A Critical Review of God's Strategy in Human History
To have a "strategy" is to have a goal and a comprehensive plan for achieving that goal. Forster and Marston (F&M) focus on God's goal in redemption rather than his goal in creation. But they do say, "We may, perhaps, surmise that God created spiritual beings to set up love-relationships with himself" (45.7). After the rebellion and fall of Satan (45.8) man was created apparently for the same purpose of enjoying a free love-relationship with God (47.1), though F&M do not discuss God's purpose in creating Adam. Rather, their discussion of the goal of redemptive history begins at the Fall when Adam "rejected God's plan for him" (46.5). "Of course, when Adam did sin, God was not taken by surprise. The divine redemption through the blood of the Lamb was foreknown indeed before the foundation of the world" (47.3). Accordingly the ultimate goal of God in history is "that finally all will be restored to the harmony with himself which God intended, and his servants will live in adoration of the self-sacrificing 'little Lamb' and the Father who are their light" (46.7). A great spiritual battle is raging in history now but we may be assured that "the Lord Omnipotent reigns" (109.9) and that evil will be destroyed and the church will be brought to glory (103.5). "So God's plan is finally achieved; his great project is accomplished. God has three things in the glorified church. He has a bride to reciprocate his love. He has a ‘tabernacle' or 'city' in which to dwell. And he has many sons with whom he can share his life and character" (109.4).
The plan or method for achieving the goal just described is determined by the character of the goal itself. Specifically, God's aim to have a people "to reciprocate his love" (109.4) has a crucial influence on the way he works in history. In short it means God must give man a "free will" and allow man to reject God's plan to save him. The reason is that "only a free being with an independent will can love. If love was to be a meaningful thing, Adam had to be allowed some free choice" (47.1). "God does not want mule-like servants who have to be forced to obey him all the time. He wants those who will freely accept his instruction and counsel. He wants relationships of mutual affection and love, not those based on some kind of force. God could bridle unbelievers, tinker with their wills and hearts, and turn them into automata (or mules), so that they have to do what he says. But if he did this it would still not achieve his purpose of developing free relationships . . . " (34.6). Therefore God's plan for history must reckon with unwanted evil and suffering since these are “the price that had to be paid for freedom and love to exist at all" (27.3).
God's strategy in history, then, involves maneuvering unwanted evil to his good ends. In fact this very situation does not constitute a defeat for God but rather gives him occasion to demonstrate his greatness. "This is not to say that he wills evil himself, or even that he willingly allows it, but such is his greatness that he can use it for good” (93.3). "The great thing about God is that he is able, in his foreknowledge, to make use even of those who rebel against him. Thus, although Judas rejected him, God used his rejection to set in motion the events leading to Christ's atoning death" (123.4). "God does not directly determine everything that happens and his glory lies partly in the fact that he triumphs in spite of this" (25.5).
Now we have arrived at the root of F&M's book. Now we can say what generated these 296 pages. I think God's Strategy in Human History was written to prove this one sentence: "Human beings, of course, could not thwart God's ultimate plan for the world, but they both can and do thwart his plan that they, as individuals, should have a part in it" (27.8, 30.4). To put it another way, "God ordains that the new heaven and new earth will come. He does not ordain which particular individuals will accept his plan for them to have a part in it" (28.2).
This book may be described as an exegetical critique of the Augustinian tradition (257-288) which we have inherited in the Lutheran and Reformed streams of that tradition. Specifically it is a critique and rejection of the view that "God orders and ordains all things" (41.1), or that "God's will is always done and is never impeded by the will of any creature" (40.3). Over against this view, which they say originates with Augustine (40.3), F&M assert that, "Nothing in Scripture suggests that there is some kind of will or plan of God which is inviolable" (32.3). To hold the Augustinian view is to make the whole conflict of good and evil a "fake" (26.9), and to proclaim this view in the church will lessen "the urgency with which we obey Paul's command to fight the good fight" (288.2). For this reason F&M set themselves in this book to prove from Scripture—not philosophical reflection—that man has free will and can thwart God's plan for him, and that, nevertheless, God's "ultimate plan will finally be realized" (46.5).
