Can Men Change God’s Will?
by Jeffrey W. Hamilton
Text: Daniel 4:28-37
I. A difficulty those raised in Calvinist beliefs is resolving the idea of God’s sovereign will with the actions of men.
A. To many Calvinists, God’s will is immutable (unable to be changed). The idea that men might do something to alter God’s decisions is inconceivable.
B. This is why Calvinists are so quick to deny that baptism is necessary for salvation. To them, salvation is something God decides; therefore, no action by men can change that decision.
II. God does as He pleases
A. The end of Daniel 4 is written by King Nebuchadnezzar after he spent seven years of insanity at the hand of God.
1. He declared that people are nothing, God does as He decides, and no one can stay His hand - Daniel 4:35
2. But read this carefully. Nothing in this states that God can’t change His mind about a matter if the circumstances change.
B. God works all things according to counsel of His will - Ephesians 1:11
1. This passage is about God’s plan to save mankind from their sins
2. Before the world began, God planned to send His Son, so that through his shed blood, people would have a way to obtain redemption - Ephesians 1:7
3. God has successfully executed that plan.
a. A factor in God’s plan depends on what an individual decides to do.
b. In other words, God’s plan includes people making a choice
c. A some point in our lives, we are destined for destruction - Ephesians 2:3
d. But some of us listen to message of the Holy Spirit and believe it - Ephesians 1:13-14
e. We were made alive through Christ and raised up with him through God’s grace - Ephesians 2:5-6
(1) This is an allusion to baptism - Romans 6:3-4
4. Globally, Satan, the Roman government, and the Jewish leaders were unable to stop God from putting His plan for saving people into action
5. Individually, God requires those who would be saved to do the works He has laid out - Ephesians 2:10
6. Thus, individually, God’s decision to destroy sinners is changed by His grace allowing those who choose to obey him to be granted forgiveness
C. God’s counsel stands forever - Psalms 33:8-11
1. God’s decisions cannot be stopped by nations, nor does He change His plans as time progresses
2. But this does not mean God is unable to show mercy to individuals or nations as He sees fit
3. God is able to adjust His plans to accommodate the righteous or punish the wicked without impacting His grand design
4. Hezekiah was extremely ill. He was told to get his house in order because he would soon die. Hezekiah prayed and God granted him 15 more years of life - Isaiah 38:5
a. God had some “wiggle room” in His plans, so He granted Hezekiah’s wish
5. Later Hezekiah made the mistake of showing off the wealth of Israel to representatives of Babylon - II Kings 20:17-18
a. This destruction by Babylon would not have happened so soon if Hezekiah had made a different choice.
b. God’s designs didn’t change overall, but Hezekiah’s choice did alter the timing causing punishment to come.
D. God plans it and God does it - Isaiah 46:9-11
1. This passage tells us why no man or nation can alter God’s purpose. It is God who executes His plans and no one can stand in the way of the Almighty
2. But this doesn’t mean that God has planned out every detail of everyone’s life.
3. An aspect of God’s design is that man is allowed free-choice - Proverbs 16:1
a. This is implied in Isaiah 46:11 when God said He will bring His decisions to pass.
b. That means the future is not already settled. God takes an active role in seeing that His will is accomplished.
III. The illustration of Jonah
A. When God sent Jonah to Nineveh, Jonah tried to go to Tarshish instead
1. Jonah wanted Nineveh destroyed - Jonah 4:1-2
2. Notice that Jonah had discussed this with God prior to his departure
3. Therefore, we can conclude that Jonah knew that the purpose of his going to tell Nineveh of their future destruction was to open the possibility of the Assyrians changing.
4. Jonah didn’t want the Assyrians forgiven, he wanted them destroyed, so he tried to remove any chance of them repenting
B. When Jonah did go, I suspect that his message didn’t call for repentance. The Bible only states that he said Nineveh would be destroyed in 40 days - Jonah 3:4
1. That was the part that Jonah wanted to happen.
2. I could see Jonah avoiding mentioning that there was a chance if they repented.
3. Notice also that the king wasn’t certain that God would relent - Jonah 3:9
a. Thus, the king likely didn’t conclude this from Jonah’s message
C. Thus, despite one, possibly two attempts by Jonah to change God’s plan, God was still able to show mercy on Nineveh.
D. As God told Israel, He doesn’t destroy because He enjoys punishing people - Ezekiel 18:30-32
1. The people of Nineveh did not cause God to change His plan
2. They met the condition that allowed God to justly offer mercy, which was what God preferred to do.
IV. The implications of Jonah for us
A. God has granted people, who met His conditions, forgiveness of sin. That is also true today.
B. There is a promise of a home in heaven if they remain faithful.
1. So failing to remain obedient will cause us to miss out on heaven - Hebrews 4:11
2. But that condition means people can impact their destiny
C. People don’t change God’s plan. His purpose remains the same - II Peter 3:9
D. People make their plans, but God’s will remains fix
1. It is the obedient who enter into God’s kingdom
2. So will you submit to God’s will or try to rebel?