This is a good and comforting thing.
It probably doesn’t feel like it to a culture inflamed with a false view of its own authority, but it’s good.
Truth #1: God is absolutely in control of, and has the right to be in control of, every single atom and moment and human in the universe.
When Job, for instance, felt wronged by the evil God had allowed (and of course in a sense caused) to befall him, God rebuked him. Lovingly and patiently, letting Job first lament and complain and then get misled by some relationally manipulative buddies, but rebuked nonetheless. He asked Job where he was when the earth was made, when the beasts of the sea were created, when the universe spun off of His fingertips into existence.
Job repented, in ashes, and God lovingly forgave Him.
God has the right to use our pain and our sins and the sins of others for His glory and the good of those who love Him. The right to use our thoughts, our plans, our schemes to achieve His end instead of ours.
And He will.
Truth #2: God has actively changed people’s minds, decisions, thoughts, hearts and emotions before. He does it still. Every day.
Let me start by saying this: If He didn’t, no one would ever believe in Christ and be forgiven.
The book of Ephesians says, to true Christians, that before we believed in Christ we were dead in our sins and trespasses. Dead. In John 6, when Jesus is talking to people on the fringe who are demanding a sign and saying if He does one that then they’ll believe, He says that no one can come to Him unless the Father draws Him.
I wouldn’t have come to believe in Jesus unless God changed my mind.
Paul had to remind this to a church in a big, cosmopolitan city called Corinth. They were, apparently, trying to be chic and hipster and smart and “wise.” And he told them that the world’s “wise” don’t understand the Gospel. Don’t understand Jesus. If they had, he says in chapter 2, they wouldn’t have killed him.
It’s not a matter of good minds looking at information objectively and coming to logical conclusions. It’s about dead minds and spirits being brought to life by a God who can bring dead things to life.
God changes minds and hearts. And if He didn’t we’d all be damned.
Okay, so this post was inspire by Ezra 1, where God puts it into the mind of the Persian king to let the Jews go back to Jerusalem.
Cyrus the Great did what Isaiah had prophesied he would do well over a century earlier. He did exactly what God wanted him to do. The Lord, in the words of the Bible, “put it into the mind” of Cyrus to send the Covenant people back to their Covenant land.
Jeremiah 10:23 says, “I know, Lord, that a man’s way of life is not his own; no one who walks determines his own steps.”
God did what God does: He worked all things according to His purposes. All things, in this case, includes the thought and choice of Cyrus, King of Persia (and pretty much the world at that point).
How does this fit in with our ability to make actual choices? I can’t precisely say. I know Cyrus is responsible for the good and bad choices of his life, as am I, because God’s Word says so.
But God was righteous in making an unbeliever in a position of power think something and do something for the sake of His people. And He was right in orchestrating the crucifixion of His Son Jesus. And He was right in giving me saving faith in that Jesus.
He was wonderfully gracious in granting me, the way the New Testament phrases it, repentance.
We do, God’s Bible says, do things and choose things. And God will judge fairly our sins and our motives and the desires behind our Christian good works, the things Paul said to those Corinthians that God would bring to light.
But it is, ultimately, His will that’ll be done.
What should concern us in this day we’ve been given, this moment we have before us, isn’t the philosophy of all this, but what the apostles said to the unbelievers in Jerusalem after Jesus had ascended: Repent and believe in Jesus.
He is a good and holy God, and He is good and holy when He makes people think and do things.