F&M interpret Scripture with at least one very important presupposition, namely, the authority and internal consistency of the Bible. "The surest test of whether an interpretation of a Scripture passage is correct, is to see whether it is consistent with other parts of Scripture" (293.7). They will not tolerate contradictions in Biblical teaching as some do by calling the contrary views "two sides to the truth". "If we are to allow such contradictions in our thinking, then almost any doctrine can be read into the Bible on the basis of isolated verses—being heralded as a new 'side to the truth"' (40.7). They deny that God is always incomprehensible and affirm that "God has revealed the deep things of his Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:10). It is true that the natural man cannot understand them (v. 14), but the man willing to be taught by the Spirit does understand God's revelation" (294.4). Consequently, the final basis for their conclusions concerning free will and God's strategy is that "there seems to be no other way to interpret Scripture consistently" (28.4). Or as they put it later, "This is the only conclusion we can see that reconciles Scriptures" (35.7).
We turn now to observe the main evidence F&M bring forth to support their position. A key text for them is Luke 7:30 and they cite it again and again for support (27.8, 40.2, 80.6, 204.3, 242.4, etc.). It refers to the Pharisees' unwillingness to acknowledge the greatness of John the Baptist and be baptized by him. Luke says, "But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected for themselves the counsel (boule) of God, being not baptized of him . . . ." F&M argue from this text that men can and do thwart God's specific plan for them.
They recognize that there are verses which seem to contradict this: for example, Isaiah 40:10, "My counsel (boule) shall stand, I will do my good pleasure." In order to avoid a contradiction one of these texts must be construed somewhat loosely. F&M opt to take Luke 7:30 strictly and Isaiah 40:10 loosely saying that the latter refers "to the broad outlines of what will be accomplished, not to details about what part each individual will play in it" (28.3). Another text that seems to conflict with Luke 7:30 is Ephesians 1:11. It refers to believers as "predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things after the counsel (boulen) of his will . . ." The apparent contradiction here is eliminated by construing the word "works" in Ephesians 1:11 as “energizes" which does "not convey an impression of irresistible directive power, but rather one of stimulation" (28.9). "Both God and Satan are energizing and Christians must turn on the right energy" (29.5). So there is no contradiction between Luke 7:30 and the rest of Scripture. And the truth remains that God does not determine all events, and men by their free will may thwart his plans for them (30.2).
In addition to Luke 7:30, the other three bulwark texts which F&M use to prove that God's will for individuals can be thwarted are Ezekiel 18:23; 1 Timothy 2:4; and 2 Peter 3:9 (30f.).
Ezekiel 18:23 (cf. 18:32; 33:11): "Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, rather than that he should turn from his ways and live?"
1 Timothy 2:4: God "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."
2 Peter 3:9: "The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing (boulomai) for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance."
F&M reject Calvin's effort to distinguish a "signified will" of God and an "effectual will" of God. They argue that this either makes God a deceiver in that he signifies his will to save when he in fact does not will to save, or it makes God chaotic in that he both wills and does not will all men’s salvation (33.1). One can abandon "the whole elaborate apparatus of signified and effectual wills” (as well as effectual and non-effectual calling) if one will accept the simple Bible teaching that "a man perishes because he rejects God's plan for him and does not do the Father's will" (33.5).
What do F&M say concerning the Biblical teaching on predestination and election? "The most important point to grasp about predestination is that it concerns man's future destiny. It does not concern who should, or should not, become Christians, but rather their destiny as Christians" (101.3). Specifically, God predestines that Christians should be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29) and that they should become sons (Romans 8:23) and that they should receive (Romans 8:18) and reflect (Ephesians 1:11f.) the glory of God (102-103). God did not determine beforehand who would become a Christian. Rather "he foreknew all about those who would repent in response to his Holy Spirit and . . . God had to decide what their fate should be" (101.5). That decision is predestination.
The concept of election is interpreted similarly: "Neither chosenness nor predestination concern how we came to be Christians. Chosenness concerns our present position and task in Christ. Predestination concerns our future task and inheritance with and through him" (133.7). The starting point for F&M in understanding the doctrine of election is the election of Christ by God. The key texts here are Isaiah 41:8, 9; 42:1; 49:6; Luke 2:32; 9:35; Matthew 12:18; 1 Peter 2:4, 6. They argue that Christ's election did not involve the passing over of other candidates for the role of Messiah: "It is not selection but function that we must understand from chosen" (129.7). "The emphasis is not on selection, but on the value set on the object described" (130.5).
