According to Meticulous Providence, God’s sovereignty means He exercises absolute, deterministic control over all things. Some proponents thereof might use free-will language but, in the final analysis, man is only free to do what God determines. In an effort to support this view Biblically, certain verses are sited. We will begin by using Isaiah 14:27 as a springboard verse exemplifying an effort to support the view. I will then offer insight regarding why it is not sufficient to do so.
Isaiah 14:27 states, “For the LORD of hosts has planned, and who can frustrate it? And as for His stretched-out hand, who can turn it back?” Isolated, out of context and taken as a universal declaration about God’s approach toward all events, one can see why it is used as support for meticulous providence. However, taken in relation to all revelation we have about God’s government in the affairs of human history and placed within its specific context, we find that such a verse does not support this perspective, nor is it intended to be such a support.
God is active in human history in a very important and powerful way. God does, at times and in diverse manners, determine the course of certain specific, historical events. God is moving history in a definite direction. This is to be maintained and appreciated. For example, we read in Daniel 2:20-21, “Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, for wisdom and power belong to Him. It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding.” We affirm this declaration. This does not, however, necessitate nor justify the conclusion that He exercises absolute, deterministic control over all details of every event on earth. Interestingly, among other examples, we see this in the case of Israel’s first king, Saul (who, it would appear, God did not want them to have). A challenge arises, however, as Samuel declares to Saul, “You have acted foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God, which He commanded you, for now the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not endure. The LORD has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart, and the LORD has appointed him as ruler over His people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you” (1Sa.13:13-14). We could ignore the fact that the text indicates that Saul’s foolish disobedience led to God removing him from his kingship, forcing into the text that this too was God’s sovereign plan, but I find this a tremendously presumptuous and inappropriate treatment of the text.
Along with affirming Daniel’s statement, we also affirm the words of Hosea 8:3-4, “Israel has rejected the good; the enemy will pursue him. They have set up kings, but not by Me; they have appointed princes, but I did not know it. With their silver and gold they have made idols for themselves, that they might be cut off.”
In Isaiah 14:27, therefore, we see God dynamically involved in preparing for the eventual deliverance of Israel from its Assyrian and pending Babylonian captivity (as the king of Babylon was overtaking the Assyrians), a deliverance accomplished with the likes of Nehemiah, Ezra and Zerubbabel. Given the immediate and broader context, the isolated verse does not and is not intended to support a view of sovereignty that absolutely eliminates the existence and involvement of genuinely free human activity. God is declaring that in this situation, He will accomplish the deliverance of Israel and the defeat of the arrogant Kings and kingdoms of Assyria and Babylon and that, He will not stop until this is accomplished. We can rejoice in such revelation and when properly understood, be inspired to recognize the importance of obedience and prayer in the unfolding of the history of our nations. I might add that deterministic treatments of the Biblical text have lent themselves to raising questions about God, human responsibility, the existence of evil and life on earth that have been unnecessary. This has, in turn, led to philosophical speculation and a rejection of Biblical Theism that has had a negative effect. This is not simply an academic matter and must be treated accordingly.