Hello everybody and welcome in to episode #287 of the Bible 2021 podcast. We are reading Psalm 115 today and our focus is on God’s Sovereignty and Human Free Will. How Do They Work Together? Do We Make Real Choices?   We are a daily 10ish minute podcast, where we will dig in to the truth of the Word of God by reading one Bible chapter a day and discussing it. Welcome to new listeners in   Our goal is to encourage DAILY Bible reading, so you can jump in at any time and join with us. We want to invite as many people as possible to join us in daily Bible reading, so help spread the word and share the podcast! Don’t forget about our web-page, Bible2021.com – contact page, show notes, transcript and more– Click here for our Bible 2021 reading plan\

Deep discussion today – super deep. Deeper than I can go – especially in a short podcast, so understand that this will be an overview, and probably clumsy and ham-handed at times. No good and thorough way to deal with an issue this big in less than a 450 hour long podcast. 😉

Sovereignty vs. Free will. I’ve had so many theological discussions with friends over this issue. God’s sovereignty is a concept that causes a lot of consternation and controversy among people. Partly it is because we prefer the illusion that we ourselves are in control, and partly it is because we can’t understand why a seemingly good God would allow bad things to happen, and other related issues. Does God control every decision made? Does He cause every disaster? Does He bring about the death of everybody who dies – even those who die very young? Does God cause cancer, asthma, Covid19, car wrecks, disabilities and other horrible things? These are some of the biggest questions humans have, and while we aren’t going to cover ALL of them today, we are going to talk about God’s sovereign rule over the Earth and our lives. The reason for our focus today lies in vs. 3 of Psalm 115:

Our God is in heaven
and does whatever he pleases. Psalm 115:3 

God does WHATEVER He pleases. That’s a pretty stunning statement, isn’t it? What does it mean? Well, the Psalm doesn’t go into the depth of its meaning, but other passages in the Bible do, so let’s dive in and read a few of them, beginning with a sextet of statements from the book of Proverbs:

The reflections of the heart belong to mankind,
but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. Proverbs 16:1

A person’s heart plans his way,
but the Lord determines his steps. Proverbs 16:9

The lot is cast into the lap,
but its every decision is from the Lord. Proverbs 16:33

Many plans are in a person’s heart,
but the Lord’s decree will prevail. Proverbs 19:21

Even a courageous person’s steps are determined by the Lord,
so how can anyone understand his own way? Proverbs 20:24 

A horse is prepared for the day of battle,
but victory comes from the Lord. Proverbs 21:31

What do we learn from these wisdom passages? We learn that a human can make plans, but God’s plans/decrees will prevail over human plans. We learn that God controls the roll of the dice, that victory ultimately does not come from the most prepared or well-armed army, but from God. We learn that God determines the steps of people – even noble and strong minded people, and we learn that, even when we plan the course of our lives and plan out our decisions, it is actually God who determines the course of our lives. Now – does this mean that our choices aren’t real? That we have no free-will? That we are helpless automatons or robots? I don’t actually think so. Who is wise enough to talk rightly about sovereignty and free will in a single 10ish minute podcast, but I will give you my take on sovereignty vs. free will: I believe humans have a free will, and make real and unforced choices, and over all of that rests the sovereignty of God. It is superior in every way to human free will, but not superior in the way that God’s sovereignty cancels our free will, nor delivers us from the responsibility of our choices. Free will is real – God’s sovereignty is even more real and overarcs the freedom of man. As Proverbs 19:21 says- we make plans, but God’s plans prevail over our plans. As 16:33 says, we roll the dice, but God determines the outcome, or as 16:9 puts it- our heart devises real and genuine plans and schedules, etc, but it is the Lord who determines our steps. Not because we don’t make plans, or have unforced decisions, but because His sovereignty over-arcs our decisions. And this isn’t bad news in the the least- no! As Romans 8 tells us:

28 We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose Romans 8:28

He doesn’t FORCE all things to work together – no – His power is greater than force…He CAUSES all things to work together for the good of those who love God and are called by HIS purpose

Here’s a few more, too:

The Lord frustrates the counsel of the nations;
he thwarts the plans of the peoples.
11 The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
the plans of his heart from generation to generation. Psalm 33:10-11

A person’s steps are established by the Lord,
and he takes pleasure in his way Psalm 37:23 

This is the plan prepared
for the whole earth,
and this is the hand stretched out
against all the nations.
27 The Lord of Armies himself has planned it;
therefore, who can stand in its way?
It is his hand that is outstretched,
so who can turn it back? Isaiah 14:26-27

I know, Lord,
that a person’s way of life is not his own;
no one who walks determines his own steps Jeremiah 10:23

and here’s a big doozy: Daniel 5:

22 “But you his successor, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this. 23 Instead, you have exalted yourself against the Lord of the heavens. The vessels from his house were brought to you, and as you and your nobles, wives, and concubines drank wine from them, you praised the gods made of silver and gold, bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or understand. But you have not glorified the God who holds your life-breath in his hand and who controls the whole course of your life.” Daniel 5:22-23

Finally, one more: a New Testament passage:

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:11-12

Notice here that God works ALL things according to the counsel of His will. Again – this doesn’t rob us of real choices…planning is good and right and proper and real…and yet God is sovereignly working ALL things according to the counsel of His will. Here are some closing thoughts from John Piper on planning and God’s sovereignty:


In the Shakespearean play Henry the Fifth (which was also a movie a few years ago), King Henry comes against incredible odds on the battlefield. In one scene of the movie you see hundreds of bowmen in the back lines sending a downpour of arrows arching over their own front lines and landing on the advancing enemy. What you realize is that these arrows are launched with no particular target in mind. They are sent with a string and a prayer. In that situation who decides if the arrow lands harmlessly in the ground or lands in the throat of an enemy soldier? The slightest wind will change the course of a thousand arrows. And one inch right or left may make the difference between no wound or lethal wound. The answer: God decides.That’s why in the movie King Henry’s victorious little army sang, “Non nobis domine, gloria,” as they walked through the bloody field. “Not to us, O Lord, be the glory”—a quote from Psalm 115:1. That’s the point of this psalm. We may plan, but God’s plans hold sway. We may amass resources and strength, but the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him. He decides what plans and resources succeed. God is the central issue in corporate planning. John Piper, Sermons from John Piper (1990–1999) (Minneapolis, MN: Desiring God, 2007).

Let’s read our Psalm!


Bible Memory passage for the month of October: Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love.  1 John 4:7-8 

The Bible 2021 Podcast Is a ministry of Valley Baptist Church A Church in Salinas, California.

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