From the election of Christ F&M move to Ephesians 1:4 where Paul says that God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. From this they argue that "the church is elect because it is in Christ and he is elect" (130.9). "The Bible does not say that we are chosen to be put into Christ, but that we were chosen in Christ" (131.8). "Christ's election implied two things for him: (a) a task and (b) a belovedness. This is what it also implies for us when we share in that election" (132.1). "The prime point is that the election of the church is a corporate rather than an individual thing. It is not that individuals are in the church because they are elect, it is rather that they are elect because they are in the church which is the body of the elect One" (136.5). Therefore, there is no inconsistency between the ability of a man's free will to thwart God's purpose for him and the doctrines of predestination and election.
Before turning to a critique of F&M's book I should perhaps make several comments about their interpretation of Romans 9. Romans 9:6-23 provides the outline for tracing the early stages of God's strategy (48-88). The keynote of F&M's interpretation is that "in this whole section the apostle is talking about nations and not individuals" (59.7). "Although individuals are involved, no one's eternal destiny is in question"(66.9). There is nothing in Romans 9 which contradicts their basic free-will thesis. The question in verse 19, "Who can resist his will?" is a "flagrant misrepresentation of Paul's teaching" (80.8), which Paul answers by saying in effect, "Nay, rather, you yourself are resisting it now!" (81.2). And in the case of Pharaoh's hardening "God did not give Pharaoh the wicked desire to rebel against him. What God did was to give him the stubborn courage to carry out that desire" (75.1; see chapter 17).
Finally, then, a great spiritual battle is raging between the forces of good and the forces of evil and man is free to determine which side he will be a part of (29.5). God's will is that every man join the side of truth and fulfill the task of "helping him to set his creation at liberty" (201.9). But God will not irresistibly call anyone into his service. He demands that a man repent. "If a man is prepared to repent, God will help him to believe" (148.9, 239.9). To use the words of John Chrysostom, "We must first choose the good, and then He adds what belongs to Him. He does not precede our willing, that our free will may not suffer. But when we have chosen, then He affords us much help . . . It is ours to choose beforehand and to will, but God's to perfect and bring to an end" (256.9).
Now to the criticism. Positively, I should say first that I am in hearty agreement with F&M's presupposition that the Scriptures are authoritative and consistent. My goal therefore, like theirs, is to find that interpretation which truly "reconciles Scriptures." Further, I appreciate the detailed exegetical work which F&M have done; I was compelled again and again to sharpen my own understanding of the biblical text.
Nevertheless, like F. F. Bruce who wrote the Foreword to this book, I remain an "impenitent Augustinian and Calvinist" (vii). Calvin only appears in a few footnotes in this book and the words Calvinism and Arminianism never occur so far as I could see. Yet the book may fairly be described as Arminian in its conclusions, and my counter arguments which follow will not depart far from classical Calvinism. I have been most deeply influenced by Jonathan Edwards on the question of free will and God's sovereignty and so I make no claim to originality.
A. F&M refer to Psalm 32:8,9 where God says to David, "I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check, otherwise they will not come near you" (34). They argue from this that "God does not want mule-like servants who have to be forced to obey him all the time . . . God could bridle unbelievers, tinker with their wills and hearts, and turn them into automata (or mules), so that they have to do what he says. But if he did this it would still not achieve his purpose of developing free relationships such as he desired with David" (34.7).
This is a misleading argument from Psalm 32:8 because a bit and bridle are used to force an animal to do what it does not want to do. But the question is not whether God forces a man to act against his will; the question is whether God determines what a man wills. The point of these verses is that David should desire to follow God's instruction and not be stubborn like a mule.
Further F&M scorn the idea of God "tinkering" with a man's will and heart so that the man must act a certain way. Two things should be said here. First, God may determine our wills not merely by "tinkering" with our wills but by presenting our wills with strong motives that draw us to decide in accord with his will. This is no more detrimental to love than the beauty of a wife is detrimental to her husband's fidelity. Second, do not F&M allow God the right to "tinker" with our heart when they say that "God's conviction of a man's heart can powerfully stimulate him to a decision for repentance" (39.3)? If you allow that God may convict the heart then you allow that he may act directly upon the will and emotions of man to alter their inclination in some way. Presumably when a man experiences conviction for sin he is experiencing something which God wants him to. But the cause of this good experience is God’s direct "tinkering" with his heart. Is conviction for sin then a "mule-like" experience? Are these initial movements of the will away from sin and toward God merely the mechanical reactions of an "automaton" just because they are directly caused by God and are not at all caused by a man freely deciding to get convicted? No.
