as providence calls him through the strait between childhood and young adulthood. How will the child handle this transition? What will be his history through this season? This is why in the Old Testament God appointed the bar and bat mitzvah callings, the time when the child becomes accountable to the Law, a consciousness of God for the life. As the child’s body undergoes both physical and mental maturing changes (the girl, 12 to 13, and the boy, 13 to 14), this call of the bar mitzvah or the bat mitzvah is to bring the child to a consciousness of God and to an accountability to God. Yes, God wanted to assist the child through the strait of transition from childhood to early manhood or womanhood. Careful guidance will be imperatively needed through this season. Yes, providence is working through every season of the history of an individual. Histories are composed of events, circumstances, and a vast amount of experiences touch and affect the individual. They become the molding of our lives.
Even what seems to be tragic situations that may have happened to us (as with Fanny Crosby who lost her eyesight when the wrong medicine was put into her eyes), God’s providence uses such situations for good in our lives. We observe God in the history of Moses, in his slowness of speech and tongue. When God was calling him, this became a great concern to Moses: “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue” (Exod. 4:10). The Lord responded, “Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say” (Exod. 4:11, 12). We read of the apostle Paul and the unknown problem with his eyes, yet God used him with the handicap:
The peculiarities were part of the plan of God in history.
We must take honorably all that comes to us in God’s providence, for grace and providence are given to triumph over all seeming tragedies or failures. What about our marriages: do we believe people can hurt our opportunities? We may think problems have quelled our hope, or that we desperately need to do this or that to find the right one. Sometimes God will lead us to do certain actions, but all this is in the hands of the Lord. It is difficult to tell Christians to trust in God and pray to God; they tend not to believe that God is in the meticulous details of life. We must remember, no one can hurt our opportunities. The entirety of our lives is in the hands of the Lord; He has proved time and time again that everything that comes into our lives comes at God’s appointed time. If it seems delayed, we must simply believe it is not God’s time. Wait upon the Lord, for He will bring it in His time in accordance with the great plan of history.
Dare we see this in the historical story of Ruth who was down in Moab? A family came from Bethlehem, having left there due to a famine; and Ruth providentially married a son in that family. But the son died. Naomi her mother-in-law, in bitterness due to the many tragic events that had taken place in her life, returned to Bethlehem but discouraged Ruth from returning with her. Ruth, pressing her love and devotion to Naomi, refused to leave her, and thus Naomi, accompanied by this Moabitess, entered Bethlehem at the time of the harvest. In going to glean in the fields, Ruth happened to light upon Boaz’s field. The two of them fell in love; but there seemed to be a “kink in the wheel” of providence because a nearer kinsman was in line to marry Ruth and take the inheritance. This nearer kinsman initially accepted but then, for fear of marring his own inheritance, did not take the Moabite woman Ruth. God triumphs in the end! Oh, the power of providence in the history of individuals.
We read in the New Testament of a healing being delayed for thirty-eight years for a woman with an issue of blood. She had gone from doctor to doctor for help but to no avail. Then one day as the Lord Jesus is passing her amidst a great throng of people, she carefully comes up behind Him and touches His hem and is instantly healed. Oh, the power of God in the individual life!
There may be failures in our lives that affect us. But can God’s grace work through these failures? Can God overcome the failures, or work through them despite them? Is there hope of a change later in my history?
My Times Are in His Hands
The time when God dealt with us to give all to Him brought about our New Birth. That coming to Christ became our Passover. In the Old Testament, Passover was on April 14. But if we do not come to Christ at the time of His dealing and wooing us, is there a second opportunity in our history? There was an opportunity of a second Passover for those who may have been defiled or out of the land on April 14. This second Passover was appointed for May 14. In God’s timetable of history, is there a second opportunity if we missed the first opportunity?
We also see, in shadow and type, the work of sanctification when the children of Israel came to God’s appointment of entering Canaan in Numbers 13 and 14 via Kadesh Barnea (from the south side). They refused to enter because of unbelief. But we then read of Israel entering (the second generation) in the Book of Joshua via the Jordan River (from the east side). God’s working in our lives to bring us to entrances of grace seems to come in seasons. Will we enter or will we reject the drawing to that grace? This can be seen once again in the distinction of the boule (the sovereign will of God) and the theileime (the wish-will). We believe our conversion and deeper growth are tied into the theileime of God, which can be rejected. But does He provide second opportunities? And could these be rejected? And how does all this tie into the ultimate universal plan of God, both the acceptances and the rejections of the workings of redemption? Yes, seasons of God’s workings in our lives are to bring us to God’s wish-will, and yet by our personal will we may possibly reject those opportunities. Amidst all the histories God is working in and through, it seems when dealing with us that all His attention is toward us as an individual.
How long have we struggled with weaknesses and master sins, and how long has God warned us, called us, and wooed us! And how many years has life itself been damaged simply because we refused to submit? We could have known the victory! What way would providence have taken us if we had yielded? Our failure or our delay was not providence’s fault, but our own. Though God gives us individual workings twenty-four hours a day, our personal history is subordinate to His higher plan that controls everything within the whole of history. And we must remember that all personal histories across the six thousand years of humanity are subordinate to God’s great plan; they are only an infinitesimally small part of His plan. I must see that every stage or season of my life will be ordered of the Lord; and what I do in each stage of life in response to God’s theileime will be woven into the whole of history. Whether I succeed in His grace or fail, His plan for the whole of history will not fail. Thank God for my history; but my history is a subordinate history. Yea, thank God, He chose me to be part of His great history, and in it He desires to bless my history with His will, His Word, His grace, and His providence.
My life will come to an end one day, His appointed day. I must end my life well, and in His will, no matter what the appointed end may be. According to Ecclesiastes 12, the way life will end is part of His plan for me. God’s wish-will for me is to lay hold of His Son’s history and what His Son did in His life, in His death for me, and in the power of His resurrection. He wants me to make His Son’s history a part of my life, and to let Him live His life out through me. My life is simply a subordinate history, but the greatest contribution I could make with my life is to be willfully and willingly contributing to His history and bringing other subordinate histories into submissiveness to Him. We must remember that part of the Son’s history is to bring “many sons unto glory” (Heb. 2:10); and I want to be one of these sons whose life contributes to the greatest purpose of life—to fulfill His history!