For the week of July 10, 2004 / 21 Tammuz 5764
Torah: Bemidbar / Numbers 25:10 - 30:1
Haftarah: 1 Kings 18:46 - 19:21
Replaced by: Jeremiah 1:1 - 2:3
Originally published the week of June 29, 2002 / 19 Tammuz 5762

God's Determinaton

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations (Jeremiah 1:5).

One of the things about God that many people have struggled with has to do with how much he influences the affairs of our lives. Concepts such as fate and predestination give the impression that what happens to us is determined by forces outside of ourselves. The lives we live are more of an unfolding of what was to be, rather than anything we ourselves can control.

Others insist that no such outside influences exist. They believe that God has given us something called free will and nothing in life can ever supercede that.

The Scriptures seem to assert that both of these views contain a measure of truth. I doubt if we will ever be able to fully work out these concepts philosophically. The Bible is not a philosophy book. While it deals with philosophical issues it doesn't try to resolve them. The Bible is a book about God and his ways. What it does assert is that if we walk in those ways, we will experience life how God intended. Disregarding the Scriptures' teaching is the route to destruction.

The Scriptures certainly teach that we have a will and that we are responsible for our choices. Exactly how free that will is is not that clear. No person's will is completely free, since our choices are limited by so many external and internal factors.

However it all works, we need to take care so as not to miss what is so beautifully expressed in God's words to the prophet Jeremiah that I have read. God had his eye on him from before he was ever born. Jeremiah's calling as God's mouthpiece was deeply set in the heart of God. The fact that one day he would receive such an appointment was clearly predetermined.

Whether or not Jeremiah could have resisted what God had determined is debatable. We may never know the stories of those who ignored their call, but what we do have is many stories of those who accepted it.

Fulfilling God's will is not about striving after spiritual heights. He has not issued a challenge to the human race waiting to see who is up to the task. In fact one of the foundational teachings of the Scriptures is that all of us have missed the mark. Only God is up to the task. It is only through faith in the Messiah that we can make it at all.

So instead of striving we need to discover God's will. When we truly walk with God, we find that we are on a path that he himself has cleared - one in which he has set the destination. To do God's will is to cooperate with him and his purposes. When we do that we can be confident that he will faithfully guide us until the end.

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