But if God can convict the heart of man, that is, if he can turn a man's will (his inclination or preference) away from sin even though the man has no say in it, then have we not admitted in principle that the activity of a man's will and emotions are no less human for having been caused by God apart from the man's prior, free decision? If this is so, then the argument that man becomes mule-like when God irresistibly influences this will falls to the ground. If man becomes a dehumanized automaton when God irresistibly causes man's will to incline away from sin then God's convicting man of sin is a dehumanizing act and faith which may result from this conviction is not genuine because man had to be turned into an automaton (in the experience of conviction) in order to bring that faith about.
But there is a very good reason to affirm that God's "tinkering" with man's heart to convict him of sin and irresistibly draw him to repentance and faith is not a dehumanizing act. The reason is simply this: all men are already dehumanized mules enslaved to sin (Romans 6:16, 17), "held captive by Satan to do his will" (2 Timothy 2:26); they are "by nature children of wrath" (Ephesians 2:3); in short, they are "dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1). F&M simply do not take seriously the corruption of the human heart and the power of Satan over those so corrupted (see their rejection of Augustine's view of original sin, 270-272). If they did they would not see man as a free being for whom God's irresistible grace is a threat to his humanity. Rather, they would see man's humanity distorted by bondage to sin and would view God's grace as liberation and humanization. It is not dehumanizing to make live men out of dead ones, even though dead men do not freely choose to be raised. Therefore, I reject the argument that in order to fulfill his purpose to save men and not mules God must not call men irresistibly to faith (35). On the contrary, if God aims to transform any of Satan's mule-herd back into men he must do so irresistibly, for mules by nature do not will to become men.
Related Note (from The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Edinburgh, 1974, vol. 2, p. 532):
Objectors may say, God cannot always prevent men's sins, unless he act contrary to the free nature of the subject or without destroying men's liberty. But will they deny that an omnipotent and infinitely wise God could not possibly invent, and set before men such strong motives to obedience, and have kept them before them in such a manner, as should have influenced all mankind to continue in their obedience as the elect angels have done without destroying their liberty? God will order it so that the saints and angels in heaven never will sin: and does it therefore follow that their liberty is destroyed and that they are not free, but forced in their actions? Does it follow that they are turned into blocks, as the Arminians say the Calvinist doctrines turn men?
B. F&M are convinced that God from all eternity foreknew everything that would come to pass in history (47.3, 92.3, 101.6, 201.8). But they deny that this foreknowledge of all implies predestination of all. Yet they give no argument to support this denial. To my knowledge there is no such argument. If God is infallible and infallibly knows what will occur in the future, then what he knows will occur must occur. Since God's certainty of knowledge must have a ground and since it is a knowledge eternally existent in God, and the historical acts which are known are not eternal, therefore the actual historical acts cannot be the ground of God’s knowledge and the ground must be his will or his decree that things be as he foreknows them to be. In other words, God's perfect foreknowledge of all events implies his predestination of all events.
If it be objected that there is no such thing as before and after in God but that he sees all things by one perfect unchangeable view without any succession, I answer with Jonathan Edwards: "Though it be true, that there is no succession in God's knowledge and the manner of his knowledge is to us inconceivable, yet this much we know concerning it, that there is no event, past, present, or to come, that God is ever uncertain of; he never is, never was, and never will be without infallible knowledge of it; he always sees the existence of it to be certain and infallible. And as he always sees things just as they are in truth; hence, there never is in reality anything contingent in such a sense, as that possibly it may happen never to exist." (Freedom of the Will, 1969, p. 127). I do not see any way to avoid the simple conclusion that the eternality, immutability, and perfection of God's knowledge of all things implies that nothing could ever have been otherwise than it in reality was.
C. I will not undertake a detailed refutation of F&M's interpretation of Romans 9, though I think it misses Paul's point in each of the three sections discussed (48-88). I have already given my reasons elsewhere for a different view. (See my three papers: "Jacob I Loved and Esau I Hated, Romans 9:14", "Why I Think Romans 9 Relates to the Eternal Destiny of Men," and "The Argument of Romans 9:14-16").
