Is God Free to Do What He Pleases?

What can we learn from God? Particularly, what can we learn about His freedom of choice? I am thinking of the freedom God exercises to act in one way toward someone, or a group, and the freedom to act differently toward another. You may be thinking this is contradictory, but I want to emphasize that this is true. Throughout history, as recorded in the Bible, we see instances that reveal God choosing freely to act favorably toward a group of people while giving others a less favorable treatment--and that is putting it mildly. I was drawn today to Psalm 44, where we find a recounting of what Israel's forefathers have passed down to other generations. In the beginning of this chapter, we find the following recounting of how God acted in the past. And though the latter part of the chapter clearly shows that Israel is now in distress looking for God's help, what they have as a backdrop for their trust is the favorable acts they have experienced from God in the past.

Here we observe a contrast between God driving out some while planting or establishing others, afflicting some while setting others free; we also see God saving or granting victory to a group of people He chose. He also made evident the fact that their sword did not save them from their enemies. This passage emphasizes four other things that characterize God's actions toward them:

God, we have heard with our ears,

    our fathers have told us,

what deeds you performed in their days,

    in the days of old:

2 you with your own hand drove out the nations,

    but them you planted;

you afflicted the peoples,

    but them you set free;

3 for not by their own sword did they win the land,

    nor did their own arm save them,    

but your right hand and your arm,

    and the light of your face,

    for you delighted in them.

4 You are my King, O God;

    ordain salvation for Jacob!

5 Through you we push down our foes;

    through your name we tread down those who rise up against us.

6 For not in my bow do I trust,

    nor can my sword save me.

7 But you have saved us from our foes

    and have put to shame those who hate us.

8 In God we have boasted continually

    and we will give thanks to your name forever. Selah

God used His right hand, His arm, the light of His face, and His capacity to delight on a group of people to act favorably toward them. This stands in contrast to the way He acted toward others.

It is my view point that there is one thing that should cause us, human beings, to tremble before God and be in awe of Him: His freedom of choice. This reality of God is sobering. It obviously can raise the question: what kind of God is this who acts toward some in one way and toward others in another? Is He a fair God? Is that loving on His part? These are good questions, and they need to be addressed in the larger context of who God is and His larger purposes for humanity. A poor comparison, but perhaps a helpful one, is the earthly father who gives one of his children something but withholds the same thing from another of his children. There are many factors that inform that choice, and we would be mistaken to judge or assess the goodness of this father just based on one action that may seem partial or not equal.

Here is one thing that considering God’s freedom of choice has done for me: it makes me appreciate with the right kind of fear, the fact that I have been favored by God. I don't know about you, but I have come to a place in my life where the predominant belief of my life is that God is FOR ME. I don't have to wonder if that is the case or not. His grace abounds before me, behind me and around me, every day I exist. Psalm 23 is a reminder of this. I did not always see or experienced this personally; it is only by God's grace that I do today.

God's freedom of choice magnifies for us the grace we receive in light of what others don't receive or experience. This is a mystery, especially when we consider that there is a general grace that He dispenses over both the good and the wicked. He, according to the Gospel of Matthew, causes the sun to rise over good and evil and also sends the rain over both (Matthew 5:45).

How are you seeing God act favorably toward you?