I mentioned before, I’m a Calvinist. I associate myself openly with the name of Calvin even though Calvin would abhor such a title. Today’s Bible reading inspired this post by highlighting the sovereignty of God over the human will. This morning I read the first three chapters of 1st Samuel. The books of Samuel chronicle a gracious reformation in Israel. God restores and builds his house afresh in Israel through David. The beginning of Samuel highlights the birth of the prophet Samuel who prophetically guides Israel in the time of its first Kings.
The birth and rise of Samuel as a faithful prophet/priest in the first chapters of 1st Samuel creates a stark relief to the unfaithful service of Eli’s sons Phinehas & Hophni. Both Eli & his sons served as priests in Israel. Phinehas & Hophni acted wickedly and God promised that he would take the priestly line away from Eli’s household and turn to Samuel to be his faithful representative in the land.
All this serves as precursor to the the point I want to make. I want to highlight one section of these chapters that I, as a Calvinist, see God’s sovereign will supersede human will. I quote 1 Samuel 2: 22-25:
Now Eli was very old, and he kept hearing all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who were serving at the entrance to the tent of meeting. And he (Eli) said to them, “Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all these people. No, my sons; it is no good report that I hear the people of the LORD spreading abroad. If someone sins against a man, God will mediate for him, but if someone sins against the LORD, who can intercede for him?” But they (Phinehas & Hophni) would not listen to the voice of their father, for it was the will of the LORD to put them to death. (ESV, emphasis mine)
The very last statement in verse 25 presents God’s sovereignty over human will clearly. Eli wishes that his sons would refrain from evil. He knows that, as priests of God, if they continue in evil, God will punish them. Phinehas & Hophni refuse to listen to their father’s wisdom. The author of the book of 1 Samuel gives us a reason why Phinehas & Hophni would not listen: “for it was the will of the LORD to put them to death”.
In that statement we see two things at work: 1) The will of Eli’s sons to disobey their father’s instruction. 2) The reason why Phinehas & Hophni willed disobedience -> the will of God. God’s will is the reason for their will.
Many times when I speak to an Arminian about the sovereignty of God over human actions and willing a response I receive is “But what about human will?”
I usually try to explain to them exactly what this passage shows clearly. Namely, human will, while a real thing that we experience, serves the will of God. All this works mysteriously. I believe truly and completely that both Phinehas & Hophni truly willed their actions of disobedience. However, at the same time (at a deeper & incomprehensible level) I believe that the sovereign will of God to put them to death caused Phinehas & Hophni to disobey.
This is just one example where I see the Calvinist doctrines of God’s sovereignty in the Bible and I thought I would share it with you all!
Food for thought.