But there are several passages in Romans 11 which F&M neglect to discuss in detail and which imply clearly that God decreed the unbelief of Israel and brought it about for a good purpose. If this is true then the thesis of F&M that God does not foreordain that evil happen, but rather that it happens unpurposed by God on account of man's free will, falls to the ground.
I will concentrate on Romans 11:30-32, "For just as you (gentiles) once were disobedient to God, but now have received mercy on account of their (Jews) disobedience, (31) so also these now disobeyed for the sake of your mercy in order that they too might receive mercy. (32) For God shut up all unto disobedience in order that he might have mercy on all." F&M say that God uses the evil (which he foreknows) to bring about good (93.3, 123.4). I agree, but the grammar of Romans 11:31, 32 compel us to say more: God does not merely foresee the unbelief of Israel and turn it to his use; he himself purposes it for the sake of mercy. The two phrases italicized (in order that) show that the disobedience of Israel is purposive and the only being who could purpose it for the sake of greater mercy is God. Moreover the parallel structure between verses 31 and 32 support this:
9:31 Israel disobeyed / in order that / they might receive mercy
9:32 God shut up all unto sin / in order that / he might have mercy on all.
In view of this parallel and in view of the fact that Israel's disobedience (i.e. unbelief) is purposed or intended by someone for mercy, it is proper to conclude that God's "shutting up unto disobedience" means that he so ordered all things that Israel necessarily was disobedient.
F&M seem to come close to saying this concerning the crucifixion of Christ which was surely a sinful act on the part of those who did it. They say, "God foreknew that it would happen and God delivered him up to them, knowing and intending what would happen" (25.7, emphasis mine). If F&M mean merely that the sufferings of Christ are intended by God but not the sinful acts of his tormentors then they are making an impossible distinction, for, as Jonathan Edwards says, these atoning sufferings "could not come to pass but by sin. For contempt and disgrace was one thing he was to suffer" (Works II, p. 534). That the sinful acts surrounding Christ's death were foreordained by God could scarcely be made plainer than in Acts 4:27f: "For truly in this city were gathered together against Thy holy Servant Jesus both Herod and Pontius Pilate along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel to do whatever Thy hand and Thy purpose predestined to occur" (cf. Acts 2:23 and Isaiah 53).
There is a sense in which the unbelief of Israel (Romans 11:30-32) and the crucifixion of Christ are similar. Both are "intended" or foreordained by God and yet both are brought about not for their own sake but for the sake of mercy. God does not decree that sinful acts occur for the sake of their sinfulness, and so his hatred of sin, absolutely considered, is not called into question. Jonathan Edwards helps us see this: "God, though he hates a thing as it is simply, may incline to it with reference to the universality of things. Though he hates sin in itself, yet he may will to permit it for the greater promotion of holiness in this universality including all things at all times. So, though he has no inclination to a creature's misery, considered absolutely, yet he may will it, for the greater promotion of happiness in this universality" (Works II, p. 528).
D. F&M cite many texts in which "not all men do God's will" (31.4). They conclude from these verses (e.g. Luke 7:30; Matthew 23:37; 12:50; 7:21; John 7:17; 1 John 2:17; 1 Thessalonians 4:3, 5:17-19; Acts 7:51) that a man can thwart the will of God for him. If Jesus says that only those who do the will of his Father in heaven will enter into the Kingdom then there are many who do not do the will of God. F&M conclude: "Nothing in Scripture suggests that there is some kind of will or plan of God which is inviolable" (32.3, see "E" below for Scriptures which do indeed suggest this!). They reject any attempt to distinguish between two ways that the will or counsel of God is conceived (32.33). But in doing this they reject a theological construction which in my opinion handles the data of Scripture more coherently than the theological construction of free will and the thwartable God.
A careful reflection upon the Scriptures compels us to distinguish between different senses in which the will of God is spoken of. Calvin uses the terms "signified will" and "effectual will" (32). Jonathan Edwards refers to God's "secret will" and his "revealed will" or, which is perhaps most apt, God's "will of decree" and his "will of command." The stumbling block for the Arminians has always been that Calvinists assert that God can command one thing and decree that another thing come to pass; he can say that one thing is his will and yet foreordain a contrary thing. But is this not in fact so?
