Today’s Bible reading* raises an interesting question: “How free is our free will?”
Many people hold very strongly to the view that everyone has free will. There are even Free Will Baptists.
Second Chronicles 36:22 and Ezra 1:1 are obviously parallel passages; they say the same thing about Cyrus of Persia.
In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken through Jeremiah, the LORD roused the spirit of King Cyrus of Persia to issue a proclamation throughout his entire kingdom and also to put it in writing
2 Chronicles 36:22 (CSB)
In order to fulfill Jeremiah’s prophecy, God roused (“stirred” ESV; “moved” NIV; “prodded” MSG) King Cyrus’ heart. This is the same language of Jeremiah 51:1. “This is what the LORD says: I am about to rouse the spirit of a destroyer against Babylon and against the population of Leb-qamai.” Jeremiah 51:1 (CSB)
One of my study Bibles says about this word, “God sovereignly works in the lives of kings to effect His purposes.” and it refers to Proverbs 21:1: “A king’s heart is like channeled water in the LORD’s hand: He directs it wherever he chooses.” (CSB)
We saw in Daniel 2:21 that God removes and sets up kings. God sovereignty chooses who will sit on a throne ruling a nation. Others may think they are freely choosing someone, but Samuel acknowledged that God looks at the heart. God freely chooses. Not us.
I would say that we think we have free will. But the Bible is clear that we are deeply affected by The Fall. Reformer Martin Luther wrote a book titled, The Bondage of the Will. In it, Luther responded to Erasmus, asking about a person’s free will and God’s sovereignty in salvation. Were people free to choose God or was salvation a result of Divine Grace?
The Bible is clear that no one seeks God. No one is righteous. (“There is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God.” Romans 3:11 CSB [quoting Psalm 53:2]) Unless God draws someone, they will not come to Him. (“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) Paul discusses God’s sovereign choice of His people in Romans 9:11–12. And we can’t forget that God told Moses that He is merciful to those He chooses to be merciful to. (Exodus 33:19) If you are a Believer, it isn’t because you chose Him; it’s because He chose you! (John 15:16, a verse quoted in my first Bible when signed by the preacher who preached when I came to faith in Christ)
If God chooses us and if no one can come to Jesus without the Father drawing him, then how free can our free will really be?
My final Bible quote (for now) is from Romans 9:21–23 (CSB), “Or has the potter no right over the clay, to make from the same lump one piece of pottery for honor and another for dishonor? And what if God, wanting to display his wrath and to make his power known, endured with much patience objects of wrath prepared for destruction? And what if he did this to make known the riches of his glory on objects of mercy that he prepared beforehand for glory.“
God is sovereign. He calls His people to salvation and every person who comes to Him does so by His bidding. And all who come to him must repent of their sin.
* Chapters covered in today’s reading:
2 Chronicles 36:22-23