Jeremiah 22: Do We Have Control?
I am going to spend our discussion on Jeremiah 22 responding to something I wrote the other day. The other day, I wrote about how God knows the future, and He doesn’t change. However, I also mentioned in that article that I do believe in the free will of humanity. We see a little bit of backing for that today.
Jer 22:3 Thus saith the LORD; Execute ye judgment and righteousness, and deliver the spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor: and do no wrong, do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, nor the widow, neither shed innocent blood in this place.
Jer 22:4 For if ye do this thing indeed, then shall there enter in by the gates of this house kings sitting upon the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, he, and his servants, and his people.
Jer 22:5 But if ye will not hear these words, I swear by myself, saith the LORD, that this house shall become a desolation.
These are words that God told Jeremiah to speak to the King, and they certainly seem to imply that there is still a choice to be made. There is still a chance to save Judah apparently.
However, it is worth mentioning that earlier in this book, the fall of Judah and Jerusalem had already been prophesied, so this actually might be a testimony to God knowing the future. This statement would be entirely true given that it is from God, but He already knows that the words will be ignored. As a result, this could just be God explaining what they had given up or what they would be giving up because of their bad decisions. God already knew that they were not going to choose to follow Him, but He is telling them now so that when the actually experience the things that come from their own rebellion, they will recognize that they had made a wrong decision.
Regardless, that isn’t really my main concern. How do we reconcile God telling people that we have a choice to make while simultaneously understanding that God knows everything and the future already has happened from the perspective of God? If the future is already written in His mind, do we really have free will at all?
On some level, I think that this question is beyond human comprehension. I say that because God exists outside of time, but everything we understand is based in time. Therefore, it is incomprehensible for us to think about everything being in the present. For God, since He is timeless, His foreknowledge is of an entirely different sort than we would consider foreknowledge in linear time. That makes it almost like comparing apples and oranges.
However, that being said, I don’t think that this fact that God knows the future ultimately removes our human free will either. Mainly, I say that because of the wide variety of New Testament passages that refer to receiving the gift of salvation. It seems incredibly clear from the text that there is a choice to be made here, and by being responsible for making that choice, you have your own will.
There is obviously tension here, but I don’t think that it is irreconcilable. Yes, God does know everything, and He does have a plan. He knew that even when Jeremiah spoke the words above, the people would still not listen. However, at the same time, we also have a responsibility to make choices that honor God and are the objectively right choices. The King and people were responsible for ignoring the words of God, and they were punished accordingly. It would not be just if they were punished for things that they had no control over. We know that God is just, so it seems to point towards human responsibility on some level.
I probably did not provide you with any type of answers today, but I also do not think that we need to be afraid of engaging with this question. It might be the case that we cannot humanly understand how this works. We do not know very much about ruling universes set in linear time from outside of time, so from that perspective, it might not be surprising whatsoever that we don’t have a perfect grasp on the exact nature of this relationship. However, we do know facts, and those ought to influence our behavior. God knows everything from the beginning to the end. He holds all the world and all time. At the same time, as beings that exists inside of that system, we have the ultimate obligation to follow God based on a choice and commitment that we make freely.