Let's take the example of Pharaoh's hardening of heart. It is irrelevant for the present point whether F&M are right to translate "harden" as "strengthen." What is important is simply this: to F&M after the fifth plague God gave Pharaoh "supernatural strength to continue with his evil path of rebellion" (73.9). In other words, it was God's will that for five more plagues Pharaoh not let the people of Israel go. Nevertheless even after God had willed not to let Israel go for five more plagues, "The Lord said to Moses 'Go to Pharaoh and say to him, "Thus says the Lord, Let my people go!""' (Exodus 8:1). Here is a clear example of where God's "will of decree" and "will of command" have to be distinguished.
Another example would be in Genesis 22 where God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac—a command which God had no intention of allowing Abraham to fulfill. One could also cite the incident where God incites David to take a census (2 Samuel 24:1) and when David has done it he says, "I have sinned greatly in what I have done" (2 Samuel 24:10). Finally, there is the example of how the Egyptians came to hate the Hebrews in their land. Now hate of this sort is surely in some sense contrary to God's will; it is sin. Yet Psalm 105:25 says that God "turned their heart to hate his people, to deal craftily with his servants." That is, God willed that the hate of the Egyptians for the Hebrews come to pass.
Is then God a God of contradiction when he decrees one thing and commands another? No, for as Jonathan Edwards explains, "His will of decree is not his will in the same sense as his will of command is. Therefore it is no difficulty at all to suppose that the one may be otherwise than the other: his will in both senses is his inclination. But when we say he wills virtue, or loves virtue or the happiness of his creature; thereby is intended that virtue or the creature's happiness, absolutely and simply considered is agreeable to the inclination of his nature. His will of decree is his inclination to a thing not as to that thing absolutely and simply, but with reference to the universality of things. So God though he hates a thing as it is simply may incline to it with reference to the universality of things” (Works II, p. 528).
It is along these lines that a proper understanding of those texts is to be sought which declare that God "desires all men to be saved" (1 Timothy 2:4). But for a detailed treatment of these texts see my paper "The Four Pillar Texts of Arminianism.”
From these considerations I hope it has been sufficiently demonstrated that the texts which F&M cite to prove that man does not always do God's will, do not in fact prove that there is no will or plan of God which is inviolable (32.3). They prove that men can disobey God's command but not that they can ever frustrate his eternal decrees.
E. In order to refute many detailed points of exegesis in F&M's book another book would be necessary. I hope the key issues I have discussed suffice to show the error of their thesis that people can and do thwart the plan of God for them (27.8). In conclusion, it might be helpful simply to list a number of texts which point in a direction quite different from that of F&M.
Genesis 50:20: Joseph says to his brothers who had sold him into slavery, "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive."
Deuteronomy 29:2-4: Moses says to the Israelites before they enter the promised land, "You have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes . . . those great signs and wonders. Yet to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear." (cf. Romans 11:32; Deuteronomy 5:29).
Proverbs 16:4: "The Lord has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil." (cf. 1 Peter 2:8; Jude 4; Romans 9:22)
Proverbs 16:9: "The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps."
Proverbs 16:33: "The lot is cast in the lap, but every decision is from the Lord."
Proverbs 19:21: "Many are the plans of a man's heart but the counsel of the Lord, it will stand."
Proverbs 21:1: "The King's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he wishes."
Isaiah 63:17: "Why, O Lord, dost thou cause us to stray from thy ways, and harden our heart from fearing thee? Return for the sake of thy servants, the tribes of thy heritage."
Jeremiah 10:23: "I know, O Lord, that a man's way is not in himself; Nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps."
Jeremiah 32:40: In the promise of the new covenant God says, "I will put the fear of me in their hearts so that they will not turn away from me" (cf. Ezekiel 36:27; Jeremiah 52:1-3).
Lamentations 3:37f: "Who is there who speaks and it comes to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both good and ill go forth?" (cf. Isaiah 45:7; Amos 3:6).
Philippians 2:12, 13: "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure."
2 Timothy 2:24-26: "The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome but . . . able to teach . . . with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will."
Hebrews 13:20, 21: "Now the God of peace . . . equip you in every good thing to do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Revelation 17:17: Of the ten kings who wage war against the harlot (Babylon) it is said, "They will hate the harlot and will make her desolate and naked, and will eat her flesh and will burn her up with fire. For God has put it in their hearts to execute his purpose . . ."