In today’s Bible reading, John says something that is difficult to grasp. “These have one purpose, and they give their power and authority to the beast. … For God has put it into their hearts to carry out his plan by having one purpose and to give their kingdom to the beast until the words of God are fulfilled.” Revelation 17:13,17 (CSB)
What’s difficult to grasp is that these kings give their power and authority to the beast because God put it in their hearts to do so. Did they not have a say in the matter?
Is there anywhere else in the Bible where something like this occurs? Look at the story of the Exodus. When Moses asked Pharaoh’s permission to take the Hebrews to the desert to worship God, Pharaoh hardened his heart, right? Yes. (Exodus 8:15, 8:32, 9:34)
And yet, no.
But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had told Moses.
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may do these miraculous signs of mine among them,
But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the Israelites go.
But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he was unwilling to let them go.
Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh, but the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go out of his land.
(Exodus 9:12, 10:1, 10:20, 10:27, 11:10 CSB)
We want to think that we are completely independent and can do whatever we want. After all, we have free will, right? Not so fast.
Jeremiah tells us that our hearts are wicked (Jeremiah 17:9) and Isaiah says that our righteousness is worthless. (Isaiah 64:6) The Fall affected us to the core of our being. Human beings were radically corrupted by the Fall in Genesis 3. The Reformer Martin Luther pointed out that even our will was affected by The Fall. So no, our will is not as free as we think it is!
God is capable of bending our will. And He must do so if we are to hear and respond to the Gospel message. Otherwise, we will never respond to His call to salvation. Because of The Fall, our natural inclination is to choose other than God.
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him,
and I will raise him up on the last day.
John 6:44 (CSB)
Without God’s intervention, human beings — you and I — are lost. We are destitute. We are objects of God’s wrath. We are separated from God. We are dead in our trespasses and sins. We are enemies of God. We are hopeless! (see Ephesians 2 for the condition of those without Jesus)
Sinclair Ferguson said, “It is misleading to say that God accepts us the way we are. Rather, He accepts us despite the way we are. He receives us only in Christ and for Christ’s sake. nor does He mean to leave us the way He found us, but to transform us into the likeness of His Son.”
Praise be to God that God accepts us despite the way we are! Spend a few moments today praising God for His grace and mercy.
This devotional was originally published December 23, 2019.